Front Page Titles (by Subject) COUNT YOUR ENEMIES AND ECONOMISE YOUR EXPENDITURE. (1862.) - The Works and Life of Walter Bagehot, vol. 4 (Political, Literary, & Literary Essays)
Return to Title Page for The Works and Life of Walter Bagehot, vol. 4 (Political, Literary, & Literary Essays)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
COUNT YOUR ENEMIES AND ECONOMISE YOUR EXPENDITURE. (1862.) - Walter Bagehot, The Works and Life of Walter Bagehot, vol. 4 (Political, Literary, & Literary Essays) 
The Works and Life of Walter Bagehot, ed. Mrs. Russell Barrington. The Works in Nine Volumes. The Life in One Volume. (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1915). Vol. 4.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
COUNT YOUR ENEMIES AND ECONOMISE YOUR EXPENDITURE.
Every one who has visited the Star and Garter is aware that at the moment of ordering dinner there is little use in suggesting difficulties. Any one who should attempt a calculation of expense, a budget for the evening, would be marked bore at once. The effective orator just then is the trusted epicure that knows dishes, and sauces, and wines. The popular impulse sets strong for a good dinner; he who can satisfy that impulse is the hero of the instant; and who so attempts to stay it may hurt other people’s temper, but will hardly keep his own. The time for objection is later. There is always a financial reaction at the epoch of the bill; then, and not till then, has the antagonist of luxury the chance of attention.
Great things and small things are just the same. When military men or naval men, or, far worse, enthusiastic amateurs of war by sea or land, insist on the necessity of such and such things No. 1, or such and such things No. 2, or such and such things No. 19 (for they will go on as long as you let them),—it is of no use objecting. They say: “England is not safe without these things. Would you endanger our country? Would you risk our homes and families? Would you not like to be secure yourself?” Such rhetoric is unanswerable for the best of all reasons, that it half-convinces oneself. The time of objection is when you see the bill. On a sudden the history of late years then strikes you very vividly. First, the Admiralty took away some money with which it made wooden ships; and then it “discovered its error,” and acknowledged that wooden sailing ships were useless; so it asked for additional money and made wooden steam ships with much éclat. And I for one was convinced it would be all right, and that England was now safe. But in less than a year the Admiralty discovered its error again, and pronounced all wooden ships, whether steam or sailing ships, to be useless; so it abstracted further money and constructed “iron-plated ships,” the Warrior and that sort of thing, which cost almost fabulous sums a-piece; and now “the Admiralty is discovering its error” again, or something like it, for it wants more money, and is making what I must call naval nondescripts,—a sort of Merrimacs and Monitors—things more like an ugly insect than a ship, and which seem to me capable of infinite varieties, just as insects are. I know (though it is a matter of prophecy, I am as sure of it as if it had happened) that as soon as we have made one sort of these ugly and indescribable things, we shall be told it is of no use, and that we must make another more ill-favoured and indescribable still. Another point struck me two days ago. An engineer told me they had shot away powder worth a certain sum of pounds sterling in a few trials of this great new gun at Shoeburyness; and when I came to reckon, the sum was more than my income-tax. Now it is very painful to me that they should shoot away my income-tax. If it be necessary, very well; but certainly, when I made that money with anxiety and difficulty, I never anticipated it would be treated in such a manner.
The aggregate cost of these experiments is enormous. We spend as much as the revenues of a first-rate power on our army and navy only. We voted for the coming year—
Now the entire revenue of Austria was only £27,300,000 in 1859; and in 1860, in the agony of deficit, it could only be raised to £30,100,000. The total revenue of the kingdom of Italy, including Naples, was, in 1861, only 490,870,036 f., or not £20,000,000—that is, it amounted to somewhat more, but not much more, than two-thirds of our war expenses. The increase of the outlay, too, is appalling:—
And we spent much more. All the notions of financiers are confounded by these figures. I happen to know that the late Mr. Wilson, who was no extreme economist, who had large experience in office, and who never participated in any reckless scheme of financial reform, always reckoned £16,000,000 as the ordinary sufficient peace establishment of this country. Probably this was much under the mark. But that so practical a financier as Mr. Wilson should think so (and I know that such was his opinion in 1857 and 1858), only shows how vastly our notions have altered in a short time.
