Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

adopting the smaller number was, that 45 ships would be finished in less time, and thus the funds voted would be economised, and the country be better pre-pared in the event of war soon breaking out. The number of ships actually finished is 47, and there is little doubt that it will soon amount to 50, as proposed by M. Charner.

In the sittings of the 12th February and the 10th March, 1851, it was resolved that the number of steam-frigates, à grande vitesse, should be 20, of frigates moved by sail and steam, also 20; at the same sitting it was decided that the number of corvettes should be fixed at 50, and that there should be 80 avisos. It was also decided that the construction of the 20 swift steamfrigates and the 50 corvettes should be completed gradually within the next ten years ; at the same time it was determined that all sailing transports should be suppressed; and that, instead of them, there should be 20 steamers to serve as transports. The line-of-battle steamers are recommended to be built on the model of the · Napoléon, formerly the · Vingt-quatre-Fevrier;' the engines of this ship, though rated at 960 horse-power, can be worked up to 1500 horse-power, and the ship is capable of stowing coal for 10 days when steaming at full speed. It was subsequently resolved that the “ Equipages de ligne” (ships' crews), and the “ Mecaniciens,” or engine-men, should continue to be kept up by means of the maritime conscription; that 14 ships of the line then afloat should undergo the alterations necessary to convert them into steam-ships; that the number should be made up to 30 from the ships

a The transport, Calvados,' which was lately launched at L'Orient, the first of twenty vessels of the same class, is said to have accommodation for 2500 men, 150 horses, and 1200 tons of stores.

then on the stocks, and that 20 of them should be completed within ten years.

In the decision respecting the establishment of ships' crews for manning the 45 ships of the line decreed by the Ordonnance of 1846, it was regulated that an adequate increase should be made in the number of companies, each of which was appointed to consist of 60 seamen of the first, second, and third classes, with 20 seamen apprentices; also that the establishment of seamen-gunners should be on so large à scale, that there might be one well-trained gunner to every gun in the ships to which they should be drafted.

The decisions of French Commissioners, on subjects referred to them, are not subject to change with a change of government, as with us; they are, on the contrary, immutable, and are perseveringly acted upon till they are effectually carried out. It is well known that the idea of constructing a great harbour at Cherbourg originated with Louis XIV., though the work was commenced only in the reign of Louis XVI.; and, in the present year we have seen the completion of that vast work, which, in the language of the President of the Commission appointed in 1849, “is to contain the fleets which are to defend the French coasts and attack the English in their own country.”

Viewing France as that which she really is, a great power, whose safety depends upon her military forces, we have no right to cavil at any measures which the government of that country may adopt for its own security against its powerful continental neighbours. Her military preponderance is as essential to her safety, as the maritime preponderance of Great Britain (an insular and colonial power) is indispensable to hers. Neither should be jealous nor distrustful of the other in any legitimate use which either may make of the powers with which nature has endowed them, respectively, for providing effectually for their own security.

* In a specch delivered at a sitting of the Commission of Inquiry before referred to, Jan. 27th, 1851 (Enquête Parlementaire,' tom. i., p. 149), M. Daru, after observing that, in the expedition to Rome, the whole French army was embarked and conveyed in ten days from Toulon to Civita Vecchia, infers that 24 steam frigates, 24 transports, 3 corvettes, and 3 avisos, concentrated at Dunkirk, Cherbourg, or Brest, would suffice to disembark 30,000 men and 3000 horses on any part of Great Britain or Ireland.

The author makes these observations in no unfriendly spirit; he takes facts and circumstances as he finds them, and he uses them merely in proof of the necessity which Great Britain is under of taking corresponding measures to secure her own position, as a great maritime nation, among the powers of Europe. Sincerely disposed to value and maintain, in his humble sphere, the friendly relations which happily subsist between the governments of England and France, and relying on the assurances lately given by the head of the French nation, the author cannot but admire the policy by which the government of France is actuated in so reorganizing its maritime resources as to raise its navy to the highest possible degree of efficiency. Great Britain, as an insular and colonial empire, can maintain that high position in the rank of nations which she has gained by the instrumentality of her navy, only by keeping that noble branch of her service, not merely in a state barely sufficient to protect herself against any one maritime power, but fully adequate to defeat any maritime coalition to which political circumstances may at any future time give rise. And it must always be borne in mind, that, to enable the navy of Great Britain to act on equal terms with that of any continental nation, it ought by far to exceed the navy of such nation in the number of ships of war of like force. Taking France, for example : while the naval power of that country will, in the event of a war, be chiefly collected in the two seas on the shores of which her great arsenals are established, that of our country must be dispersed over the whole world with strength sufficient, in every region, to protect her numerous colonies and widely-extended commerce. The fleets of England will, in time of war, have to blockade two great ports in the British Channel, instead of one, as in former wars, and must, moreover, have dominant power in all the waters which surround the British Isles.

The manning of the British navy was, in former times, so promptly accomplished by compulsory service, that, often, the dangers which menaced the country by sea were averted by a consciousness, on the part of the enemy, that our fleets were fully prepared to oppose any attempt at aggression. But now that the Government depends upon a voluntary enlistment for the supply of seamen to man our ships of war, there is always a risk of delays taking place when a fleet is to be fitted for service ; it will signify little that we have abundance of ships and of the matériel for arming them, if the brave men who are to serve in them are not forthcoming at the time of need. The French have still their law of compulsory enrolment, from which they form their ships' companies; but Great Britain has only the inducement which a liberal bounty and a careful attention to comfort on board the ships offer, to enable her to procure the men who are to defend the country and maintain the glory of her arms in naval warfare.

A brief notice of naval tactics under sail will be given in the present work, because it will be long before sails can be entirely superseded by steamengines, if this supercession should ever take place.

en

Steam fleets will be compelled occasionally, from exhaustion of fuel or from derangements of the steam machinery, to have recourse to sails; and it is evident, therefore, that tactics with sails must not be hastily disregarded. A tract on naval warfare with steam is, however, indispensable at the present time, since evolutions which cannot be executed with precision and certainty, or even cannot be executed at all, with the sail, may be effectually accomplished by the steam machinery, while new evolutions and new formations must be subjects of contemplation; and thus it is imperative that our seamen should render themselves equally expert in both systems. Before entering, however, upon the subject of naval tactics with steam, it will be proper to devote a section to the purpose of giving a brief history of the introduction of steam as a moving power to ships, and a brief notice of the nature and action of steam-machinery in its application to the paddle and the screw, together with an inquiry into the relative values of these agents, with respect to their powers of communicating motion, and to their conveniences in the armament of ships of war.

Aug. 16, 1858.

« ZurückWeiter »