Unseen Hand in British History - Ian D. Colvin




XV. Naval Policy

IF we go back far enough into our history we come to times when England had no Navy, as in the minority of Henry VI, and to times also when Englishmen were forbidden to carry our staple wares oversea, as in the reign of Edward III. In the Middle Ages the Hanseatic League enforced by all means their policy of Hanse goods on Hanse ships, and arrogantly claimed for themselves a monopoly of our trade in the North Sea. They enforced it by sinking our ships, destroying our foreign merchant settlements, as at Bergen, and blockading our ports. During the Wars of the Roses we find frequent reference to the Hanseatic blockade. Thus, for example, when Edward IV fled to Flanders he was pursued by the German fleet which was then blockading Lynn, at that time one of our chief ports on the East Coast.

Our English kings were often content to buy ships from the Germans, who by their command of the Sound controlled the source of naval power. As the Germans were usually the royal bankers, the royal coiners, and the royal tax-collectors, both political and naval power were thus much in their hands. Throughout the Middle Ages England was struggling fitfully and sometimes desperately to free herself from this German exploitation.

"The Common People (of England)," says the Danzig chronicler, writing of the Wars of the Roses, "took the side of any Party which opposed the (German) Merchant."

And the author of the Libel of English Policy, the first and by no means the least of our political economists, who wrote in the dark days of Henry VI, advised that we should check the German Power by a strong Navy stationed in the Channel. As the Germans had to go to Brittany for salt, it was possible to intercept them:

"Thus if they would not our friends bee

We might lightly stoppe hem in the see."

The poet's policy was a policy of protection and seapower; but chiefly sea-power:

"Keep then the sea that is the wall of England,

And than is England kept by Goddes hande."

A strong policy was the best means of securing peace. "Power causeth peace finally."

Sea-power was the policy of England:

"Than I conclude if never so much by land

Were by carres brought unto their hand,

If well the sea were kept in governance

They should by sea have no deliverance.

Wee should hem stop, and we should hem destroy,

As prisoners we should hem bring to annoy.

And so we should of our cruell enimies

Make our friends for fear of merchandies."

In other words, we should command the Channel and blockade Flanders, and thus we could dictate peace to all Europe.

I confess that my heart goes out to this nameless English poet of the fifteenth century, this practical dreamer, who looked down sadly upon an England in the dust, her Navy sold, her statesmen bribed, her poor the prey of the foreign usurer and merchant. He did not merely lament; his practical English genius traced the main currents of European trade to their confluence in the English Channel, and discovered the national policy of England to lie in economic independence and sea-power. To this poet-patriot-economist, who anticipated Captain Mahan, and laid down a hundred years in advance the Mercantile policy which made England great, too little honor has been done. It is one of the tragedies of our history that his very name has been forgotten.

But the difficulty was that the Germans controlled the trade in bullion and in naval stores. Their command of the mines of Hungary and Bohemia, and the forests, the flax, the hemp, and the pitch of the Baltic, made them impregnable.

To break this monopo^ our Muscovy Company was formed in the reign of Edward VI, and succeeded in securing an independent supply of naval stores by way of Archangel. The Indies gave a gold currency to Europe, and although that source also was controlled by the Germans it could be tapped by sea. Our Elizabethans tapped it, and sought at the same time for an alternative supply of timber and pitch in North America. They developed, as we have seen, metal and sailcloth industries, built their own ships and ceased buying men-of-war from Lubeck. Thus for the first time the naval power of England was placed upon a sound economic basis.

The main object of an English Navy was to secure a "vent "for the English cloth trade. It was the object of Hanseatic policy to carry English cloth in German ships to Flanders; it was the object of Tudor policy to have this trade in the hands of the English Merchant Adventurers. And one of the chief uses of the English Navy was to convoy our cloth fleets to Emden or to Hamburg. The Germans thought they could beat us out of the trade by using undermanned and unarmed ships, trusting to the protection of neutrality and the Spanish navy. Their great hulks were manned only by a few men and boys, and carried no guns, whereas the English ships, merchantman as well as Queen's ship, bristled with guns and armed men. As long as the Hanseatic League could maintain its neutrality this policy succeeded; but Elizabeth discovered their contraband trade with Spain, and Drake brought in whole fleets and shoals of German ships as prizes of war to our Admiralty Courts. Thus a weak and cheap commerce was driven off the sea by a strong and expensive commerce.

