(No 'waste' is allowed for when there has been a reduction.)
It is a reasonable presumption that, except perhaps on a single occasion, the merchant service did not furnish the men required—not from any want of patriotism or of public spirit, but simply because it was impossible. Even as regards the single exception the evidence is not uncontested; and by itself, though undoubtedly strong, it is not convincing, in view of the well-grounded presumptions the other way. The question then that naturally arises is—If the navy did not fill up its complements from the merchant service, how did it fill them up? The answer is easy. Our naval complements were filled up largely with boys, largely with landsmen, largely with fishermen, whose numbers permitted this without inconvenience to their trade in general, and, to a small extent, with merchant seamen. It may be suggested that the men wanted by the navy could have been passed on to it from our merchant vessels, which could then complete their own crews with boys, landsmen, and fishermen. It was the age in which Dr. Price was a great authority on public finance, the age of Mr. Pitt's sinking fund, when borrowed money was repaid with further borrowings; so that a corresponding roundabout method for manning the navy may have had attractions for some people. A conclusive reason why it was not adopted is that its adoption would have been possible only at the cost of disorganising such a great industrial undertaking as our maritime trade. That this disorganisation did not arise is proved by the fact that our merchant service flourished and expanded.
It is widely supposed that, wherever the men wanted for the navy may have come from, they were forced into it by the system of 'impressment.' The popular idea of a man-of-war's 'lower deck' of a century ago is that it was inhabited by a ship's company which had been captured by the press-gang and was restrained from revolting by the presence of a detachment of marines. The prevalence of the belief that seamen were 'raised'—'recruited' is not a naval term—for the navy by forcible means can be accounted for without difficulty. The supposed ubiquity of the press-gang and its violent procedure added much picturesque detail, and even romance, to stories of naval life. Stories connected with it, if authentic, though rare, would, indeed, make a deep impression on the public; and what was really the exception would be taken for the rule. There is no evidence to show that even from the middle of the seventeenth century any considerable number of men was raised by forcible impressment. I am not acquainted with a single story of the press-gang which, even when much embellished, professes to narrate the seizure of more than an insignificant body. The allusions to forcible impressment made by naval historians are, with few exceptions, complaints of the utter inefficiency of the plan. In Mr. David, Hannay's excellent 'Short History of the Royal Navy' will be found more than one illustration of its inefficient working in the seventeenth century. Confirmation, if confirmation is needed, can be adduced on the high authority of Mr. M. Oppenheim. We wanted tens of thousands, and forcible impressment was giving us half-dozens, or, at the best, scores. Even of those it provided, but a small proportion was really forced to serve. Mr. Oppenheim tells us of an Act of Parliament (17 Charles I) legalising forcible impressment, which seems to have been passed to satisfy the sailors. If anyone should think this absurd, he may be referred to the remarkable expression of opinion by some of the older seamen of Sunderland and Shields when the Russian war broke out in 1854. The married sailors, they said, naturally waited for the impressment, for 'we know that has always been and always will be preceded by the proclamation of bounty.'
The most fruitful source of error as to the procedure of the press-gang has been a deficient knowledge of etymology. The word has, properly, no relation to the use of force, and has no etymological connection with 'press' and its compounds, 'compress,' 'depress,' 'express,' 'oppress,' &c. 'Prest money is so-called from the French word prest—that is, readie money, for that it bindeth all those that have received it to be ready at all times appointed.' Professor Laughton tells us that 'A prest or imprest was an earnest or advance paid on account. A prest man was really a man who received the prest of 12d., as a soldier when enlisted.' Writers, and some in an age when precision in spelling is thought important, have frequently spelled prest pressed, and imprest impressed. The natural result has been that the thousands who had received 'prest money' were classed as 'pressed' into the service by force.
The foregoing may be summed up as follows:—
For 170 years at least there never has been a time when the British merchant service did not contain an appreciable percentage of foreigners.
During the last three (and greatest) maritime wars in which this country has been involved only a small proportion of the immense number of men required by the navy came, or could have come, from the merchant service.
The number of men raised for the navy by forcible impressment in war time has been enormously exaggerated owing to a confusion of terms. As a matter of fact the number so raised, for quite two centuries, was only an insignificant fraction of the whole.
FACTS AND FANCIES ABOUT THE PRESS-GANG
[Footnote 60: Written in 1900, (_National_Review_.)]
Of late years great attention has been paid to our naval history, and many even of its obscure byways have been explored. A general result of the investigation is that we are enabled to form a high estimate of the merits of our naval administration in former centuries. We find that for a long time the navy has possessed an efficient organisation; that its right position as an element of the national defences was understood ages ago; and that English naval officers of a period which is now very remote showed by their actions that they exactly appreciated and—when necessary—were able to apply the true principles of maritime warfare. If anyone still believes that the country has been saved more than once merely by lucky chances of weather, and that the England of Elizabeth has been converted into the great oceanic and colonial British Empire of Victoria in 'a fit of absence of mind,' it will not be for want of materials with which to form a correct judgment on these points.
It has been accepted generally that the principal method of manning our fleet in the past—especially when war threatened to arise—was to seize and put men on board the ships by force. This has been taken for granted by many, and it seems to have been assumed that, in any case, there is no way of either proving it or disproving it. The truth, however, is that it is possible and—at least as regards the period of our last great naval war—not difficult to make sure if it is true or not. Records covering a long succession of years still exist, and in these can be found the name of nearly every seaman in the navy and a statement of the conditions on which he joined it. The exceptions would not amount to more than a few hundreds out of many tens of thousands of names, and would be due to the disappearance—in itself very infrequent—of some of the documents and to occasional, but also very rare, inaccuracies in the entries.
The historical evidence on which the belief in the prevalence of impressment as a method of recruiting the navy for more than a hundred years is based, is limited to contemporary statements in the English newspapers, and especially in the issues of the periodical called TheNavalChronicle, published in 1803, the first year of the war following the rupture of the Peace of Amiens. Readers of Captain Mahan's works on Sea-Power will remember the picture he draws of the activity of the press-gang in that year, his authority being TheNavalChronicle. This evidence will be submitted directly to close examination, and we shall see what importance ought to be attached to it. In the great majority of cases, however, the belief above mentioned has no historical foundation, but is to be traced to the frequency with which the supposed operations of the press-gang were used by the authors of naval stories and dramas, and by artists who took scenes of naval life for their subject. Violent seizure and abduction lend themselves to effective treatment in literature and in art, and writers and painters did not neglect what was so plainly suggested.
A fruitful source of the widespread belief that our navy in the old days was chiefly manned by recourse to compulsion, is a confusion between two words of independent origin and different meaning, which, in ages when exact spelling was not thought indispensable, came to be written and pronounced alike. During our later great maritime wars, the official term applied to anyone recruited by impressment was 'prest-man.' In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and part of the eighteenth century, this term meant the exact opposite. It meant a man who had voluntarily engaged to serve, and who had received a sum in advance called 'prest-money.' 'A prest-man,' we are told by that high authority, Professor Sir J. K. Laughton, 'was really a man who received the prest of 12d., as a soldier when enlisted.' In the 'Encyclopaedia Metropolitana' (1845), we find:— 'Impressing, or, more correctly, impresting, i.e. paying earnest-money to seamen by the King's Commission to the Admiralty, is a right of very ancient date, and established by prescription, though not by statute. Many statutes, however, imply its existence—one as far back as 2 Richard II, cap. 4.' An old dictionary of James I's time (1617), called 'The Guide into the Tongues, by the Industrie, Studie, Labour, and at the Charges of John Minshew,' gives the following definition:—'Imprest-money. G. [Gallic or French], Imprest-ance; _Imprestanza_, from _in_ and _prestare_, to lend or give beforehand.... Presse-money. T. [Teutonic or German], Soldt, from salz, _salt_. For anciently agreement or compact between the General and the soldier was signified by salt.' Minshew also defines the expression 'to presse souldiers' by the German _soldatenwerben_, and explains that here the word _werben_ means prepare (_parare_). 'Prest-money,' he says, 'is so-called of the French word _prest_, i.e. readie, for that it bindeth those that have received it to be ready at all times appointed.' In the posthumous work of Stephen Skinner, 'Etymologia Linguae Anglicanae' (1671), the author joins together 'press or imprest' as though they were the same, and gives two definitions, viz.: (1) recruiting by force (_milites_cogere_); (2) paying soldiers a sum of money and keeping them ready to serve. Dr. Murray's 'New English Dictionary,' now in course of publication, gives instances of the confusion between imprest and impress. A consequence of this confusion has been that many thousands of seamen who had received an advance of money have been regarded as carried off to the navy by force. If to this misunderstanding we add the effect on the popular mind of cleverly written stories in which the press-gang figured prominently, we can easily see how the belief in an almost universal adoption of compulsory recruiting for the navy became general. It should, therefore, be no matter of surprise when we find that the sensational reports published in the English newspapers in 1803 were accepted without question.
