The Influence of Sea Power upon History/Chapter VII
We have now reached the opening of a series of great wars, destined to last with short intervals of peace for nearly half a century, and having, amid many misleading details, one broad characteristic distinguishing them from previous, and from many subsequent, wars. This strife embraced the four quarters of the world, and that not only as side issues here and there, the main struggle being in Europe; for the great questions to be determined by it, concerning the world's history, were the dominion of the sea and the control of distant countries, the possession of colonies, and, dependent upon these, the increase of wealth. Singularly enough it is not till nearly the end of the long contest that great fleets are found engaging, and the struggle transferred to its proper field, the sea. The action of sea power is evident enough, the issue plainly indicated from the beginning but for a long time there is no naval warfare of any consequence, because the truth is not recognized by the French government. The movement toward colonial extension by France is wholly popular. Though illustrated by a few great names the attitude of the rulers is cold and mistrustful hence came neglect of the navy, a foregone conclusion of defeat on the main question, and destruction for the time of her sea power.
Such being the character of the coming wars, it is important to realize the relative positions of the three great powers in those quarters of the world, outside of Europe, where the strife was to engage. In North America, England now held the thirteen colonies, the original United States, from Maine to Georgia. In these colonies was to be found the highest development of that form of colonization peculiar to England, bodies of free men essentially self-governing and self-dependent, still enthusiastically loyal, and by occupation at once agricultural, commercial, and sea-faring. In the character of their country and its productions, in its long sea-coast and sheltered harbors, and in their own selves, they had all the elements of sea power, which had already received large development. On such a country and such a people the royal navy and army were securely based in the western hemisphere. The English colonists were intensely jealous of the French and Canadians.
France held Canada and Louisiana, a name much more extensive in its application then than now, and claimed the entire valley of the Ohio and Mississippi, by right of prior discovery, and as a necessary link between the St. Lawrence and the Gulf of Mexico. There was as yet no adequate occupation of this intermediate country, nor was the claim admitted by England, whose colonists asserted the right to extend indefinitely westward. The strength of the French position was in Canada; the St. Lawrence gave them access to the heart of the country, and though Newfoundland and Nova Scotia had been lost, in Cape Breton Island they still held the key of the gulf and river. Canada had the characteristics of the French colonial system planted in a climate least suited to it. A government paternal, military, and monkish discouraged the development of individual enterprise and of free association for common ends. The colonists abandoned commerce and agriculture, raising only food enough for immediate consumption, and were given to arms and hunting. Their chief traffic was in furs. There was so little mechanical art among them that they bought of the English colonies part of the vessels for their interior navigation. The chief element of strength was the military, arms-bearing character of the population; each man was a soldier.
Besides the hostility inherited from the mother-countries, there was a necessary antagonism between two social and political systems, so directly opposed, and lying one alongside the other. The remoteness of Canada from the West Indies, and the inhospitable winter climate, made it, from the naval point of view, of much less value to France than the English colonies to England; besides which the resources and population were greatly inferior. In 1750 the population of Canada was eighty thousand, that of the English colonies twelve hundred thousand. With such disparity of strength and resources, the only chance for Canada lay in the support of the sea power of France, either by direct control of the neighboring seas, or by such powerful diversion elsewhere as would relieve the pressure upon her.
On the continent of North America, in addition to Mexico and the countries south of it, Spain held Florida; under which name were embraced extensive regions beyond the peninsula, not accurately defined, and having little importance at any period of these long wars.
In the West Indies and South America, Spain held mainly what are still known as Spanish American countries, besides Cuba, Porto Rico, and part of Hayti; France had Guadeloupe, Martinique, and the western half of Hayti; England, Jamaica, Barbadoes, and some of the smaller islands. The fertile character of the soil, the commercial productions, and the less rigorous climate would seem to make these islands objects of particular ambition in a colonial war; but as a matter of fact no attempt was made, nor, except as to Jamaica, which Spain wished to recover, was any intention entertained of conquering any of the larger islands. The reason probably was that England, whose sea power made her the principal aggressor, was influenced in the direction of her efforts by the wishes of the great body of Englishmen on the North American continent. The smaller West India islands are singly too small to be strongly held except by a power controlling the sea. They had a twofold value in war: one as offering military positions for such a power: the other a commercial value, either as adding to one's own resources or diminishing those of the enemy. War directed against them may be considered as a war upon commerce, and the islands themselves as ships or convoys loaded with enemy's wealth. They will be found therefore changing hands like counters, and usually restored when peace comes; though the final result was to leave most of them in the hands of England. Nevertheless, the fact of each of the great powers having a share in this focus of commerce drew thither both large fleets and small squadrons, a tendency aided by the unfavorable seasons for military operations on the continent; and in the West Indies took place the greater number of the fleet-actions that illustrated this long series of wars.
In yet another remote region was the strife between England and France to be waged, and there, as in North America, finally decided by these wars. In India, the rival nations were represented by their East India companies, who directly administered both government and commerce. Back of them, of course, were the mother-countries; but in immediate contact with the native rulers were the presidents and officers appointed by the companies. At this time the principal settlements of the English were,--on the west coast, Bombay; on the east, Calcutta upon the Ganges, at some distance from the sea, and Madras; while a little south of Madras another town and station, known generally to the English as Fort St. David, though sometimes called Cuddalore, had been established later. The three presidencies of Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras were at this time mutually independent, and responsible only to the Court of Directors in England.
