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The Life of the Rt. Hon. Sir Charles W. Dilke, Vol. 2 by Stephen Gwynn

Part 9 out of 11

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cruisers as might be at large. The alternative plan of Lord Howe, of
concentrating the fleet at one of the home ports, was also discussed,
but considered less advantageous, as it left the enemy's fleet free to
proceed to sea. But it was shown that the navy of 1891 was twenty
battleships short of the number believed by naval officers to be
required for the successful adoption of St. Vincent's plan against the
French navy alone.

The defence of India was treated in two chapters entitled "The Peace of
India" and "The North-West Frontier," which were in substance a
restatement of the view expressed in _Problems of Greater Britain_.

The chapter on "The Armies" was a translation into specific shape, with
full details and calculations, of Dilke's idea of a separation between
the British and Indian systems. It was argued that the militia and
volunteers should be organized into army corps with permanent fully paid
commanders and the necessary auxiliary troops, and it was pointed out
that the volunteer department of the War Office ought to be entrusted to
volunteer officers. A chapter on "The Management of the Home Army"
asserted that "Any system proposed for the better management of the army
must satisfy three distinct conditions: It must be framed with a view to
the preparation of the army for war; it must secure unimpaired the
authority of the Cabinet; and it must provide for an efficient control
over expenditure by the House of Commons." The first requirement of a
sound system was a general who could be entrusted with the duty of
advising the Cabinet upon the conduct of war and with the actual
management of campaigns. He ought to have a proper general staff and the
field troops at home should be organized into localized autonomous army
corps. "The British army at home has no generals, and can have none
until its battalions are settled and grouped into brigades, divisions,
and army corps." There must be a second general charged with all
branches of supply.

Any satisfactory Admiralty system, it was pointed out, would provide a
competent naval adviser for the Cabinet. But it was doubted "whether it
will be possible to secure unity of design in defence so long as the War
Office and the Admiralty are separately represented in the Cabinet. The
difficulty would be overcome if it became the practice for one Minister
to hold both offices." Dilke had long had the common-sense idea that a
single Minister ought to have general charge of all the preparations for
war and its conduct by sea and land.

He had made excisions and additions in the chapters as they had reached
him, and had closely scrutinized the expression throughout. The whole
book was read through by the two men together, and each point discussed
to complete agreement. Dilke then proposed that it should appear in
Wilkinson's name, as it was substantially Wilkinson's work, and that he
himself might write a preface. Wilkinison said that it was a joint work,
that the idea of the book was Dilke's, that its substance was the
outcome of the intimate exchange of views between them, and that it
ought to bear both their names. In his diary Dilke wrote: "Wilkinson's
part in it was far greater than mine, though we argued out the whole."
When the book appeared, Admiral Colomb wrote to Dilke: "On reading the
introduction and the first and second chapters, I am inclined to sing
'Nunc dimittis,' for, as far as I can understand the matter, you put
forward all the views for which I have contended; and coming thus from
your hands, I think they will henceforth be current views." Dilke sent
the letter to Wilkinson, noting on it: "Colomb thinks _he_ has converted
me. I reply, _he couldn't_. You did--after he had failed." He regarded
his collaboration with Wilkinson as an intellectual partnership in
regard to defence, and hardly ever spoke or wrote on the subject without
referring to it.

The development of Sir Charles Dilke's thoughts on defence has now been
fully traced and his method of work revealed. His mind was unreservedly
open to take in the thoughts of others, and he was incessantly trying to
know the best that was thought and said concerning the subjects that
interested him. He assimilated the substance of a vast correspondence,
and on every topic the ideas which he received became a part of him. His
intellectual life was thus an incessant dialectic with the best minds of
his time. But he never accepted ideas from others without the most
generous acknowledgment, and did not, as so many men do, proceed, after
assimilating another man's thought, to imagine that it was his own
invention. This intellectual candour, involving a rare modesty and
absence of affectation, was one of his finest characteristics.




In 1892, when Sir Charles Dilke returned to the House of Commons as
member for the Forest of Dean, his mind was made up in regard to the
subject of national defence, and from that time on he worked in and out
of Parliament to bring about an organization for war of the resources of
the nation and of the Empire.

