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better. They ran risks, and they even made mistakes, but they never faltered in their conviction that, if the fleets of England could not save England, nothing else could. Is it a mere accident, or the mere fortune of war, which one day may play us false, that from the Norman Conquest, when England was lost by the insufficiency of her fleet, to the days of Trafalgar, when she was saved by its sufficiency, the sufficiency and prowess of the fleet -more than once its bare and scarcely adequate sufficiency–have invariably kept the invader at bay, and that her defenders on shore have never once met an enemy on British soil except in such mere handfuls that his discomfiture has left scarcely a trace in the national history ? For an answer to this question I have nothing to add to what was said, with far higher authority than mine, by Sir George Clarke twelve years ago : '
That naval force is the natural and proper defence of a maritime State against over-sea invasion is the indisputable teaching of history. The unbroken consistency of the records of hundreds of years cannot possibly be the result of accident. No theories incubated in times of peace, no speculations as to what might have happened if events had shaped themselves differently, can shake a law thus irrefragably established. There is only one explanation of the fact that of the many projected invasions of England none has succeeded for eight hundred years, notwithstanding that naval superiority has not existed at all periods, and that the military forces at home have often been utterly inadequate to resist the strength that could be brought against them, if the sea had not intervened. All the great operations of war are ruled by the measure of the risk involved, and, until the defending Navy has been crushed, the risk of exposing large numbers of transports to attack is too great to be easily accepted.
Is it, or is it not, then, an advantage to be an insular State ? The answer is surely given in the fact that there is no State in Europe which has not been invaded over
1 The Navy and the Nation, p. 320.
and over again in the eight hundred years during which England has enjoyed immunity from that unspeakable calamity. How long will that immunity last if we once begin to transfer the stress of defence from the sea to the land ? If the fleet of England, which is her all in all, as it always has been, can no longer be trusted to keep the invader at bay, it is not “ National Service” that will save us. The full model of the citizen-armies of the Continent will barely serve our needs. At the same time the defence of the Empire and the security of our maritime commerce will need a Navy just as strong as before. India cannot be held unless we command the sea, as every sailor knows and as every soldier will acknowledge. Hence, on these conditions, so far from its being an advantage to England to be an island State, it must in time become a tremendous and overwhelming disadvantage. There is, in very truth, no middle course in the matter. Either the fleet, so long as it is maintained in sufficiency, can henceforth, as heretofore, be trusted to keep the invader at bay, in which case our military defences can be strictly adjusted to the measure and the conditions of our sea power; or it cannot, in which case not all the adult manhood of the nation in arms will suffice to defend our homes. Surely the country cannot hesitate between these two alternatives. Nearly five hundred years ago the truth was written in rugged lines that still go to the root of the whole matter :
Keep then the Sea about in special,