Nathaniel Hillyer. Egleston.

The North American review (Volume 139) online

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ten how, in the overthrow of the Austrians, they were rewarded
for having had the courage of their opinions and adopted the
needle-gun when the rest of Europe was laughing at it. As it
was with that old fire-stick, the mother of all the breech-loading
rifles that have succeeded it, so it is with the torpedo, in which
the Germans see a powerful means of damaging their enemies.
They have a very large corps of specially trained men, and such
a perfect system of organization for coast defense that in a very
few hours after a declaration of war the entrances to their
harbors and their coasts in general can be completely blocked


against the approach of the enemy. The German Government
was the first to give serious attention to the Whitehead, and has
improved upon it; and in the Swartzkopf possesses the most
perfect type hitherto known of movable torpedo. By patient
investigation and a minute attention to details, the Germans have
arrived at results the value of which will be clearly seen in the
next war in which they are engaged, more especially in respect
to sea-mines and obstructions in general. With them the prac
tice of torpedo warfare is no mere holiday drill. High winds
and a rough sea are their favorite conditions, and it is the boast
of their torpedoists that they are able to attack an iron-clad
under circumstances that would deprive it of the use of its
guns. I must confess that I do not hold the torpedo, as a
weapon of offense, in so high esteem as some naval authorities
appear to.

What there is of the Austrian navy is in good condition. An
Austrian man-of-war looks likes an Austrian gentleman, well
equipped, dignified, and ready for any work that might be ex
pected of it. I cannot help thinking it would be well for the
balance of naval power in Europe if the Austrian fleet had four
times its present strength. Austria, unfortunately, has done
little in the way of ship-building for her navy of late years, so
that her iron-clads are all more or less deficient in the points
that go to make up a first-class ship of the present day. They
are weak in construction, and but slightly armored as compared
with the vessels that would form the fighting line of a British
or French fleet. The Vienna Government, however, has begun
to wake up to, the necessity of adding to its naval strength, and
I doubt not we shall shortly hear of the keel of more than one
formidable craft being laid. One point in which its navy is
highly efficient is that of the personnel. The seamen are the
descendants of those who manned the Venetian fleet of old, and
their equal in courage and daring is only to be found amongst
the sea-faring people of northern Europe. They are exceedingly
well drilled, and the officers know how to handle their ships
and fight them, as they showed at the battle of Lissa. In proof
of the excellence of the Austrian system of organization and
training of naval forces may be cited the fact, that at the recent
maneuvers in the Adriatic, two iron-clads that had been in com
mission only seven days were able to hold their own with the
evolutionary squadron that had been cruising about in the
VOL. cxxxix. NO. 336. 32


Mediterranean for several months. In addition to the regular
navy, the Austro-Hungarian Government has a valuable aux
iliary force in the ships of the subsidized Lloyd's company.
The vessels are all strong enough to carry an armament of light
guns, and in time of war they could be utilized either as cruisers
for the destruction of the enemy's commerce, or to convey
torpedo-boats about, as did the Russian steamer Constantine
during the late war.

Italy, while experiencing the greatest difficulty in meeting
her financial engagements, spends fabulous sums in the con
struction of huge iron-clads and enormous unwieldy guns,
besides adding almost daily to her torpedo flotilla. Italy, in
fact, is making greater efforts toward the attainment of naval
supremacy than even England, although, in my opinion, she
has chosen anything but the proper path. The construction of
such large vessels as the Duilio and Dandolo, Italia and Lepanto,
is a repetition of the old mistake of putting all your eggs into
the same basket. These ships certainly carry the most formid
able armament ever set afloat, but their loading arrangements
are so imperfect that while one round is being fired from their
guns, half a dozen can be given by an enemy. Between two
successive shots of the Duilio, a nimble craft with somewhat
lighter guns has time to rush in, deliver her fire, and then steam
away again out of danger. With all their heavy armor and
defensive arrangements in general, the Duilio class of iron-clads
are by no means to be considered impregnable. There are cer
tain vulnerable points about them, near the bow and stern
especially, where a few well-delivered shots would soon render
them hors de combat. I think one of these Italian vessels,
attacked by three or four of the waspish craft recently built by
other governments, would have a very bad time of it. Seeing
that in the contest between defensive armor and the gun, the
victory has always been to the latter, it is highly probable that
the days of the heavily armored iron-clad will soon be num
bered. It is more than likely that a short time hence an entirely
new class of vessel will be looked upon as the proper type of
fighting ship ; and then, it may be asked, where will be the
millions spent so ambitiously by presumptuous young Italy ?

