Locksley Hall Sixty Years After, Etc.

The Fleet

Alfred Tennyson

YOU, you, if you shall fail to understand
    What England is, and what her all-in-all,
On you will come the curse of all the land,
    Should this old England fall
                Which Nelson left so great.

His isle, the mightiest Ocean-power on earth,
    Our own fair isle, the lord of every sea—
Her fuller franchise—what would that be worth—
    Her ancient fame of Free—
                Where she . . . a fallen state?

Her dauntless army scatter’d, and so small,
    Her island-myriads fed from alien lands—
The fleet of England is her all-in-all;
    Her fleet is in your hands,
                And in her fleet her fate.

You, you, that have the ordering of her fleet,
    If you should only compass her disgrace,
When all men starve, the wild mob’s million feet
    Will kick you from your place,
                 But then too late, too late.

The speaker said that ‘he should like to be assured that other outlying portions of the Empire, the Crown colonies, and important coaling stations were being as promptly and as thoroughly fortified as the various capitals of the self-governing colonies. He was credibly informed this was not so. It was impossible, also, not to feel some degree of anxiety about the efficacy of present provision to defend and protect, by means of swift well-armed cruisers, the immense mercantile fleet of the Empire. A third source of anxiety, so far as the colonies were concerned, was the apparently insufficient provision for the rapid manufacture of armaments and their prompt despatch when ordered to their colonial destination. Hence the necessity for manufacturing appliances equal to the requirements, not of Great Britain alone, but of the whole Empire. But the keystone of the whole was the necessity for an overwhelmingly powerful fleet and efficient defence for all necessary coaling stations. This was as essential for the colonies as for Great Britain. It was the one condition for the continuance of the Empire. All that Continental Powers did with respect to armies England should effect with her navy. It was essentially a defensive force, and could be moved rapidly from point to point, but it should be equal to all that was expected from it. It was to strengthen the fleet that colonists would first readily tax themselves, because they realised how essential a powerful fleet was to the safety, not only of that extensive commerce sailing in every sea, but ultimately to the security of the distant portions of the Empire. Who could estimate the loss involved in even a brief period of disaster to the Imp trial Navy? Any amount of money timely expended in preparation would be quite insignificant when compared with the possible calamity he had referred to.’—Extract frorn Sir Graham Berry’s Speech at the Colonial Institute, 9th November 1886.

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