These great sums ought to make an impression, but they do not make a proportionate impression: they do not influence men as they should and ought. Most persons (and I confess it is my own case) find it difficult to keep up their effect upon the mind: I am astounded for the moment, and I go away and forget what the figures were. Mr. Bright talks, too, of the “toiling millions” who pay all this, but I cannot permanently think much of them either. My interests are closer at home. The late Lord Melbourne used (I have heard) to say he had never during all his administration heard any one say he was acting for his own interest; it was a “view of human nature which had never been presented him;” everybody was always “anxious for the public welfare”. I honestly confess such is not my case. I do care very much about my own money. I do not like to think that I every year supply experimental charges to a patent gun, and contribute perhaps the square inch of a cupola in some ugly and for aught I know ill-built Monitor.
I know of course what is said, and said truly enough. We are (we are told) changing, no doubt; but we are only necessarily changing with the progress of science. Great attention and wonderful inventive power has of late been invested in the arts of destruction. No sooner is one invention perfected than a second takes its place. What was a superior way of killing people in 1859, is a most inferior way, a quite passée and useless way in 1862. With all our outlay, we are barely keeping pace, it is alleged, with science: any select committee of clever engineers would prove we are not keeping pace with it. But from this statement it would appear that science is very adequate to expend money, but very inadequate to defend a country. Every year you must have, on this theory, a new set of destructive machines; every year you must give up last year’s patent, for actual trial (as at Shoeburyness) will prove that this year’s patent will break it up and smash it, and that if you depend on it you will be leaning on a broken reed. And “science” I regret to say only means scientific men, and they all differ on every difficult practical question. Whenever there is an important trial involving any complex point of engineering, twelve engineers will give evidence upon oath, and doubtless with perfect sincerity, in the affirmative,—and twelve others, with equal sincerity and upon oath also, in the negative. Now, suppose our authorities believe the wrong engineer, and our enemies’ authorities believe the right “engineer”. This is no impossible supposition. On the contrary, it is next to impossible that it should not frequently happen: infallibility in the choice of scientific employés is as rare as any other sort of administrative infallibility. And then with all our expenditure we shall be worsted. We shall have spent a large fortune, but we shall have obtained no security.
Unless we have some other guide besides a blind following of science (which, though it sound well in showy generals and reads nicely in print, only means in life, at the best an uncertain selection among discordant sects of scientific persons), we shall never obtain real security, and we must anticipate not a diminishing, but a still increasing expenditure. With the progress of the time science grows faster and faster, and inventions, also, multiply with accelerating rapidity. The more capital you invest in a trade, the better will its machines be; and the more augmenting the capital, the more improving the machines. There was some talk, too, of giving Captain Coles a reward for the new cupola he has invented. Now, I have not a word to say against Captain Coles: except his having invented this new sort of ship I never heard anything against him. But, as a rule, and particular cases excepted, every new destructive invention is a great evil; it causes new expense, and renders useless old and valued implements. If you give prizes for such things to deserving persons, you are giving prizes to those who have meritoriously and cleverly done you harm,—and I am not sure if this is wise. I hope, however, that now that the Admiralty seem to have accepted Captain Coles and his creed, they will adhere to Captain Coles, or at any rate that they will adhere to some single authority on these complicated subjects. The great danger is that they should migrate from one sect to another, now believing in Cupolarians, now in Anti-cupolarians. In a free and complex country like this, there are very many and very various principles applicable to a shifting and miscellaneous body like the Admiralty. A compromise in business is often excellent, but a compromise in science is generally ridiculous. If we do not know the country, if we only know that there are many great men at the Admiralty, that those “many” often change, that numerous advisers and interested persons are pulling them in conflicting directions, we should at least suspect that in the long run, whatever may be the case now, our immense preparations will be only a huge assortment of miscellaneous inconveniences. We know that it will be curious in the history of art (for everything which is done will have considerable merit at the moment of its execution); but what its defensive effectiveness may be, it is impossible to feel sure.
Moreover, suppose it should turn out that we are preparing in vacuo,—that no other nation has any such accumulation of queer machines as we have. In that case how absurd would be our position! We should have diverted our capital from productive pursuits, and constructed implements with which to kill (for, though it is wrapped up in words, that is the real meaning) those who we believed were about to kill us, but who did not intend to do so at all. There is no use in a defensive engine, unless there is somewhere else in the world a related aggressive engine; and a toy trophy of unnecessary martial machines and weapons is the most foolish of all toy trophies.
