A. T. (Alfred Thayer) Mahan.

The influence of sea power upon history, 1660-1783 online

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the navigation of the two countries, without the ports and assistance
of Portugal ; and these islanders could not insult all maritime
Europe, if the whole riches of Portugal did not pass through their
hands, which furnishes them with the means to make war and renders
the alliance truly and properly offensive."

Between the two arguments the logic of situation and
power prevailed. Portugal found England nearer and more
dangerous than Spain, and remained for generations of trial
true to the alliance. This relationship was as useful to Eng-
land as any of her colonial possessions, depending of course
upon the scene of the principal operations at any particular
time.

The preliminaries of peace were signed at Fontainebleau,
November 3, 1762 ; the definitive treaty on the 10th of the fol-
lowing February, at Paris, whence the peace takes its name.

By its terms France renounced all claims to Canada, Nova
Scotia, and all the islands of the St. Lawrence ; along with
Canada she ceded the valley of the Ohio and all her territory
on the east side of the Mississippi, except the city of New
Orleans. At the same time Spain, as an equivalent for
Havana, which England restored, yielded Florida, under which
name were comprised all her continental possessions east of
the Mississippi. Thus England obtained a colonial empire
embracing Canada, from Hudson's Bay, and all of the present
United States east of the Mississippi. The possibilities of this
vast region were then only partially foreseen, and as yet there
was no foreshadowing of the revolt of the thirteen colonies.

In the West Indies, England gave back to France the
important islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique. The four
so-called neutral islands of the Lesser Antilles were divided
between the two powers ; Sta. Lucia going to France, St. Vin-
cent, Tobago, and Dominica to England, which also retained

Grenada.

21



322 OPPOSITION TO THE TREATY.

Minorca was given back to England ; and as the restora-
tion of the island to Spain had been one of the conditions
of the alliance with the latter, France, unable to fulfil her
stipulation, ceded to Spain Louisiana west of tlie Mississippi.

In India, France recovered the possessions she had held
before Dupleix began his schemes of aggrandizement; but
she gave up the right of erecting fortifications or keeping
troops in Bengal, and so left the station at Chandernagore
defenceless. In a word, France resumed her facilities for
trading, but practically abandoned her pretensions to polit-
ical influence. It was tacitly understood that the English
company would keep all its conquests.

The right of fishing upon the coasts of Newfoundland and
in parts of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, which France had pre-
viously enjoyed, was conceded to her by this treaty; but it
was denied to Spain, who had claimed it for her fi shermen.
This concession was among those most attacked by the Eng-
lish opposition.

The nation at large and Pitt, the favorite of the nation,
were bitterly opposed to the terms of the treaty. " France,"
said Pitt, " is chiefly formidable to us as a maritime and com-
mercial power. What we gain in this respect is valuable to
us above all through the injury to her which results from it.
You leave to Prance the possibility of reviving her navy."
In truth, from the point of view of sea power and of the
national jealousies which the spirit of that age sanctioned,
these words, though illiberal, were strictly justifiable. The
restoration to France of her colonies in the West Indies and
her stations in India, together with the valuable right of
fishery in her former American possessions, put before her
the possibility and the inducement to restore her shipping,
her commerce, and her navy, and thus tended to recall her
from the path of continental ambition which had been so fatal
to her interests, and in the same proportion favorable to the
unprecedented growth of England's power upon the ocean.
The opposition, and indeed some of the ministry, also thought
that so commanding and important a position as Havana



