Imágenes de páginas

old historic ship, the Constitution. A few years ago, the treaty of peace which ended a war in Central America was signed in the cabin of the Marblehead; and the most important peace treaty of modern times, ending that great conflict between Russia and Japan, was prepared and signed in an American navy yard, at Portsmouth.

So, the navy does not mean war. It means peace: keeping peace ourselves; trying to enforce peace with. others. It would be a great deal better to have no navy than to have an incompetent one. Two ships, as a general proposition, will whip one ship. If we have an inferior navy, and send it out to be sacrificed, that will not be war; it will be murder. And when the best blood of the country is shed in such manner, that blood will be upon the heads of our legislators, who send our gallant sailors out to be slaughtered without a proper armament. The rhymester has expressed it well:

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

The theory of other governments is that the army should fortify and hold all their harbors, so that they will be impregnable against attack by sea and leave the navy free to fight its enemy on the blue water. In case of war now, you would hear a howl all along our coasts for battleships to come and protect our harbors. The most disgraceful chapter in our history was at the beginning of the Spanish-American war, when we saw people trembling like aspens, sending their silver and other valuables back into the country, refusing to rent cottages on the seashore, and, every time a brass band came along and sounded the bass drum, running to cover, believing that it was the booming of the guns of the Spanish fleet.

In maintaining a navy, we want to keep the places of the obsolete vessels filled and to keep up a competent fleet. The American people will never submit to any class of men who want to discredit us, by reducing us in four or five years to a fourth class power.

A gentleman arose at a dinner in New York. He did not like some of the remarks I had made, and he lifted

his right hand toward Heaven, and said, with an air of courageous gaiety:

"No nation or any combination of nations will ever dare to attack a country that has ninety millions of intelligent citizens."

"Well," I said, "I have observed that when the wolf enters the sheepfold, he is never particularly deterred from his excursion by the number of sheep he expects to find there." But you cannot reason with those men; you will always waste time in trying to massage the back of a porcupine.

Our opponents have not reasoned logically on this subject. Josh Billings said: "Tain't so much the ignorance. of mankind that makes them ridiculous, as their knowing so much that ain't so."

Now, the people of this country I believe 90 per cent. of them are with us. You go and speak at any public meeting, at any public dinner; the audience may be dormant, but when you touch upon the proposition of maintaining an adequate navy and speak of the importance of that arm of the service, they will all rise to it, applaud and cheer. They will do it, even in the peace meetings we hear of. They seem to forget that in other countries their only idea of peace is to try to get a piece of one another's territory.

We believe that it would be just as foolish to deplete this force as it would be to reduce the police of a city when there is mob law in the streets. We believe that a man that would fail to encourage the building up of an adequate navy would be as imprudent as any imprudent business man who would not take out a policy of insurance on his buildings when fires were frequent in his locality. The navy is to the country what the lightning rod is to the house. It is placed there, not to attract the lightning, but to meet it when it strikes, to scatter its forces, and save the havoc it would work. I tell you, the time has not yet come when the people of this country will sumbit to being placed in a situation in which the nation will invite an attack by showing its inability to resist one.

[ocr errors]

Now, I am going to place myself in the hands of our distinguished toastmaster, a gentleman who by his zeal, his intelligence, his devotion to the cause, and his liberality, has done so much to put this Navy League in the position of influence it occupies to-day. We owe him an eternal debt of gratitude. He will now take the gavel, and furnish the silken string which is to bind together the bouquets of eloquence that are to be tossed to you from these tables tonight,- Mr. H. H. Ward, secretary of the Navy League.


Mr. President of the Navy League, after your compliment to me I fear that I shall be unable to introduce any one here to-night in a fitting manner. You have paid me a compliment, sir, far higher than I deserve, and my words will be weak and poor compared with yours. You will give me the opportunity of introducing the Secretary of the Navy,- a Secretary under whom I wish I might have served; and when I say that that Secretary is Mr. Meyer, I have said all that is necessary to introduce him to your attention.

ADDRESS OF HON. GEORGE v. L. MEYER Scretary of the Navy

Mr. President of the League, ladies and geneltmen: The President of the League has so clearly demonstrated the needs and the requirements of our navy, that I am going to ask you to let me speak of the tariff. Nevertheless, I do want to say to you that I am pleased and proud to be here to-night, and I want to congratulate the League on its steady and fortunate growth in the last few years. I understand that the membership, three years ago, was about four thousand, and that to-nightthe secretary tells me it is over seven thousand.

Had I known that there were so many ladies taking an active interest in the navy, I am inclined to believe that I should have asked for four battleships instead of two, knowing their generosity in expenditures. Had I done so, and announced the support that I was receiving, the Chairman of the House Naval Affairs Committee on my left, and the former Speaker on my right, would have thrown up their hands and said it was necessary to give that required number.