The Dutch, who were also rebels against the Hanseatic League, rose to power by hard fighting and daring navigation. They succeeded in bribing Denmark into giving them preferential terms in the Sound, and in getting the English merchants turned out of Russia, and thus secured a practical monopoly in the ship chandlery business. At the same time they claimed a monopoly of the East India trade. These methods succeeded so well that the Dutch grew very rich, and being a grasping as well as a heavily taxed people, they set about to save money by economizing on their navy.

Their policy was cunning yet foolish. They sought to substitute legal maxims for naval power, and engaged lawyers to write books on the Freedom of the Seas instead of shipwrights and munition-makers to maintain that freedom. Grotius began the campaign early in the century with his Mare Liberum, which is much admired by our international lawyers. It proved that the high seas were open to all, although at that time the Dutch were doing all in their power to close the Indian Ocean to English commerce. John Selden wrote a patriotic reply called Mare Clausum, but James feared that it might offend his father-in-law, the King of Denmark, to whom he was in debt, and forbade its publication.

Our Liberal and Whig historians are full of sympathy with the Dutch for their attempt to make merchandise more sacred than life. Thus Gardiner, for example:

"To the Dutch belongs the credit of leading the way in a course which has at last been adopted by the consent of the European nations, when in 1650 they embodied in a clause of their treaty with Spain the new principle that the neutral flag protected the enemy's goods, except in case of contraband of war. It is true that the very insertion of this article in the Spanish Treaty, not to speak of the opinion of even Dutch authorities on international law, may be taken as evidence that the English Court did but reduce into practice the accepted doctrine; but this practice was none the less destructive to Dutch trade, and, unless the commerce of the Republic was to be ruined, the statesmen at The Hague could not allow the English claim to pass unchallenged," etc.

The innocence of Dr. Gardiner will be realized when I add that he admits: (1) that the Dutch navy had fallen into a "state of inefficiency"; (2) that English traders had been driven out of the Spice Islands by a "mixture of force and fraud"; and (3) that the Dutch had secured from Denmark a favored posit: on as regards the Sound dues, "and this concession was accompanied by an express declaration from the King that no other nation was to benefit by a similar act of grace."

The Dutch declared for a mare liberum in order to trade with both belligerents and save the cost of a navy. The English, at whose expense this benevolent policy was to be carried out, were not at that time governed by Sir Edward Grey, but by Cromwell, and his reply was the Navigation Act.

This Act was not new, as we have seen, but its drastic application was considered novel by the Dutch. The Act and English prize law forced them into war; the mountain of gold came in contact with the mountain of iron with disastrous results to the softer metal. The Dutch suffered for their own avarice and lack of foresight.

"The character of the Dutch is such," said de Witt, "that, unless danger stares them in the face, they are indisposed to lay out money for their own defense. I have to do with a people who, liberal to profusion where they ought to economize, are often sparing to avarice where they ought to spend."

Holland refused to learn by adversity. She grew more and more careless and corrupt in her Admiralty administration; more and more niggardly in her naval expenditure. In the wars of the Spanish Succession her fleets were so badly convoyed "that for one ship we lost, they lost five," and, worse still, these losses "begat a general notion that we were the safer carriers."