So far I have spoken only of the fleets of the great European
powers. The other maritime governments are also, each in
accordance with the resources at its command, pushing on their


naval armaments. Denmark and Norway and Sweden are
chiefly interested in defensive measures, and so are concen
trating their efforts upon the increase of their torpedo craft and
armored gun-boats. The naval authorities of Denmark, after a
series of experiments, the results of which were deemed most
satisfactory, have determined upon an entirely new construc
tion, and are now engaged in building a number of ram-
gun-boats with cupola decks. The armor is to form a shield
over the vessel, so as completely to protect the engines and
boilers from a plunging fire. These craft will be very formid
able, as they are to have a high rate of speed, and in addition to
the ram are to carry torpedoes.

Greece is another small country very ambitious to possess a
respectable navy. The Hellenic Government has decided to
construct four very powerful armored corvettes, and the money
for them having been provided, a special commission is now
studying the plans and tenders sent in by the various ship
building firms in Europe.

The United States, according to my views, is pursuing a
wise and sensible course in regard to her naval armament. She
sends into foreign waters fine, large, warlike-looking corvettes,
vessels of high speed, heavily armed, and well officered and
manned. By this means the personnel of the navy receives just
the training necessary for carrying on such a war of defense
and reprisal as would best serve America's interests in a war
with another maritime power. Fast cruisers and torpedo-boats
are all that America needs j the one to prey upon the enemy's
commerce, and the other to keep its iron-clads off her shores.
Situated as they happily are, far removed from the spheres of
European politics, the American people can afford to look on
quietly while the arming of Europe is going on.

The total number of armored vessels possessed by the Euro
pean powers, including those in course of construction, is three
hundred and fifteen ; of which sixty-three belong to England,
sixty-eight to France, thirty-one to Germany, thirty-nine to Rus
sia, nineteen to Italy, thirteen to Austria, nineteen to Turkey,
twenty-three to Holland, twenty to Sweden and Norway, nine to
Denmark, seven to Spain, one to Portugal, one to Roumania,
and two to Greece. It must be understood, however, that
amongst these iron-clads are reckoned all the gun-boats, so that
a high number does not necessarily imply a powerful fleet. The


apparent disparity would be removed by a close examination of
tie vessels, and a real comparison of the relative strength of the
various navies of Europe would place them much as they stand
in the above statement, so far as guns and armor are concerned.
Although the number of European iron-clads is thus set down as
three hundred and fifteen, a certain percentage must be taken
off on account of the non-effective vessels, the number of which
will greatly increase within the next few years. At present two
hundred and twenty-six only of the iron-clads are fit for service.
Of these, fifty-seven belong to the English fleet, forty-five to the
French, twenty-four to the German, twenty-one to the Russian,
thirteen to the Italian, ten to the Austrian, fourteen to the
Turkish, eighteen to the Dutch, eight to the Danish, five to the
Spanish, eight to the fleets of Norway and Sweden, two to that
of Greece, and one to the Portuguese. Thus it is seen that in
spite of the numerical difference of five ships in favor of France,
England still maintains her old position as the first naval power
of Europe. France, however, is running her very hard, and a
few years hence, if the present conditions of naval progress in the
two countries remain unchanged, she will be quite alongside, if
not ahead, of her ancient rival ; for the iron-clads now in course of
construction will then all have been completed and added to the
respective navies, while many others will have been removed
from the lists, as vessels of obsolete construction, unfit for
further service. The fleets of Europe would then stand
much as follows : The English forty-seven iron-clads, the
French forty-five, the German twenty-three, the Russian eleven,
the Austrian nine, the Dutch seven, the Italian eight, the Turk
ish nine, and the Danish five. About the year 1890 the French
fleet will be quite a match for the English, a circumstance de
serving the highest attention on the part of the British Govern
ment, seeing that it will never be possible to concentrate the
whole strength of its navy in the Channel, owing to the necessity
of protecting its many interests elsewhere. In fact, England's
prospects of ruling the waves in future as of old, are anything
but bright. Germany, on the other hand, is coming rapidly to
the front, and at the date mentioned will probably be in a posi
tion not only to enforce respect from England and France as a
first-class naval power, but to keep the sea in face of any naval
combination that the Baltic powers can bring against her.