France was established at Chandernagore, on the Ganges, above Calcutta; at Pondicherry, on the east coast, eighty miles south of Madras; and on the west coast, far to the south of Bombay, she had a third station of inferior importance, called Mahe. The French, however, had a great advantage in the possession of the intermediate station already pointed out in the Indian Ocean, the neighboring islands of France and Bourbon. They were yet more fortunate in the personal character of the two men who were at this time at the head of their affairs in the Indian peninsula and the islands, Dupleix and La Bourdonnais,--men to whom no rivals in ability or force of character had as yet appeared among the English Indian officials. Yet in these two men, whose cordial fellow-working might have ruined the English settlement in India, there appeared again that singular conflict of ideas, that hesitation between the land and the sea as the stay of power, a prophecy of which seems to be contained in the geographical position of France itself. The mind of Dupleix, though not inattentive to commercial interests, was fixed on building up a great empire in which France should rule over a multitude of vassal native princes. In the pursuit of this end he displayed great tact and untiring activity, perhaps also a somewhat soaring and fantastic imagination; but when he met La Bourdonnais, whose simpler and sounder views aimed at sea supremacy, at a dominion based upon free and certain communication with the home country instead of the shifting sands of Eastern intrigues and alliances, discord at once arose. "Naval inferiority," says a French historian who considers Dupleix to have had the higher aims, "was the principal cause that arrested his progress;" but naval superiority was precisely the point at which La Bourdonnais, himself a seaman and the governor of an island, aimed. It may be that with the weakness of Canada, compared to the English colonies, sea power could not there have changed the actual issue; but in the condition of the rival nations in India everything depended upon controlling the sea.
Such were the relative situations of the three countries in the principal foreign theatres of war. No mention has been made of the colonies on the west coast of Africa, because they were mere trading stations having no military importance. The Cape of Good Hope was in possession of the Dutch, who took no active part in the earlier wars, but long maintained toward England a benevolent neutrality, surviving from the alliance in the former wars of the century. It is necessary to mention briefly the condition of the military navies, which were to have an importance as yet unrealized. Neither precise numbers nor an exact account of condition of the ships, can be given; but the relative efficiency can be fairly estimated. Campbell, the English contemporary naval historian, says that in 1727 the English navy had eighty four ships-of-the-line, from sixty guns up; forty 50-gun ships, and fifty-four frigates and smaller vessels. In 1734 this number had fallen to seventy ships-of-the-line and nineteen 50-gun ships. In 1744, after four years of war with Spain alone, the number was ninety ships-of-the-line and eighty-four frigates. The French navy at the same time he estimates at forty-five ships-of-the-line and sixty-seven frigates. In 1747, near the end of the first war, he says that the royal navy of Spain was reduced to twenty-two ships-of-the-line, that of France to thirty-one, while the English had risen to one hundred and twenty-six. The French writers consulted are less precise in their figures, but agree in representing not only that the navy was reduced to a pitiful number of ships, but that these were in bad condition and the dock-yards destitute of materials. This neglect of the navy lasted more or less through-out these wars, until 1760, when the sense of the nation was aroused to the importance of restoring it; too late, however, to prevent the most serious of the French losses. In England as well as in France discipline and administration had been sapped by the long peace; the inefficiency of the armaments sent out was notorious, and recalls the scandals that marked the outbreak of the Crimean War; while the very disappearance of the French ships led, by the necessity of replacing them, to putting afloat vessels superior singly, because more modern and scientific, to the older ships of the same class in England. Care must he had, however, in accepting too easily the complaints of individual writers; French authors will be found asserting that English ships are faster, while at the same period Englishmen complain that they are slower. It may be accepted as generally true that the French ships built between 1740 and 1800 were better designed and larger, class for class, than the English. The latter had the undoubted superiority both in the number and quality of the seamen and officers. Keeping some fleets always afloat, whether better or worse, the officers could not quite lose touch of their profession; whereas in France it is said that not one fifth of the officers were, in 1744, employed. This superiority was kept and increased by the practice, which henceforth obtained, of blockading the French military ports with superior force; the enemy's squadrons when they put to sea found themselves at once at a disadvantage in point of practical skill. On the other hand, large as was the number of English seamen, the demands of commerce were so great that war found them scattered all over the world, and part of the fleet was always paralyzed for lack of crews. This constant employment assured good seamanship, but the absence of so many men had to be supplied by an indiscriminate press, which dragged in a class of miserable and sickly men, sadly diluting the quality of the whole. To realize the condition of ships' companies of that day, it will be necessary only to read the accounts of those sent to Anson starting for a cruise round the world, or to Hawke when fitting out for war service; the statements are now almost incredible, and the results most deplorable. It was not a question of sanitation only; the material sent was entirely unfit to meet the conditions of sea life under the most favorable circumstances. In both the French and English service a great deal of weeding among the officers was necessary. Those were the palmy days of court and political influence; and, moreover, it is not possible, after a long peace, at once to pick out from among the fairest-seeming the men who will best stand the tests of time and exposure to the responsibilities of war. There was in both nations a tendency to depend upon officers who had been in their prime a generation before, and the results were not fortunate.