Impressment of seamen for the navy has been called 'lawless,' and sometimes it has been asserted that it was directly contrary to law. There is, however, no doubt that it was perfectly legal, though its legality was not based upon any direct statutory authority. Indirect confirmations of it by statute are numerous. These appear in the form of exemptions. The law of the land relating to this subject was that all 'sea-faring' men were liable to impressment unless specially protected by custom or statute. A consideration of the long list of exemptions tends to make one believe that in reality very few people were liable to be impressed. Some were 'protected' by local custom, some by statute, and some by administrative order. The number of the last must have been very great. The 'Protection Books' preserved in the Public Record Office form no inconsiderable section of the Admiralty records. For the period specially under notice, viz. that beginning with the year 1803, there are no less than five volumes of 'protections.' Exemptions by custom probably originated at a very remote date: ferrymen, for example, being everywhere privileged from impressment. The crews of colliers seem to have enjoyed the privilege by custom before it was confirmed by Act of Parliament. The naval historian, Burchett, writing of 1691, cites a 'Proclamation forbidding pressing men from colliers.'
Every ship in the coal trade had the following persons protected, viz. two A.B.'s for every ship of 100 tons, and one for every 50 tons in larger ships. When we come to consider the sensational statements in TheNavalChronicle of 1803, it will be well to remember what the penalty for infringing the colliers' privilege was. By the Act 6 & 7 William III, c. 18, sect. 19, 'Any officer who presumes to impress any of the above shall forfeit to the master or owner of such vessel L10 for every man so impressed; and such officer shall be incapable of holding any place, office, or employment in any of His Majesty's ships of war.' It is not likely that the least scrupulous naval officer would make himself liable to professional ruin as well as to a heavy fine. No parish apprentice could be impressed for the sea service of the Crown until he arrived at the age of eighteen (2 & 3 Anne, c. 6, sect. 4). Persons voluntarily binding themselves apprentices to sea service could not be impressed for three years from the date of their indentures. Besides sect. 15 of the Act of Anne just quoted, exemptions were granted, before 1803, by 4 Anne, c. 19; and 13 George II, c. 17. By the Act last mentioned all persons fifty-five years of age and under eighteen were exempted, and every foreigner serving in a ship belonging to a British subject, and also all persons 'of what age soever who shall use the sea' for two years, to be computed from the time of their first using it. A customary exemption was extended to the proportion of the crew of any ship necessary for her safe navigation. In practice this must have reduced the numbers liable to impressment to small dimensions.
Even when the Admiralty decided to suspend all administrative exemptions—or, as the phrase was, 'to press from all protections'—many persons were still exempted. The customary and statutory exemptions, of course, were unaffected. On the 5th November 1803 their Lordships informed officers in charge of rendezvous that it was 'necessary for the speedy manning of H.M. ships to impress all persons of the denominations exprest in the press-warrant which you have received from us, without regard to any protections, excepting, however, all such persons as are protected pursuant to Acts of Parliament, and all others who by the printed instructions which accompanied the said warrant are forbidden to be imprest.' In addition to these a long list of further exemptions was sent. The last in the list included the crews of 'ships and vessels bound to foreign parts which are laden and cleared outwards by the proper officers of H.M. Customs.' It would seem that there was next to no one left liable to impressment; and it is not astonishing that the Admiralty, as shown by its action very shortly afterwards, felt that pressing seamen was a poor way of manning the fleet.
Though the war which broke out in 1803 was not formally declared until May, active preparations were begun earlier. The navy had been greatly reduced since the Peace of Amiens, and as late as the 2nd December 1802 the House of Commons had voted that '50,000 seamen be employed for the service of the year 1803, including 12,000 marines.' On the 14th March an additional number was voted. It amounted to 10,000 men, of whom 2400 were to be marines. Much larger additions were voted a few weeks later. The total increase was 50,000 men; viz. 39,600 seamen and 10,400 marines. It never occurred to anyone that forcible recruiting would be necessary in the case of the marines, though the establishment of the corps was to be nearly doubled, as it had to be brought up to 22,400 from 12,000. Attention may be specially directed to this point. The marine formed an integral part of a man-of-war's crew just as the seamen did. He received no better treatment than the latter; and as regards pecuniary remuneration, prospects of advancement, and hope of attaining to the position of warrant officer, was, on the whole, in a less favourable position. It seems to have been universally accepted that voluntary enlistment would prove—as, in fact, it did prove—sufficient in the case of the marines. What we have got to see is how far it failed in the case of the seamen, and how far its deficiencies were made up by compulsion.
On the 12th March the Admiralty notified the Board of Ordnance that twenty-two ships of the line—the names of which were stated—were 'coming forward' for sea. Many of these ships are mentioned in TheNavalChronicle as requiring men, and that journal gives the names of several others of various classes in the same state. The number altogether is thirty-one. The aggregate complements, including marines and boys, of these ships amounted to 17,234. The number of 'seamen' was 11,861, though this included some of the officers who were borne on the same muster-list. The total number of seamen actually required exceeded 11,500. The Naval Chronicle contains a vivid, not to say sensational, account of the steps taken to raise them. The report from Plymouth, dated 10th March, is as follows: 'Several bodies of Royal Marines in parties of twelve and fourteen each, with their officers and naval officers armed, proceeded towards the quays. So secret were the orders kept that they did not know the nature of the business on which they were going until they boarded the tier of colliers at the New Quay, and other gangs the ships in the Catwater and the Pool, and the gin-shops. A great number of prime seamen were taken out and sent on board the Admiral's ship. They also pressed landsmen of all descriptions; and the town looked as if in a state of siege. At Stonehouse, Mutton Cove, Morris Town, and in all the receiving and gin-shops at Dock [the present Devonport] several hundreds of seamen and landsmen were picked up and sent directly aboard the flag-ship. By the returns last night it appears that upwards of 400 useful hands were pressed last night in the Three Towns.... One press-gang entered the Dock [Devonport] Theatre and cleared the whole gallery except the women.' The reporter remarks: 'It is said that near 600 men have been impressed in this neighbourhood.' The number—if obtained—would not have been sufficient to complete the seamen in the complements of a couple of line-of-battle ships. Naval officers who remember the methods of manning ships which lasted well into the middle of the nineteenth century, and of course long after recourse to impressment had been given up, will probably notice the remarkable fact that the reporter makes no mention of any of the parties whose proceedings he described being engaged in picking up men who had voluntarily joined ships fitting out, but had not returned on board on the expiration of the leave granted them. The description in TheNavalChronicle might be applied to events which—when impressment had ceased for half a century—occurred over and over again at Portsmouth, Devonport, and other ports when two or three ships happened to be put in commission about the same time.
We shall find that the 600 reported as impressed had to be considerably reduced before long. The reporter afterwards wisely kept himself from giving figures, except in a single instance when he states that 'about forty' were taken out of the flotilla of Plymouth trawlers. Reporting on 11th March he says that 'Last Thursday and yesterday'—the day of the sensational report above given—'several useful hands were picked up, mostly seamen, who were concealed in the different lodgings and were discovered by their girls.' He adds, 'Several prime seamen were yesterday taken disguised as labourers in the different marble quarries round the town.' On 14th October the report is that 'the different press-gangs, with their officers, literally scoured the country on the eastern roads and picked up several fine young fellows.' Here, again, no distinction is drawn between men really impressed and men who were arrested for being absent beyond the duration of their leave. We are told next that 'upon a survey of all impressed men before three captains and three surgeons of the Royal Navy, such as were deemed unfit for His Majesty's service, as well as all apprentices, were immediately discharged,' which, no doubt, greatly diminished the above-mentioned 600.
The reporter at Portsmouth begins his account of the 'press' at that place by saying, 'They indiscriminately took every man on board the colliers.' In view of what we know of the heavy penalties to which officers who pressed more than a certain proportion of a collier's crew were liable, we may take it that this statement was made in error. On 14th March it was reported that 'the constables and gangs from the ships continue very alert in obtaining seamen, many of whom have been sent on board different ships in the harbour this day.' We do not hear again from Portsmouth till May, on the 7th of which month it was reported that 'about 700 men were obtained.' On the 8th the report was that 'on Saturday afternoon the gates of the town were shut and soldiers placed at every avenue. Tradesmen were taken from their shops and sent on board the ships in the harbour or placed in the guard-house for the night, till they could be examined. If fit for His Majesty's service they were kept, if in trade set at liberty.' The 'tradesmen,' then, if really taken, were taken simply to be set free again. As far as the reports first quoted convey any trustworthy information, it appears that at Portsmouth and Plymouth during March, April, and the first week of May, 1340 men were 'picked up,' and that of these many were immediately discharged. How many of the 1340 were not really impressed, but were what in the navy are called 'stragglers,' i.e. men over-staying their leave of absence, is not indicated.