At that time the management of both services was hampered by the
accumulated changes made by three generations of statesmen intent upon
home affairs, under which were buried and hidden the traditions of an
earlier period of wars. In 1857 the Duke of Cambridge had been appointed
Commander-in-Chief in deference to the belief of the Prince Consort,
inspired by Baron Stockmar, that in order to avert revolution the royal
authority over the army must be exercised through a Prince, and not
through the channel of a Minister responsible to Parliament. The Duke
thought it his mission to resist changes, and his obstruction had been
the bane of successive Ministers. Accordingly, the statesmen of Cabinet
rank and experience were anxious at all cost to establish the supremacy
of the Cabinet over the army, and for this purpose had welcomed the
proposal of the Hartington Commission to abolish the office of
Commander-in-Chief whenever the Duke of Cambridge should cease to hold
that post. The Commission had not considered that a change of persons
might solve the difficulty, and was led astray by the proposal to
appoint "a Chief of the Staff," who was to be, not the strategical
adviser of the head of the army, but rather its administrator in chief.
In every modern army there is a Chief of the General Staff to assist the
Commander-in-Chief, the principal executive officer, as well as an
Administrator-General to manage the business of supply. The Hartington
Commission proposed to give the name "Chief of the Staff" to an
Administrator-General. It further proposed the creation of a Committee
of the Cabinet to hold the balance between the requirements of the War
Office and those of the Admiralty.

Dilke recognized as fully as the occupants of either front bench the
necessity for the paramount authority of the Cabinet. He also felt the
need for co-ordination between the War Office and the Admiralty, and
considered that both these needs would best be met by a single Minister,
the Prime Minister, supervising or taking charge of both offices. The
essence of co-ordination would consist in framing the arrangements for
both services with a single eye to victory in war.

Dilke's first step was to get into touch with those members of
Parliament who were most keenly interested in the army and navy.

'On February 21st (1893) I had a meeting, which I had suggested,
with Lord Wolmer, General Sir George Chesney, and H. O.
Arnold-Forster, and agreed on joint action in all service matters,
and to attend the meeting of the service members fixed for the next
day, to which, although civilians, Arnold-Forster and I were asked.
We wrote Wolmer's motion for him.'

At this time Campbell-Bannerman was Secretary of State for War. On March
9th the House was to go into Committee of Supply, and on the motion
"that Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair" Lord Wolmer moved "that in the
opinion of this House the present system of military administration
fails to secure either due economy in time of peace or efficiency for
national defence." Lord Wolmer in his speech referred to the breakdown
in the system of recruiting which had been disclosed in the report of
Lord Wantage's Committee. He was supported by Sir George Chesney, who
referred to the report of Sir James Stephen's Commission as "a scathing
exposure of mismanagement," and to that of the Hartington Commission as
"an unqualified and alarming denunciation of our military system."
Arnold-Forster also supported the resolution, in favour of which Dilke
made a short and incisive speech. Campbell-Bannerman declined to take
the discussion seriously. "The first observation," he said, "that must
occur to anyone reading the motion is, What in the world has the report
of Lord Wantage's Committee to do with the present system of military
administration? It is as if the noble lord were to call attention to the
Tenterden Steeple, and to move that the Goodwin Sands are a danger to
navigation." But the breakdown of recruiting was the crucial evidence of
the weakness of the military administration.

In September, 1893, the question of the then recent appointment of the
Duke of Connaught to the command at Aldershot was raised in the House of
Commons by Mr. Dalziel. It was defended by Campbell-Bannerman on the
ground that the Duke possessed sufficient qualifications for the post.
If that had been the sole question, said Dilke, he should have supported
the Government.

"But there was another point. Aldershot was a training-school not
only for the men and regimental officers there employed, but also
for the Generals commanding. It might be said to be the only school
in the United Kingdom where a general officer could obtain
experience in commanding men in battle, and therefore only officers
who were likely to command armies in case of serious war ought to be
put in command of such a place. Was it likely that the Duke of
Connaught, under the circumstances, would be called upon to take the
chief command against a European enemy in case of war?"

In the division Dilke voted against the appointment.

On December 19th Lord George Hamilton moved a resolution "that a
considerable addition should at once be made to the navy." Mr. Gladstone
regarded this proposal as a vote of censure on the Government, and
delivered an indignant reply. Dilke deprecated making the navy a subject
of party controversy, and made an appeal to his Liberal friends:

"All naval experts who have been consulted on the question have
always laid it down that, for safety, you must have a supremacy of
five to three in battleships, that you require that supremacy for
the policy of blockade.... If ever we engage in war ... it is a
necessity of the position of this country that our frontiers should
be at the enemy's ports.... I know this is not a popular policy, but
the existence of the Empire depends upon it.... Liberals should give
up thinking of this question of national defence as a hateful one,
and as one against which they ought to close their eyes and ears. I
know that, in these days of great armaments on the Continent, the
old tradition of the Liberal party, that they should look to the
possibility of using the forces of this country on behalf of
Continental freedom, has become a dream of the past. They must
remember that our liberties at home depend upon the efficiency of
our fleet, and that, beyond this, the very existence of our Empire
is concerned in the question which the House is at this moment