RESULTS OF THE CONTINENTAL WAR. 323

was poorly paid for by the cession of the yet desolate and
unproductive region called Florida. Porto Eico was sug-
gested, Florida accepted. There were other minor points
of difference, into which it is unnecessary to enter. It could
scarcely be denied that with the commanding military control
of the sea held by England, grasping as she now did so many
important positions, with her navy overwhelmingly supe-
rior in numbers, and her commerce and internal condition
very thriving, more rigorous terms might easily have been
exacted and would have been prudent. The ministry de-
fended their eagerness and spirit of concession on the ground
of the enormous growth of the debt, which then amounted
to £122,000,000, a sum in every point of view much greater
then than now ; but while this draft upon the future was
fully justified by the success of the war, it also imperatively
demanded that the utmost advantages which the military
situation made attainable should be exacted. This the min-
istry failed to do. As regards the debt, it is well observed by
a French writer that " in this war, and for years afterward,
England had in view nothing less than the conquest of Amer-
ica and the progress of her Bast India Company. By these
two countries her manufactures and commerce acquired more
than sufficient outlets, and repaid her for the numerous sacri-
fices she had made. Seeing the maritime decay of Europe,
— its commerce annihilated, its manufactures so little ad-
vanced, — how could the English nation feel afraid of a future
which offered so vast a perspective ? " Unfortunately the na-
tion needed an exponent in the government ; and its chosen
mouthpiece, the only man, perhaps, able to rise to the level
of the great opportunity, was out of favor at court.

Nevertheless, the gains of England were very great, not
only in territorial increase, nor yet in maritime preponder-
ance, but in the prestige and position achieved in the eyes
of the nations, now fully opened to her great resources and
mighty power. To these results, won by the sea, the issue
of the continental war offered a singular and suggestive con-
trast. Prance had already withdrawn, along with England,



324 INFLUENCE OF SEA POWER IN

from all share in that strife, and peace between the othei
parties to it was signed five days after the Peace of Paris.
The terms of the peace were simply the status quo ante helium.
By the estimate of the King of Prussia, one hundred and eighty
thousand of his soldiers had fallen or died in this war, out
of a kingdom of five million souls ; while the losses of Russia,
Austria, and France aggregated four hundred and sixty thou-
sand men. The result was simply that things remained as
they were.^ To attribute this only to a difference between
the possibilities of land and sea war is of course absurd. The
genius of Frederick, backed by the money of England, had
proved an equal match for the mismanaged and not al-
ways hearty efforts of a coalition numerically overwhelming.
What does seem a fair conclusion is, that States having a
good seaboard, or even ready access to the ocean by one or
two outlets, will find it to their advantage to seek prosperity
and extension by the way of the sea and of commerce, rather
than in attempts to unsettle and modify existing political
arrangements in countries where a more or less long posses-
sion of power has conferred acknowledged rights, and created
national allegiance or political ties. Since the Treaty of Paris
in 1763, the waste places of the world have been rapidly
filled ; witness our own continent, Australia, and even South
America. A nominal and more or less clearly defined po-
litical possession now generally exists in the most forsaken
regions, though to this statement there are some marked ex-
ceptions ; but in many places this political possession is little
more than nominal, and in others of a character so feeble
that it cannot rely upon itself alone for support or protection.
The familiar and notorious example of the Turkish Empire,
kept erect only by the forces pressing upon it from opposing
sides, by the mutual jealousies of powers that have no sym-
pathy with it, is an instance of such weak political tenure ;
and though the question is wholly European, all know enough
of it to be aware that the interest and control of the sea powers
is among the chief, if not the first, of the elements that now fix

1 See Annual Register, 1762, p. 63.



REMOTE AND DISORDERED COUNTRIES. 325

tlie situation ; and that they, if intelligently used, will direct
the future inevitable changes. Upon the western continents the
political condition of the Central American and tropical South
American States is so unstable as to cause constant anxiety
about the maintenance of internal order, and seriously to
interfere with commerce and with the peaceful development
of their resources. So long as — to use a familiar expres-
sion — they hurt no one but themselves, this may go on ; but
for a long time the citizens of more stable governments have
been seeking to exploit their resources, and have borne the
losses arising from their distracted condition. North America
and Australia still offer large openings to immigration and
enterprise ; but they are filling up rapidly, and as the oppor-
tunities there diminish, the demand must arise for a more
settled government in those disordered States, for security
to life and for reasonable stability of institutions enabling
merchants and others to count upon the future. There is
certainly no present hope that such a demand can be fulfilled
from the existing native materials ; if the same be true when
the demand arises, no theoretical positions, like the Monroe
doctrine, will prevent interested nations from attempting to
remedy the evil by some measure, which, whatever it may
be called, will be a political interference. Such interferences
must produce collisions, which may be at times settled by
arbitration, but can scarcely fail at other times to cause
war. Even for a peaceful solution, that nation will have the
strongest arguments which has the strongest organized force.
It need scarcely be said that the successful piercing of the
Central American Isthmus at any point may precipitate the
moment that is sure to come sooner or later. The profound
modification of commercial routes expected from this enter-
prise, the political importance to the United States of such a
channel of communication between her Atlantic and Pacific
seaboards, are not, however, the whole nor even the principal
part of the question. As far as can be seen, the time will
come when stable governments for the American tropical
States must be assured bv the now existing uowerful and