War having been declared against Spain by England in October, 1739, the first attempts of the latter power were naturally directed against the Spanish-American colonies, the cause of the dispute, in which it was expected to find an easy and rich prey. The first expedition sailed under Admiral Vernon in November of the same year, and took Porto Bello by a sudden and audacious stroke, but found only the insignificant sum of ten thousand dollars in the port whence the galleons sailed. Returning to Jamaica, Vernon received large reinforcements of ships, and was joined by a land force of twelve thousand troops. With this increased force, attempts were made upon both Cartagena and Santiago de Cuba, in the years 1741 and 1742, but in both wretched failures resulted; the admiral and the general quarrelled, as was not uncommon in days when neither had an intelligent comprehension of the other's business. Marryatt, when characterizing such misunderstandings by a humorous exaggeration, seems to have had in view this attempt on Cartagena: "The army thought that the navy might have beaten down stone ramparts ten feet thick; and the navy wondered why the army had not walked up the same ramparts, which were thirty feet perpendicular."
Another expedition, justly celebrated for the endurance and perseverence shown by its leader, and famous both for the hardships borne and singular final success, was sent out in 1740 under Anson. Its mission was to pass round Cape Horn and attack the Spanish colonies on the west coast of South America. After many delays, due apparently to bad administration, the squadron finally got away toward the end of 1740. Passing the Cape at the worst season of the year, the ships met a series of tempests of the most violent kind; the squadron was scattered, never all to meet again, and Anson, after infinite peril, succeeded in rallying a part of it at Juan Fernandez. Two ships had put back to England, a third was lost to the southward of Chiloe. With the three left to him he cruised along the South American coast, taking some prizes and pillaging the town of Payta, intending to touch near Panama and join hands with Vernon for the capture of that place and the possession of the isthmus, if possible. Learning of the disaster at Cartagena, he then determined to cross the Pacific and waylay the two galleons that sailed yearly from Acapulco to Manila. In the passage across, one of the two ships now left to him was found in such bad condition that she had to be destroyed. With the other he succeeded in his last undertaking, capturing the great galleon with a million and a half dollars in specie. The expedition, from its many misfortunes, had no military result beyond the terror and consequent embarrassment caused to the Spanish settlements; but its very misfortunes, and the calm persistency which worked out a great success from them all, have given it a well-deserved renown.
During the year 1740 happened two events which led to a general European war breaking in upon that in which Spain and England were already engaged. In May of that year Frederick the Great became king of Prussia, and in October the emperor Charles VI., formerly the Austrian claimant of the Spanish throne, died. He had no son, and left by will the sovereignty of his estates to his eldest daughter, the celebrated Maria Theresa, to secure whose succession the efforts of his diplomacy had been directed for many years. This succession had been guaranteed by the European powers; but the apparent weakness of her position excited the ambitions of other sovereigns. The Elector of Bavaria laid claim to the whole inheritance, in which he was supported by France while the Prussian king claimed and seized the province of Silesia. Other powers, large and small, threw in their lot with one or the other; while the position of England was complicated by her king being also elector of Hanover, and in that capacity hurriedly contracting an obligation of neutrality for the electorate, although English feeling was strongly in favor of Austria. Meanwhile the failure of the Spanish-American expeditions and the severe losses of English commerce increased the general outcry against Walpole, who resigned early in 1742. England under the new ministry became the open ally of Austria; and Parliament voted not only a subsidy to the empress-queen, but also a body of troops to be sent as auxiliaries to the Austrian Netherlands At the same time Holland, under English influence, and bound like England by previous treaties to support the succession of Maria Theresa, also voted a subsidy. Here occurs again that curious view of international relations before mentioned. Both of these powers thus entered the war against France, but only as auxiliaries to the empress, not as principals; as nations, except the troops actually in the field, they were considered to be still at peace. Such an equivocal situation could in the end have only one result. On the sea France had already assumed the same position of auxiliary to Spain, in virtue of the defensive alliance between the two kingdoms, while affecting still to be at peace with England; and it is curious to see the gravity with which French writers complain of assaults upon French by English ships, upon the plea that there was no open war between the two States. It has already been mentioned that in 1740 a French squadron supported a division of Spanish ships on their way to America. In 1741, Spain, having now entered the continental war as an enemy of Austria, sent a body of fifteen thousand troops from Barcelona to attack the Austrian possessions in Italy. The English admiral Haddock, in the Mediterranean, sought and found the Spanish fleet; but with it was a division of twelve French sail-of-the-line, whose commander informed Haddock that he was engaged in the same expedition and had orders to fight, if the Spaniards, though formally at war with England, were attacked. As the allies were nearly double his force, the English admiral was obliged to go back to Port Mahon. He was soon after relieved; and the new admiral, Matthews, held at once the two positions of commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean and English minister at Turin, the capital of the King of Sardinia. In the course of the year 1742 an English captain in his fleet, chasing some Spanish galleys, drove them into the French port of St. Tropez, and following them into the harbor burned them, in spite of the so-called neutrality of France. In the same year Matthews sent a division of ships under Commodore Martin to Naples, to compel the Bourbon king to withdraw his contingent of twenty thousand troops serving with the Spanish army in northern Italy against the Austrians. To the attempts to negotiate, Martin replied only by pulling out his watch and giving the government an hour to come to terms. There was nothing for it but submission; and the English fleet left the harbor after a stay of twenty-four hours, having relieved the empress of a dangerous enemy. Henceforward it was evident that the Spanish war in Italy could only be maintained by sending troops through France; England controlled the sea and the action of Naples. These two last incidents, at St. Tropez and Naples, deeply impressed the aged Fleuri, who recognized too late the scope and importance of a well-founded sea power. Causes of complaint were multiplying on both sides, and the moment was fast approaching when both France and England must quit the pretence of being only auxiliaries in the war. Before it came to that, however, the controlling sea power and wealth of England again made itself felt by attaching the King of Sardinia to the Austrian cause. Between the dangers and advantages of the French or English alliance the king's action was determined by a subsidy and the promise of a strong English fleet in the Mediterranean; in return he engaged to enter the war with an army of forty-five thousand men. This compact was signed in September, 1743. In October, Fleuri being now dead, Louis XV. made with Spain a treaty, by which he engaged to declare war against England and Sardinia, and to support the Spanish claims in Italy, as also to Gibraltar, Mahon, and Georgia. Open war was thus near at hand, but the declaration was still deferred. The greatest sea fight that took place occurred while nominal peace yet existed.