The sequel to this debate was Mr. Gladstone's retirement in February,

Early in the autumn of 1893 Dilke had talked over with Spenser Wilkinson
the line to be taken in Parliament by the service members. Wilkinson had
urged as a preliminary some effort to obtain agreement among the
"experts," suggesting that Chesney as the ablest of them all should
first be approached. On November 8th Chesney and Wilkinson dined at
Sloane Street, and, Chesney having expressed his general concurrence in
the views as to administration explained in _Imperial Defence_, Dilke
proposed that Wilkinson should draft a letter to the Prime Minister,
embodying the main points, to be signed by all three and by Arnold-
Forster, if he should be in accord with them, and to be sent not only to
Mr. Gladstone, but to the leaders of the Opposition. The result was the
following letter, which was eventually signed and sent on February 12th,
1894, to Mr. Gladstone (then Prime Minister), to Lord Salisbury, the
Duke of Devonshire, Mr. Balfour, and Mr. Chamberlain:


The late debate in the House of Commons on the subject of the navy
was one of many symptoms of a widespread uneasiness with regard to
the defences of the Empire. There is a doubt of the sufficiency of
the naval establishments and of the efficiency in some respects of
the systems under which the navy and the army are administered. This
failure of confidence has been of gradual growth. Those who think it
justified do not attribute the responsibility for it to any one
administration or to either party in the State. Yet it seems
difficult to discuss these doubts in Parliament without, at least,
the appearance of censure upon the Government of the day, a result
which is unfortunate, for the subject should unite rather than
divide parties, and upon its paramount importance there is no
difference of opinion.

For this reason a service may perhaps be rendered by the
communication to the Prime Minister and to the leaders of the
Opposition of suggestions which commend themselves to men of
different parties who have from different points of view for many
years given attention to questions relating to national defence.

No arrangements which aimed at or resulted in a subversion of the
principles which experience has shown to be essential to the working
of constitutional government could be seriously considered. But no
system of defence, however constitutional, can avail unless it be
shaped with a view to war. It is to the conciliation of these two
necessities, that of compatibility with the constitution and that of
adaptation to the purpose of war, that our attention has been

If the preservation of peace depended upon the goodwill of the
British Government, there would perhaps be little need for a navy or
an army. The existence of these services implies that this is not
the case, and that safety in time of war depends upon forethought
and preparation in advance. Such preparation involves a view of the
nature of a possible war and an estimate of the intensity of the
effort it would impose, this view and this estimate furnishing the
standard for the quantity and quality of the means to be kept

The design, without which even a defensive war cannot be carried on,
and in the absence of which preparations made during peace must fail
to serve their purpose, is properly the secret of the Government.
Yet, where the Government is responsible to a Parliament, it is
indispensable either that so much of the design should be
communicated to Parliament as will enable it to judge of the
necessity and of the sufficiency of the preparations for which
supplies must be voted, or that Parliament should know who are the
professional advisers upon whose judgment the Government relies.
Neither of these conditions seems to us at present to be fulfilled,
and as a consequence of the omission there has arisen in the public
mind that distrust to which we have alluded.

The leading decision in the administration of the national defence,
governing the whole course and character of any future war, is that
which settles the total amount of expenditure upon preparation and
apportions it between the naval and military services. For this
decision the Cabinet is, and must ever be, responsible. Yet in the
distribution of the business of the Cabinet into departments there
appears to be no office specially entrusted with the consideration
of war as a whole, embracing the functions both of the navy and of
the army. Of the sums usually devoted each year to warlike
preparations, the larger part is spent upon the army, and only a
lesser part upon the navy, upon which the maintenance of the Empire
and the security of Great Britain must ever chiefly depend. It is
difficult to believe that this apportionment is the result of
deliberate examination of the requirements of war. It would seem
more probable that the separate existence of a department of the
navy and a department of the army leads in practice to the
management of each for its own sake rather than as an instrument
serving a more general purpose.

In order to secure the special consideration by the Cabinet of
national defence as distinct from and superior to the administration
either of the navy or of the army, we would suggest the appointment
of one and the same Minister to the two offices of Secretary of
State for War and First Lord of the Admiralty, or the amalgamation,
with the consent of Parliament, of these two offices.

We would further suggest that the Cabinet should select for each
service an officer whose professional judgment commands its
confidence, to be at once the responsible adviser of the Cabinet
upon all questions regarding the conduct of war so far as his own
service is concerned, and the principal executive officer of that

We understand by a responsible adviser one who stands or falls by
the advice which he gives. He would, of course, have at his
disposal, in the formation of his views, the best assistance which
the professional staff of the navy or of the army could supply. But
the opinion which, after mature consideration, he would submit to
the Cabinet, and formally record, would be his own and would be
given in his own name. It follows that a difference of opinion
between the Cabinet and its naval or its military adviser upon any
important matter of naval or military policy would lead to the
resignation of the latter. In our view, the essence of
responsibility for advice is that the officer giving it is
identified with it, and remains in the post only so long as his
judgment upon the professional matters with reference to which he is
consulted is acceptable to the Cabinet which he serves. In order to
facilitate his independence in this respect, provision should be
made, in case of his resignation, for his employment in another post
or for his honourable retirement.