_The_Times_ of the 11th March 1803, and 9th May 1803, also contained reports of the impressment operations. It says: 'The returns to the Admiralty of the seamen impressed (apparently at the Thames ports) on Tuesday night amounted to 1080, of whom no less than two-thirds are considered prime hands. At Portsmouth, Portsea, Gosport, and Cowes a general press took place the same night.... Upwards of 600 seamen were collected in consequence of the promptitude of the measures adopted.' It was added that the Government 'relied upon increasing our naval forces with 10,000 seamen, either volunteers or impressed men, in less than a fortnight.' The figures show us how small a proportion of the 10,000 was even alleged to be made up of impressed men. A later _Times_ report is that: 'The impress on Saturday, both above and below the bridge, was the hottest that has been for some time. The boats belonging to the ships at Deptford were particularly active, and it is supposed they obtained upwards of 200 men.' _The_ _Times_ reports thus account for 1280 men over and above the 1340 stated to have been impressed at Plymouth and Portsmouth, thus making a grand total of 2620. It will be proved by official figures directly that the last number was an over-estimate.
Before going farther, attention may be called to one or two points in connection with the above reports. The increase in the number of seamen voted by Parliament in March was 7600. The reports of the impressment operations only came down to May. It was not till the 11th June that Parliament voted a further addition to the navy of 32,000 seamen. Yet whilst the latter great increase was being obtained—for obtained it was—the reporters are virtually silent as to the action of the press-gang. We must ask ourselves, if we could get 32,000 additional seamen with so little recourse to impressment that the operations called for no special notice, how was it that compulsion was necessary when only 7600 men were wanted? The question is all the more pertinent when we recall the state of affairs in the early part of 1803.
The navy had been greatly reduced in the year before, the men voted having diminished from 100,000 to 56,000. What became of the 44,000 men not required, of whom about 35,000 must have been of the seaman class and have been discharged from the service? There was a further reduction of 6000, to take effect in the beginning of 1803. Sir Sydney Smith, at that time a Member of Parliament, in the debate of the 2nd December 1802, 'expressed considerable regret at the great reductions which were suddenly made, both in the King's dockyards and in the navy in general. A prodigious number of men,' he said, 'had been thus reduced to the utmost poverty and distress.' He stated that he 'knew, from his own experience, that what was called an ordinary seaman could hardly find employment at present, either in the King's or in the merchants' service.' The increase of the fleet in March must have seemed a godsend to thousands of men-of-war's men. If there was any holding back on their part, it was due, no doubt, to an expectation—which the sequel showed to be well founded—that a bounty would be given to men joining the navy.
The muster-book of a man-of-war is the official list of her crew. It contains the name of every officer and man in the complement. Primarily it was an account-book, as it contains entries of the payments made to each person whose name appears in it. At the beginning of the nineteenth century it was usual to make out a fresh muster-book every two months, though that period was not always exactly adhered to. Each new book was a copy of the preceding one, with the addition of the names of persons who had joined the ship since the closing of the latter. Until the ship was paid off and thus put out of commission—or, in the case of a very long commission, until 'new books' were ordered to be opened so as to escape the inconveniences due to the repetition of large numbers of entries—the name of every man that had belonged to her remained on the list, his disposal—if no longer in the ship—being noted in the proper column. One column was headed 'Whence, and whether prest or not?' In this was noted his former ship, or the fact of his being entered direct from the shore, which answered to the question 'Whence?' There is reason to believe that the muster-book being, as above said, primarily an account-book, the words 'whether prest or not' were originally placed at the head of the column so that it might be noted against each man entered whether he had been paid 'prest-money' or not. However this may be, the column at the beginning of the nineteenth century was used for a record of the circumstances of the man's entering the ship, whether he had been transferred from another, had joined as a volunteer from the shore, or had been impressed.
I have examined the muster-book of every ship mentioned in the Admiralty letter to the Board of Ordnance above referred to, and also of the ships mentioned in TheNavalChronicle as fitting out in the early part of 1803. There are altogether thirty-three ships; but two of them, the Utrecht and the Gelykheid, were used as temporary receiving ships for newly raised men. The names on their lists are, therefore, merely those of men who were passed on to other ships, in whose muster-books they appeared again. There remained thirty-one ships which, as far as could be ascertained, account for the additional force which the Government had decided to put in commission, more than two-thirds of them being ships of the line. As already stated, their total complements amounted to 17,234, and the number of the 'blue-jackets' of full age to at least 11,500. The muster-books appear to have been kept with great care. The only exception seems to be that of the Victory, in which there is some reason to think the number of men noted as 'prest' has been over-stated owing to an error in copying the earlier book. Ships in 1803 did not get their full crews at once, any more than they did half a century later. I have, therefore, thought it necessary to take the muster-books for the months in which the crews had been brought up to completion.
[Footnote 61: The words 'recruit' and 'enlist,' except as regards marines, are unknown in the navy, in which they are replaced by 'raise' and 'enter.']
An examination of the books would be likely to dispel many misconceptions about the old navy. Not only is it noted against each man's name whether he was 'pressed' or a volunteer, it is also noted if he was put on board ship as an alternative to imprisonment on shore, this being indicated by the words 'civil power,' an expression still used in the navy, but with a different meaning. The percentage of men thus 'raised' was small. Sometimes there is a note stating that the man had been allowed to enter from the '——shire Militia.' A rare note is 'Brought on board by soldiers,' which most likely indicated that the man had been recaptured when attempting to desert. It is sometimes asserted that many men who volunteered did so only to escape impressment. This may be so; but it should be said that there are frequent notations against the names of 'prest' men that they afterwards volunteered. This shows the care that was taken to ascertain the real conditions on which a man entered the service. For the purposes of this inquiry all these men have been considered as impressed, and they have not been counted amongst the volunteers. It is, perhaps, permissible to set off against such men the number of those who allowed themselves to be impressed to escape inconveniences likely to be encountered if they remained at home. Of two John Westlakes, ordinary seamen of the Boadicea, one—John (I.)—was 'prest,' but was afterwards 'taken out of the ship for a debt of twenty pounds'; which shows that he had preferred to trust himself to the press-gang rather than to his creditors. Without being unduly imaginative, we may suppose that in 1803 there were heroes who preferred being 'carried off' to defend their country afloat to meeting the liabilities of putative paternity in their native villages.
The muster-books examined cover several months, during which many 'prest' men were discharged and some managed to desert, so that the total was never present at anyone time. That total amounts to 1782. It is certain that even this is larger than the reality, because it has been found impossible—without an excessive expenditure of time and labour—to trace the cases of men being sent from one ship to another, and thus appearing twice over, or oftener, as 'prest' men. As an example of this the Minotaur may be cited. Out of twenty names on one page of her muster-book thirteen are those of 'prest' men discharged to other ships. The discharges from the Victory were numerous; and the Ardent, which was employed in keeping up communication with the ships off Brest, passed men on to the latter when required. I have, however, made no deductions from the 'prest' total to meet these cases. We can see that not more than 1782 men, and probably considerably fewer, were impressed to meet the increase of the navy during the greater part of 1803. Admitting that there were cases of impressment from merchant vessels abroad to complete the crews of our men-of-war in distant waters, the total number impressed—including these latter—could not have exceeded greatly the figures first given. We know that owing to the reduction of 1802, as stated by Sir Sydney Smith, the seamen were looking for ships rather than the ships for seamen. It seems justifiable to infer that the whole number of impressed men on any particular day did not exceed, almost certainly did not amount to, 2000. If they had been spread over the whole navy they would not have made 2 per cent. of the united complements of the ships; and, as it was, did not equal one-nineteenth of the 39,600 seamen ('blue-jackets') raised to complete the navy to the establishment sanctioned by Parliament. A system under which more than 37,000 volunteers come forward to serve and less than 2000 men are obtained by compulsion cannot be properly called compulsory.
The Plymouth reporter of TheNavalChronicle does not give many details of the volunteering for the navy in 1803, though he alludes to it in fluent terms more than once. On the 11th October, however, he reports that, 'So many volunteer seamen have arrived here this last week that upwards of L4000 bounty is to be paid them afloat by the Paying Commissioner, Rear-Admiral Dacres.' At the time the bounty was L2 10s. for an A.B., L1 10s. for an ordinary seaman, and L1 for a landsman. Taking only L4000 as the full amount paid, and assuming that the three classes were equally represented, three men were obtained for every L5, or 2400 in all, a number raised in about a week, that may be compared with that given as resulting from impressment. In reality, the number of volunteers must have been larger, because the A.B.'s were fewer than the other classes.
Some people may be astonished because the practice of impressment, which had proved to be so utterly inefficient, was not at once and formally given up. No astonishment will be felt by those who are conversant with the habits of Government Departments. In every country public officials evince great and, indeed, almost invincible reluctance to give up anything, whether it be a material object or an administrative process, which they have once possessed or conducted. One has only to stroll through the arsenals of the world, or glance at the mooring-grounds of the maritime states, to see to what an extent the passion for retaining the obsolete and useless holds dominion over the official mind. A thing may be known to be valueless—its retention may be proved to be mischievous—yet proposals to abandon it will be opposed and defeated. It is doubtful if any male human being over forty was ever converted to a new faith of any kind. The public has to wait until the generation of administrative Conservatives has either passed away or been outnumbered by those acquainted only with newer methods. Then the change is made; the certainty, nevertheless, being that the new men in their turn will resist improvements as obstinately and in exactly the same way as their predecessors.