[ocr errors]

The League as a nucleus of men and women can be of tremenduous assistance to the navy and to the country. In Germany, the stupenduous growth of the navy is due. in great part to their navy league, composed of several hundred thousand members. I am told it has now been enlarged to 900,000; and, with their efforts to enlighten. the people, they have made strides that have surprised the world. I am going to tell you briefly what the navy is doing at the present time, and what the requirements


We know that we are bounded on the north by Canada, a nation of a few millions, and on the south by Mexico, a still smaller nation. With both these countries we have been on most friendly relations, and we

never for a moment anticipate any trouble from either of them. Therefore, if we are to be attacked at all, it will have to be by nations across the sea; and, in order that nations may attack us from across the sea, it will first be absolutely necessary that our fleet be destroyed; and therefore, that we may feel a perfect safety, our fleet should be maintained at the highest efficiency and in constant preparedness for any emergency.

The fleet at the present time consists of twenty-one battleships, one battleship to be assigned to the commander-in-chief, and four divisions of five each, with one battleship from each division in turn at a navy yard. Thus the active fleet in commission consists of seventeen battleships. Those ships are assembled at Guantanamo in winter, and on the Atlantic coast in summer. Pattle practice and cruising are continually going on. That work is continued as if war might come at any time.

The strength of that fleet depends upon the Dreadnought, because it is the Dreadnought vessel which is the foundation of the strength of the fleet, and without Dreadnoughts the fleet would be easily overcome. Every nation is measured to-day by the number of Dreadnoughts they can assemble prepared for the emergency of war or any strife. Now, that fleet to which I have referred is larger than it has been at any previous time; and you might properly ask me if by that I mean that we have been expending greater appropriations. matter of fact, a few days before the present administration came into power, the appropriation given at that time was $136,000,000. The next appropriation was $5,500,000 less. That was the appropriation for 1911. The appropriation for 1912 was $10,000,000 less than the appropriation for 1910; and the estimates for 1913 are $10,000,000 less than the appropriation for 1910. Now, that fleet was composed, in 1909, of 113 vessels in commission, ready for service, and 50 under repair. To-day the flee is composed of 160 vessels in commission, ready for service, and only 19 under repair, showing that we have largely increased the efficiency of our navy in the way of ships, without increasing the expenditures. Now, expenditures have got to go on, and it is upon the Navy League that we count for support; and your efforts are especially necessary, when we consider the action that was taken the other day by the Democratic caucus in voting for no battleships. The assistance cf the League has also been necessary with the Republican party in power, because, without their efforts and the efforts of others who are in the navy, we would not have been able to keep to two battleships a year. But it is a

dire necessity that we continue that appropriation which enables us to build those two ships. Otherwise, in a few years, if we followed out the policy of the caucus, we would fall to the fifth class, and be after not only England, but Germany, France, and Japan. Therefore, that program of two battleships, as I say, must be continued.

Criticism has been made that we are not building auxiliaries. As a matter of fact, we are building more auxiliaries to-day than we have ever built; and we are ready to build even more if Congress will give us the money. We should have a cruiser of 27,000 tons and 28 knots, to compare with what England, Germany, and Japan are all doing; and if this Congress in its wisdom will give us additional money, the Department will be only too glad to furnish the plans.

If economy and reduction in the appropriations are to be the watchwords, then let it be made in a way that will not cripple the navy and that at the same time will reduce expenditures. In the report which was sent to Congress a year ago, we recommended the abolition of a number of useless navy yards, which would have saved $1,600,000 each year, to say nothing of the amount realized from the sale. Nothing was done. The claim was made that it was a sectional move, but it was not, as we are to-day considering the wisdom of consolidating the three eastern yards at one base,- possibly Narragansett Bay,where we could apply the amount of money that we could realize from the three navy yards in the east, to a navy yard which would furnish six docks, berths for twelve battleships, shipbuilding requirements, and repair shops, all for the sum which would be covered by the sale of the yards.

I am not prepared to-night to say that that is absolutely feasible, but I want to warn you that the matter is being considered, and, if not settled now, will have to be taken up in the future; because, when the Panama Canal is completed and the fleet is kept half the time in the Pacific Ocean, the requirements of the yards will be lessened on the Atlantic Coast and the duties of the officers in those yards and of the docks will be reduced to such an extent that it may amount to something like 60 or 75 per cent, and the work which the yards have been doing in the past will have to be divided between the Atlantic, the Pacific, and the Caribbean Sea. Those questions will be forced upon the country nolens volens, and it is only right they should be considered in a careful and thorough manner, so that we may be prepared to meet the requirements of the navy of the future.