If these suggestions were adopted, the passage in case of need from
peace to war would take place without personal or administrative
change. The adaptation of the whole service, whether naval or
military, to the necessities of war, as understood by a competent
officer studying them with full responsibility, would be assured.
The House of Commons and the public would have in the person of the
naval and of the military adviser a guarantee of the sufficiency and
of the efficiency of the navy and of the army. The authority of the
Cabinet and the control of the House of Commons would be unimpaired.

We are, sir,

Your obedient servants,

Charles W. Dilke.

George Chesney.

H. O. Arnold-Foster.

Spenser Wilkenson.

In December, 1893, Dilke had communicated to Mr. Balfour the draft of
this letter and his plan for sending it to the leaders of both parties.
Mr. Balfour thought the best plan for co-ordinating the two services
would be by a Defence Committee of the Cabinet, of which Dilke put his
finger on the weak point, that it gave no guarantee of meeting the
requirements of war. [Footnote: The letters printed in Appendix I., p.
451, embody the substance of previous conversations between Dilke and
Mr. Balfour. In Appendix II., p. 456, are given the replies of Mr.
Gladstone and the other leaders to the joint letter, which was
afterwards published in the newspapers.--Ed.] It was after these
communications that Mr. Balfour made his speech at Manchester on January
22nd, 1894, in which he said:

"It is responsibility which is chiefly lacking in our present
system. If anything goes wrong with the navy, you attack the First
Lord of the Admiralty. If anything goes wrong in the army, you
attack the Secretary for War. If anything goes wrong in the Home
Department, you attack the Secretary to the Home Department. But if
the general scheme of national and imperial defence is not properly
managed, there is nobody to attack but the whole Cabinet; and the
Cabinet as a whole is not, in my opinion, a very good body to carry
on the detailed work of that, any more than of any other, department
of the State."

These private discussions between Dilke and Mr. Balfour foreshadowed the
actual course which reform was to take. It began in 1895 with the
adoption of Mr. Balfour's plan of a Committee of the Cabinet; it ended
in 1904 by Mr. Balfour as Prime Minister adopting Dilke's plan, and
undertaking himself, as chairman of that Committee, the co-ordination of
the two services. Then and not till then the fundamental principle of
the primacy of the navy in the defence of the Empire was formally

The next step of the signatories to the joint letter was action in
Parliament. Dilke gave notice that, on the introduction of the Army
Estimates, he would move the following resolution:

"That this House, before voting supplies for the maintenance of
military establishments in the United Kingdom, seeks an assurance
from Her Majesty's Government that the estimates for that purpose
submitted to it are framed upon consideration of possible war by sea
and land, and upon a consideration of advice tendered in that behalf
by such officer of either service as is fitted to command in war Her
Majesty's forces of that service."

The debate took place on March 16th, 1894. In the course of his speech
Dilke said:

"What I want to know, and what the Cabinet in framing the estimates
ought to know, is this: Are the proposals before the House those
which alone are capable of securing the safety of the country and of
the Empire?... I wish to know whether the Government present these
estimates as representing the least, but still what is sufficient,
for the needs of the country for the next twelve months, not only
for the protection of the whole country and the Empire, but for the
protection of our trade in all parts of the world....

"The Cabinet must obtain the best advice possible. I, for my part,
should prefer that the advice should be concentrated for each
service, because I think it is far more responsible advice if it
comes mainly on the responsibility of a single man as regards the
army and navy respectively than if you dispersed it among a great
number of people.... As far as I am concerned, form in this matter
is immaterial. I have stated what I want to secure, and I will put
two or three different ways of securing it which would very often
come to the same thing. What I ventured to suggest at first was that
the Prime Minister should be brought to take more personal concern
in the defence of the country than is the case at the present time;
that he should consider himself mainly responsible for the joint
consideration of the whole defence proposals; that he should hear
the Secretary for War, the First Lord of the Admiralty, and their
advisers, if he is doubtful, and that they together, more seriously
than has been the case in the past, should go into the difficulties
of the problem, and he should then advise with them as to the
estimates.... There was another suggestion made--that a Defence
Minister, a Minister who should represent the army and navy, should
be the person charged specially with the responsibility to this
House.... But I am not wedded to any particular form. Whether the
Prime Minister specially undertakes the duty, whether it is
undertaken by a Defence Minister, or whether the suggestion is
adopted--which, I believe, is that of the Leader of the Opposition
(Mr. Balfour)--that a Defence Committee of the Cabinet, which I have
heard was instituted by the late Government, should be provided with
a more avowed and distinct position, armed with permanent
responsible advisers, and equipped with records so as to hand over
its work to those by whom they might be succeeded in office--all
these plans would come at the present moment to very much the same

The resolution was seconded by Arnold-Forster, and supported in a clear
and relevant speech by Sir George Chesney. In the debate which followed,
Mr. Balfour expressed his adherence to the third of the plans described
by Sir Charles Dilke. "I rather contemplate," he said, "that the Prime
Minister, with or without his colleagues, or a Committee of the Cabinet,
with or without the Prime Minister, should constitute themselves a body
with permanent records and confidential advisers." Campbell-Bannerman
expressed general agreement with the object Dilke had in view, and
added: "I entertain almost identically the opinion which has been
expressed by the Leader of the Opposition." Having thus obtained the
concurrence of both parties to one of the plans which, it was thought,
might fulfil the purpose in view, Dilke withdrew the motion.