To be just to the Board of Admiralty of 1803, it must be admitted that some of its members seem to have lost faith in the efficacy of impressment as a system of manning the navy. The Lords Commissioners of that date could hardly—all of them, at any rate—have been so thoroughly destitute of humour as not to suspect that seizing a few score of men here and a few there when tens of thousands were needed, was a very insufficient compensation for the large correspondence necessitated by adherence to the system (and still in existence). Their Lordships actively bombarded the Home Office with letters pointing out, for example, that a number of British seamen at Guernsey 'appeared to have repaired to that island with a view to avoid being pressed'; that they were 'of opinion that it would be highly proper that the sea-faring men (in Jersey as well as Guernsey), not natives nor settled inhabitants, should be impressed'; that when the captain of H.M.S. Aigle had landed at Portland 'for the purpose of raising men' some resistance had 'been made by the sailors'; and dealing with other subjects connected with the system. A complaint sent to the War Department was that 'amongst a number of men lately impressed (at Leith) there were eight or ten shipwrights who were sea-faring men, and had been claimed as belonging to a Volunteer Artillery Corps.'
We may suspect that there was some discussion at Whitehall as to the wisdom of retaining a plan which caused so much inconvenience and had such poor results. The conclusion seems to have been to submit it to a searching test. The coasts of the United Kingdom were studded with stations—thirty-seven generally, but the number varied—for the entry of seamen. The ordinary official description of these—as shown by entries in the muster-books—was 'rendezvous'; but other terms were used. It has often been thought that they were simply impressment offices. The fact is that many more men were raised at these places by volunteering than by impressment. The rendezvous, as a rule, were in charge of captains or commanders, some few being entrusted to lieutenants. The men attached to each were styled its 'gang,' a word which conveys no discredit in nautical language. On 5th November 1803 the Admiralty sent to the officers in charge of rendezvous the communication already mentioned—to press men 'without regard to any protections,'—the exceptions, indeed, being so many that the officers must have wondered who could legitimately be taken.
The order at first sight appeared sweeping enough. It contained the following words: 'Whereas we think fit that a general press from all protections as above mentioned shall commence at London and in the neighbourhood thereof on the night of Monday next, the 7th instant, you are therefore (after taking the proper preparatory measures with all possible secrecy) hereby required to impress and to give orders to the lieutenants under your command to impress all persons of the above-mentioned denominations (except as before excepted) and continue to do so until you receive orders from us to the contrary.' As it was addressed to officers in all parts of the United Kingdom, the 'general press' was not confined to London and its neighbourhood, though it was to begin in the capital.
Though returns of the numbers impressed have not been discovered, we have strong evidence that this 'general press,' notwithstanding the secrecy with which it had been arranged, was a failure. On the 6th December 1803, just a month after it had been tried, the Admiralty formulated the following conclusion: 'On a consideration of the expense attending the service of raising men on shore for His Majesty's Fleet comparatively with the number procured, as well as from other circumstances, there is reason to believe that either proper exertions have not been made by some of the officers employed on that service, or that there have been great abuses and mismanagement in the expenditure of the public money.' This means that it was now seen that impressment, though of little use in obtaining men for the navy, was a very costly arrangement. The Lords of the Admiralty accordingly ordered that 'the several places of rendezvous should be visited and the conduct of the officers employed in carrying out the above-mentioned service should be inquired into on the spot.' Rear-Admiral Arthur Phillip, the celebrated first Governor of New South Wales, was ordered to make the inquiry. This was the last duty in which that distinguished officer was employed, and his having been selected for it appears to have been unknown to all his biographers.
It is not surprising that after this the proceedings of the press-gang occupy scarcely any space in our naval history. Such references to them as there are will be found in the writings of the novelist and the dramatist. Probably individual cases of impressment occurred till nearly the end of the Great War; but they could not have been many. Compulsory service most unnecessarily caused—not much, but still some—unjustifiable personal hardship. It tended to stir up a feeling hostile to the navy. It required to work it machinery costly out of all proportion to the results obtained. Indeed, it failed completely to effect what had been expected of it. In the great days of old our fleet, after all, was manned, not by impressed men, but by volunteers. It was largely due to that that we became masters of the sea.
PROJECTED INVASIONS OF THE BRITISH ISLES
[Footnote 62: Written in 1900. (_The_Times_.)]
The practice to which we have become accustomed of late, of publishing original documents relating to naval and military history, has been amply justified by the results. These meet the requirements of two classes of readers. The publications satisfy, or at any rate go far towards satisfying, the wishes of those who want to be entertained, and also of those whose higher motive is a desire to discover the truth about notable historical occurrences. Putting the public in possession of the materials, previously hidden in more or less inaccessible muniment-rooms and record offices, with which the narratives of professed historians have been constructed, has had advantages likely to become more and more apparent as time goes on. It acts as a check upon the imaginative tendencies which even eminent writers have not always been able, by themselves, to keep under proper control. The certainty, nay the mere probability, that you will be confronted with the witnesses on whose evidence you profess to have relied—the 'sources' from which your story is derived—will suggest the necessity of sobriety of statement and the advisability of subordinating rhetoric to veracity. Had the contemporary documents been available for an immediate appeal to them by the reading public, we should long ago have rid ourselves of some dangerous superstitions. We should have abandoned our belief in the fictions that the Armada of 1588 was defeated by the weather, and that the great Herbert of Torrington was a lubber, a traitor, and a coward. It is not easy to calculate the benefit that we should have secured, had the presentation of some important events in the history of our national defence been as accurate as it was effective. Enormous sums of money have been wasted in trying to make our defensive arrangements square with a conception of history based upon misunderstanding or misinterpretation of facts. Pecuniary extravagance is bad enough; but there is a greater evil still. We have been taught to cherish, and we have been reluctant to abandon, a false standard of defence, though adherence to such a standard can be shown to have brought the country within measurable distance of grievous peril. Captain Duro, of the Spanish Navy, in his 'Armada Invencible,' placed within our reach contemporary evidence from the side of the assailants, thereby assisting us to form a judgment on a momentous episode in naval history. The evidence was completed; some being adduced from the other side, by our fellow-countryman Sir J. K. Laughton, in his 'Defeat of the Spanish Armada,' published by the Navy Records Society. Others have worked on similar lines; and a healthier view of our strategic conditions and needs is more widely held than it was; though it cannot be said to be, even yet, universally prevalent. Superstition, even the grossest, dies hard.
Something deeper than mere literary interest, therefore, is to be attributed to a work which has recently appeared in Paris. To speak strictly, it should be said that only the first volume of three which will complete it has been published. It is, however, in the nature of a work of the kind that its separate parts should be virtually independent of each other. Consequently the volume which we now have may be treated properly as a book by itself. When completed the work is to contain all the documents relating to the French preparations during the period 1793-1805, for taking the offensive against England (touslesdocumentsserapportant alapreparationdel'offensivecontrel'Angleterre). The search for, the critical examination and the methodical classification of, the papers were begun in October 1898. The book is compiled by Captain Desbriere, of the French Cuirassiers, who was specially authorised to continue his editorial labours even after he had resumed his ordinary military duties. It bears the imprimatur of the staff of the army; and its preface is written by an officer who was—and so signs himself—chief of the historical section of that department. There is no necessity to criticise the literary execution of the work. What is wanted is to explain the nature of its contents and to indicate the lessons which may be drawn from them. Nevertheless, attention may be called to a curious misreading of history contained in the preface. In stating the periods which the different volumes of the book are to cover, the writer alludes to the Peace of Amiens, which, he affirms, England was compelled to accept by exhaustion, want of means of defence, and fear of the menaces of the great First Consul then disposing of the resources of France, aggrandised, pacified, and reinforced by alliances. The book being what it is and coming whence it does, such a statement ought not to be passed over. 'The desire for peace,' says an author so easily accessible as J. R. Green, 'sprang from no sense of national exhaustion. On the contrary, wealth had never increased so fast.... Nor was there any ground for despondency in the aspect of the war itself.' This was written in 1875 by an author so singularly free from all taint of Chauvinism that he expressly resolved that his work 'should never sink into a drum and trumpet history.' A few figures will be interesting and, it may be added, conclusive. Between 1793 when the war began and 1802 when the Peace of Amiens interrupted it, the public income of Great Britain increased from L16,382,000 to L28,000,000, the war taxes not being included in the latter sum. The revenue of France, notwithstanding her territorial acquisitions, sank from L18,800,000 to L18,000,000. The French exports and imports by sea were annihilated; whilst the British exports were doubled and the imports increased more than 50 per cent. The French Navy had at the beginning 73, at the end of the war 39, ships of the line; the British began the contest with 135 and ended it with 202. Even as regards the army, the British force at the end of the war was not greatly inferior numerically to the French. It was, however, much scattered, being distributed over the whole British Empire. In view of the question under discussion, no excuse need be given for adducing these facts.