England has recognized that navy yards in great commercial ports are undesirable; that they interfere with

the growth of the commerce of the city and the port. We have got to recognize the same fact. England to-day is building at Rosyth a new naval base which will cost. $50,000,000; and I believe that the time will soon come when we can do what we need for half that sum, and save $3,000,000 a year by consolidating three yards into


It has also been said that we are weak in our auxiliaries. It is perfectly true; particularly in our colliers. I had the opportunity before a committee, not long ago, to recommend that the Panama Canal Commission build colliers which could be used entirely for transporting coal from the coal ports of the north to the Panama Canal. Those colliers would be earning their board and serving their usefulness to the Panama Canal and the commerce that passes through there during peace. They would be so designed that they would be suitable for the navy in an emergency, and in that way we could get a fleet of colliers which would serve two purposes,— that of peace and that of war.

The navy to-day is on a basis of efficiency which I believe can be fairly claimed has never been reached before. The fleet has demonstrated its ability to maneuver at a higher speed. The steaming qualities of the ships have been improved; they are speeded at twelve knots an hour, where it was formerly ten knots for the same amount of coal. The hitting has increased to such an extent that when one takes into account distances, increased velocity, and increased percentage of hits, our firing to-day is twelve hundred times better than it was at Santiago.

I would also like to call to your attention, and to the attention of those who favor a parsimonious policy of expenditure for battleships, that if we had had four more Oregons at the time of the breaking out of the Spanish War, we would have had a fleet of eight battleships. Had we had a fleet of eight battleships, in all probability we would never have had a Spanish War, because our strength would have been so overpowering that it would have been too ridiculous for Spain to go to war. Those four additional battleships would have cost the Government $24,000,000,- battleships at that time were built for about $6,000,000 apiece. The war cost $506,000,000. The amount of the pensions that have already been paid is $20,000,000, and God only knows what it will be twenty years from now. The result is one that should make people think for a long time before they strive for a policy which means no battleships.

But, to return to the increased efficiency; not only has the fleet been improved, but the general service has been

improved at navy yards and among the personnel as well. To-day there is coöperation and coördination. We have an organization by which the Secretary of the Navy is able to be enlightened through responsible expert advisers, known as Aids. Those Aids serve as eyes and ears of the Secretary. They see that the work is coordinated between the different bureaus. They interfere in no way with the duties of the Chiefs of Bureaus. The Chiefs of Bureaus are doing their work ably and efficiently. They have access to the Secretary of the Navy at any time. We are on a basis of preparedness by which we could go to war to-morrow if it were necessary.

Therefore, ladies and gentlemen, I am going to ask your support, in the present crisis and also in the future,

and let our watchword be,-"The Fleet," which is the navy, and let us have a fleet for the nation and not for local interests.


For a great many years, we have heard that the want of the navy was a business man for Secretary of the Navy. We have had business men. We have had politicians, good and bad. To-day we have an expert government official, a man who is managing the navy according to the modern scientific management, which is the only recognized method of managing anything, from a country school to the government of the United States. Mr. Meyer has given you figures, which to few of us are dull and tiresome. That one thought, that four more battleships, costing $24,000,000, would have saved $500,0000,000, not to speak of lives and of the political convulsions that followed, should be evidence to anybody who can think and understand.

Mr. Meyer has spoken of the Democratic caucus and the action that they took, and has referred to the fact that the Navy League has been a help to the Navy Department, not only under Democratic administration, but under Republican administration. That is very, very true. The Navy League knows no politics whatever. I believe that General Porter is a Republican, but I do not care whether he is or not. As a matter of fact, two years ago, Mr. Secretary, the Navy League made a very determined effort to get a Republican Congress to vote for two battleships. We have proof on our records that six votes were cast for those two battleships which would not have been cast if it had not been for the Navy League. The majority was small; but, if it had been. smaller, those votes would have decided. That was a Republican Congress. To-day we ask a Democratic Congress to do as much for us.

We have usually had a toastmaster at these dinners: Colonel Thompson has usually been the man. To-night I am looking out for the mechanics of the affair; simply that.

And while I speak of the absent, I would like to call your attention to some of the people who are speakers. I thought, at first, of looking over our list and naming them, but I find there are about 175 people here among the men who could speak, and 125 at least among the ladies who do speak. Only six are allowed to speak to-night, however. Mr. Cannon is not on the list. I am not going to call on him yet, but I give him warning, because there are ladies here who have not heard him. That is his warning.

Next, and immediately, I call upon Rear Admiral Sigsbee. I have made my introduction longer than usual, because I have been bound to have my say sometime during the evening, and I wanted to have it before Admiral Sigsbee had his say.


Mr. Toastmaster, Mr. Secretary, ladies and gentlemen: I have listened many times to the delightful afterdinner speeches of General Horace Porter. To-night he quoted that eminent philosopher, Mr. Josh Billings. The General's always delightful speeches remind me of another maxim, or saying, of Josh Billings, which is this: "Gravity is no more an evidence of wisdom than a paper collar is of a shirt."