326 EFFECTS OF THE SEVEN YEARS' WAll

stable States of America or Europe. The geographical position
of those States, the climatic conditions, make it plain at once
that sea power will there, even more than in the case of
Turkey, determine what foreign State shall predominate, —
if not by actual possession, by its influence over the native
governments. The geographical position of the United States
and her intrinsic power give her an undeniable advantage ;
but that advantage will not avail if there is a great infe-
riority of organized brute-force, which still remains the last
argument of republics as of kings. Herein lies to us the
great and still living interest of the Seven Years' "War. In
it we have seen and followed England, with an army small
as compared with other States, as is still her case to-day,
first successfully defending her own shores, then carrying
her arms in every direction, spreading her rule and influence
over remote regions, and not only binding them to her obedi-
ence, but making them tributary to her wealth, her strength,
and her reputation. As she loosens the grasp and neutralizes
the influence of France and Spain in regions beyond the sea,
there is perhaps seen the prophecy of some other great nation
in days yet to come, that will incline the balance of power in
some future sea war, whose scope will be recognized after-
ward, if not by contemporaries, to have been the political
future and the economical development of regions before lost
to civilization ; but that nation will not be the United States
if the moment find her indifferent, as now, to the empire
of the seas.

The direction then given to England's efforts, by the
instinct of the nation and the fiery genius of Pitt, continued
after the war, and has profoundly influenced her subsequent
policy. Mistress now of North America, lording it in India,
through the company whose territorial conquests had been
ratified by native princes, over twenty millions of inhabitants,
— a population larger than that of Great Britian and having
a revenue respectable alongside of that of the home govern-
ment, — England, with yet other rich possessions scattered
far and wide over the globa, had ever before her eyes, as a



UPON THE AFTER POLICY OF ENGLAND. 327

salutary lesson, the severe chastisement which the weakness
of Spain had allowed her to inflict upon that huge disjointed
empire. The words of the English naval historian of that
war, speaking about Spain, apply with slight modifications
to England in our own day.

" Spain is precisely that power against which England can always
contend with the fairest prospect of advantage and honor. That
extensive monarchy is exhausted at heart, her resources lie at a
great distance, and whatever power commands the sea, may com-
mand the wealth and commerce of Spain. The dominions from
which she draws her resources, lying at an immense distance from
the capital and from one another, make it more necessary for her
than for any other State to temporize, until she can inspire with
activity all parts of her enormous but disjointed empire."'

It would be untrue to say that England is exhausted at
heart ; but her dependence upon the outside world is such as
to give a certain suggestiveness to the phrase.

This analogy of positions was not overlooked by England.
From that time forward up to our own day, the possessions
won for her by her sea power have combined with that sea
power itself to control her policy. The road to India — in
the days of Clive a distant and perilous voyage on which she
had not a stopping-place of her own — was reinforced as op-
portunity offered by the acquisition of St. Helena, of the Cape
of Good Hope, of the Mauritius. When steam made the Red
Sea and Mediterranean route practicable, she acquired Aden,
and yet later has established herself at Socotra. Malta had
already fallen into her hands during the wars of the French
Revolution ; and her commanding position, as the corner-stone
upon which the coalitions against Napoleon rested, enabled
her to claim it at the Peace of 1815. Being but a short thou-
sand miles from Gibraltar, the circles of military command
exercised by these two places intersect. The present day has
seen the stretch from Malta to the Isthmus of Suez, formerly
without a station, guarded by the cession to her of Cyprus.