The downfall of Holland as a maritime power was no doubt the inevitable result of her Free Trade policy. She neglected manufacture for carriage, and thus became dependent on the production of other nations. Thomas Mun shrewdly pointed to this fundamental weakness when the Dutch were still supreme. He compared Holland to a bird in borrowed plumes: "If every fowl should take his feather the bird would rest near naked." "Their ships," he added, "cannot be spared from their traffic." De Witt, their greatest statesman, warned them in vain against their Free Trade policy:

"The undrest English cloths are at importation not charged at all, and the English traders enjoy every way more freedom and exemption from taxes in Holland than even our inhabitants." The strength of the nation, he pointed out, was founded in production and not in foreign trade: "We know that heretofore in Flanders, Brabant, and Holland many inhabitants were maintained by manufactures, fisheries, and traffic, when the Easterlings were the only carriers and mariners by sea; as also that the said owners of freight ships were for the most part gradually competed by our manufactures, fisheries, and traffic to forsake those Easterlings and to settle in Holland."

It allowed that manufacturing power was the source of mercantile power, as mercantile power of naval power. The nation which neglected the foundations could not maintain the superstructure.

And so it was with Holland. She was allowed to continue in her oversea trade and empire long after her power to defend it had gone.

England followed an opposite policy. She founded herself upon her manufactures, and developed her shipping as a subsidiary industry. Her Merchant Adventurers owned ships for the purpose of carrying English cloth to foreign harbours and bringing back what was received in exchange. Her ships were heavily armed and strongly manned for the defense of this trade. She did not believe in the doctrine that cheapness was the controlling factor; on the contrary, she believed that strength would in the end defeat cheapness.

And so in the end it proved. It is possible that the Navigation Laws at first reduced the bulk and the profits of English trade; but they maintained English trade in a strong national organization, and they maintained the supply of English seamen. Holland was content to man her ships with foreigners; England insisted that her ships should be manned in the main by Englishmen. And she was content to bear this handicap in cost because she knew that it meant an advantage in strength.

As to cost, in her cloth and other manufactures, England had commodities which other countries could not do without. Therefore she could decree that those commodities should be carried in English ships manned by English sailors. The Dutch, who were without manufactures of their own to carry, had to content themselves with what they could pick up in foreign markets and carry from port to port. They were not the source of wealth, but merely the means of exchange, and their position was thus vulnerable and precarious. When any foreign nation felt itself strong enough at sea to carry on its own trade, Holland had no remedy save intrigue, corruption, and contraband. Hence her lawyer's policy of free goods in free ships so much admired by Gardiner and our modern statesmen. In the end it proved the destruction of Holland.

France imitated the policy of England: she founded her naval power upon her manufacturing power and upon her national trade. She used her national strength to attack the commercial system of Holland and of England and by the latter part of the eighteenth century she had reduced Dutch commerce to a position of dependency. When England used her naval power against France and the rebel colonies, Holland was reduced to make a living profitable but precarious by her contraband trade with France and America, and when that contraband trade was checked, she had no other resource than the gage of battle.

And for this test her policy founded upon cheapness was the worst of all possible preparations. She could not spare ships from her trade for her navy, and although she was allied with almost all the Powers of Europe against England, one stroke of the lion's paw laid her in the dust.

Consider the position when on December 20, 1780, England declared war against Holland. England was already confronted by the united arms of France, Spain, and America. The Northern League, including Russia, Prussia, Denmark, Sweden, and Holland, were linked together to defend The Hague doctrine of free goods in free ships, in other words, to force the British blockade of France and America. Thus all Europe and America were ranged upon one side and the British Navy on the other. Holland had some excuse for thinking herself secure.

Yet England, strong in her policy of production, economic independence, and naval power, opposed them all single-handed and forced them to a drawn peace. The Northern League demanded "the freedom of the seas," the right, that is to say, of trading with belligerents in neutral ships; England took her stand on the position laid down by Elizabeth long before to the Hanseatic Ambassadors.

Her doctrine was the doctrine of Vattel, that "the effects belonging to an enemy found on board a neutral ship are seizable by the rights of war." She refused to confine her seizures to contraband or to allow the trade of her enemies to be carried on by other nations. In the face of the whole world she stood upon her right to use her naval power for the destruction of her enemies.