In 1895 (March 11th) a resolution couched in the precise words of that
of 1894 was moved by Mr. Arnold-Forster on the introduction of the Navy
Estimates. In supporting it Dilke said:

"The sole purpose of all this very large expenditure was to enable
us to achieve victory at sea, which was essential to our very
existence as a nation; and what the resolution asked was an
assurance that the Government had had under its consideration the
nature of the efforts that would be called for to secure victory and
the distribution of these efforts between the land and sea forces."

On March 15th, in the discussion of the Army Estimates, Dilke raised a
doubt "whether there was in our system of military administration any
security that those we put into positions of high command, where they
were able to get military experience, were only those men who were
fitted for such posts and would hold command in time of war."

On June 21st, 1895, Campbell-Bannerman announced the retirement of the
Commander-in-Chief, the Duke of Cambridge, and his own intention to
adopt the main lines of the scheme of the Hartington Committee. He would
appoint a Commander-in-Chief with reduced powers who would be the
principal military adviser of the Secretary of State, and he, with the
other heads of departments, who would each be directly responsible to
the Minister, would constitute a deliberative Council, so that the
Secretary of State, when he gave his decisions, would be guided and
supported by the express opinions of all the experienced officers by
whom he was surrounded.

Thereupon Mr. Brodrick, now Lord Midleton, moved to reduce the salary of
the Secretary of State by way of a vote of censure on the insufficiency
of the supply of cordite ammunition. A brief debate followed in which
Campbell-Bannerman failed to convince the House that the supply was
adequate, and in the division this vote of censure was carried by 132
against 125. This division overthrew the Liberal Ministry. Dilke took no
part in the debate, but voted in the majority. For this vote
Campbell-Bannerman never forgave him.

In the new Ministry formed by Lord Salisbury as Prime Minister, Mr.
Balfour became First Lord of the Treasury and Leader of the House of
Commons, Lord Lansdowne Secretary of State for War, Mr. Brodrick
Under-Secretary of State for War, and Mr. Goschen First Lord of the
Admiralty. The first act of the new Government was to remodel the
general arrangements for national and imperial defence. The scheme was
described in general terms by Lord Lansdowne in the House of Lords on
August 26th, and more specifically by Mr. Brodrick in the House of
Commons on August 31st. There was to be a Defence Committee of the
Cabinet under the presidency of the Duke of Devonshire. Mr. Brodrick's
words implied that the creation of this body was due to the action of
Sir Charles Dilke, who, in the debate on the Address, had again urged
his views on this subject.

Of the army Lord Wolseley was to be the new Commander-in-Chief. But,
instead of being at the head of the military departments of the War
Office, he was to have charge only of the intelligence and mobilization
departments, and to be the President of an Army Board of which the other
members were to be the Adjutant-General, the Quartermaster-General, the
Director of Artillery, and the Inspector-General of Fortifications, each
of whom was to be directly responsible for his own department to the
Secretary of State. "The main principle of the change," said Mr.
Brodrick, "is the separate responsibility of the military heads of
departments to the Secretary of State for their departments, and the
focussing of military opinion by means of the Army Board presided over
by the Commander-in-Chief." When Mr. Brodrick had finished his
statement, Dilke immediately rose and said that

"he had listened to the statement with something like dismay, for
some of the changes made had been in his view entirely in the wrong
direction.... There certainly had not been, during the many years he
had been in the House, any debate in which the issues presented to
the House had been so momentous.... To that portion of the
Government's scheme which involved the position of the Duke of
Devonshire in relation to Imperial defence he was fully favourable.
He believed he was the original suggester of the proposal in 1888.
What had been said by the Undersecretary went to suggest the
creation of a Committee of the Cabinet only, which had been formed,
they were told, by the late Government. If so, the matter was
minimized, and there was less security given to the country than
they had hoped. The first thing to be secured was that there should
be the individual responsibility of one great member of the Cabinet
rather than the collective responsibility of a considerable number.

