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TABLE II.-- SECOND CLASS.
Displacement less than 8,500 tons.
The fast unarmoured ships of France and England, built and building, are shown in the following tables :
The defences of our coaling stations have occupied the attention of successive Governments. They have shrunk from undertaking the task, under an apprehension of the enormous expenditure to which they might find themselves committed. Looking at the experience of the past, such apprehensions cannot be regarded as altogether without foundation. The fortifications of our home ports have involved an expenditure of many millions, and a visit to Bermuda cannot fail to impress the traveller with the conviction that the defensive works have been unduly extended. To man them properly, a garrison of at least 6,000 men would be required. The permanent force in time of peace is 1,600 men, and it may be questioned whether a sufficient addition to the strength could be spared, even under the apprehension of war. The Royal Commission on our Colonial Defences arrived at the conclusion that a comparatively moderate sum would suffice to place all our foreign stations in a position of defence against the attacks of the light vessels of an enemy. It is certain that we have nothing to fear from their ironclads. Having regard to the limited number of such vessels at their disposal, no European Power could venture to weaken the means of home defence in time of war by sending fleets of ironclads to distant quarters of
the globe. The public have now the assurance that the necessary works for our coaling stations have been taken in band. The charge on imperial funds can be kept within reasonable limits. The cost of permanent fortifications will be borne by the wealthy communities established under the protection of our flag at Hong Kong and Singapore. The Australian colonies are fully prepared to provide their own local defences. We look for assistance from India for the fortification of Aden. At the Cape, Malta, and Gibraltar the charge must necessarily be borne by the Imperial exchequer. In connection with these works of defences the patriotic efforts of our most powerful · colonies to create a naval force deserve attention. They already possess
ironclads, torpedo-vessels, and powerful sea-going boats, and they have organised a considerable naval reserve. The late Admiralty readily afforded all the assistance which it was in their power to give to the colonial governments.
Under the late Board the dock accommodation for the Navy was considerably extended. They completed a dock of the first class at Devonport, and they commenced a similar dock at Malta. They obtained the sanction of the Treasury for a grant towards the construction of a private dock at Hong Kong, large enough to take in: ironclads of the most powerful class which would be despatched to those distant waters. They assiduously represented to the Government of India the necessity for providing a dock at Bombay capable of receiving an ironclad.
In concluding, two points may be specially urged: let there be less of self-depreciation and less of party spirit in dealing with the Navy. In the anxious desire to arouse public opinion, and to bring pressure to bear upon the Government, accuracy has been too little regarded in the comparisons of our Navy with foreign fleets from time to time presented to the public. Happily these pessimist views are not accepted abroad with the credulity which is exhibited at home. Foreign observers know very well that we are not defenceless, and they have a wholesome respect for our naval power. This impression is our best protection against the miseries of war. In recent years the naval debates in Parliament have been free from the acrimony formerly displayed. The discussions in the House of Commons on naval matters were lifted out of the region of party conflict. It was agreed on both sides to treat the affairs of the Navy as a common object in which, if the rivalry of party was to be felt at all, it should be displayed not in mutual recrimination, but in striving which would contribute most from his stores of knowledge and experience for the advantage of the public service.
The permanent strength of the Navy must ever depend on the will of the nation. No movement such as that which has lately taken place could proceed from the action of a particular party or the influence of an individual minister. Lord Beaconsfield said truly : “ It is quite a wild idea that a body of men, though they may be ministers, can meet in a room and suddenly alter the establishments of the country. ... The establishments of the country are adapted to the policy which the country pursues.'
Under the late administration the building votes were increased from 3,082,000l. in 1880–81 to 5,047,000l. in 1885–86. They were increased because at the bidding of the nation we entered upon a new policy. We have undertaken to provide upon a scale never contemplated before for the protection of the commerce of the country. We have resolved on a complete re-armament of the Fleet.
In asking for a full and fair recognition of the strength and resources of the Navy as it was handed over by the late Government to their successors, the present writer disclaims any special share of credit for the Board with which he was connected. The strength of the Navy as we see it to-day, in its officers and men, in its ships, in the great stations and establishments which it possesses in all parts of the world, is the result of the labour of a long succession of Boards of Admiralty, and it is intimately bound up with the history of the country. The ablest ministers in a short and precarious term of office can add but little to our maritime power: a short interval of bad administration may do much to weaken it.
A thousand years scarce serve to form a State:
An hour may lay it in the dust. It may be confidently asserted that under the late Board of Admiralty much was done to maintain the traditional superiority of the British Navy.
For nearly fifty years the system of mixed education imposed upon Ireland for politic reasons by Parliament, against the almost unanimous wishes of her people of all religious denominations, has been fairly tried, and, all must acknowledge, has been found wanting.
The primary or national schools have owed whatever success they have attained to the circumstance that practically they have been worked upon the denominational principle.
Of the Queen's colleges it may be said that only one, that of Belfast, has achieved any real success, and that for the same reason, for to all intents and purposes it is a Presbyterian college ; those of Cork and Galway being conspicuous failures. Coming to higher or university education, the Queen's University, founded as a portion of the above system, may be dismissed as a thing of the past.
There have been two large and generous attempts in later times to meet the inequality under which the Roman Catholics suffer, but still adhering to the principle of avoiding actual and open denominational endowment.
The first, Mr. Gladstone's Bill of 1873, was wrecked, partly from want of support from the Roman Catholic hierarchy, but chiefly through the bigoted opposition of Mr. Gladstone's own English Nonconformist and Radical supporters.
Then came Lord Beaconsfield's measure, on much the same lines as his Intermediate Education Bill, which had attained a certain degree of success: the principle of which is the liberal endowment of scholarships open to all.
This is the present Royal University, which, as an examining and rewarding machinery, has been eminently successful; but still it leaves the great grievance of our Roman Catholic fellow-subjects unredressed. We still have, face to face, the magnificently endowed Trinity College, which cannot help retaining its Protestant character, and the Catholic University, which has never received one shilling from the State.
Now, it is in these circumstances, and with the view of suggesting a remedy for this manifest inequality and injustice, that I venture to put forward the following remarks.