Now this conflict has been raised by our modern sophists to the plane of morality. They assert it as a moral doctrine that in war for war is implied merchandise is more sacred than life, or at least than the life of the soldier and the sailor. It is such a doctrine as might be advanced by a huckstering trader; that it can have no basis in morality or in anything save greed of gain must be obvious to every honest mind. For as the destruction of life, which is the breath of God, is admitted in war, upon what moral distinction should property, the work of man, be spared? The question is in fact a question of policy, not of morality, and it is obviously the policy of the stronger Power at sea to take full advantage of that power.

The center of the Dutch contraband trade with America was the island of St. Eustatius: it drove such an enormous traffic that Rodney called it the greatest emporium on earth. It was, in fact, a mountain of gold with so little iron that its whole garrison consisted of only fifty-five soldiers. In this and the neighboring islands Rodney captured 150 vessels, many of them with rich cargoes, and these with the stores on the island itself were valued at no less than four millions sterling. There was besides a Dutch West Indian fleet of thirty large merchant vessels, guarded with true Dutch economy by one Dutch man-of-war. All this vast property fell into the hands of the English.

The seizure of the property on the island offended the susceptibilities of Burke, and Lecky regards it as "justifying the strongest condemnations," although the capture of the ships and their cargoes was "fully in accordance with the rights and usage of war." I am not enough of a lawyer to set any value on such a distinction. The whole purpose of the settlement was contraband trade: every merchant on the island was up to the neck in it. The property belonged to an enemy or was destined to an enemy. Why should an honest English sailor be expected to split hairs?

St. Eustatius was prize of war, "and the blow," as Lecky says, "was one of the most terrible that could be inflicted upon Holland." The Dutch colonies of Demerara, Essequibo, Berbice, Negapatam, Sumatra, and Trincomali were seized and their world-trade system cut to ribbons. It had existed upon sufferance and legal assumptions: it did not correspond with any real power; and its fall is only an illustration of the truth that wealth cannot for ever survive the power to defend it.

Those who deplore this harsh doctrine would do well to reflect that this wealth was the result of power. The Dutch had taken it by force from Spain or the natives: to expect that property seized upon one tenure may be kept by another can hardly be called reasonable. The possessor who declines in strength will always seek to substitute a title of law for a title of power; but those who succeed to the power will not respect the law which stands in the way of their succession to the property. Whatever morality may teach, this at least is the teaching of history.

France, unlike Holland, based her maritime power upon her manufacturing power, and was in consequence a much more formidable enemy. She had besides by her great military strength the means to push her mercantile system throughout the Continent: her influence, commercial and political, extended to Spain, Italy, Southern Germany, and Ho 1 land. The British power kept open the Hanse towns, Portugal, and certain island and fortress depots in the Mediterranean.

But as France depended for a great part of her raw material upon the East and West Indies, Cape Breton, and Canada, England was able to strike at her power at its source and in its sea communications. The chief was the Newfoundland cod fisheries, upon which France depended for the training of her seamen, the victualling of her fleets, and a great part of her Spanish trade. It was well understood both in France and England that upon those fisheries depended the sovereignty of the seas. They engaged nearly 3000 French ships and boats and a hardy breed of sailors. "To obtain the fishery," said Pitt, in the peace negotiations of 1761, "he would fight six or seven more years in America, and if he were capable of signing a treaty without it would be sorry he had recovered the use of his gouty right hand." Chouseul was equally firm. "La peche est ma folie," he said: and refused absolutely to give up the fishery. It was this difference which brought the negotiations to naught.

The furs and timber of Canada were a factor hardly less important, since the one supplied the naval yards and the other a principal manufacture of France with their raw material, while the West Indian islands were the source of the chief French trade in tropical products.

Thus economic considerations dictated the strategy of the Seven Years' War, and Pitt aimed to strike at France through her commerce. Even the operations on the Continent were not purely military, but were a conflict for the command of the chief depots for the English cloth trade.

