Thomas B. (Thomas Brackett) Reed.

Modern eloquence; (Volume 11) online

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heads and blinded their eyes to the military power of this
country. But while it is true that all thoughtful observers


regarded the situation as one which had within it elements
of peril, and while a large number of persons thought that
as time went on a struggle between the pretensions of the
Boers and the duties of the imperial government would
bring about a conflict, I do not believe that in anybody's
mind, and certainly not in the mind of the government,
was it regarded as inevitable, or even in any high degree
probable, that before the autumn had drawn to its close the
Orange Free State and the Transvaal would be involved in
hostilities with this country. I recapitulate these facts,
familiar to all, because from day to day, when we are anx-
iously awaiting the telegrams, when our minds are absorbed
in the varying fortunes of the war, we are too apt to consider
too little the circumstances which led up to the present
state of things; and some of us, though I think not many,
may be tempted to judge harshly the government responsi-
ble for the conduct both of civil and military affairs. Now,
why did not the government, knowing that armaments
were being accumulated in the Transvaal, enter a protest
two years ago, and declare that either the accumulating of
armaments, which could only be directed against this coun-
try and its colonies, should cease, or else we should regard
it as a cause of quarrel between us and the Boer govern-
ment? There is a conclusive reason, and a melancholy
reason, why that argument should not have been used
against the Boer government. Our hands were tied and
our mouths were closed at the time by the raid. How
could we say to the Boer government, " You disarm; you
have nothing to fear from us "? How, I say, could we use
that argument when three years ago an expedition com-
posed of our countrymen had made an onslaught a feeble
and ineffective onslaught, it is true, but still an onslaught
on the Boer government? We were helpless in the face
of that argument. It was always open for the Boer gov-
ernment to say, " These arms which we are accumulating,
these munitions of war which we are buying, are intended
not for aggression, but for protection, for self-defense
against a second raid upon our territory." You will see
that the argument that I wish to use is this that we en-
tered upon this war insufficiently prepared to deal on the
spot with the military situation which we had to face, and


looking back impartially, I say that the steps we took were,
in the state of our knowledge, sufficient steps, and that the
policy we took was one which ought to commend itself to
the impartial judgment of the country.

We are attacked, indeed, now for having done too
little. The very men who now attack us are sometimes the
men who six months ago attacked us in terms not less bit-
ter for having done too much. Now, just consider what
course a government ought to pursue which is engaged in
a difficult and delicate negotiation, which is anxious as we
were for peace; which, indeed, thinks war possible, as
we thought it possible, but does not think it probable,
as we did not think it probable. I say the course that such
a government would take was, in the first place to abstain
from unnecessary menace, which might hamper, and fatally
hamper, the course of peaceful negotiation ; but while ab-
staining from preparation of the nature of menace, it would
at the same time do that which it thought necessary to
meet defensively the eventuality of war, if, as was improb-
able, but possible, war should be the ultimate issue of the
negotiations. That was the course we pursued. If we
were wrong in thinking war improbable, we erred with the
great mass of opinion instructed upon South African affairs.
I do not say that you might not find here and there some
prophet of evil who told us that, as soon as the grass grew,
the Boers and their horses would be in the field; but if you
consider, as I had to consider, the balance of competent
opinion on the South African question, while few men were
rash enough to hazard the prophecy that the South African
question would ultimately culminate in war, for the pres-
ent, at all events, the probability was that we should obtain
such rights for the uitlanders in the Transvaal as should at
least tide over the present year and the present difficulty,
until, perhaps, some period arrived when, either by acci-
dent or by design, it might suit the Boer leaders to pre-
cipitate a struggle, from which they hoped, but vainly
hoped, to reap so much for their national advantage. And,
observe, this was not a question on which the government
had, could have, or ever pretended to have, special means
of information. There have been, and may be, European
questions on which the public cannot be taken into the con-


fidence of the government of the day. The government
of the day may know perfectly and secretly facts about the
intents of this or that foreign sovereign or government
which impose upon them a certain policy, but which they
cannot communicate, at all events in any fulness of detail,
to their fellow countrymen. But in this case there were no
secrets. Everybody was on an equality. The man in the
street knew as much as the man in the Cabinet very often
thought he knew a great deal more and if the govern-
ment, or, as in this particular case I should not speak of
any member of the government but myself, if I individ-
ually held a view which events have proved to be an erro-
neous view namely, that peace was a possibility, and that
by strenuously attempting to come to an understanding
with the Boer government peace could be secured if,
I say, we or I made that mistake, we made it in common
with the great mass, not only of public opinion in this
country,, but of that portion of public opinion who knew
most of South African affairs.