' Campbell : Lives of the Admirals.



328 NAVAL POWER OF GREAT BRITAIN.

Egypt, despite the jealousy of France, has passed under Eng-
lish control. The importance of that position to India, under-
stood by Napoleon and Nelson, led the latter at once to send
an officer overland to Bombay with the news of the battle
of the Nile and the downfall of Bonaparte's hopes. Even
now, the jealousy with which England views the advance of
Russia in Central Asia is the result of those days in which
her sea power and resources triumphed over the weakness
of D'Achd and the genius of Suffren, and wrenched the
peninsula of India from the ambition of the French.

" For the first time since the Middle Ages," says M. Martin,
speaking of the Seven Years' War, " England had conquered
France single-handed almost without allies, France having powerful
auxiliaries. She had conquered solely by the superiority of her
government."

Yes ! hut by the superiority of her government using the
tremendous weapon of her sea power. This made her rich,
and in turn protected the trade by which she had her
wealth. With her money she upheld her few auxiliaries,
mainly Prussia and Hanover, in their desperate strife. Her
power was everywhere that her ships could reach, and there
was none to dispute the sea to her. Where she would she
went, and with her went her guns and her troops. By this
mobility her forces were multiplied, those of her enemies
distracted. Ruler of the seas, she everywhere obstructed its
highways. The enemies' fleets could not join ; no great fleet
could get out, or if it did, it was only to meet at once, with
uninured officers and crews, those who were veterans in gales
and warfare. Save in the case of Minorca, she carefully held
her own sea-bases and eagerly seized those of the enemy. What
a lion in the path was Gibraltar to the French squadrons of
Toulon and Brest ! What hope for French succor to Canada,
when the English fleet had Louisburg under its lee ?

The one nation that gained in this war was that which
used the sea in peace to earn its wealth, and ruled it in war



NAVAL POWER OF GREAT BRITAIN. 329

by tbe extent of its navy, by the number of its subjects who
lived on the sea or by the sea, and by its numerous bases of
operations scattered over the globe. Yet it must be observed
that these bases themselves would have lost their value if
their communications remained obstructed. Therefore the
French lost Louisburg, Martinique, Pondicherry ; so England
herself lost Minorca. The service between the bases and the
mobile force between the ports and the fleets is mutual.^ In
this respect the navy is essentially a light coi-ps ; it keeps
open the communications between its own ports, it obstructs
those of the enemy ; but it sweeps the sea for the service
of the land, it controls the desert that man may live and
thrive on the habitable globe.

^ These remarks, always true, are doubly so now since the introduction of
steam. The renewal of coal is a want more frequent, more urgent, more per-
emptory, than any known to the sailing-ship. It is vain to look for energetic
naval operations distant from coal stations. It is equally vain to acquire dis-
tant coaling stations without maintaining a powerful navy ; they will but fall
into the hands of the enemy. But the vainest of all delusions is the expectation
of bringing down an enemy by commerce-destroying alone, with no coaling
Stations outside the national boundaries.



CHAPTER IX.

Course of Events from the Peace op Paris to 1778. —Mari-
time War consequent upon the American Revolution. — Sea
Battle off Ushant.

IF England had reason to complain that she had not reaped
from the Treaty of Paris all the advantages that her
military achievements and position entitled her to expect,
France had every cause for discontent at the position in
which the war left her. The gain of England was nearly
measured by her losses; even the cession of Florida, made
to the conqueror by Spain, had been bought by Prance
at the price of Louisiana. Naturally the thoughts of her
statesmen and of her people, as they bent under the present
necessity to bear the burden of the vanquished, turned to
the future with its possibilities of revenge and compensation.
The Due de Choiseul, able though imperious, remained for
many years more at the head of affairs, and worked persist-
ently to restore the power of France from the effects of the
treaty. The Austrian alliance had been none of his seeking ;
it was already made and working when he came to office in
1758 ; but he had even at the first recognized that the chief
enemy was England, and tried as far as could be to direct
the forces of the nation against her. The defeat of Conflans
having thwarted his projects of invasion, he next sought, in
entire consistency with his main purpose, to stir up Spain and
gain her alliance. The united efforts of the two kingdoms
with their fine seaboards could, under good administration and
with time for preparation, put afloat a navy that would be a
fair counterpoise to that of England. It was also doubtless
true that weaker maritime States, if they saw such a combi-