[Footnote 63: 1793-1805. ProjetsetTentativesdeDebarquement auxIlesBritanniques, par Edouard Desbriere, Capitaine brevete aux 1er Cuirassiers. Paris, Chapelot et Cie. 1900. (Publie sous la direction de la section historique de l'Etat-Major de l'Armee.)]
Captain Desbriere in the present volume carries his collection of documents down to the date at which the then General Bonaparte gave up his connection with the flotilla that was being equipped in the French Channel ports, and prepared to take command of the expedition to Egypt. The volume therefore, in addition to accounts of many projected, but never really attempted, descents on the British Isles, gives a very complete history of Hoche's expedition to Ireland; of the less important, but curious, descent in Cardigan Bay known as the Fishguard, or Fishgard, expedition; and of the formation of the first 'Army of England,' a designation destined to attain greater celebrity in the subsequent war, when France was ruled by the great soldier whom we know as the Emperor Napoleon. The various documents are connected by Captain Desbriere with an explanatory commentary, and here and there are illustrated with notes. He has not rested content with the publication of MSS. selected from the French archives. In preparing his book he visited England and examined our records; and, besides, he has inserted in their proper place passages from Captain Mahan's works and also from those of English authors. The reader's interest in the book is likely to be almost exclusively concentrated on the detailed, and, where Captain Desbriere's commentary appears, lucid, account of Hoche's expedition. Of course, the part devoted to the creation of the 'Army of England' is not uninteresting; but it is distinctly less so than the part relating to the proceedings of Hoche. Several of the many plans submitted by private persons, who here describe them in their own words, are worth examination; and some, it may be mentioned, are amusing in the naivete of their Anglophobia and in their obvious indifference to the elementary principles of naval strategy. In this indifference they have some distinguished companions.
We are informed by Captain Desbriere that the idea of a hostile descent on England was during a long time much favoured in France. The national archives and those of the Ministries of War and of Marine are filled with proposals for carrying it out, some dating back to 1710. Whether emanating from private persons or formulated in obedience to official direction, there are certain features in all the proposals so marked that we are able to classify the various schemes by grouping together those of a similar character. In one class may be placed all those which aimed at mere annoyance, to be effected by landing small bodies of men, not always soldiers, to do as much damage as possible. The appearance of these at many different points, it was believed, would so harass the English that they would end the war, or at least so divide their forces that their subjection might be looked for with confidence. In another class might be placed proposals to seize outlying, out not distant, British territory—the Channel Islands or the Isle of Wight, for example. A third class might comprise attempts on a greater scale, necessitating the employment of a considerable body of troops and meriting the designation 'Invasion.' Some of these attempts were to be made in Great Britain, some in Ireland. In every proposal for an attempt of this class, whether it was to be made in Great Britain or in Ireland, it was assumed that the invaders would receive assistance from the people of the country invaded. Indeed, generally the bulk of the force to be employed was ultimately to be composed of native sympathisers, who were also to provide—at least at the beginning—all the supplies and transport, both vehicles and animals, required. Every plan, no matter to which class it might belong, was based upon the assumption that the British naval force could be avoided. Until we come to the time when General Bonaparte, as he then was, dissociated himself from the first 'Army of England,' there is no trace, in any of the documents now printed, of a belief in the necessity of obtaining command of the sea before sending across it a considerable military expedition. That there was such a thing as the command of the sea is rarely alluded to; and when it is, it is merely to accentuate the possibility of neutralising it by evading the force holding it. There is something which almost deserves to be styled comical in the absolutely unvarying confidence, alike of amateurs and highly placed military officers, with which it was held that a superior naval force was a thing that might be disregarded. Generals who would have laughed to scorn anyone maintaining that, though there was a powerful Prussian army on the road to one city and an Austrian army on the road to the other, a French army might force its way to either Berlin or Vienna without either fighting or even being prepared to fight, such generals never hesitated to approve expeditions obliged to traverse a region in the occupation of a greatly superior force, the region being pelagic and the force naval. We had seized the little islands of St. Marcoff, a short distance from the coast of Normandy, and held them for years. It was expressly admitted that their recapture was impossible, 'a raison de la superiorite des forces navales Anglaises'; but it was not even suspected that a much more difficult operation, requiring longer time and a longer voyage, was likely to be impracticable. We shall see by and by how far this remarkable attitude of mind was supported by the experience of Hoche's expedition to Ireland.
Hoche himself was the inventor of a plan of harassing the English enemy which long remained in favour. He proposed to organise what was called a Chouannerie in England. As that country had no Chouans of her own, the want was to be supplied by sending over an expedition composed of convicts. Hoche's ideas were approved and adopted by the eminent Carnot. The plan, to which the former devoted great attention, was to land on the coast of Wales from 1000 to 1200 forcats, to be commanded by a certain Mascheret, of whom Hoche wrote that he was 'le plus mauvais sujet dont on puisse purger la France.' In a plan accepted and forwarded by Hoche, it was laid down that the band, on reaching the enemy's country, was, if possible, not to fight, but to pillage; each man was to understand that he was sent to England to steal 100,000f., 'pour ensuite finir sa carriere tranquillement dans l'aisance,' and was to be informed that he would receive a formal pardon from the French Government. The plan, extraordinary as it was, was one of the few put into execution. The famous Fishguard Invasion was carried out by some fourteen hundred convicts commanded by an American adventurer named Tate. The direction to avoid fighting was exactly obeyed by Colonel Tate and the armed criminals under his orders. He landed in Cardigan Bay from a small squadron of French men-of-war at sunset on the 22nd February 1797; and, on the appearance of Lord Cawdor with the local Yeomanry and Militia, asked to be allowed to surrender on the 24th. At a subsequent exchange of prisoners the French authorities refused to receive any of the worthies who had accompanied Tate. At length 512 were allowed to land; but were imprisoned in the forts of Cherbourg. The French records contain many expressions of the dread experienced by the inhabitants of the coast lest the English should put on shore in France the malefactors whom they had captured at Fishguard.
A more promising enterprise was that in which it was decided to obtain the assistance of the Dutch, at the time in possession of a considerable fleet. The Dutch fleet was to put to sea with the object of engaging the English. An army of 15,000 was then to be embarked in the ports of Holland, and was to effect a diversion in favour of another and larger body, which, starting from France, was to land in Ireland, repeating the attempt of Hoche in December 1796, which will be dealt with later on. The enterprise was frustrated by the action of Admiral Duncan, who decisively defeated the Dutch fleet off Camperdown in October. It might have been supposed that this would have driven home the lesson that no considerable military expedition across the water has any chance of success till the country sending it has obtained command of the sea; but it did not. To Bonaparte the event was full of meaning; but no other French soldier seems to have learned it—if we may take Captain Desbriere's views as representative—even down to the present day. On the 23rd February 1798 Bonaparte wrote: 'Operer une descente en Angleterre sans etre maitre de la mer est l'operation la plus hardie et la plus difficile qui ait ete faite.' There has been much speculation as to the reasons which induced Bonaparte to quit the command of the 'Army of England' after holding it but a short time, and after having devoted great attention to its organisation and proposed methods of transport across the Channel. The question is less difficult than it has appeared to be to many. One of the foremost men in France, Bonaparte was ready to take the lead in any undertaking which seemed likely to have a satisfactory ending—an ending which would redound to the glory of the chief who conducted it. The most important operation contemplated was the invasion of England; and—now that Hoche was no more—Bonaparte might well claim to lead it. His penetrating insight soon enabled him to see its impracticability until the French had won the command of the Channel. Of that there was not much likelihood; and at the first favourable moment he dissociated himself from all connection with an enterprise which offered so little promise of a successful termination that it was all but certain not to be begun. An essential condition, as already pointed out, of all the projected invasions was the receipt of assistance from sympathisers in the enemy's country. Hoche himself expected this even in Tate's case; but experience proved the expectation to be baseless. When the prisoners taken with Tate were being conducted to their place of confinement, the difficulty was to protect them, 'car la population furieuse contre les Francais voulait les lyncher.' Captain Desbriere dwells at some length on the mutinies in the British fleet in 1797, and asks regretfully, 'Qu'avait-on fait pour profiter de cette chance unique?' He remarks on the undoubted and really lamentable fact that English historians have usually paid insufficient attention to these occurrences. One, and perhaps the principal reason of their silence, was the difficulty, at all events till quite lately, of getting materials with which to compose a narrative. The result is that the real character of the great mutinies has been altogether misunderstood. Lord Camperdown's recently published life of his great ancestor, Lord Duncan, has done something to put them in their right light. As regards defence against the enemy, the mutinies affected the security of the country very little. The seamen always expressed their determination to do their duty if the enemy put to sea. Even at the Nore they conspicuously displayed their general loyalty; and, as a matter of fact, discipline had regained its sway some time before the expedition preparing in Holland was ready. How effectively the crews of the ships not long before involved in the mutiny could fight, was proved at Camperdown.