There is one mode of speaking on this subject which is very common, but which is, I think, most objectionable. We are to go to this expense, it is said, because public opinion requires it. L’état c’est moi. “Public opinion, why that’s me.” I mean seriously and plainly, that the opinion of what is called the public is simply the opinion of average ordinary persons like myself, who have not paid any particular attention to the subject, and have no special information respecting it. Such persons have no obstinate opinion that twenty-eight millions sterling and no more are necessary for the defence of the country. They know that they wish to be safe, and they are ready to pay whatever is necessary to make them safe; but they have no other notion on the subject. The particular figures are not in their memories, and the imagination of most of us will hardly carry such large sums. For anything they know, five millions less might be sufficient, or five millions more might be required: they could not prove twenty-three millions to be inadequate, or thirty-three millions to be enough. I could not prove it, I know, nor can any of the ordinary sensible people with whom I live. The expenditure of these large sums in obedience to public opinion comes therefore to this: “You take away my money because you say I desire that it should be taken away; but I do not desire it. I am willing to assent to its abstraction if it be necessary; but if it be not necessary, I would prefer to spend my own money myself.”
There is apt to be a great deal of hollowness and hypocrisy in this idea of public opinion. A is very prone to believe because he thinks B believes, and C to acquiesce in what he imagines to be the accordant opinion of A and B, and thus the opinion is propagated through the alphabet to Z himself. But no one of all these persons very likely would have thought so, if he had been left to form his own opinion without any reference to the fancied opinion of others. In secret, each has his doubts, which he suppresses, because he fancies that others who have thought more about the matter have no such misgivings; but if a shrewd examiner were to scrutinise each man’s mind, they would find much tacit, latent, accumulated doubt in each. This is the reason of those sudden fluctuations of sentiment in democratic countries where public opinion is predominant and tyrannical. From the United States one mail recounts a positive, universal opinion that Messrs. Mason and Slidell ought never to be surrendered; and the very next mail tells us of an equally positive, equally universal opinion that they should be surrendered. In truth, there was little real opinion at all: there were very few people who had carefully examined the subject,—who had a solid, well-grounded judgment on that difficult matter. On Monday every one believed because he thought everybody else believed: on Tuesday it was found out that everybody else did not believe, so the unanimous national opinion went off. I am exceedingly afraid there is much of this intellectual suppression and tacit hypocrisy in the matter of the national defences. I find no one with clear convincing arguments in favour of this precise sum—twenty-eight millions; and until I do find a considerable number of such persons, I shall deny that there is any opinion upon the subject entitled to any deference. Every person believes because all the world believes; and yet the believing world is only an aggregate of all these unbelieving persons.
With these impressions on my mind, I took up Mr. Cobden’s “Three Panics” with extreme interest, and hoped he would show that we ought not to expend this money. I read the whole pamphlet most eagerly, but I was disappointed. He proved what I can easily believe, that much nonsense has been talked upon the subject, and his review of the inconsistencies of Parliamentary debates during the last few years is searching and will be unpleasant, if not beneficial to the parties interested; but Mr. Cobden does not show me why twenty-eight millions are too much, or how twenty millions will be sufficient. He refers to Parliamentary paper 182 of Session 1859, and accordingly I purchased and read that paper attentively. It is a comparison of the French and English navies at that time, but that is three years ago. And it really is of very little consequence, except as a matter of history, how matters stood at such a distant era. Science has changed “all that,” or says it has. The material fact is not the past, but the present. How many sailing wooden ships and steam wood ships we had in 1859 is not of the least importance now, when we have to compare the relative efficiency of the two navies in iron-plated ships and in copula and other monsters. The Parliamentary paper was, I dare say, full and accurate at its epoch, and for the navies of the primary strata, but these have become an extinct species: we are now in the tertiary strata.