France remained impregnable as long as she continued true to her policy of production. But unfortunately for France a school of philosophers arose to deride the principle of nationality and preach a universal Free Trade. By the Eden Treaty with England France betrayed her manufacturing interest. The invasion of cheap English cloth and cotton and silk fabrics produced an economic crisis which led to the Revolution. The Revolution introduced politics into the French navy, and, together with the loss of Canada, so weakened French naval power as to give England a great superiority at sea. To this advantage England added by the genius of her sailors, and even when the naval power of Spain was combined with the naval power of France the English Navy not only defeated but annihilated the enemy.

Napoleon sought to redress the balance by conquests on land and by a war on British commerce, in which fast privateers played the part now played by German submarines. At sea French policy succeeded so badly that by the end of the eighteenth century "not a single merchant ship is on the sea carrying the French flag."

The British, on the other hand, although they lost many ships, hardly felt their losses in the wealth they gained from a monopoly of world-trade. It is calculated that 2.5 percent of our shipping was taken by the enemy; but its bulk and value nevertheless vastly increased. The French were reduced, as Napoleon said, to use the land for the conquest of the sea. They drove the House of Orange from Holland, and once more brought the Dutch into the war against us. Denmark was threatened with war unless she closed the mouth of the Elbe to British manufactures. Hamburg and Bremen were commanded to suspend all commerce with England. As the result of victorious wars, from Emden to Trieste, almost all the ports of the European seas were closed to British commerce.

The City of Hamburg was the hub and center of this great conflict between land and sea power. Since the time of Elizabeth it had been the great depot of the English cloth trade in Northern Europe. It was the principal seat of the Merchant Adventurers, known in its latter days as the Hamburg Company, whose College occupied the same dominating position in the Hanseatic city as the Steelyard had once occupied in the City of London.

When the armies of the Revolution entered Belgium and Holland, and closed Antwerp and Amsterdam to British ships, Hamburg succeeded to a great part of their trade.

"Though the streets were unlighted and unpaved, the feasts of the merchant princes were worthy of Lucullus. It was currently said that you should breakfast in Scotland, sup in France, but dine at Hamburg, and that nowhere else in Europe could you order thirty-two wines from your merchant and have them all good."

It was almost an English city. English ships crowded its quays; English manufactures filled its warehouses; its merchant princes sat on English chairs, slept in English beds, and dined at English tables. Its English weekly newspaper, the Hamburg Correspondent, was the organ of English influence in Europe, and its streets were crowded with French Royalists who carried on a political campaign against the Republic.

Napoleon soon discerned that Hamburg was the center of the English commercial system in Northern Europe, and this clear perception guided his policy in that part of the world. As early as February 23, 1798, he had reported to the Directory that four courses were possible in the war against Britain first, to attempt an invasion; secondly, to seize Hanover and Hamburg; thirdly, to make an expedition to the Levant; lastly, failing all of these, to make peace.

By the end of 1800 he had so far carried his design as to complete the Second Armed Neutrality, which embraced Russia, Sweden, Denmark, and Prussia. But this measure was defensive in pretext. It adopted the policy long before advanced by Holland of free goods on neutral ships. Its first article stipulated the free navigation for neutral vessels from port to port and on the coasts of nations at war; its second freed goods belonging to belligerents on neutral vessels; its third laid down a stringent definition of blockade; its fourth and fifth limited the right of search and of capture. It was in fact an anticipation of the Declarations of Paris and of London, and had the same object, the weakening of English naval power.

But part of its result was to range those Powers against England, for as England refused to surrender her naval power the signatories were driven to enforce their policy. They were thus skillfully drawn into Napoleon's plan for excluding English commerce. Paul enforced this policy upon a reluctant Russia; Denmark, on March 29, 1801, entered Hamburg and declared the Elbe closed to England; a few days later she occupied Lubeck with the same object. Prussian troops overran Hanover and Bremen, and closed the Weser and the Ems to British trade. The reply of England was to force the Sound and bombard Copenhagen.

The Second Armed Neutrality fell into ruins before Nelson's cannon-shot; the Danish troops withdrew from Hamburg a few weeks after the battle; the Prussians evacuated Bremen a little later; and in June a new Russian Emperor signed a maritime convention with England.