But I suppose I ought not to abstain from going a little
more into detail, into the criticism upon the warlike prep-
aration warlike material, I ought to say, perhaps and
upon the army which we have sent into the field. Though
it is rather a technical subject, I am emboldened to deal
with it, because I am speaking in an artillery hall lent us
by the generosity of the colonel of the Manchester Artil-
lery Volunteers, and because I shall therefore have, at all
events, some members of the audience who are profession-
ally interested in this controversy which has been raised
with regard to the British artillery in the recent military
transactions. Now, I think we have been told by some
that the British army has been sent into the field armed
with a weapon so obsolete and so inferior that practically
our brave soldiers have been handed over to their better-
armed opponents as sheep going to the slaughter. I be-
lieve that to be a profound and complete delusion. I have
inquired into the subject, and what I say now is not in-
tended to prejudice any inquiry, but to give you, fairly and
honestly, the conclusions at which I have arrived, having
given such attention as I have been able to give. Now,
please, remember that when you are dealing with the artil-


lery which is to accompany a field force, you are dealing
with a kind of artillery which is nothing if it is not mobile;
and, please, further remember that mobility in this connec-
tion means something different from mere power of being
moved from one place to another. It means, specifically,
in the case of horse artillery, that it is so mobile that it can
accompany cavalry; and in the case of field artillery that it
can accompany infantry, and even go faster than infantry;
but that it can accompany it under any circumstances, how-
ever rapid the movement of that infantry may be. That
is the object of a mobile field force, and you cannot have
guns attaining that degree of mobility without making
those guns and ammunition a compromise. What is a
compromise? A compromise is an arrangement by which
certain recognized advantages are given up in order to ob-
tain certain other and compensating advantages, and the
inevitable effect of a compromise is, that under certain con-
ditions the advantage may be less than the thing you have
given up, or more valuable than the quality which you have
attained by that surrender. So it is in the case of these
guns. No doubt if you had a less mobile gun you would
have a gun which carried further. No doubt if you had a
different kind of ammunition, if you used shell instead of
shrapnel you will forgive these technical expressions
again you would have a further range ; but you cannot get
these qualities without sacrificing either the rapid and easy
mobility of your guns, or the destructive power of your pro-
jectile under the circumstance in which that projectile is
most likely to be useful. For instance, let us say that
ordinary shell will go somewhere between five thousand
and six thousand yards; shrapnel, perhaps, will not only
between four thousand and five thousand. Quite true, but
the shrapnel is far more destructive at the range you use it
than shell could ever be, and I believe that almost all for-
eign countries German and French as well as our own
have decided that it is better to lose something in the way
of range and use shrapnel than to lose something in destruc-
tive power and use shell. That is the whole case, put very
briefly and in a nutshell. The guns sent with Sir George
White's force were intended to be mobile guns with a
mobile force. They were not intended to be guns of the


kind to defend a beleaguered fortress, in which General
White found himself, most unhappily and most unfor-
tunately, entangled. Do not you believe until you have it
on better evidence than I am able to find do not believe that
your soldiers were sent from this country into a field army
with a worse gun than that the French government or the
German government would use under similar circumstances.
It is quite true that the course of the war has demonstrated
a fact not realized before the war began namely, that in
addition to mobile guns, it was useful, and, indeed, neces-
sary to have a large number of guns of greater range and
less mobility. Those guns have been sent out, are being
sent out, and will be sent out in abundant numbers, and
whatever criticism may hereafter pass, either upon the
government, or upon the war office, or upon our generals
in the field, or upon any branch of the service connected
with the war, I do not believe it will ever be proclaimed
that the army we have sent into the field is inadequately
equipped with any modern requirement or any requirement
which the progress of invention has shown to be necessary
in the case of a modern army.

It will be remembered that while the volunteers and im-
perial yeomanry are rendering a great service to the coun-
try by what they are doing, the first duty after all I mean
the fundamental and primary duty after all of the yeo-
manry is to carry out that function for which they were
called into existence, and that function is the function of
home defense. The number of persons who, by their cir-
cumstances, as well as by their wishes and accomplishments,
are thoroughly qualified to go, I believe to be amply suffi-
cient for any requirement the government may have in
South Africa. But I do beg of that great majority of the
volunteer force which, from the nature of the case, cannot
go, and, in my judgment, ought not to go I beg them to
remember that they have within these shores a great duty
to perform. I tell them now, with every sense of responsi-
bility, that the duty which devolves upon them of keeping
up their numbers and training themselves to the highest
pitch of perfection is a duty which was never more required
of them than it is at the moment when this vast mass of
regular troops are withdrawn from these shores. It is not


merely he who goes who performs a patriotic duty ; it is
also he who stays behind, and does, it may be the duller,
certainly the less exciting and more inglorious, but not
necessarily the less useful or the less laborious task of
working up our great volunteer forces to the highest pitch
of perfection, who deserves well of his country. I need not
say that I do not make these observations with a view to
discourage any young fellow whose patriotism, let me say
whose love of fighting, whose courage, whose love of adven-
ture, whose wish to serve the interests of the empire, call
him abroad. He is the last man I wish to discourage. I
wish him Godspeed. I think we all owe him a debt of
gratitude. But there are countless others whose circum-
stances call them to a sphere of utility and activity not less
necessary for national welfare and national preservation,
and I would beg them to remember that they, equally with
their more fortunate brethren, are carrying out a great work
for their country.