Though earlier in date than the events just discussed, the celebrated first expedition to Ireland has been intentionally left out of consideration till now. As to the general features of the undertaking, and even some of its more important details, the documents now published add little to our knowledge. The literature of the expedition is large, and Captain Chevalier had given us an admirable account of it in his 'Histoire de la Marine Francaise sous la premiere Republique.' The late Vice-Admiral Colomb submitted it to a most instructive examination in the _Journal_of_the_ _Royal_United_Service_Institution_ for January 1892. We can, however, learn something from Captain Desbriere's collection. The perusal suggests, or indeed compels, the conclusion that the expedition was doomed to failure from the start. It had no money, stores, or means of transport. There was no hope of finding these in a country like the south-western corner of Ireland. Grouchy's decision not to land the troops who had reached Bantry Bay was no doubt dictated in reality by a perception of this; and by the discovery that, even if he got on shore, sympathisers with him would be practically non-existent. On reading the letters now made public, one is convinced of Hoche's unfitness for the leadership of such an enterprise. The adoration of mediocrities is confined to no one cult and to no one age. Hoche's canonisation, for he is a prominent saint in the Republican calendar, was due not so much to what he did as to what he did not do. He did not hold the supreme command in La Vendee till the most trying period of the war was past. He did not continue the cruelties of the Jacobin emissaries in the disturbed districts; but then his pacificatory measures were taken when the spirit of ferocity which caused the horrors of the _noyades_ and of the Terror had, even amongst the mob of Paris, burnt itself out. He did not overthrow a constitutional Government and enslave his country as Bonaparte did; and, therefore, he is favourably compared with the latter, whose opportunities he did not have. His letters show him to have been an adept in the art of traducing colleagues behind their backs. In writing he called Admiral Villaret-Joyeuse 'perfide,' and spoke of his 'mauvaise foi.' He had a low opinion of General Humbert, whom he bracketed with Mascheret. Grouchy, he said, was 'un inconsequent paperassier,' and General Vaillant 'un miserable ivrogne.' He was placed in supreme command of the naval as well as of the military forces, and was allowed to select the commander of the former. Yet he and his nominee were amongst the small fraction of the expeditionary body which never reached a place where disembarkation was possible.
Notwithstanding all this, the greater part of the fleet, and of the troops conveyed by it, did anchor in Bantry Bay without encountering an English man-of-war; and a large proportion continued in the Bay, unmolested by our navy, for more than a fortnight. Is not this, it may be asked, a sufficient refutation of those who hold that command of the sea gives security against invasion? As a matter of fact, command of the sea—even in the case in question—did prevent invasion from being undertaken, still more from being carried through, on a scale likely to be very formidable. The total number of troops embarked was under 14,000, of whom 633 were lost, owing to steps taken to avoid the hostile navy, before the expedition had got fully under way. It is not necessary to rate Hoche's capacity very highly in order to understand that he, who had seen something of war on a grand scale, would not have committed himself to the command of so small a body, without cavalry, without means of transport on land, without supplies, with but an insignificant artillery and that not furnished with horses, and, as was avowed, without hope of subsequent reinforcement or of open communications with its base—that he would not have staked his reputation on the fate of a body so conditioned, if he had been permitted by the naval conditions of the case to lead a larger, more effectually organised, and better supplied army. The commentary supplied by Captain Desbriere to the volume under notice discloses his opinion that the failure of the expedition to Ireland was due to the inefficiency of the French Navy. He endeavours to be scrupulously fair to his naval fellow-countrymen; but his conviction is apparent. It hardly admits of doubt that this view has generally been, and still is, prevalent in the French Army. Foreign soldiers of talent and experience generalise from this as follows: Let them but have the direction of the naval as well as of the military part of an expedition, and the invasion of England must be successful. The complete direction which they would like is exactly what Hoche did have. He chose the commander of the fleet, and also chose or regulated the choice of the junior flag officers and several of the captains. Admiral Morard de Galles was not, and did not consider himself, equal to the task for which Hoche's favour had selected him. His letter pointing out his own disqualifications has a striking resemblance to the one written by Medina Sidonia in deprecation of his appointment in place of Santa Cruz. Nevertheless, the French naval officers did succeed in conveying the greater part of the expeditionary army to a point at which disembarkation was practicable.
Now we have some lessons to learn from this. The advantages conferred by command of the sea must be utilised intelligently; and it was bad management which permitted an important anchorage to remain for more than a fortnight in the hands of an invading force. We need not impute to our neighbours a burning desire to invade us; but it is a becoming exercise of ordinary strategic precaution to contemplate preparations for repelling what, as a mere military problem, they consider still feasible. No amount of naval superiority will ever ensure every part of our coast against incursions like that of Tate and his gaol-birds. Naval superiority, however, will put in our hands the power of preventing the arrival of an army strong enough to carry out a real invasion. The strength of such an army will largely depend upon the amount of mobile land force of which we can dispose. Consequently, defence against invasion, even of an island, is the duty of a land army as well as of a fleet. The more important part may, in our case, be that of the latter; but the services of the former cannot be dispensed with. The best method of utilising those services calls for much thought. In 1798, when the 'First Army of England' menaced us from the southern coast of the Channel, it was reported to our Government that an examination of the plans formerly adopted for frustrating intended invasions showed the advantage of troubling the enemy in his own home and not waiting till he had come to injure us in ours.
OVER-SEA RAIDS AND RAIDS ON LAND
[Footnote 64: Written in 1906. (TheMorningPost.)]
It has been contended that raids by 'armaments with 1000, 20,000, and 50,000 men on board respectively' have succeeded in evading 'our watching and chasing fleets,' and that consequently invasion of the British Isles on a great scale is not only possible but fairly practicable, British naval predominance notwithstanding. I dispute the accuracy of the history involved in the allusions to the above-stated figures. The number of men comprised in a raiding or invading expedition is the number that is or can be put on shore. The crews of the transports are not included in it. In the cases alluded to, Humbert's expedition was to have numbered 82 officers and 1017 other ranks, and 984 were put on shore in Killala Bay. Though the round number, 1000, represents this figure fairly enough, there was a 10 per cent. shrinkage from the original embarkation strength. In Hoche's expedition the total number of troops embarked was under 14,000, of whom 633 were lost before the expedition had got clear of its port of starting, and of the remainder only a portion reached Ireland. General Bonaparte landed in Egypt not 50,000 men, but about 36,000. In the expeditions of Hoche and Humbert it was not expected that the force to be landed would suffice of itself, the belief being that it would be joined in each case by a large body of adherents in the raided country. Outside the ranks of the 'extremists of the dinghy school'—whose number is unknown and is almost certainly quite insignificant—no one asserts or ever has asserted that raids in moderate strength are not possible even in the face of a strong defending navy. It is a fact that the whole of our defence policy for many generations has been based upon an admission of their possibility. Captain Mahan's statement of the case has never been questioned by anyone of importance. It is as follows: 'The control of the sea, however real, does not imply that an enemy's single ships or small squadrons cannot steal out of port, cannot cross more or less frequented tracts of ocean, make harassing descents upon unprotected points of a long coast-line, enter blockaded harbours.' It is extraordinary that everyone does not perceive that if this were not true the 'dinghy school' would be right. Students of Clausewitz may be expected to remember that the art of war does not consist in making raids that are unsuccessful; that war is waged to gain certain great objects; and that the course of hostilities between two powerful antagonists is affected little one way or the other by raids even on a considerable scale.
The Egyptian expedition of 1798 deserves fuller treatment than it has generally received. The preparations at Toulon and some Italian ports were known to the British Government. It being impossible for even a Moltke or—comparative resources being taken into account—the greater strategist Kodama to know everything in the mind of an opponent, the sensible proceeding is to guard against his doing what would be likely to do you most harm. The British Government had reason to believe that the Toulon expedition was intended to reinforce at an Atlantic port another expedition to be directed against the British Isles, or to effect a landing in Spain with a view to marching into Portugal and depriving our navy of the use of Lisbon. Either if effected would probably cause us serious mischief, and arrangements were made to prevent them. A landing in Egypt was, as the event showed, of little importance. The threat conveyed by it against our Indian possessions proved to be an empty one. Upwards of 30,000 hostile troops were locked up in a country from which they could exercise no influence on the general course of the war, and in which in the end they had to capitulate. Suppose that an expedition crossing the North Sea with the object of invading this country had to content itself with a landing in Iceland, having eventual capitulation before it, should we not consider ourselves very fortunate, though it may have temporarily occupied one of the Shetland Isles _en_route_? The truth of the matter is that the Egyptian expedition was one of the gravest of strategical mistakes, and but for the marvellous subsequent achievements of Napoleon it would have been the typical example of bad strategy adduced by lecturers and writers on the art of war for the warning of students.