I cannot close this paper without some remarks upon a naval
weapon regarding which all the world seems to be going mad.
I have some right to do so, because I am, perhaps, the only man
living in Europe who has had, while commanding a fleet, the
unpleasant experience of being hunted and frequently attacked
by squadrons of torpedo-boats. My experience during the Rus
sian war has led me to depreciate the existing torpedoes as
weapons of offense, and I look upon them as valuable only for
their moral effect. The Turkish vessels under my command
during the late war were attacked at various times by the Spar,
the Harvey, and the Whitehead torpedoes. In two instances
only were they successful, and that solely on account of neglect
of the orders given in respect to the precautions to be taken for
the protection of the vessels. Both the Harvey and the White-
head signally failed when employed by the Russians in the Black
Sea, the one at Soukhoum Kalch and the other at Batoum. It
was only on the Danube, and owing to the absence of guard-
boats and anything like a " crinoline n protection of spars and
ropes, that a steam-launch with a spar torpedo was able, on one
occasion, to effect the destruction of a small gun-boat. The
Whitehead torpedo is very much overrated, according to my
way of thinking. Its movements are uncontrollable, and, once
launched, everything depends upon the correctness of the aim
and the immovability of the target. Experience has shown that
there is no chance of a hit where the range is over five hundred
yards, and the lookout must be poor indeed that cannot signal
the approach of a hostile craft before she arrives within that

Although it is now the fashion to fit iron-clads for the use of
the Whitehead torpedo as a part of their armament, I do not think
for a moment that they will ever be launched from ships when
fighting in anything like a formation, as would be the case in a
general action, on account of the danger of striking a consort
instead of the enemy. Their use I would restrict to special
vessels that could afford to wait the opportunity for launching
a torpedo under conditions that would insure success. The Lay
torpedo I consider to be a much better weapon than the White-
head for attacking ships when passing through narrow channels,
on account of the perfect command that the electrical steering
gear gives the operator over its movements. It ought, how-


ever, to possess more speed and a greater degree of invisibility
than were shown during the experiments carried out some years
ago in the Bosphorus. To produce a really serviceable locomo
tive torpedo, the following conditions must be fulfilled : First,
a high rate of speed, and an effective range of not less than a
mile; secondly, invisibility, or, what would answer the same
purpose, such a system of construction as would be a guarantee
against its sinking from the effects of Nordenfelt projectiles or
shell fire ; thirdly, perfect command over its movements, so that
a change of aim might be made at any moment during the run ;
and, fourthly, one of the most important conditions of all, the
capability of conveying and exploding charges of gun-cotton or
dynamite at least twice as heavy as those now carried by the
"Whitehead, at depths greater than those to which the armor
"belts of iron-clads are likely to extend. All these conditions
General Berdau declares his system of locomotive torpedoes will
fulfill. He has been experimenting at Constantinople for some
time past, and is still confident of success. I offer no opinion,
either on this point or on the system he is engaged in perfecting,
but will confine my remarks to saying that should he really
succeed in producing a weapon that can do all he claims for it,
the conditions of naval warfare will be completely revolutionized.