Now, you will observe that I have been wise enough to
discuss nothing but the war and the antecedents of the war.
Nothing else at this moment, I believe, would have a chance
of interesting this vast meeting. But I hope you will notice
that I have abstained carefully and completely from doing
any one of three things. I have abstained altogether from
any, I will not say criticism, but even comment upon the
action of our generals in the field. We have given them a
free hand, we have chosen them to the best of our ability,
we have given them and are giving them all the material
assistance which it is in our power to give. That having
been done, in my judgment we should leave them to work
out the problem entrusted to them to the best of their
capacity, and while speaking as a member of the govern-
ment, I absolutely deprecate hampering their movements
by orders from home. While I think it desirable to state
that it has never occurred to the government to issue such
orders at any period of the campaign, I think I may make
an appeal to the public on their side not to abstain from
fair comment, but as far as possible to remember that they
are dealing with men who not only have a problem of ex-
ceeding difficulty to deal with, but who, if criticised, are
not in a position to defend themselves.


The second thing I have abstained from is an appeal to
you, or through you to the country, to persevere in this
contest. I should regard such an appeal as an insult. I
do not think this country needs any spur which I or any
other public man can give it to persist in a policy, on the
successful completion of which depends for all time the
position which this nation is to hold among the nations of
the world. We have been slow, the nation has been slow,
the government has been slow, to see precisely the inevita-
ble trend of affairs in South Africa. It may be that the
government was to blame, it may be that the nation itself
was to blame ; but though we have been slow, now we have
made up our minds, we shall be constant. Now that we
have forced on us the conclusion that the states on whom
we wasted so much diplomacy have seriously intended the
destruction of our rule in South Africa; now we have been
forced to understand that this war is not caused merely by
a controversy as to whether the uitlanders shall or shall
not have the franchise, but was, on the contrary, founded
upon a deeper jealousy of our presence in South Africa,
which would never have tolerated that presence a moment
longer than necessity appeared to require; now that we
have been forced to the conclusion that the war we are now
engaged upon is a war simply of self-defense, and on the
issue of that war will depend whether there shall be a Brit-
ish empire in South Africa; now that that conclusion has
sunk deep in the minds of the people and I do not think
that anything will eradicate it through good fortune or
evil, through good report or evil report, we shall pursue,
unwavering to the end, a policy which at all events shall
secure among its results that no such war in South Africa
shall ever be waged again. The third thing from which
I have abstained is prophecy. I am not attempting to
minimize the disappointments of the past; I am not going
to flatter your ears with prophecies of good fortune in the
immediate future. I know not what is in store for us. It
may be that Boer opposition will collapse sooner than many
of us dare to hope for. It may be, on the other hand, that
we have still to go through a period of great darkness and
great difficulty before the light of success shines assuredly
before our eyes. I make no prophecies about the future,


but under Providence I rely upon the high courage of my
countrymen ; and I know, whatever it is we have to go
through, we shall go through it with a bold heart and
cheerful spirit, knowing that a bold heart and a cheerful
spirit are destined in the end inevitably to win.

I have been obliged to admit that the war has been in
many respects up to the present time fraught with dis-
appointments of the expectations formed by those most
qualified by expert knowledge to decide; but do not let it
be supposed that I for one moment suppose that the war,
even as it is at the present moment, has not been fruitful
in great deeds and great blessings to this empire. Reflect
how it has brought together all shades of political opinion,
all classes of prejudice, all convictions in this country; how
all have united ; how everybody has in his measure done
his best to support the cause which he believes not only
to be the cause of his country, but of righteousness and
civilization. Think again of the thrill of sympathy which
has gone from the mother country, the heart of the empire,
to every one of its extremities, and which has been re-
turned, as it were, from the extremities again to reenforce
the heart of the empire from all our colonies, from all our
dependencies, from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, from
India, from the great princes of India, our feudatories. All
are agreed upon a common object, all are moved by a com-
mon aim, all are prepared to make common sacrifices. Is
that nothing ? I think it is everything. Does not the
blood tingle and the pulse beat quicker to read such feats
as have been performed by the squadrons of our colonies in
the successful little fight the other day on the west of the
theater of war, and again on the east of the theater of war
in Natal by the imperial light horse? Was there ever a
body of men more happily imbued with the military spirit,
full of martial ardor, of self-sacrificing patriotism, formed
of better stuff to maintain the empire, to defend, and, if
need be, to extend it? And what are we to say of our
regular troops and the naval brigade? I think nothing
more spirited has ever been done in its way than the man-
ner in which that immense journey from Cape Town to
Colenso was performed by the naval brigade and its guns.
I wish I had in my mind, I wish I could remember, the