To come down to my business of the moment, let me say that public speaking in the United States, in the historical sense, probably began in the pie belt of the East. It has now extended, until the zone of oratory covers the whole country. We see this in the newspapers every day. The zone has even overlapped the territorial boundaries of the country and has put to sea. But, passing to sea as it has, the disease has yet affected only the higher forms of naval life. It has not yet reached the young officer. The one thing in which the young officer gleefully concedes everything of rank, power, and privilege to the higher officer, is that of making a public address.

But the service has its balances. I remember the time when the Navy Mutual Aidan insurance association

was formed. On that occasion, the old admirals were quite willing to let the younger officers in on the lowest terms of payment with themselves.

Some years ago, a rear admiral entered his club and said to a small party of his friends, of which I was a

member, that he had just passed from the second nine into the first nine of rear admirals, with all the advantages of increased pay. He received hearty congratulations immediately, at his own expense. A few days later he came to the club again, and said, with considerable concern:

"Sigsbee, the lightning has struck me. I am asked to make a public address, and have accepted. Please give me a subject."

I suggested to him, "Why don't you lecture on the higher Christian life of the first nine rear admirals?"

I take it that the Navy League is an argumentative body, rather than a deliberative body. It is an argumentative body that appeals to Congress, a deliberative body. It is just as well that it should have many arguments. A short time ago, I was ordered to do some work for the present Secretary of the Navy. I was never asked any questions. I was simply told to go and make a speech. to some very prominent ladies in New York, and when I asked the Secretary if he had any suggestions to give me, he said, "Do not be over-technical, and make yourself pleasant to the ladies; you will know how." So I went, and made my speech. I went to still another gathering, but of men, and at two o'clock in the morning, when all arose from the tables,--the speeches having been long, -some gentleman of grit said to me, "Now, Admiral, will you go down to the basement and have a libation?" I replied, "I have had everything else; I think I will now try a libation." At these gatherings I noticed that the broader discussion of naval affairs excited most attention.

The wealth of this country is put down as $130,000,000,000. Great Britain comes next, with about $85,000,000,000; Germany is given $60,000,000,000. Therefore, it seems that we have more to protect than other nations. Compare what we spend for a navy, relative to the national wealth, with what other nations spend for a like protection. In my opinion, Hobson was not so mad when he spoke of a billion-dollar navy; only he did not state it as I should state it. The way I should put it is this: "If other nations are determined to have big navies, which forces upon us a big navy, then, for heaven's sake, let us, as the richest nation, match dollars, that is all we have to do."

The navy should be regarded as an insurance. How many people are aware that this country has spent four and a half billions of dollars in pensions, chiefly because of unpreparedness? The pensions are still about $152,000,000 a year; but that is not all. In our Civil War alone, over half a million of men were killed in battle or died of sickness, or of wounds, or in hospitals, or from murder or violence. If we had had an adequate army and navy, that never would have happened. Think of what we have spent since - and to-day the vital question is still one of preparedness. The very flower of the manhood of the country was killed in the Civil War. The average age of the men who fought on the Union side was below twenty-two years. That is not all. Following the Civil War, our methods were extremely loose in regard to public expenditures, and they remained that way for many years. Also, the country was flooded with hoboes, primarily a growth of the Civil War.

We must remember that a navy is no insurance unless it is adequate for protection. Let me give an instance. If the Spanish Navy had had eight more battleships, we would never have fought her. What did she lose? She lost virtually her whole fleet; her navy was ruined, and she lost in territory the equivalent of billions of dollars. Again, Russia, for the lack of a little stronger navy, had her navy ruined. Think of what war, unprepared for, has cost those nations.

Nobody objects to a fort for defense; but when we come to a moving defense, which may be destroyed with comparative ease, the country shrinks from it. But the navy heretofore has hardly been a financial burden to the country; it has been rather a burden of sentiment. Now, however, we have reached the point where it is a financial burden, and we have to provide strong argument to get the money. Let me say now, that I favor four battleships instead of two. Nevertheless, I loathe war. I have been in two wars, and have had men killed all around me, not only in war, but aside from war, and I hate war as I hate the devil. I regard all armament whatever as regrettable necessity. Still, if we must have a navy, let us have one strong enough to fulfill our purpose. Let us not make it only strong enough to allow other nations to take it away from us.

When I delivered my lecture for the Secretary of the Navy, I was much impressed by some of his own arguments which he lent me and of which I availed myself. Perhaps I may say that the Secretary is decidedly ahead of the general navy argument in the tenor of his speeches. I think we have talked about enough of the greatness of the battleship,- that modern wonder of the world, greater than any of the old seven wonders,— that we should now direct our attention more directly to the fleet. Instead of speaking of battleships as things by themselves, I think our arguments will be stronger before

« AnteriorContinuar »