In the latter part of 1743 the Infante Philip of Spain had sought to hand on the coast of the Genoese Republic, which was unfriendly to the Austrians; but the attempt had been frustrated by the English fleet, and the Spanish ships forced to retreat into Toulon. They lay there for four months, unable to go out on account of the English superiority. In this dilemma the court of Spain applied to Louis XV. and obtained an order for the French fleet, under the command of Admiral de Court,--an old man of eighty years, a veteran of the days of Louis XIV.,--to escort the Spaniards either to the Gulf of Genoa or to their own ports, it does not clearly appear which. The French admiral was ordered not to fire unless he was attacked. In order to secure the best co-operation of the Spaniards, whose efficiency he probably distrusted, De Court proposed, as Ruyter had done in days long gone by, to scatter their ships among his own; but as the Spanish admiral, Navarro, refused, the line-of-battle was formed with nine French ships in the van, in the centre six French and three Spaniards, in the rear nine Spanish ships; in all, twenty-seven. In this order the combined fleets sailed from Toulon February 19, 1744. The English fleet, which had been cruising off Hyeres in observation, chased, and on the 22d its van and centre came up with the allies; but the rear division was then several miles to windward and astern, quite out of supporting distance. The wind was easterly, both fleets heading to the southward, and the English had the weather-gage. The numbers were nearly equal, the English having twenty-nine to the allied twenty-seven; but this advantage was reversed by the failure of the English rear to join. The course of the rear-admiral has been generally attributed to ill-will toward Matthews; for although he proved that in his separated position he made all sail to join, he did not attack later on when he could, on the plea that the signal for the line-of-battle was flying at the same time as the signal to engage; meaning that he could not leave the line to fight without disobeying the order to form line. This technical excuse was, however, accepted by the subsequent court-martial. Under the actual conditions Matthews, mortified and harassed by the inaction of his lieutenant, and fearing that the enemy would escape if he delayed longer, made the signal to engage when his own van was abreast the enemy's centre, and at once bore down himself out of the line and attacked with his flagship of ninety guns the largest ship in the enemy's line, the "Royal Philip," of one hundred and ten guns, carrying the flag of the Spanish admiral. In doing this he was bravely supported by his next ahead and astern. The moment of attack seems to have been judiciously chosen; five Spanish ships had straggled far to the rear, leaving their admiral with the support only of his next ahead and astern, while three other Spaniards continued on with the French. The English van stood on, engaging the allied centre, while the allied van was without antagonists. Being thus disengaged, the latter was desirous of tacking to windward of the head of the English line, thus putting it between two fires, but was checked by the intelligent action of the three leading English captains, who, disregarding the signal to bear down, kept their commanding position and stopped the enemy's attempts to double. For this they were cashiered by the court-martial, but afterward restored. This circumspect but justifiable disregard of signals was imitated without any justification by all the English captains of the centre, save the admiral's seconds already mentioned, as well as by some of those in the van, who kept up a cannonade at long range while their commander-in-chief was closely and even furiously engaged. The one marked exception was Captain Hawke, afterward the distinguished admiral, who imitated the example of his chief, and after driving his first antagonist out of action, quitted his place in the van, brought to close quarters a fine Spanish ship that had kept at bay five other English ships, and took her,--the only prize made that day. The commander of the English van, with his seconds, also behaved with spirit and came to close action. It is unnecessary to describe the battle further; as a military affair it deserves no attention, and its most important result was to bring out the merit of Hawke, whom the king and the government always remembered for his share in it. The general inefficiency and wide-spread misbehavior of the English captains, after five years of declared war, will partly explain the failure of England to obtain from her undoubted naval superiority the results she might have expected in this war--the first act in a forty years' drama--and they give military officers a lesson in the necessity of having their minds prepared and stocked, by study of the conditions of war in their own day, if they would not be found unready and perhaps disgraced in the hour of battle. It is not to be supposed that so many English seamen misbehaved through so vulgar and rare a defect as mere cowardice; it was unpreparedness of mind and lack of military efficiency in the captains, combined with bad leadership on the part of the admiral, with a possible taint of ill will toward him as a rude and domineering superior, that caused this fiasco. Attention may here fitly be drawn to the effect of a certain cordiality and good-will on the part of superiors toward their subordinates. It is not perhaps essential to military success, but it undoubtedly contributes to the other elements of that success a spirit, a breath of life, which makes possible what would otherwise be impossible; which reaches heights of devotion and achievement that the strictest discipline, not so enkindled, cannot attain. Doubtless it is a natural gift. The highest example of it possibly ever known among seamen was Nelson. When he joined the fleet just before Trafalgar, the captains who gathered on board the flag-ship seemed to forget the rank of their admiral in their desire to testify their joy at meeting him. "This Nelson," wrote Captain Duff, who fell in the battle, "is so lovable and excellent a man, so kindly a leader, that we all wish to exceed his desires and anticipate his orders." He himself was conscious of this fascination and its value, when writing of the battle of the Nile to Lord Howe, he said, "I had the happiness to command a band of brothers."