"In regard to the reorganization of the War Office itself, he viewed
with dismay the further explanations given to-day by the
Under-Secretary. What had been the main objection to the past
management of the army in this country? It had been that
responsibility had been frittered away among a great number of
different Boards.... He hoped that the new man chosen to be the head
of the army would be in practice the real head of the army and the
real adviser of the Secretary of State. What he feared they were
doing was to create a copy of the Admiralty in those particular
points in which the Admiralty itself had been the subject of
criticism.... The Government, he contended, ought to recommend the
one man, the Commander-in-Chief, and in the first instance take his
opinion and regard him as ultimately responsible. Having picked out
the most competent man, he hoped the Government would put the
arrangement under that man and not under the civilian Secretary of
State.... It was a mistake to give the Commander-in-Chief a
department; he ought to be above the departments, and the
departments ought to report to him. He had ventured for many years
to ask in the first place that the Cabinet should consider the whole
problem of Imperial defence, and in the second place that they
should pick out the best man and trust him."

In reply to Dilke, Mr. Balfour said:

"If you put the Secretary of State for War in direct communication
with the Commander-in-Chief alone, I do not see how the Secretary of
State for War can be anything else than the administrative puppet of
the great soldier who is at the head of the army. He may come down
to the House and express the views of that great officer; but if he
is to take official advice from the Commander-in-Chief alone, it is
absolutely impossible that the Secretary of State should be really
responsible, and in this House the Secretary of State will be no
more than the mouthpiece of the Commander-in-Chief. It seems to me
that the differences in this branch of the subject between the right
hon. gentleman (Sir Charles Dilke) and the Government are of a more
fundamental character than I anticipated."

The difference was indeed fundamental, for Dilke was thinking about war,
and Mr. Balfour was thinking only of Ministerial responsibility. In case
of a war in which the welfare, possibly the independence, of the nation
would be at stake, what civilian Secretary of State would wish to be
personally responsible for victory or defeat, or to be more than the
mouthpiece of a great soldier at the head of the army?

The Commander-in-Chief had been a military officer whose function was to
co-ordinate the work of the heads of the several military departments.
The change made in 1895 transferred to the Secretary of State this duty
previously performed by the Commander-in-Chief. Sir James Stephen's
Commission had reported in 1887 that it was morally and physically
impossible that any one man should satisfactorily discharge the
functions which at that time belonged to the Secretary of State. To them
in 1895 the Government added those of the Commander-in-Chief. The result
was that in 1899 the Secretary of State failed to fulfil the most
important of all his functions, that of maintaining accord between the
policy of the Cabinet and the military preparations. The Committee of
Defence, which was appointed in 1895, might perhaps have performed this
essential function if it had ever taken a serious view of its work. But
it in doubtful whether it ever did any work at all.


In the new Parliament, Dilke moved on March 5th, 1896, for a return of
the number of British seamen available for service in the navy in time
of war.

"One difficulty," he said, "that had to be faced was that in debates
like the present they had no real opportunity of engaging in a
collective review of the whole defensive expenditure of the country on
the army and navy taken together.... They expected from the Government a
policy which could be explained to the House--either a policy of
alliances, to which he himself was rootedly opposed; or the policy,
which was the only true policy for this country, of keeping up such a
fleet as would make us safe against any probable combination. The point
to which he wished to draw most urgent attention was that the real
reserve of England was disappearing very fast. The British sailor was
becoming more and more a rare article of luxury. He was used on the
first-class liners, and not used elsewhere.... There was another point
of importance. Among these foreigners there were many masters of ships,
and they were taught the pilotage of our rivers. That was a very serious
matter, and might become a great danger in time of war."

It soon became evident that the changes made in 1895 had not produced
improvement either in the Government's arrangements for national defence
or in the management of the army. In November, 1896, Lord Lansdowne,
Secretary of State for War, and Sir Michael Hicks Beach, Chancellor of
the Exchequer, made speeches the same evening at Bristol. The Secretary
of State expressed the intention to make a slight increase in the number
of battalions in the army, while the Chancellor declared that he would
consent to no increase in the Army Estimates until he could feel more
confidence in the manner in which the money was expended. This
disagreement between members of the Cabinet led to inquiries, through
which Dilke became aware that the Commander-in-Chief, Lord Wolseley,
wished for a larger increase in the number of battalions than the
Secretary of State was willing to propose. The opportunity seemed
suitable for raising the question whether or not the military measures
proposed by the Government were those suggested by their military
adviser--a fundamental question. Lord Lansdowne having explained in the
House of Lords in February, 1897, that his proposal was to add two
battalions to the Guards and one to the Cameron Highlanders, and that he
hoped in this way to restore the equilibrium between the number of
battalions at home and the number abroad, Dilke in the House of Commons
pointed out (February 8th) that the measure proposed would not establish
the desired equilibrium, and that the proposal was anonymous. Who, he
asked, were the military authorities on whose advice the Government
relied? Mr. Brodrick, in reply, said that the proposals of the
Government, taken as a whole, had been gratefully accepted by one and
all of the military heads of the War Office, as, in the words of the
Commander-in-Chief, "such a step forward as has not been made for many
years." Thus it became clear that the military heads, including the
Commander-in-Chief, were as ready to be overruled in regard to their
views as to what was necessary for the army as the civilian Minister was
to overrule them.