In the new war of 1803 Napoleon returned to his scheme. He seized Hanover with the object of controlling Hamburg, and even offered the Electorate to Prussia if she would consent to enforce his coast system.

Prussia refused, and the Battle of Jena laid the Hanseatic towns open to the conqueror. Hamburg had refused an alliance with Prussia, preferring the lawyer's defenses of neutrality. As usual they were in vain.

On November 21, 1806, Napoleon issued his Berlin Decrees, declaring a blockade of the British Isles and forbidding her commerce with the Continent.

Marshal Mortier was sent with the Eighth Corps of the Grand Army to take possession of Hamburg, Bremen, and Lubeck. He was commanded to disarm the inhabitants, occupy Cuxhaven, close the river so as to prevent any Englishmen escaping, and seize all Englishmen, English houses, and English merchandise. "I need not tell you that the principal point is to begin by disarming and arresting all native Englishmen, even English bankers established in the country for twenty years." On January 23, 1807, Napoleon formally confiscated all British merchandise and British colonial produce seized in the Hanseatic cities.

England replied to these measures by her Order in Council blockading France and the Allies of France. But her principal object was to force the continental markets for her manufactured goods. She designed not only to establish her own blockade, but to force the blockade of the enemy, a complicated system intelligently based upon her commercial interest.

The last of the Merchant Adventurers naturalized themselves as citizens of Hamburg, and remained as the informal custodians of English interests. The whole population of the city was educated in a system of smuggling which set the Berlin Decrees at naught. Even Bourienne, Napoleon's commandant in the city, was initiated into the system and condescended to make a large fortune by winking at the business.

Napoleon's army in Poland were clad in 70,000 English cloaks, which Bourienne helped to smuggle through. The whole complicated coastline of North Germany, admirably suited for the purpose, was made the basis of a vast contraband system. On September 5, 1807, the Majestic, with Admiral Russell in command, annexed the then Danish island of Heligoland. This "thin strip of grassy down, some two miles in circumference," became a great depot of British trade.

"A miscellaneous crowd of merchants, clerks, and smugglers rapidly poured into the island of seagulls. . . . The English merchants on the island, who formed a Chamber of Commerce, reported that from August 9 to November 20, 1808, upwards of 120 vessels fully laden had discharged their wares on the island, and that the annual value of goods transhipped and imported would amount to 8,000,000 pounds sterling. Such was the influx that what with kegs, cases, and human beings there was hardly place to stand. . . . When the French Government prohibited refined sugar, the traders of Heligoland deluged the Continent with the raw article. When the raw article was forbidden they shipped rivers of eau sucree. When the douanier refused eau sucree, they put their hands into their pockets and coolly bribed him. . . . Mock funerals would be organized, in which consignments of colonial goods played the role of corpse. Not a trick was left untried. By 1809 the blockade had practically broken down."

England's policy followed the natural course of trade, since England was the source of the manufactures and had control of the colonial produce of the world. Napoleon's policy was artificial and set itself to stem this natural current. Everywhere his barriers leaked. At the fairs of Leipzig and Frankfort English manufactures were displayed on every stall. Stuve, a citizen of Osnabruck in Westphalia, writes in his Memoirs that in the years 1808-1809 long trains of wagons brought English goods from the coast through the city, and King Jerome himself connived at the traffic. In vain Napoleon adjured his brother Louis to enforce the Decrees in Holland.

"Before being kind, you must be the master," he wrote. "You have seen . . . by my Decree that I mean to conquer the sea by the land. You must follow this system."

Nevertheless the trade continued. In October 1810 the Fontainebleau Decrees carried the continental system to the furthest possible limits. All British manufactures were to be confiscated and burnt. Tribunals were set up to try those engaged in the traffic and to reward informers. Napoleon justified the measure "by circumstances."

"The immense stores at Heligoland threatened ever to flow into the Continent, if a single point remained open to English trade on the coasts of the North Sea, and if the mouths of the Jahde, Weser, and Elbe were not closed against it for ever." Davout, an incorruptible soldier, had reported from Hamburg the extent of the traffic, and the Emperor after annexing Holland annexed the Hanseatic towns.