The celebrity attained by Matthews's action off Toulon, certainly not due to the skill with which it was managed, nor to its results, sprang from the clamor at home, and chiefly from the number and findings of the courts-martial that followed. Both the admiral and his second, and also eleven captains out of the twenty-nine, had charges preferred against them. The admiral was cashiered because he had broken the line; that is, because his captains did not follow him when he left it to get at the enemy,--a decision that smacks more of the Irish bull than of the Irish love of fighting. The second was acquitted on the technical grounds already given; he avoided the fault of breaking the line by keeping far enough away. Of the eleven captains one died, one deserted, seven were dismissed or suspended, two only were acquitted. Nor were the French and Spaniards better pleased; mutual recriminations passed. Admiral de Court was relieved from his command, while the Spanish admiral was decorated by his government with the title of Marquis de la Victoria, a most extraordinary reward for what was at best a drawn fight. The French, on the other hand, assert that he left the deck on the plea of a very slight wound, and that the ship was really fought by a French captain who happened to be on board.
To use a common expression, this battle, the first general action since that off Malaga forty years before, "woke up" the English people and brought about a healthful reaction. The sifting process begun by the battle itself was continued, but the result was reached too late to have its proper effect on the current war. It is rather by its deficient action, than by such conspicuous successes as were attained in earlier and later times, that the general value of England's sea power is now shown; like some precious faculty, scarcely valued when possessed, but keenly missed when withdrawn. Mistress now of the seas rather by the weakness of her enemies than by her own disciplined strength, she drew from that mastery no adequate results; the most solid success, the capture of Cape Breton Island, in 1745, was achieved by the colonial forces of New England, to which indeed the royal navy lent valuable aid, for to troops so situated the fleet is the one line of communication. The misconduct off Toulon was repeated by officers high in command in the West and East Indies, resulting in the latter case in the loss of Madras. Other causes concurred with the effete condition of the naval officers to hamper the action of that sea power which launches out far from home. The condition of England itself was insecure; the cause of the Stuarts was still alive, and though a formidable invasion by fifteen thousand troops under Marshal Saxe, in 1744, was foiled, partly by the English Channel fleet, and partly by a storm which wrecked several of the transports assembled off Dunkirk, with the loss of many lives, yet the reality of the danger was shown in the following year, when the Pretender landed in Scotland with only a few men at his back and the northern kingdom rose with him. His successful invasion was carried well down into England itself; and sober historians have thought that at one time the chances of ultimate success were rather with than against him. Another serious fetter upon the full use of England's power was the direction given to the French operations on land and the mistaken means used to oppose them. Neglecting Germany, France turned upon the Austrian Netherlands, a country which England, out of regard to her sea interests, was not willing to see conquered. Her commercial preponderance would be directly threatened by the passing of Antwerp, Ostend, and the Scheldt into the hands of her great rival; and though her best check against this would have been to seize valuable French possessions elsewhere and hold them as a pledge, the weakness of her government and the present inefficiency of the navy prevented her doing so. The position of Hanover, again, controlled the action of England; for thought united only by the tie of a common sovereign, the love of that sovereign for his continental dominion, his native country, made itself strongly felt in the councils of a weak and time-serving ministry. It was the disregard of Hanover by the first William Pitt, consequent upon his strong English feeling, that incensed the king and led him so long to resist the demands of the nation that he should be put at the head of affairs. These different causes--dissension at home, interest in the Netherlands, regard for Hanover combined to prevent a subservient and second-rate ministry, divided also among themselves, from giving a proper direction and infusing a proper spirit into the naval war; but a better condition of the navy itself, more satisfactory results from it, might have modified even their action. As it was, the outcome of the war was almost nothing as regards the disputes between England and her special enemies. On the continent, the questions after 1745 reduced themselves to two,--what part of the Austrian possessions should be given to Prussia, Spain, and Sardinia, and how peace was to be wrenched by France from England and Holland. The sea countries still, as of old, bore the expenses of the war, which however now fell chiefly upon England. Marshal Saxe, who commanded the French in Flanders throughout this war, summed up the situation in half a dozen words to his king. "Sire," said he, "peace is within the walls of Maestricht." This strong city opened the course of the Meuse and the way for the French army into the United Provinces from the rear; for the English fleet, in conjunction with that of Holland, prevented an attack from the sea. By the end of 1746, despite the efforts of the allies, nearly all Belgium was in the hands of the French; but up to this time, although Dutch subsidies were supporting the Austrian government, and Dutch troops in the Netherlands were fighting for it, there was nominal peace between the United Provinces and France. In April, 1747, "the King of France invaded Dutch Flanders, announcing that he was obliged to send his army into the territory of the republic, to arrest the protection granted by the States-General to the Austrian and English troops; but that he had no intention of breaking with it, and that the places and provinces occupied would be restored to the United Provinces as soon as they gave proof that they had ceased to succor the enemies of France." This was actual, but not formal, war. Numerous places fell during the year, and the successes of the French inclined both Holland and England to come to terms. Negotiations went on during the winter; but in April, 1748, Saxe invested Maestricht. This forced a peace.