exact number of hours it took after the message was received
at Cape Town before the " Powerful" was at sea, turned
into a workshop for the time being to mount those guns,
and then, when the guns arrived at Durban, to hurry them
up to the front just in time to perform incalculable services
to their brothers in the field. What are we to think of this
magnificent cooperation of both the services of every class,
of every colony, of every dependency toward one common
imperial object? There have been foreign critics who have
told us that with this war begins the dissolution of the
empire, which they dislike so much, which they envy so
much, and which they dislike, it may be, because they envy
it. I take a very different view of the situation. To me it
seems as if the great imperial struggle, so far from begin-
ning the dissolution of our empire, was, on the other hand,
designed, more than any other event in history I, at all
events, can recall, to make us all conscious of our citizen-
ship, and to build up those moral qualities which are, after
all, the only solid and permanent basis on which any empire
can be built.



[George Bancroft, an American statesman and historian, author
of the ablest history of our country as regards the colonial and revolu-
tionary period, was born in Massachusetts in 1800. Having been
graduated at Harvard in his seventeenth year, he went to Germany and
entered upon a course at Gottingen, taking a doctor's degree there when
he was only twenty years of age. Returning to his native land he pub-
lished various writings, including a volume of his poems, and in 1834
brought out the first of the books comprising his celebrated " History
of the United States." Meanwhile, his talent for statesmanship of the
constructive order had begun to assert itself. President Polk gave him
the portfolio of the navy and he became one of the distinguished figures
of the cabinet, founding the United States Naval Academy and develop-
ing our resources at sea. In 1846 he was made our Minister to Eng-
land, holding the office for three years, when he retired from the public
service and returned to his literary labors in Washington. In 1867 he
was sent to Berlin as Minister from our republic. He secured a treaty
recognizing the rights of naturalized American citizens of German birth.
When the present German empire came into being he was commissioned
again to Berlin as United States Minister. He had not neglected his
historical studies throughout this period. When he returned from Ger-
many in 1874 he set to work afresh upon his history. The final volume
appeared in 1885, the completed work being the fruit of half a century of
research among original documents and sources of information acces-
sible, perhaps, only to him. The style of the work is dignified and
informing, and the history will probably be a permanent standard of its
kind. He died in 1891. The address on General Jackson was deliv-
ered at Washington in 1845.]

WE are met to commemorate the virtues of one who
shed his blood for our independence, took part in
winning the territory and forming the early institutions of
the West, and was imbued with all the great ideas which
constitute the moral force of our country. On the spot
where he gave his solemn fealty to the people here, where


he pledged himself before the world to freedom, to the
Constitution, and to the laws we meet to pay our tribute
to the memory of the last great name which gathers round
itself all the associations that form the glory of America.

South Carolina gave a birthplace to Andrew Jackson.
On its remote frontier, far up on the forest-clad banks of
the Catawba, in a region where the settlers were just begin-
ning to cluster, his eye first saw the light. There his in-
fancy sported in the ancient forests, and his mind was
nursed to freedom by their influence. He was the young-
est son of an Irish emigrant, of Scottish origin, who, two
years after the great war of Frederick of Prussia, fled to
America for relief from indigence and oppression. His
birth was in 1767, at a time when the people of our land
were but a body of dependent colonists, scarcely more than
two millions in number, scattered along an immense coast,
with no army, or navy, or union; and exposed to the
attempts of England to control America by the aid of mili-
tary force. His boyhood grew up in the midst of the con-
test with Great Britain. The first great political truth that
reached his heart was that all men are free and equal; the
first great fact that beamed on his understanding was his
country's independence.

The strife, as it increased, came near the shades of his
own upland residence. As a boy of thirteen he witnessed
the scenes of horror that accompany civil war; and when
but a year older, with an elder brother, he shouldered his
musket and went forth to strike a blow for his country.

Joyous era for America and for humanity! But for
him, the orphan boy, the events were full of agony and
grief. His father was no more. His oldest brother fell
a victim to the War of the Revolution ; another, his com-
panion in arms, died of wounds received in their joint cap-
tivity; his mother went down to the grave a victim to grief
and efforts to rescue her sons; and when peace came he
was alone in the world, with no kindred to cherish him and
little inheritance but his own untried powers.

The nation which emancipated itself from British rule
organizes itself; the Confederation gives way to the Con-

Online LibraryThomas B. (Thomas Brackett) ReedModern eloquence; (Volume 11) → online text (page 12 of 43)