페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

if, having so considerable a fleet under his command, he spent the summer in doing nothing of importance,' he called a council of war in the Tetuan roadstead on the 27th of July. Several schemes for doing something of importance' were discussed and found im. practicable ; the admiral ' declared that he thought it requisite that they should resolve upon some service or other, and after a long debate it was carried to make a sudden and vigorous attempt upon Gibraltar.' Three reasons were given for this decision. First, because in the condition the place then was, there was some probability of taking it; which in case it had been properly provided, and there had been in it a numerous garrison, would have been impossible. Secondly, because the possession of that place was of infinite importance during the present war. Thirdly, because the taking of this place would give a lustre to the Queen's arms, and possibly dispose the Spaniards to favour the cause of King Charles.'

On the 1st of August the fleet, which included a few Dutch ships, appeared off Gibraltar. The tactics to be employed for reducing the stronghold were dictated by the configuration of the promontory. Nor was it the first time that such a plan for its capture had been devised by an English admiral. Half a century earlier, in Cromwell's time, Admiral Montague, when serving under Blake in the Mediterranean, had sent a memorandum to Secretary Thurloe containing a proposal for an attack on Gibraltar ' as a place that would be of great utility in case it could be reduced.' The only way of taking it, he added, was 'to land a body of forces on the isthmus, and thereby cut off communication of the town with the main; and in this situation to make a brisk attempt upon the place. Curiously enough this suggestion came to nothing in 1656, because soldiers were not to be had for the purpose and the British sailors of that day could not be trusted, since the hasty disposition of the seamen rendered them unfit to perform any effectual service on shore.' But in 1704 things had changed in this respect, and Rooke put in execution with complete success Montague's plan, which it will have been noticed was similar in principle to that of the Japanese at Port Arthur two hundred years afterwards. Accordingly the same day that the fleet arrived a force of 1,800 English and Dutch marines under the Prince of Hesse were put ashore 'on the neck of land to the northward of the town.' How strange, it may be observed in passing, it must have seemed to English and Dutch sailors of that day to find themselves actually fighting together as allies of ‘his Catholic Majesty' of Spain, in whose name the Governor of the fortress was called upon to surrender it to the Prince of Hesse. This demand being of course refused, Sir George Rooke ordered his captains to take up positions for bombarding the place next day. In the morning of the 2nd of August the wind was unfavourable for the necessary evolutions of the ships, so it was late in the afternoon before they got into their appointed places.

201 of theirs of thaliers were enough

Meantime, 'to amuse the enemy,'as Rooke quaintly phrased it in his despatch, 'Captain Whitaker was sent in with some boats who burnt a French privateer of twelve guns at the mole.' At daybreak on the 3rd the bombardment began. So furious was the cannonade that we are told more than 15,000 rounds were fired in five or six hours ;

insomuch that the enemy were soon beat from their guns, especially at the South Molehead.' At this juncture Rooke signalled to Captain Whitaker-presumably for the better ' amusement' of the enemyto take in all the boats and drive the defenders from their fortified position on the mole. This order was so promptly obeyed by two captains, Jumper and Hicks, who were already close inshore with their pinnaces, that before the rest of the boats could take part the fortifications were in their possession, though with the loss of two lieutenants and 100 men killed and wounded by the springing of a mine by the Spaniards. The survivors of the storming party held their ground, however, till supported by Whitaker, whose bluejackets were not long in forcing their way into a redoubt between the mole and the town, the possession of which by the English appears to have rendered the whole fortress untenable ; for on receiving a peremptory summons ' now sent him by the Prince of Hesse at Rooke's instance, the Governor made no further attempt at defence. The following morning, the 4th of August 1704, the capitulation was signed, and the troops under the Prince of Hesse marched in and occupied the fortress the same day.

It does not appear that the assailants suffered any very heavy loss ; in fact, there is no doubt that the defence of the Spanish garrison was a tame affair. The French, indeed, anxious to minimise the importance of Rooke's success, asserted that the Spaniards had neither garrison nor guns on the Rock. This, however, was clearly not the fact; for Rooke, in his report to the Admiralty, expressly said the town is extremely strong and had 100 guns mounted, all facing the sea and the two narrow passes to the land, and was well supplied with ammunition.' This seems hardly consistent perhaps with the alleged state of affairs that moved the Council of War at Tetuan to make the attack-namely, that the weak and unprovided condition of the garrison offered a prospect of success which would otherwise have been out of the question ; and it is possible that Rooke was as willing to magnify his work after the event as his enemies were to discount it. On the other hand it is possible that the natural strength of the place and the state of its equipment had not been realised until it was seen from inside. This explanation of the apparent inconsistency is supported by the opinion of the military officers, who after inspecting the fortifications declared that ‘fifty men might have defended those works against thousands,' and that the place had only fallen because there never was such an attack as the seamen made.