The supposition that over-sea raids, even when successful in part, in any way demonstrate the inefficiency of naval defence would never be admitted if only land and sea warfare were regarded as branches of one whole and not as quite distinct things. To be consistent, those that admit the supposition should also admit that the practicability of raids demonstrates still more conclusively the insufficiency of defence by an army. An eminent military writer has told us that 'a raiding party of 1000 French landed in Ireland without opposition, after sixteen days of navigation, unobserved by the British Navy; defeated and drove back the British troops opposing them on four separate occasions... entirely occupied the attention of all the available troops of a garrison of Ireland 100,000 strong; penetrated almost to the centre of the island, and compelled the Lord-Lieutenant to send an urgent requisition for "as great a reinforcement as possible."' If an inference is to be drawn from this in the same way as one has been drawn from the circumstances on the sea, it would follow that one hundred thousand troops are not sufficient to prevent a raid by one thousand, and consequently that one million troops would not be sufficient to prevent one by ten thousand enemies. On this there would arise the question, If an army a million strong gives no security against a raid by ten thousand men, is an army worth having? And this question, be it noted, would come, not from disciples of the Blue Water School, 'extremist' or other, but from students of military narrative.
The truth is that raids are far more common on land than on the ocean. For every one of the latter it would be possible to adduce several of the former. Indeed, accounts of raids are amongst the common-places of military history. There are few campaigns since the time of that smart cavalry leader Mago, the younger brother of Hannibal, in which raids on land did not occur or in which they exercised any decisive influence on the issue of hostilities. It is only the failure to see the connection between warfare on land and naval warfare that prevents these land raids being given the same significance and importance that is usually given to those carried out across the sea.
In the year 1809, the year of Wagram, Napoleon's military influence in Central Germany was, to say the least, not at its lowest. Yet Colonel Schill, of the Prussian cavalry, with 1200 men, subsequently increased to 2000 infantry and 12 squadrons, proceeded to Wittenberg, thence to Magdeburg, and next to Stralsund, which he occupied and where he met his death in opposing an assault made by 6000 French troops. He had defied for a month all the efforts of a large army to suppress him. In the same year the Duke of Brunswick-Oels and Colonel Dornberg, notwithstanding the smallness of the force under them, by their action positively induced Napoleon, only a few weeks before Wagram, to detach the whole corps of Kellerman, 30,000 strong, which otherwise would have been called up to the support of the Grande Armee, to the region in which these enterprising raiders were operating. The mileage covered by Schill was nearly as great as that covered by the part of Hoche's expedition which under Grouchy did reach an Irish port, though it was not landed. Instances of cavalry raids were frequent in the War of Secession in America. The Federal Colonel B. H. Grierson, of the 6th Illinois Cavalry, with another Illinois and an Iowa cavalry regiment, in April 1863 made a raid which lasted sixteen days, and in which he covered 600 miles of hostile country, finally reaching Baton Rouge, where a friendly force was stationed. The Confederate officers, John H. Morgan, John S. Mosby, and especially N. B. Forrest, were famous for the extent and daring of their raids. Of all the leaders of important raids in the War of Secession none surpassed the great Confederate cavalry General, J. E. B. Stuart, whose riding right round the imposing Federal army is well known. Yet not one of the raids above mentioned had any effect on the main course of the war in which they occurred or on the result of the great conflict.
In the last war the case was the same. In January 1905, General Mischenko with 10,000 sabres and three batteries of artillery marched right round the flank of Marshal Oyama's great Japanese army, and occupied Niu-chwang—not the treaty port so-called, but a place not very far from it. For several days he was unmolested, and in about a week he got back to his friends with a loss which was moderate in proportion to his numbers. In the following May Mischenko made another raid, this time round General Nogi's flank. He had with him fifty squadrons, a horse artillery battery, and a battery of machine guns. Starting on the 17th, he was discovered on the 18th, came in contact with his enemy on the 19th, but met with no considerable hostile force till the 20th, when the Japanese cavalry arrived just in time to collide with the Russian rearguard of two squadrons. On this General Mischenko 'retired at his ease for some thirty miles along the Japanese flank and perhaps fifteen miles away from it.' These Russians' raids did not alter the course of the war nor bring ultimate victory to their standards.
It would be considered by every military authority as a flagrant absurdity to deduce from the history of these many raids on land that a strong army is not a sufficient defence for a continental country against invasion. What other efficient defence against that can a continental country have? Apply the reasoning to the case of an insular country, and reliance on naval defence will be abundantly justified.
To maintain that Canada, India, and Egypt respectively could be invaded by the United States, Russia, and Turkey, backed by Germany, notwithstanding any action that our navy could take, would be equivalent to maintaining that one part of our empire cannot or need not reinforce another. Suppose that we had a military force numerically equal to or exceeding the Russian, how could any of it be sent to defend Canada, India, and Egypt, or to reinforce the defenders of those countries, unless our sea communications were kept open? Can these be kept open except by the action of our navy? It is plain that they cannot.
QUEEN ELIZABETH AND HER SEAMEN
[Footnote 65: Written in 1900. (_Nineteenth_Century_and_After_, 1901.)]
An eminent writer has recently repeated the accusations made within the last forty years, and apparently only within that period, against Queen Elizabeth of having starved the seamen of her fleet by giving them food insufficient in quantity and bad in quality, and of having robbed them by keeping them out of the pay due to them. He also accuses the Queen, though somewhat less plainly, of having deliberately acquiesced in a wholesale slaughter of her seamen by remaining still, though no adequate provision had been made for the care of the sick and wounded. There are further charges of obstinately objecting, out of mere stinginess, to take proper measures for the naval defence of the country, and of withholding a sufficient supply of ammunition from her ships when about to meet the enemy. Lest it should be supposed that this is an exaggerated statement of the case against Elizabeth as formulated by the writer in question, his own words are given.
He says: 'Instead of strengthening her armaments to the utmost, and throwing herself upon her Parliament for aid, she clung to her moneybags, actually reduced her fleet, withheld ammunition and the more necessary stores, cut off the sailor's food, did, in short, everything in her power to expose the country defenceless to the enemy. The pursuit of the Armada was stopped by the failure of the ammunition, which, apparently, had the fighting continued longer, would have been fatal to the English fleet.'
The writer makes on this the rather mild comment that 'treason itself could scarcely have done worse.' Why 'scarcely'? Surely the very blackest treason could not have done worse. He goes on to ask: 'How were the glorious seamen, whose memory will be for ever honoured by England and the world, rewarded after their victory?'
This is his answer: 'Their wages were left unpaid, they were docked of their food, and served with poisonous drink, while for the sick and wounded no hospitals were provided. More of them were killed by the Queen's meanness than by the enemy.'
It is safe to challenge the students of history throughout the world to produce any parallel to conduct so infamous as that which has thus been imputed to an English queen. If the charges are true, there is no limit to the horror and loathing with which we ought to regard Elizabeth. Are they true? That is the question. I respectfully invite the attention of those who wish to know the truth and to retain their reverence for a great historical character, to the following examination of the accusations and of the foundations on which they rest. It will not, I hope, be considered presumptuous if I say that—in making this examination—personal experience of life in the navy sufficiently extensive to embrace both the present day and the time before the introduction of the great modern changes in system and naval materiel will be of great help. Many things which have appeared so extraordinary to landsmen that they could account for their occurrence only by assuming that this must have been due to extreme culpability or extreme folly will be quite familiar to naval officers whose experience of the service goes back forty years or more, and can be satisfactorily explained by them.
There is little reason to doubt that the above-mentioned charges against the great Queen are based exclusively on statements in Froude's History. It is remarkable how closely Froude has been followed by writers treating of Elizabeth and her reign. He was known to have gone to original documents for the sources of his narrative; and it seems to have been taken for granted, not only that his fidelity was above suspicion—an assumption with which I do not deal now—but also that his interpretation of the meaning of those who wrote the papers consulted must be correct. Motley, in his 'History of the United Netherlands,' published in 1860, had dwelt upon the shortness of ammunition and provisions in the Channel Fleet commanded by Lord Howard of Effingham; but he attributed this to bad management on the part of officials, and not to downright baseness on that of Elizabeth.
Froude has placed beyond doubt his determination to make the Queen responsible for all shortcomings.