In the Christmas recess of 1897-98 Dilke prepared for the next Session
by writing a pamphlet on Army Reform in which he reviewed the position.
He and the other reformers had steadily asserted that the home army
could not take the field until it had drawn heavily on the reserve; that
it was terribly short of artillery; that the seven to eight years'
enlistment was a hybrid, and that the sound course was to have a
short-term service with the colours at home followed by a choice between
a long term in the reserve and a long term in the Indian or Colonial
army; and, lastly, that the administration was over-centralized at the
War Office, to the detriment of the authority, the efficiency, and the
character, of the generals. The critics had further urged that the
linked-battalion system and the hybrid term, bad as they were, could not
be worked at all without a large increase of the number of battalions at
home. In 1897 the War Office had replied that an increase of three
battalions would suffice.

The new estimates were introduced in the House of Commons on February
25th, 1898, by Mr. Brodrick, who admitted that, in order to put 50,000
infantry into the field, it would be necessary to call out 28,000
reservists. In order to have artillery enough for a fraction of the army
he asked for fifteen more batteries. He had to admit that the three
battalions added in 1897 were not enough, and to ask for six more. The
speech was an admission of all the contentions of the critics, though it
began by abusing them.

In the debate Dilke moved: "That no scheme for the reorganization of the
army will be satisfactory which involves the sacrifice of one unit to
secure the efficiency of any other." He referred to the admitted
breakdown of the eight-years and linked-battalion system. Mr. Brodrick,
quoting Lord Wolseley, had reassured the country by telling them that
they could despatch two army corps abroad.

"Two army corps!" exclaimed Dilke, "when it is twenty army corps which
this country pays for!... Out of the men at home, if cavalry and
artillery were provided, twenty corps instead of two corps might be
made.... In the last three years the cost of the army has been
considerably increased, and there has been an increase in numbers voted.
Yet there has been a decrease not only in the militia, but also in the
regular army and in the army reserve as well during that period--an
additional evidence of breakdown.... The territorial system here can
never be anything more than a sham so long as we have to provide for
India and garrison coaling-stations, and so long as the battalions are
constantly moved about.... We have year by year made our statements with
regard to artillery to the House. Nobody believed a word we said, and it
was only last year, when three batteries were sent out to the Cape, and
twenty batteries wrecked in men and horses to provide them, that the War
Office at last admitted that we had all along been right.... On this
occasion we see some results, in the speech of the right hon. gentleman
to-night, of our action in the past."

The Navy Estimates were introduced in July. Lord Charles Beresford in
his argument had pointed out that the cost of the navy bore a much
smaller proportion to our mercantile marine than that of the navies of
other countries. Dilke said:

"The position of the British Empire is such that, if by the
mercantile policy of other countries our mercantile marine were
wholly to disappear, or if it were to disappear as the result of a
war in which our carrying trade passed, say, to the United States,
it would be just as necessary as now for us to have a predominant
fleet.... If the pressure of taxation on the poorer classes, if the
unrest in this country on the subject, were so great that it was not
possible to make the sacrifices which I for one think it necessary
to make, I would sooner give up the whole expenditure on the army
than give way upon this naval programme.... This matter of the fleet
is vital to our position in the world. The army is an arguable

Dilke continued steadily to press for a strong navy. In 1899 he once
more supported Mr. Goschen's proposals, and again urged that, if the
cost of the army and navy should be too great, we must save on the army,
but not on the navy. His chief criticism of the Admiralty was that "we
have got into the vicious position of beginning our building programme
each year at the extreme end of the financial year."

The keynote of his speech was: "This Empire is an Empire of the seas,
and the navy is vital to our existence, but our army is not. Our Indian
army is vital to our possession of India, but India pays the full cost
of it, perhaps rather more."


During the winter of 1898-99 the opposition of purposes between the
British Government and the Government of the South African Republic was
causing grave apprehension to public men. The High Commissioner, Sir
Alfred Milner, paid a visit to England, and on his return to the Cape
was authorized in May, 1899, to meet President Kruger in a Conference at
Bloemfontein. On June 7th the failure of the Conference was announced,
and was thought by many to be the equivalent of a diplomatic rupture,
the prelude to hostilities. No serious military preparations were made
by the British Government, though various measures were suggested by the
Commander-in-Chief, Lord Wolseley, and by Sir Redvers Buller. It was not
until September 10th that 10,000 men were ordered from India to Natal,
and not until October 7th that orders were issued for the calling out of
the reserve and for the mobilization of an army corps and other troops
for South Africa. The Boers began hostilities on October 11th, and the
operations were unfavourable to the British until the middle of
February, when Lord Roberts began the advance towards Kimberley.

At the end of January, 1900, the Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury, said in
the House of Lords: "I do not believe in the perfection of the British
Constitution as an instrument of war ... it is evident that there is
something in your machinery that is wrong."