There is another objection also to Mr Cobden as an authority upon this subject. Ever since we can remember he has objected to the magnitude of our armaments. He objected as much when they cost sixteen millions as now when they cost twenty-eight millions. Common sense tells us at once that there is something wrong here. Our statesmen of all parties—(for, though Mr. Disraeli now talks of “bloated” armaments, it was Sir John Pakington who began to reconstruct the navy, and the dockyards worship him still)1 —all our statesmen cannot have been so wild as this, and so utterly erroneous in their judgment. They cannot have made an increase in our military armament in the proportion of twenty-eight to sixteen at the moment when it ought to have been exceedingly diminished. So monstrous a blunder is incredible, and indeed there are hardly five persons probably who agree with Mr. Cobden in that opinion. He quotes Mr. Hume’s clever saying, that “Our present panics were not due, as in time past, to the old women, but to our having too many clubs about London, containing so many half-pay officers who had nothing to do but to look about for themselves and their friends. These were the people who wrote to the newspapers, anxious to bring grist to the mill somehow or other.” But these half-pay officers may reply, that if they are always on one side of the argument, Mr. Cobden is always on the other. When a stupid baronet objected to Mr. Fox that he was always against Mr. Pitt, whether right or wrong,—Horne Tooke replied, that it was at least an equal objection to the baronet that he was always with Mr. Pitt, whether right or wrong. Sensible men have a well-founded suspicion of those who repeat the same unvarying dogma under many varying circumstances.
What, then, is the cure for these uncertainties? I say that we ought every year to have from Ministers a Military Budget, just as we have a Financial Budget. We now have explanations of the estimates; but these are not sufficient. They state clearly enough where the money goes; but why it goes where it does, we are not told regularly, officially, and consecutively. We are told that our money goes to pay such and such a number of seamen; but we are not told why that precise number is fixed on—why it should not be thousands greater or thousands less. We are told that we are building certain ships, and “converting” certain others; but why we are making so many and only so many, and pulling about (for that is converting) so many and only so many, we are never told.
It is quite true that incidental hints and suggestions are given in Parliament. Only last night (I am writing on the 20th of May) Lord Palmerston made some formidable statements; but I say that these reasons, which require the expenditure of so many millions, should not be incidentally extracted by the interpellations of debate, but should on some stated occasion be every year compendiously, and gravely, and fully set forth. What should we think of a Chancellor of the Exchequer who left the real reasons for the income-tax to be picked up on a chance occasion from the necessities of debate? Yet we do so with the real reasons for our army and navy, which cost more than three times the entire yield of an eightpenny income-tax. At present these reasons can only be with difficulty, if at all, picked up from Hansard.
We maintain an army and navy, I apprehend, for three main objects. First, to defend our colonies and commerce in distant countries. Secondly, for the aggressive expeditions which are more or less necessary in foreign warfare, and serve to keep our enemy at home. Thirdly and principally, for the defence of our own shores. I say principally, not because I wish to depreciate the duty of defending our distant possessions (for while we undertake to defend Canada and Victoria, Montreal and Melbourne should be as safe as London), but because London is a vital part, and therefore in great danger. Nobody expects to quell England by capturing Malta or Halifax, but by capturing London they might expect it; and therefore I say, that the defence of our own shores is nowadays the main consideration, though in the last century we had an easier task: when there was no steam we felt safe in England, and coursed over the ocean after the fleets of the enemy.
On these three uses of a fleet and army our great departments ought to have distinct opinions. They ought to be able to deal with each separately, and with the whole collectively. They ought to be specially precise with the third. What is the maximum force which it is at all likely may be brought against us, and what is the disposable force with which we are prepared to meet it?
I do not say that these are easy questions. I know that they are very difficult questions, but it is because of their great difficulty that I wish them to be well discussed. Too exclusive a reference should not be made to France. France might be in alliance with some other power, say with America or Russia. At any rate the question ought to be discussed. Is such an alliance so improbable that we need not consider it, or is it so probable as to form a practical standard of maximum danger?
No state of things, it seems to me, can well be so absurd as the present. We profess to have a Parliamentary Government which lives in the face of day, whose finances are public property; and yet the cardinal criterion by which we are to judge of the expediency of twenty-eight millions of our expenditure is wholly undiscussed, and scarcely any one has a clear and distinct (to say nothing of a true) opinion about it. What is the aggressive force against which we are protecting ourselves? Let us have an estimate of that, and then we can satisfy ourselves whether our resources are sufficient or insufficient. Until we know this cardinal fact, all else is (what a friend of mine calls) mental effluvia—the noxious vapour which frequently surrounds a great subject, and makes people think they understand it before they do.