'The Queen,' he says, 'has taken upon herself the detailed arrangement of everything. She and she alone was responsible. She had extended to the dockyards the same hard thrift with which she had pared down her expenses everywhere. She tied the ships to harbour by supplying the stores in driblets. She allowed rations but for a month, and permitted no reserves to be provided in the victualling offices. The ships at Plymouth, furnished from a distance, and with small quantities at a time, were often for many days without food of any kind. Even at Plymouth, short food and poisonous drink had brought dysentery among them. They had to meet the enemy, as it were, with one arm bandaged by their own sovereign. The greatest service ever done by an English fleet had been thus successfully accomplished by men whose wages had not been paid from the time of their engagement, half-starved, with their clothes in rags, and so ill-found in the necessaries of war that they had eked out their ammunition by what they could take in action from the enemy himself. The men expected that at least after such a service they would be paid their wages in full. The Queen was cavilling over the accounts, and would give no orders for money till she had demanded the meaning of every penny that she was charged.... Their legitimate food had been stolen from them by the Queen's own neglect.'
We thus see that Froude has made Elizabeth personally responsible for the short rations, the undue delay in paying wages earned, and the fearful sickness which produced a heavy mortality amongst the crews of her Channel Fleet; and also for insufficiently supplying her ships with ammunition.
The quotations from the book previously referred to make it clear that it is possible to outdo Froude in his denunciations, even where it is on his statements that the accusers found their charges. In his 'History of England'—which is widely read, especially by the younger generation of Englishmen—the Rev. J. Franck Bright tells us, with regard to the defensive campaign against the Armada: 'The Queen's avarice went near to ruin the country. The miserable supplies which Elizabeth had alone allowed to be sent them (the ships in the Channel) had produced all sorts of disease, and thousands of the crews came from their great victory only to die. In the midst of privations and wanting in all the necessaries of life, the sailors had fought with unflagging energy, with their wages unpaid, with ammunition supplied to them with so stingy a hand that each shot sent on board was registered and accounted for; with provisions withheld, so that the food of four men had habitually to be divided among six, and that food so bad as to be really poisonous.'
J. R. Green, in his 'History of the English People,' states that: 'While England was thrilling with the triumph over the Armada, its Queen was coolly grumbling over the cost and making her profit out of the spoiled provisions she had ordered for the fleet that had saved her.'
The object of each subsequent historian was to surpass the originator of the calumnies against Elizabeth. In his sketch of her life in the 'Dictionary of National Biography,' Dr. Augustus Jessopp asserts that the Queen's ships 'were notoriously and scandalously ill-furnished with stores and provisions for the sailors, and it is impossible to lay the blame on anyone but the Queen.' He had previously remarked that the merchant vessels which came to the assistance of the men-of-war from London and the smaller ports 'were as a rule far better furnished than the Queen's ships,' which were 'without the barest necessaries.' After these extracts one from Dr. S. R. Gardiner's 'Student's History of England' will appear moderate. Here it is: 'Elizabeth having with her usual economy kept the ships short of powder, they were forced to come back' from the chase of the Armada.
The above allegations constitute a heavy indictment of the Queen. No heavier could well be brought against any sovereign or government. Probably the first thing that occurs to anyone who, knowing what Elizabeth's position was, reads the tremendous charges made against her will be, that—if they are true—she must have been without a rival in stupidity as well as in turpitude. There was no person in the world who had as much cause to desire the defeat of the Armada as she had. If the Duke of Medina Sidonia's expedition had been successful she would have lost both her throne and her life. She herself and her father had shown that there could be a short way with Queens—consort or regnant—whom you had in your power, and whose existence might be inconvenient to you. Yet, if we are to believe her accusers, she did her best to ensure her own dethronement and decapitation. 'The country saved itself and its cause in spite of its Queen.'
How did this extraordinary view of Elizabeth's conduct arise? What had Froude to go upon when he came forward as her accuser? These questions can be answered with ease. Every Government that comes near going to war, or that has gone to war, is sure to incur one of two charges, made according to circumstances. If the Government prepares for war and yet peace is preserved, it is accused of unpardonable extravagance in making preparations. Whether it makes these on a sufficient scale or not, it is accused, if war does break out—at least in the earlier period of the contest—of not having done enough. Political opponents and the 'man in the street' agree in charging the administration with panic profusion in one case, and with criminal niggardliness in the other. Elizabeth hoped to preserve peace. She had succeeded in keeping out of an 'official' war for a long time, and she had much justification for the belief that she could do so still longer. 'She could not be thoroughly persuaded,' says Mr. David Hannay, 'that it was hopeless to expect to avert the Spanish invasion by artful diplomacy.' Whilst reasonable precautions were not neglected, she was determined that no one should be able to say with truth that she had needlessly thrown away money in a fright. For the general naval policy of England at the time, Elizabeth, as both the nominal and the real head of the Government, is properly held responsible. The event showed the perfect efficiency of that policy.
[Footnote 66: AShortHistoryoftheRoyalNavy, pp. 96, 97.]
The war having really come, it was inevitable that the Government, and Elizabeth as its head, should be blamed sooner or later for not having made adequate provision for it. No one is better entitled to speak on the naval policy of the Armada epoch than Mr. Julian Corbett, who is not disposed to assume that the Queen's action was above criticism. He says that 'Elizabeth has usually been regarded as guilty of complete and unpardonable inaction.' He explains that 'the event at least justified the Queen's policy. There is no trace of her having been blamed for it at the time at home; nor is there any reason to doubt it was adopted sagaciously and deliberately on the advice of her most capable officers.' Mr. David Hannay, who, as an historian, rightly takes into consideration the conditions of the age, points out that 'Elizabeth was a very poor sovereign, and the maintenance of a great fleet was a heavy drain upon her resources.' He adds: 'There is no reason to suppose that Elizabeth and her Lord Treasurer were careless of their duty; but the Government of the time had very little experience in the maintenance of great military forces.'
[Footnote 67: DrakeandtheTudorNavy, 1898, vol. ii. p. 117.]
If we take the charges against her in detail, we shall find that each is as ill-founded as that of criminal neglect of naval preparations generally. The most serious accusation is that with regard to the victuals. It will most likely be a surprise to many people to find that the seamen of Elizabeth were victualled on a more abundant and much more costly scale than the seamen of Victoria. Nevertheless, such is the fact. In 1565 the contract allowance for victualling was 4-1/2d. a day for each man in harbour, and 5d. a day at sea. There was also an allowance of 4d. a man per month at sea and 8d. in harbour for 'purser's necessaries.' Mr. Oppenheim, in whose valuable work on naval administration the details as to the Elizabethan victualling system are to be found, tells us that in 1586 the rate was raised to 6d. a day in harbour and 6-1/2d. at sea; and that in 1587 it was again raised, this time to 6-1/2d. in harbour and 7d. at sea. These sums were intended to cover both the cost of the food and storage, custody, conveyance, &c., the present-day 'establishment charges.' The repeated raising of the money allowance is convincing proof that the victualling arrangements had not been neglected, and that there was no refusal to sanction increased expenditure to improve them. It is a great thing to have Mr. Oppenheim's high authority for this, because he is not generally favourable to the Queen, though even he admits that it 'is a moot point' how far she was herself responsible.
[Footnote 68: _The_Administration_of_the_Royal_Navy,_ _1509-1660_. London, 1896.]
If necessary, detailed arguments could be adduced to show that to get the present value of the sums allowed in 1588 we ought to multiply them by six The sum allowed for each man's daily food and the 'establishment charges'—increased as they had been in 1586—did little more than cover the expenditure; and, though it does not appear that the contractor lost money, he nevertheless died a poor man. It will be hardly imputed to Elizabeth for iniquity that she did not consider that the end of government was the enrichment of contractors. The fact that she increased the money payment again in 1587 may be accepted as proof that she did not object to a fair bargain. As has been just said, the Elizabethan scale of victualling was more abundant than the early Victorian, and not less abundant than that given in the earlier years of King Edward VII. As shown by Mr. Hubert Hall and Thorold Rogers, in the price-lists which they publish, the cost of a week's allowance of food for a man-of-war's man in 1588, in the money of the time, amounted to about 1s. 11-1/2d., which, multiplied by six, would be about 11s. 9d. of our present money. The so-called 'savings price' of the early twentieth century allowance was about 9-1/2d. a day, or 5s. 6-1/2d. weekly. The 'savings price' is the amount of money which a man received if he did not take up his victuals, each article having a price attached to it for that purpose. It may be interesting to know that the full allowance was rarely, perhaps never, taken up, and that some part of the savings was till the last, and for many years had been, almost invariably paid.
[Footnote 69: See Mr. Hubert Hall's _Society_in_the_Elizabethan_ _Age_, and Thorold Rogers's _History_of_Agriculture_and_Prices_, vols. v. and vi. Froude himself puts the ratio at six to one.]
[Footnote 70: It will be convenient to compare the two scales in a footnote, observing that—as I hope will not be thought impertinent—I draw on my own personal experience for the more recent, which was in force for some years after I went to sea.
Early Elizabethan Victorian scale scale Beef 8 lbs. 7 lbs. Biscuit 7 " 7 " Salted fish 9 " none Cheese 3/4 lb. " Butter " " Beer 7 gallons " Vegetables none 3-1/2 lbs. Spirits " 7/8 pint Tea " 1-3/4 oz. Sugar " 14 " Cocoa " 7 "