FIFTY years ago the business of public education in America
had fallen into what was, to say the least, a very unsystematic
condition. Its superintendence was left very much to local
authorities. Where they were on the alert, it was well managed j
where they were indifferent, it was behindhand. When ground
was once lost, it was difficult to regain it. On the other hand,
when schools were good in any town or neighborhood, there was
no immediate reason that their success should improve other
schools. Meanwhile, the reputation of the American system of
public schools had reached Europe and had interested statesmen
and students there. Such an American system then was and
is. It may be briefly defined as the system by which every one
is educated at the public expense,* and in which no one relig
ious communion is permitted to interfere. So striking was its
success that the European states, in more instances than one,
sent inspectors to America to study and to report upon it, and
its success and reasons of enlightened policy led every intelligent
nation of Europe to take measures for the introduction of a
general system of public education. What was called the
Prussian system, and other European plans, with the published
reports of the European commissioners in America, reacted on
America. More than this, the great Western States, as they
grew in wealth, did as they always do. They determined to
" get the best," and, having white paper to write upon, they were
able to establish systematic instruction. The older States also
appointed boards of education and State superintendents, at

* The education of children at the public cost appears as early as the
laws of Charondas in Thurii, on the site of the old Sybaris. " He enacted
that all the sons of the citizens should be instructed in letters, the city pay
ing the salaries of the teachers. For he held that the poor, not being able
to pay their teachers from their own property, would be deprived of the most
valuable discipline."



first with small powers of interference with local boards, but
with that power which a central office always has, and, of course,
with the love of system for which, indeed, such offices and such
officers are created. The indifferent towns were driven up by
whatever engineering was possible, of statute or ridicule, to the
standard of success attained by the towns that had done best, and
in each State it was gradually assumed that what was good for
one place was good for another. If a certain system of grading
and of text-books were good for the Twelfth street school in the
city of New York, did it not follow, of course, that it was good
for the children of the fisherman at Montauk Point f If public
education is a good thing, is it not clear that we cannot have
too much of public education ?

There are many well-informed persons, who are yet ignorant
enough to suppose that the somewhat forced revival that led
to the " systems " of public education, and to the various super
intending boards in this country, was really the beginning of
our successes in this time. They are quite mistaken. While
the new systems have doubtless wrought great benefits, these ben
efits have been accompanied by some losses losses which perhaps
may never be regained. The first of these losses is the loss of
spontaneity and originality in the teacher. This has been
admirably satirized in a brilliant serial story called "The
Evolution of Dodd," recently running in the " Illinois School
Journal." " The machine, 77 as the writer of that story irrev
erently calls it, takes the place of natural methods, adapted by
each teacher for each child. Indeed, the first effort of "the
machine " is to employ professional teachers who know how to
" run with the machine." In old times, every intelligent young
man or young woman that had an education better than the
average, was apt to spend a few months or a few years in
school-keeping. To this hour you may meet people who glow
with pride as they tell you that they were under the care of
Daniel Webster, or Edward Everett, or Harriet Beecher, or
Lucretia Garfield, in those early days when such people were giv
ing the most vigorous years of their young lives to school-keep
ing. But no teachers of that stamp are asked for now, in the
" true system. 7 ' There are certain methods to be followed, which
amateur school-masters cannot be expected to understand. At
best, such teachers as these only prepared their pupils for life.