Meanwhile, though languishing, the sea war was not wholly uneventful. Two encounters between English and French squadrons happened during the year 1747, completing the destruction of the French fighting navy. In both cases the English were decidedly superior; and though there was given opportunity for some brilliant fighting by particular captains, and for the display of heroic endurance on the part of the French, greatly outnumbered but resisting to the last, only one tactical lesson is afforded. This lesson is, that when an enemy, either as the result of battle or from original inequality, is greatly inferior in force, obliged to fly without standing on the order of his flying, the regard otherwise due to order must be in a measure at least dismissed, and a general chase ordered. The mistake of Tourville in this respect after Beachy Head has already been noted. In the first of the cases now under discussion, the English Admiral Anson had fourteen ships against eight French, weaker individually as well as in total number; in the second, Sir Edward Hawke had fourteen against nine, the latter being somewhat larger, ship for ship, than the English. In both cases the signal was made for a general chase, and the action which resulted was a melee. There was no opportunity for anything else; the one thing necessary was to overtake the running enemy, and that can only certainly be done by letting the fleetest or best situated ships get ahead, sure that the speed of the fastest pursuers is better than that of the slowest of the pursued, and that therefore either the latter must be abandoned or the whole force brought to bay. In the second case the French commander, Commodore l'Etenduere, did not have to be followed far. He had with him a convoy of two hundred and fifty merchant-ships; detaching one ship-of-the-line to continue the voyage with the convoy, he placed himself with the other eight between it and the enemy, awaiting the attack under his topsails. As the English came up one after another they divided on either side of the French column, which was thus engaged on both sides. After an obstinate resistance, six of the French ships were taken, but the convoy was saved. The English had been so roughly handled that the two remaining French men-of-war got back safely to France. If, therefore, Sir Edward Hawke showed in his attack the judgment and dash which always distinguished that remarkable officer, it may be claimed for Commodore l'Etenduere that fortune, in assigning him the glorious disadvantage of numbers, gave him also the leading part in the drama, and that he filled it nobly. A French officer justly remarks that "he defended his convoy as on shore a position is defended, when the aim is to save an army corps or to assure an evolution; he gave himself to be crushed. After an action that lasted from mid-day till eight P.M. the convoy was saved, thanks to the obstinacy of the defence; two hundred and fifty ships were saved to their owners by the devotion of l'Etenduere and of the captains under his orders. This devotion cannot be questioned, for eight ships had but few chances of surviving an action with fourteen; and not only did the commander of the eight accept an action which he might possibly have avoided, but he knew how to inspire his lieutenants with trust in him; for all supported the strife with honor, and yielded at last, showing the most indisputable proofs of their fine and energetic defence. Four ships were entirely dismasted, two had only the foremast standing." The whole affair, as conducted on both sides, affords an admirable study of how to follow up an advantage, original or acquired, and of the results that may be obtained by a gallant, even hopeless defence, for the furtherance of a particular object. It may be added that Hawke, disabled from further pursuit himself, sent a sloop of war express to the West Indies, with information of the approach of the convoy,--a step which led to the capture of part of it, and gives a touch of completeness to the entire transaction, which cannot fail to be gratifying to a military student interested in seeing the actors in history fully alive to and discharging to the utmost their important tasks.
Before bringing to a close the story of this war and mentioning the peace settlement, an account must be given of the transactions in India, where France and England were then on equal terms. It has been said that affairs there were controlled by the East India companies of either nation; and that the French were represented in the peninsula by Dupleix, in the islands by La Bourdonnais. The latter was appointed to his post in 1735, and his untiring genius had been felt in all the details of administration, but especially in converting the Isle of France into a great naval station,--a work which had to be built up from the foundations. Everything was wanting; everything was by him in greater or less measure supplied,--storehouses, dock-yards, fortifications, seamen. In 1740, when war between France and England became probable, he obtained from the East India Company a squadron, though smaller than he asked, with which he proposed to ruin the English commerce and shipping; but when war actually began in 1744, he received orders not to attack the English, the French company hoping that neutrality might exist between the companies in that distant region, though the nations were at war. The proposition does not seem absurd in view of the curious relations of Holland to France, nominally at peace while sending troops to the Austrian army; but it was much to the advantage of the English, who were inferior in the Indian seas. Their company accepted the proffer, while saying that it of course could bind neither the home government nor the royal navy. The advantage won by the forethought of La Bourdonnais was thus lost; though first, and long alone, on the field, his hand was stayed. Meanwhile the English admiralty sent out a squadron and began to seize French ships between India and China; not till then did the company awake from its illusion. Having done this part of its work, the English squadron sailed to the coast of India, and in July, 1745, appeared off Pondicherry, the political capital of French India, prepared to sustain an attack which the governor of Madras was about to make by land. La Bourdonnais' time was now come.
Meanwhile, on the mainland of the Indian peninsula, Dupleix had been forming wide views and laying broad foundations for the establishment of French preponderance. Having entered the service of their company at first in a subordinate clerical position, his ability had raised him by rapid steps to be head of the commercial establishments at Chandernagore, to which he gave a very great enlargement, seriously affecting, it is said even destroying, parts of the English trade. In 1742 he was made governor-general, and as such removed to Pondicherry. Here he began to develop his policy, which aimed at bringing India under the power of France. He saw that through the progress and extension of the European races over the seas of the whole world the time had come when the Eastern peoples must be brought into ever-increasing contact with them; and he judged that India, so often conquered before, was now about to be conquered by Europeans. He meant that France should win the prize, and saw in England the only rival. His plan was to meddle in Indian politics: first, as head of a foreign and independent colony, which he already was; and second, as a vassal of the Great Mogul, which he intended to become. To divide and conquer, to advance the French lines and influence by judicious alliances, to turn wavering scales by throwing in on one side or the other the weight of French courage and skill,--such were his aims. Pondicherry, though a poor harbor, was well adapted for his political plans; being far distant from Delhi, the capital of the Mogul, aggressive extension might go on unmarked, until strong enough to bear the light. Dupleix's present aim, therefore, was to build up a great French principality in southeast India, around Pondicherry, while maintaining the present positions in Bengal.