REVIVAL OF THE FRENCH NAVY. 331

nation successfully made and working efficiently, would pluck
up heart to declare against a, government whose greatness
excited envy and fear, and which acted with the disregard to
the rights and welfare of others common to all uncontrolled
power. Unhappily for both France and Spain, the alliance
came too late. The virtual annihilation of the French fleet
in 1759 was indeed followed by an outburst of national en-
thusiasm for the navy, skilfully fostered and guided by
Choiseul. " Popular feeling took up the cry, from one end
of France to the other, ' The navy must be restored.' Gifts
of cities, corporations, and private individuals raised funds.
A prodigious activity sprang up in the lately silent ports ;
everywhere ships were building and repairing." The min-
ister also recognized the need of restoring the discipline and
tone, as well as the material of the navy. The hour, how-
ever, was too late ; the middle of a great and unsuccessful
war is no time to begin preparations. " Better late than
never " is not so safe a proverb as " In time of peace pre-
pare for war." The condition of Spain was better. When
war broke out, the English naval historian estimates that she
had one hundred ships of all sizes ; of these, probably sixty
were of the line. Nevertheless, althougli the addition of
Spain to her numerous enemies might make the position of
England seem critical, the combination in her favor of num-
bers, skill, experience, and prestige, was irresistible. With
seventy thousand veteran seamen, she had only to maintain
a position already won. The results we know.

After the peace, Choiseul wisely remained faithful to his
own first ideas. The restoration of the navy continued, and
was accompanied and furthered by a spirit of professional
ambition and of desire to excel, among the officers of the
navy, which has been before mentioned, and which, in the
peculiar condition of the United States navy at the present
day, may be commended as a model. The building of ships-
of-war continued with great activity and on a large scale. At
the end of the war, thanks to the movement begun in 1761,
there were forty ships-of-the-line in good condition. In 1770,



332 TONE OF THE FRENCH OFFICERS.

when Choiseul was dismissed, the royal navy numbered sixty-
four of the line and fifty frigates afloat. The arsenals and
storehouses were filled, and a stock of ship-timber laid up.
At the same time the minister tried to improve the efficiency
of the officers by repressing the arrogant spirit of those of
noble birth, which showed itself both toward superiors and
toward another order of officers, not of the nobility, whose
abilities made them desired on board the fleet. This class-
feeling carried with it a curious sentiment of equality
among officers of very different grades, which injuriously af-
fected the spirit of subordination. Members, all, of a privi-
leged social order, their equality as such was more clearly
recognized than their inequality as junior and senior. The
droll story told by Marry att of the midshipman, who repre-
sented to his captain that a certain statement had been
made in confidence, seems to have had a realization on the
French quarter-deck of that day. " Confidence ! " cried the
captain ; " who ever lieard of confidence between a post-
captain and a midshipman ! " " No sir," replied the young-
ster, " not between a captain and a midshipman, but between
two gentlemen." Disputes, arguments, suggestions, between
two gentlemen, forgetful of their relative rank, would break
out at critical moments, and the feeling of equality, whicli
wild democratic notions spread throughout the fleets of the
republic, was curiously forestalled by that existing among the
members of a most haughty aristocracy. "I saw by his
face," says one of Marryatt's heroes, "that the first lieu-
tenant did not agree with the captain ; but he was too good
an officer to say so at such a moment." The phrase ex-
presses one of the deepest-rooted merits of the English sys-
tem, the want of which is owned by French writers : —

"Under Louis XVI. the intimacy and fellowship existing be-
tween the chief and the subordinate led the latter to discuss the
orders which were given him. . . . The relaxation of discipline and



Online LibraryA. T. (Alfred Thayer) MahanThe influence of sea power upon history, 1660-1783 → online text (page 31 of 52)