Now, as Jules Simon said so wittily, " We do not prepare our
pupils for life, but for examinations. 77

Another loss, only second to this, was sustained when the
heresy came in, now nearly universal, which extended the school
course so that it should cover almost the whole of the year. In
the beginning it was not so. Fifty years ago it was understood
that a boy or a girl had many things to learn besides reading,
writing, and arithmetic. Thus, it was understood that a boy
must know the use of his hands and his feet. He must know
what a bushel of wheat was when he saw it, and how a black
smith shod a horse. He must know the methods of a town-
meeting. He must know how to milk, how to plow, how to cradle
oats, how to drive, how to harness a horse, how to take off a
wheel, and how to grease an axle. There were ten thousand
other things that he must know, of no less importance, not one
of which is ever well taught in school. For a girl, it was under
stood that in average life she must know how to make and mend
her clothes, and her brother's and her father's ; how to knead,
to bake, to stew, to boil, and to roast ; how to wash, how to iron,
and how to clear-starch ; how to tear a bandage, and how to put
one on. There were many regions where she was expected to
know how to cut up a hog, and salt his members ; how to smoke
them for hams; how to preserve fruits and vegetables. Most
of these things are taught and learned in schools, only with the
greatest difficulty. The fathers and mothers of the older genera
tions, therefore, reserved time, away from school, in which the
children should learn these things. For study in reading, writ
ing, and arithmetic, they provided three months of " schooling "
in winter. They also opened the school for a summer term, and
the pupils then came back to their book-study from exercise and
experience in other directions.

But the official Superintendents of Education, naturally
enough, detest this simple and practical system. In the first
place, they have their office to magnify. They think the school
room is the most important place in the world, as the blacksmith
thinks his forge is, and the sailor his ship. From the beginning
of the " Revival n in American school-keeping, there has been an
effort to break up the healthy old system of a winter school and
a summer school, and to substitute for it the steady grind of a
school kept through the year. That is to say, it is to be kept so


nearly through the year as to be a permanent institution, with
permanent teachers, and a permanent registry ; and the vacations
and other holidays are merely unwilling concessions to frail
human nature, which sometimes revolts from pot-hooks, tram
mels, common multiples, and the analysis of sentences, and
claims some little knowledge of the outward world of life.

What follows from the new system is the discovery, at the
end of a generation, that the children educated under the new
system have no experience with tools and no ability with their
hands, and but very little knowledge of practical life. As a
first consequence of such failure of the schools, the average
parent withdraws his child from the schools at a very early age.
The State pays largely for the education of its children, and yet
does not receive what it pays for. It is difficult to obtain statis
tics on this vital point ; but it has been said, on high authority,
that in the schools of the large cities the average boy does not
go to school jaier he is twelve and a half years old. A few boys
go till they are sixteen or seventeen ; but so many leave at
ten or eleven years that, for the average, school attendance is
over before the boy is thirteen. We beg the school superintend
ents, from those elaborate papers of registry that are kept so
painfully, to give us more light upon this point. Something
near this statement is true, and, because it is true, one has not
far to go in seeking to account for the steady increase of the
" hoodlum " class in our large cities.

Puzzled with the failure of the new system on its practical
side, the educators who " run with the machine " try to strain it
to make it take the work that was once gladly done elsewhere.
To the simple curriculum of the school that taught the three
Rs, this, that, and another thing is almost of necessity added.
Whenever an accident or calamity calls attention to the lack of
real education, there is a demand that u the schools " shall take
something else in hand. Thus, the music fails in churches, and
"the schools" are set to teach music; the girls cannot mend
their clothes, and "the schools 77 must undertake sewing; a boy
does not know a handful of wheat when he sees it in his father's
office, the father makes a row, and " the schools n have object-
lessons in the knowledge of cereals. We are seriously told, by a
writer of sense and experience, a woman also, that the schools
should be so arranged that a girl shall learn how to broil a
beefsteak there. In the kindergartens most thoroughly provided,


the little girls do have model bedsteads and model beds, in which
they are taught the duties of a chambermaid, and have toy dust
pans and dust-brushes, with which they are taught to " dust n a

It is true that the best professional teachers manfully resist
such additions to the school courses. They would gladly keep

Online LibraryNathaniel Hillyer. EglestonThe North American review (Volume 139) → online text (page 43 of 60)