Let it be noted, however,--and the remark is necessary in order to justify the narration of these plans in connection with our subject, a connection perhaps not at first evident,--that the kernel of the question now before Dupleix was not how to build up an empire out of the Indian provinces and races, but how to get rid of the English, and that finally. The wildest dreams of sovereignty he may have entertained could not have surpassed the actual performance of England a few years later. European qualities were bound to tell, if not offset by the opposition of other Europeans; and such opposition on the one side or the other depended upon the control of the sea. In a climate so deadly to the white races the small numbers whose heroism bore up the war against fearful odds on many a field must be continually renewed. As everywhere and always, the action of sea power was here quiet and unperceived; but it will not be necessary to belittle in the least the qualities and career of Clive the English hero of this time and the founder of their empire, in order to prove the decisive influence which it exerted, despite the inefficiency of the English naval officers first engaged, and the lack of conclusive results in such naval battles as were fought. If during the twenty years following 1743, French fleets instead of English had controlled the coasts of the peninsula and the seas between it and Europe, can it be believed that the schemes of Dupleix would have utterly failed? "Naval inferiority," justly says a French historian, "was the principal cause that arrested the progress of Dupleix. The French royal navy did not make its appearance in the East Indies" in his day. It remains to tell the story briefly.
The English, in 1745, made preparations to besiege Pondicherry, in which the royal navy was to support the land forces; but the effects of Dupleix's political schemes were at once seen. The Nabob of the Carnatic threatened to attack Madras, and the English desisted. The following year La Bourdonnais appeared on the scene, and an action took place between his squadron and that under Commodore Peyton; after which, although it had been a drawn fight, the English officer deserted the coast, taking refuge in Ceylon, and leaving the control at sea with the French. La Bourdonnais anchored at Pondicherry, where quarrels between him and Dupleix soon arose, and were aggravated by the conflicting tone of their instructions from home. In September he went to Madras, attacked by land and sea, and took the place, but made with the governor the stipulation that it might be ransomed; and a ransom of two million dollars was accordingly paid. When Dupleix heard of this he was very angry, and claimed to annul the terms of capitulation on the ground that, once taken, the place was within his jurisdiction. La Bourdonnais resented this attempt as dishonorable to him after the promise given. While the quarrel was going on, a violent cyclone wrecked two of his ships and dismasted the rest. He soon after returned to France, where his activity and zeal were repaid by three years' imprisonment under charges, from the effects of which treatment he died. After his departure Dupleix broke the capitulation, seized and kept Madras, drove out the English settlers, and went on to strengthen the fortifications. From Madras he turned against Fort St. David, but the approach of an English squadron compelled him to raise the siege in March, 1747.
During this year the disasters to the French navy in the Atlantic, already related, left the English undisturbed masters of the sea. In the following winter they sent to India the greatest European fleet yet seen in the East, with a large land force, the whole under the command of Admiral Boscawen, who bore a general's commission in addition to his naval rank. The fleet appeared off the Coromandel coast in August, 1748. Pondicherry was attacked by land and sea, but Dupleix made a successful resistance. The English fleet in its turn suffered from a hurricane, and the siege was raised in October. Shortly after came the news of the Peace of Aix-la-Chapelle, which ended the European war. Dupleix, with his home communications restored, could now resume his subtle and persevering efforts to secure a territorial base which should, as far as possible, shelter him from the chances of sea war. Pity that so much genius and patience should have been spent in an effort wholly vain; nothing could protect against that sea attack but a naval aid, which the home government could not give. One of the conditions of the peace was that Madras should be restored to the English in exchange for Louisburg, the prize won by the North American colonists and released by them as reluctantly as Madras was by Dupleix. This was indeed illustrating Napoleon's boast that he would reconquer Pondicherry on the bank of the Vistula; yet, although the maritime supremacy of England made Louisburg in her hands much stronger than Madras, or any other position in India, when held by the French, the gain by the exchange was decidedly on the side of Great Britain. The English colonists were not men to be contented with this action; but they knew the naval power of England, and that they could do again what they had done once, at a point not far distant from their own shores. They understood the state of the case. Not so with Madras. How profound must have been the surprise of the native princes at this surrender, how injurious to the personality of Dupleix and the influence he had gained among them, to see him, in the very hour of victory, forced, by a power they could not understand, to relinquish his spoil! They were quite right; the mysterious power which they recognized by its working, though they saw it not, was not in this or that man, king or statesman, but in that control of the sea which the French government knew forbade the hope of maintaining that distant dependency against the fleets of England. Dupleix himself saw it not; for some years more he continued building, on the sand of Oriental intrigues and lies, a house which he vainly hoped would stand against the storms that must descend upon it.
The Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, ending this general war, was signed April 30, 1748, by England, France, and Holland, and finally by all the powers in October of the same year. With the exception of certain portions shorn off the Austrian Empire,--Silesia for Prussia, Parma for the Infante Philip of Spain, and some Italian territory to the east of Piedmont for the King of Sardinia,--the general tenor of the terms was a return to the status before the war. "Never, perhaps, did any war, after so many great events, and so large a loss of blood and treasure, end in replacing the nations engaged in it so nearly in the same situation as they held at first." In truth, as regarded France, England, and Spain, the affair of the Austrian succession, supervening so soon upon the out-break of war between the two latter, had wholly turned hostilities aside from their true direction and postponed for fifteen years the settlement of disputes which concerned them much more nearly than the accession of Maria Theresa. In the distress of her old enemy, the House of Austria, France was easily led to renew her attacks upon it, and England as easily drawn to oppose the attempts of the French to influence or dictate in German affairs,-a course the more readily followed from the German interests of the king. It may be questioned whether the true policy for France was to direct the war upon the heart of the Austrian Empire, by way of the Rhine and Germany, or, as she finally did, upon the remote possessions of the Netherlands. In the former case she rested on friendly territory in Bavaria, and gave a hand to Prussia, whose military power was now first felt Such was the first theatre of the war. On the other hand, in the Netherlands, whither the chief scene of hostilities shifted later, France struck not only at Austria, but also at the sea powers, always jealous of her intrusion there. They were the soul of the war against her, by their subsidies to her other enemies and by the losses inflicted on her commerce and that of Spain. The misery of France was alleged to the King of Spain by Louis XV., as forcing him to conclude peace; and it is evident that the suffering must have been great to induce him to yield such easy terms as he did, when he already held the Netherlands and parts of Holland itself by force of arms. But while so successful on the continent, his navy was annihilated and communication with the colonies thus cut off; and though it may be doubted whether the French government of that day cherished the colonial ambitions ascribed to it by some, it is certain French commerce was suffering enormously.
While this was the condition of France, impelling her to peace, England in 1747 found that, from disputes about trade in Spanish America and through the inefficient action of her navy, she had been led away into a continental war, in which she had met with disaster, incurred nearly 80,000,000 pounds of debt, and now saw her ally Holland threatened with invasion. The peace itself was signed under a threat by the French envoy that the slightest delay would be the signal for the French to destroy the fortifications of the captured towns and at once begin the invasion. At the same the her own resources were drained, and Holland, exhausted, was seeking to borrow from her. "Money," we are told, "was never so scarce in the city, and cannot be had at twelve per cent." Had France, therefore, at this time had a navy able to make head against that of England, even though somewhat inferior in strength, she might, with her grip on the Netherlands and Maestricht, have exacted her own conditions. England, on the other hand, though driven to the wall on the continent, was nevertheless able to obtain peace on equal terms, through the control of the sea by her navy.
The commerce of all three nations had suffered enormously, but the balance of prizes in favor of Great Britain was estimated at 2,000,000 pounds. Stated in another way, it is said that the combined losses of French and Spanish commerce amounted during the war to 3,434 ships, the English to 3,238; but in considering such figures, the relation they bear to the total merchant shipping of either nation must not be forgotten. A thousand vessels were a very much larger fraction of French shipping than of English, and meant more grievous loss.
"After the disaster to the squadron of l'Etenduere," says a French writer, "the French flag did not appear at sea. Twenty-two ships-of-the-line composed the navy of France, which sixty years before had one hundred and twenty. Privateers made few prizes; followed everywhere, unprotected, they almost always fell a prey to the English. The British naval forces, without any rivals, passed unmolested over the seas. In one year they are said to have taken from French commerce 7,000,000 pounds sterling. Yet this sea power, which might have seized French and Spanish colonies, made few conquests from want of unity and persistence in the direction given them."
To sum up, France was forced to give up her conquests for want of a navy, and England saved her position by her sea power, though she had failed to use it to the best advantage.
- Martin: History of France.
- There is not in modern naval history a more striking warning to the officers of every era, than this battle of Toulon. Coming as it did after a generation of comparative naval inactivity, it tried men's reputation as by fire. The lesson, in the judgment of the author, is the danger of disgraceful failure to men who have neglected to keep themselves prepared, not only in knowledge of their profession, but in the sentiment of what war requires. The average man is not a coward; but neither is he endowed by nature only with the rare faculty of seizing intuitively the proper course at a critical moment. He gains it, some more, some less, by experience or by reflection. If both have been lacking to him, indecision will follow; either from not knowing what to do, or from failure to realize that utter self-devotion of himself and his command are required. Of one of the captains cashiered it is said: "No man had ever lived with a fairer or more honorable character previous to the unfortunate event which did such irreparable injury to his reputation. Many of his contemporaries, men in the highest popular estimation, who knew him well, could scarcely credit what were indisputably established as facts, and declared, with the utmost astonishment, 'they believed it next to impossible for Captain Burrish to behave otherwise than as a man of gallantry and intrepidity.'" He had been twenty-five years in service, and eleven afloat as a captain (Charnock's Biographia Navalis). Others of the condemned men bore fair characters; and even Richard Norris, who absconded to avoid trial, had been of respectable repute.
- Troude: Batailles Navales de la France.
- "Notwithstanding the extraordinary effort made by the French in sending out M. Lally with a considerable force last year, I am confident before the end of this  they will be near their last gasp in the Carnatic unless some very unforeseen event interpose in their favor. The _superiority of our squadron_ and the plenty of money and supplies of all kinds which our friends on that coast will be furnished with from this province [Bengal] while the enemy are in total want of everything, without any visible means of redress, are such advantages as, if properly attended to, cannot fail of wholly effecting their ruin in that as well as in every other part of India" (Letter of Clive to Pitt, Calcutta, January 7, 1759; Gleig's Life of Lord Clive). It will be remembered that the control and use of Bengal, upon which Clive here counts, had only lately been acquired by the English; in the days of Dupleix they did not possess them. As will be seen later, Clive's predictions in this letter were wholly fulfilled.
- Lapeyrouse-Bonfils: Hist. de la Marine Francaise.