At the same time he carried the war into Italy, where the republics were, like the Hanse towns, depots for English trade, and he sent an army through Spain to close England's valuable market at Lisbon.

It is undeniable that England was brought at times to a serious pass by these measures. When they were at the height of their rigor, English trade was reduced almost to a stand in Europe, and the markets of Asia and America were not sufficient to take off the glut of goods. But a country overstocked is in a stronger position than a country which is starved, and England was able to hold out longer than her enemy. And the course of the struggle had this political effect, that England, which sought to break the blockade, was everywhere looked upon as the friend and deliverer of Europe.

Prussia, faced by starvation or war, reorganized her forces and took the field. Russia, whose main trade had been in corn for England and materials for the English Navy, groaned under the impositions, and the Emperor was forced by his nobles to make a peace with England which meant war with France. The peace between England and Russia of July 1812 "virtually put an end to the continental system." Sweden, threatened with the establishment of French customhouses, made common cause with Russia. The whole of Northern Europe rose in revolt against the Food Controller.

In the wars which followed, Napoleon clung desperately to Hamburg, so desperately that Davout was surrounded in the town. But the sea at last proved too much for the land. The nations of the north which depended on the sea and upon naval stores for a livelihood did the bidding of the master of the sea; the merchants of the Hanse were the servants of the master of trade.

What France suffered by the sea blockade of England is graphically told by contemporary witnesses.

"The state of France as it fell under my observation in 1807," wrote an American traveller quoted by Mahan, "exhibited a very different perspective" from that of Great Britain. "The effects of the loss of external trade were everywhere visible in the commercial cities, half deserted and reduced to a state of inaction and gloom truly deplorable; in the inland towns, in which the populace is eminently wretched, and where I saw not one indication of improvement, but on the contrary numbers of edifices falling into ruin; or the high roads, where the infrequency of vehicles and travellers denoted but too strongly the decrease of internal consumption and the languor of internal trade; and among the inhabitants of the country, particularly the south, whose misery is extreme in consequence of the exorbitant taxes, and of the want of outlet for their surplus produce. In 1807 the number of mendicants in the inland towns was almost incredible."

Not only were the prices in the Empire from 50 to 100 percent higher than the prices in London, but France had to pay more than the other continental nations, and all foreign articles decreased in price in proportion as the distance from Paris increased.

In the course of this life-and-death struggle it may be interesting to note that both sides disregarded what is called International Law. The British Orders in Council which replied to Napoleon's decrees declared that:

"All ports and places of France and her Allies, or of any other country at war with His Majesty, and all other ports or places in Europe from which, although not at war with His Majesty, the British flag is excluded, and all ports in the colonies of His Majesty's enemies shall from henceforth be subject to the same restrictions, in point of trade and navigation, as if the same were actually blockaded in the most strict and rigorous manner."

International Law, in fact, is nothing of higher sanction than the rules which a belligerent lays down and is able to enforce for his own conduct of a war. Those who seek to find in it a code to which all nations owe and give obedience are doomed to wander forever in a maze of fallacies and a forest of exceptions.

And it is worth remembering that England was not ashamed at that time to use her regulations for the increase of her trade as well as the injury of her enemy. Upon this Captain Mahan, an unprejudiced neutral, makes a very sensible commentary:

"The whole system," he says, "was then, and has since been, roundly abused as being in no sense a military measure, but merely a gigantic exhibition of military greed; but this simply begs the question. To win her fight Great Britain was obliged not only to weaken Napoleon but to increase her own strength. The battle between the sea and the land was to be fought out on commerce."

Here, then, we arrive at a wide view of naval power: it is used to secure the economic strength of its possessor and to destroy the economic strength of an enemy. It has always been so used, and despite Hague Conventions made by the weaker sea Powers in all ages, it will always be so used, if the statesmen who use it are intelligent and faithful to their trust. If they are foolish or false to the interest of the nation they govern they make naval power of no avail, and would better have remained at peace.