The changeable state of the destructive arts is of singular importance here. So many plans are being proposed (100 a month Lord Clarence Paget says for iron-plated ships only), that the human mind, and even the inexpugnable fortitude of the Admiralty—that last citadel of common sense—is bewildered and overthrown. If we are to follow science wherever it goes, we shall follow it hither and thither. The truths of science progress steadily, no doubt; but the consequences and deductions of these truths in the practical arts are very discontinuous. To-day the state of science is favourable to shore fortifications and gunnery: the practical inference from it is, “build walls and discard ships”. To-morrow some new scientific secret is discovered, of which the sure effect is to improve iron-plated ships, and to make them superior to all known guns: the practical conclusion then is, “discard walls and build ships”. You can only (they say) get one shot at a ship from the best gun on shore, and, unless you are quite sure that one shot will hit and will smash, it is waste of money (and perhaps worse) to rely on shore guns. As a mathematical series is at one term less, and at the next term more, than the summary expression which it expands, so scientific truth, in its continual progress, at one time leans in favour of certain practical arts, and after a very brief interval is altogether opposed to those same arts, and favours their precise contraries. Unless you have some standard for your destructive constructions beside the state of science itself, you are launched on a chaos with no hope of a kosmos. The true test is the previous industry of competing nations. Don’t begin. Unless some known foreign nation has already made, or is actually making, some new things of the same sort, or something which requires this new sort to resist it, don’t commence. Do not unnecessarily invest a million sterling in the patent of Captain Monstrous, when it may be upset to-morrow by the better patent of Captain Fitzmonstrous. If there were such a detailed budget of armaments yearly as I suggest, the Admiralty could not do this. They would have to say plainly and expressly, and under the check of criticism, what foreign work each work of ours was meant to oppose. Proof that the aggressive engine exists, or is being produced, would then be required before we erected the defensive engine that is to ward it off or to destroy it. The want of our discussions on this subject is explicit consecutiveness. We should have from our public departments a precise enumeration of the uses of each new killing thing as it comes out, and the only recognised use should be the name of the killing foreign thing which it resembles. Unless you take this plain and natural precaution, you have no security against the natural disposition (as I have before explained it) of the Admiralty to listen to everybody; you have no security that our navy may not soon resemble, as I have a clinging suspicion it soon will, the single shop of a large agricultural village, which contains something of everything, and contains nothing that is good.
It will be said, “If our Ministers know all this, why compel them to say it in Parliament at the risk of offending foreign countries?” Far be it from me to write upon what I cannot possibly know. The Cabinet is a secret council in the most peculiar and singular sense. I believe I may say that in all the books of memoirs which have been published for the last 150 years, there is not a single graphic description of a Cabinet Council, notwithstanding the thousands that have been held in that time. Among ordinary men, no one knows what it resembles. But, like many other causes, though its interior essence is occult and impalpable, the external indicia of its action are plain and evident. One rule, I believe, all experienced observers coincide in.
A Cabinet seldom really attends to anything which is not of close Parliamentary interest. They are a Committee of both Houses for managing both Houses, and nowadays mainly for managing the House of Commons. Lord Macaulay has explained, in a passage which every one well knows, how ill Parliament worked when there was not such a standing Committee to attend to and regulate it. A Cabinet is chosen out of persons who tolerably agree on pressing Parliamentary questions, and who agree on little else. Is it likely that they will collectively attend to much else?
Consider, too, the occupation of Cabinet Ministers. To get through the necessary work of a great department—to attend the House of Commons with official watchfulness and regularity—to achieve the mere correspondence of Minister (omitting all the exhausting social claims on such a man)—are each of them terrifying tasks. Putting them together, we may rather wonder (for myself I constantly wonder) how men’s nerves and brains contrive to get through them, rather than ask anything additional of them. But, taking these overtasked Parliamentary statesmen as they are and must be, is it not certain that all unparliamentary questions will be (in the school phrase) extras; that they won’t enter into the real, mental, practical, pressing life; that, though individuals may attend to them, a whole Cabinet, or any considerable portion of a Cabinet, will not?
Unless, therefore, our naval and military expenditure can be really and truly subjected to Parliament—unless there is a bonâ fide prospect of proximate adverse divisions—we must not expect our Parliamentary statesmen to attend much to that expenditure. Human nature would hardly need government if it would produce at once sixteen statesmen who were willing, under existing circumstances, to attend to it. The case is this; you place men in the most laborious, distracting, absorbing routine which has ever been known in the world; you give them so much to do that they have hardly time or mind to it, and then you ask them to sit up at odd hours to attend to something else. Human patriotism does not go that length. You may ask this, but you will not get it.