The Union Jack was hoisted by Rooke's sailors as soon as they had established themselves on the mole; but the capitulation was accepted in the name of Charles the Third, to whom the soldiers and inhabitants, in accordance with one of its articles, had to take an oath of allegiance. The fact that at the close of the war, nine years later, England insisted on retaining the fortress in her own hands and obtaining a formal cession of it from Spain might be taken as proof that the experience of the war had taught its true value, were it not for the subsequent proposals already mentioned for giving it back in return for comparatively worthless concessions elsewhere. Be that as it may, for the time being at all events the Prince of Hesse was left in command of the garrison to hold the place for his Catholic Majesty, while the English fleet sailed away quits content with the 'something of importance' accomplished for the purpose of 'giving a lustre to the Queen's arms.

The taking of Gibraltar was immediately followed by the battle of Malaga, which, according to Dr. John Campbell, Rooke's biographer, finally ' decided the empire of the sea,' an opinion practically endorsed by the French historian, Martin. Nevertheless, when Sir George Rooke shortly afterwards returned home, attempts were made, in a spirit with which we have been only too familiar in more recent times, to belittle his services for party reasons. The reign of the Revolutionary Whigs was not yet at an end. Rooke had been elected member for Portsmouth in 1698, and in Parliament had committed the unpardonable offence of 'voting mostly with those that were called Tories. For this offence William the Third had been pressed to remove him from his seat at the Admiralty Board, but honourably refused to do so. In 1704 he was still in bad odour with the ruling party, who accordingly resented the very mention of Gibraltar or Malaga in the same breath with the triumph of the great Whig hero at Blenheim, which occurred in the same year. The Commons insisted all the same on coupling the victories by land and sea in an address of congratulation to the Crown, though the expressions used gave great offence 'to many of the warmest friends of the Ministry. In the House of Lords, where Whig influence remained more powerful than in the Lower House, Rooke's services were passed over altogether in silence; and the rancour of party spirit was such that in the same year in which he placed in the hands of his countrymen the key of the Mediterranean and the empire of the sea, he found himself obliged to retire into private life. He never was employed again. And just as, from motives of party, the Whig politicians thus treated him with injustice and neglect, so for the same reason the Whig historian perpetuated the injustice to his memory. Bishop Burnet persistently belittled the exploits, falsified the facts, and misrepresented the motives of Sir George Rooke's career. Rooke did not, it need hardly be said, possess the genius of a Marlborough, and none of his deeds can justly be compared for a moment from a military standpoint with Blenheim or Ramillies; but after making all allowance for the historical importance of Marlborough's illustrious victories in putting a check to the menacing power of France, it may be questioned whether any of them conferred so lasting a benefit on the British Empire as the happy-golucky enterprise of his naval contemporary whose very name is by many scarcely remembered to-day, though the fruit of his action is one of our most cherished possessions after two hundred years, while the ambition and the schemes of Louis the Fourteenth have long since passed into limbo. More fit to be remembered than the churlish jealousy of bygone Whigs, whether politician or historian, is the judgment of the weightiest modern authority on the relation between sea power and empire; and at this time of the bi-centenary of our occupation of the Rock we may well bear his words in mind. “The English possession of Gibraltar,' writes Captain Mahan, 'dates from the 4th of August 1704, and the deed rightly keeps alive the name of Rooke, to whose judgment and fearlessness of responsibility England owes the key of the Mediterranean.''

RONALD MCNEILL.

· The Influence of Sea Power upon History, p. 210.

BRITISH SHIPPING AND FISCAL REFORM

No industry is more vitally important than shipping to the welfare of Great Britain, and none more susceptible to the attack of foreign competition. Its decadence would bring widespread and serious distress to the working people of our country; in fact it is a truism that the decline of the supremacy of the mercantile marine must mean the decline of Great Britain as an empire.

The prevailing desire in the country for 'cheapness -.e. the wish to pay down at the moment as little cash as possible without thinking where such economy may lead-seems to constitute a national danger. For instance, some British shipbuilders have imported German forgings and castings at prices 30 per cent. below their cost of manufacture in this country; and by so doing they have increased the tendency to sacrifice the primary processes of manufacture, which form the great field of employment of our people.

ument of our people. There can be no doubt that once our employers of labour have been induced to exchange the primary processes of manufacture for that of fitting together ready-made parts, we shall become increasingly dependent upon the foreigner not merely for the supply, but also for the price of our shipbuilding materials.

To-day the producing capacity of German iron and steel firms is nine times as great as it was twenty-two years ago. There are twentyone steel-works fitted out with heavy bar-rolling appliances, and in the matter of forgings and castings the industry is ahead of the shipbuilding trade, thus placing it in a favourable position to cater for work abroad.

Foreign merchants do not sell their goods in this country below the cost of production in Britain, and often below the cost of production to themselves, without having some definite purpose in view. Their policy is not one of charity, but is one well calculated to capture our markets. So long as our manufacturers turn out iron and steel goods similar to those which foreigners export, it will be necessary for the latter, as a matter of competition, to sell lower than the British VOL. LVI-No. 330

189

« 이전계속 »