The Ashburton Guardian. Magna est Veritas et Prævalebit. FRIDAY, MARCH 8, 1889. THE BRITISH NAVY.
English statesmen have at last awoke to tho fact that as the result of the rivalry which ha& been going on for tho last decade botweori the Great Powers of Europe, the British Navy has long ceased to show that preponderance of power which it is absolutely necessary to maintain, if the refrain of tho national " Rale Britannia " is to retain any significance. No doubt it would bo sheer folly to expend millions upon millions of tho taxpayers' money merely to justify the national pride of power, but there is something veryjnuch more substantial at stake than tho merely sentimental objection to allowing any other nation to usurp the premier position as a naval power so long held by " the Mistress of the Seas." England's very existence as a first-class power depends upon the maintenance of her superiority at sea. For the wide extent of her colonies and other possessions throughout the world renders her like Achilles vulnerable at the extremities of her empire the only difference being that she has a hundred heels to be wounded. France, Italy, Germany and Russia have of late years been enormously strengthening their armoured fleets, and their hquadronß of swift oruisera, two of the Powers namedGermany and Italy — having indeed called their fleets into existence and taken first rank as Naval Powers only ! during the past few years. Over and over again the Imperial Government has been urged to strengthen the Navy sufficiently to re-adjust the balance of 1 power, it being maintained by naval and military authorities that the British fleet should always bo equal to the task of ooping with those of any two Powers. Thanks to the fact that wo have tho Conservative Party m office — for tho Liberals always seem to sacrifice tho foreign to the domestic policy — this position appears to be now accepted, and, for the first time for many years, the work of strengthening the Navy is to bo gono about m a thorough spirit, England being about to undertake the building of no less than twenty-two ironclads and fifty cruisers at a total cost of a hundred millions sterling. What this means is thus pointed out by our Auckland contemporary the " New Zealand Herald " :— Tho magnitude of this operation moy bo guaged from the fact tbat last year England had only twenty-six first-class armourclads, and tho naval estimates for the year amounted to some twelve and a half million b Tho proposed enormous increase, which seems liko doubling the British Navy, is to bo effected by a Special loan, and may bo expected to not lessen tho appropriations from revenue made from year to year for the maintenance of the fleet and the building of new vessels. Of coureo Englandhas besides a largo number of secondolasi armour-clads, which aro those having less than eight-inch armour, and of the third-class of warships which are of an inferior typo ; but as comparative of dbfCSO? is nowadays virtually equivalent to no defenoe at a!!, we may assume that no.ne but tho firstclass ot armour-clads is contemplate^ m tho new departure. If this bo so, then not only will tho new ships nearly equal the number of fighting ships of thoir ©lass already owned by Great Britain but 'will themselves exactly equal the number of tho whole of tho first-class armoured ships of France, and more than double the number of tho Bimilar class possessed by Italy. An estimate of tho naval strength of Epgland with such an increase may bo formed when wo know, that if England had theso contemplated vessels already m possession, she would h*ve of first-class lino of battle ghipe of the most modern construction a navy nearly equal to that of Franco, Italy, Germany and Russia combined ; while pr>mputing all thoso warships of a loss effective class, tho cruisers armoured or qnarmourcd, the capacities for offonsivo and defensive p.urposep noßßoeeed m her unequalled mercantile marine of flying cruisers, wo aro warranted m believing that, m tho subsidiary assistants available to her big leviathans, England's strength would similarly comparo to the combined strongth at sea of all the other Groat Powers of Europe."