The evident cure is to make, not the aggregate sum of money, but the living details of policy and construction, matters of Parliamentary discussion and deliberation. Let it be clearly understood the “balance of armaments” between this country and foreign countries will be scrutinised as nicely, and discussed as freely, as the balance between our income and expenditure, and we should soon have a real Cabinet opinion upon it: what is more, we should soon have a real public opinion upon it. Now we have no data for saying what our defensive outlay should be. Then we should have authoritative facts to weigh and responsible reasonings to estimate.
It will be said that such detailed discussion in Parliament will be offensive to foreign nations. I do not think it need be; but if it were so, I should boldly say it is better to risk a little occasional offence abroad than to spend untold sums without an intelligible, at least without an understood, reason at home. But, on the contrary, I think the effect abroad would be favourable. Official speakers in such a careful annual statement as I suggest would be sure to speak carefully and guardedly; it is in the haphazard impromptus of fortuitous debate that rankling casualties are uttered. And the all-important conclusion would be made clear, that our armaments are, as a mathematician would say, only functions of foreign armaments; that if foreign nations increase theirs, we shall as a principle increase ours, so that they will gain nothing; and if foreign nations diminish theirs, they will incur no risk as far as we are concerned, for we shall at once diminish ours too. The only way to impart a confidence in this principle of our policy, is to make it part of our annual Parliamentary system, which is public and notorious to all the world. The really pacific nature of England is not comprehended anywhere abroad, because the considerations which regulate the amount of our armaments are only half divulged, and are supposed on the Continent to be in fact offensive, while they really and truly are defensive.
I hope no one will fancy that a change of Government would at all lessen our expenditure. Mr. Disraeli uses forcible though rather nasty language about “bloated armaments”. But relying on him is like admiring the colour of a chameleon: he is sure to be altogether different the next time your attention is called to him. He tells us, indeed, that a policy of subservience to France would be cheaper than a manly friendship with her. But if he were in office he could not, if he would, save money by subservience to France: the English people would not permit it; they prefer being taxed to being mean. They are not yet reduced to desire a foreign policy because it is cheap, instead of defraying the cost of a policy which they think right. Besides, I doubt if an over-civil policy would answer with France; it certainly did not answer with Russia. Lord Aberdeen was over-anxious to maintain peace with Russia, and thereby he entangled us in a costly war. If the bolder policy which Lord Palmerston at the time recommended had at once been adopted, many excellent judges believe we should have escaped that war. Moreover, the Conservative party are even more connected with the aristocratic services than the Whig party. To employ Sir John Pakington and General Peel as the best persons to reduce the army and navy, is like trying to diminish objects with a lens because it is a good magnifier. The real remedy is a change from a bad system to a good system,—not a change from superior men to inferior ones.
On the whole, I am afraid this proposal will not suit any party; and yet it is not to be at once discarded on that account. Mr. Cobden won’t like me saying that he has not proved our armaments to be excessive; Mr. Disraeli won’t like my saying that he does not deserve to come into office; the thick-and-thin supporters of Government won’t like my saying that the information upon which they have been eager to vote these vast sums is very insufficient. But it has happened that on certain subjects all extreme opinions are wrong; it has happened that a more moderate opinion coincides with the truth.
I see the Report of the National Defence Commission is just about to be presented, and I am sure I do not wish to hold a brief in the great cause—Floating versus Stationary. There are enough counsel in that already. But there is one point to which public opinion ought to be directed, and has not been directed. Such places as Plymouth are accumulations on the sea-coast of everything which ought not to be on the sea-coast. Thirty years ago it was necessary to have the victualling-office, the rope-walk, and the store of timber at the water’s edge, for there was no steam to bring whatever was necessary from the interior. And this position was then not dangerous. There was no steam to bring our enemies’ vessels on a sudden upon us. Now the choice of the water’s edge is both needless and dangerous. Anything can be brought by railway, and any place may, with little warning, be attacked by steam-ships. Surely, then, we should see if we cannot simplify and lessen Plymouth before we defend its huge and well-stocked area. A dock on the water’s edge for repairing ships and for building them is intelligible; but why the arsenal—the storehouse of everything naval—should be at the most exposed possible point, is unintelligible. If Belgium were to erect an arsenal on her French frontier, we should say she was mad; yet the sea-board is our French frontier.
[1 ] Three months ago, the barber at Plymouth asked me if I knew Sir John Pakington, not that he thought I did, but he wished to be civil, and that was his idea of greatness.