In the debate on the Army Estimates on February 1st, Dilke, with his
usual courage, raised the question of responsibility, in a speech to
which little attention was paid at the time, but which will now, in the
light of subsequent events, be better appreciated.

"The country," he said, "has gone through an awful winter, and under our
constitutional system there are persons responsible, and we have to
examine the nature of their responsibility. Some Government speakers,
who during the recess have addressed the country, have drawn certain
comparisons between the occurrences in this war and those of the Crimean
War.... I confess that I believe the present war has been far more
disgracefully conducted than the Crimean War had been, and that the
mourning is far more applicable to this case. Now, with regard to the
checks or reverses--that is the accepted phrase--we are really afraid in
these days to talk about 'disasters.' The First Lord of the Treasury at
Manchester distinctly stated there had been 'no disaster.' There has
been no single great engagement in which we have met with an absolute
disaster, but for the first time in our military history there has been
a succession of checks or reverses--unredeemed as they have been by a
single great military success in the whole course of the war--in many of
which we have left prisoners in the enemy's hands. We began with the
abandonment of the entrenched camp at Dundee, and of the great
accumulation of stores that had been made there, of the wounded, and of
the dying General, and we lost the headquarters of a regiment of cavalry
that tried a cavalry pursuit. We lost the headquarters of two battalions
at Nicholson's Nek; we lost the headquarters of one battalion and a very
large portion of another battalion in the repulse at Stormberg; we lost
the Colonel, most of the field officers, and the whole of one company of
the Suffolks, on another occasion. These headquarters of cavalry, and
the principal portion of the remaining men of five battalions of British
infantry, are now prisoners at Pretoria--not to speak of what happened
to the Highland Brigade at Magersfontein, or of the loss of the guns in
the repulse at the Tugela, or of the fact that thirteen of our field
guns, besides a mountain battery, are now in the enemy's hands. The loss
of guns in proportion to our small strength of guns is equivalent to the
loss of some 300 guns by the German army. None of these events
constitutes what the First Lord of the Treasury calls a disaster.
Probably he is right. But can any member of this House deny that the net
result of these proceedings has been disastrous to the belief of the
world in our ability to conduct a war? Therefore, if there has been, as
the right hon. gentleman says, not one disaster, surely the result of
the proceedings has been one disastrous to the credit of this country.
There has been one immense redemption of that disaster, which is that
all the Powers, however hostile, have very frankly acknowledged on these
occasions the heroism of the officers and men. Our military reputation,
which undoubtedly never stood lower in the eyes of the world than at the
present moment, is redeemed in that respect, and the individual courage
of officers and men never stood higher in the estimate of the world than
it does now. It seems to me to be a patriotic duty of those who have in
the past discussed in this House the question of Cabinet responsibility
for military preparations to discuss the question now; to see who is
responsible, whom--I will not say we will hang, but whom we are to hold
blameworthy in the highest degree for what has occurred. I believe that
the opinion is attributed to the Prime Minister that the British
Constitution is not a fighting machine. I am told that he has thrown
doubt upon the working of the British Constitution as a Constitution
which will allow this country successfully to go to war. That is a very
serious matter. The Constitution of this country has been maintained as
a fighting machine by the members of this House who are now responsible
for the Administration. No one has ever put the doctrine of Cabinet
responsibility for the preparation for war higher than it has always
been put by the present Leader of the House (Mr. Balfour), and anything
more direct than the conflict on that point, as on many others, between
his opinion and the opinion of the Prime Minister it is impossible to
conceive.... On Thursday last the right hon. member who preceded me in
this debate--the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr.
Brodrick)--delivered a speech and said that all that had been done in
this war had been 'solely dictated by military advice,' and 'military
advice alone determined all that had been done.' I should like the House
to consider what that statement means. The right hon. gentleman was the
member who, on three occasions, brought the question of the ammunition
supplies of this country before the House: it was he who moved the
amendment which turned out the Rosebery Administration on the cordite
vote, and he led the discussion on two subsequent occasions on which we
debated the same question. At the opening of the next Parliament the
whole question of Ministerial responsibility for war preparation was
thoroughly and exhaustively considered by this House. I confess that I
did not expect to hear the right hon. gentleman--who on those three
occasions so firmly pressed, to the very extinction of the Government
itself, the doctrine of Cabinet responsibility--as it were sheltering
the Cabinet behind military advice, advice which he rejected, as also
did the Leader of the House, with scorn upon that occasion.... I feel it
a duty to myself, and to all who hold the same opinion, to press home
this doctrine of Cabinet responsibility on this occasion. In that debate
the hon. member who seems likely to follow me in this debate--the
present Under-Secretary for War (Mr. Wyndham)--took part. He was then a
private member and warmly occupied his mind upon this question, and he
used these words: 'If they were overwhelmed by disasters, the Minister
for War would be held responsible.' Not only he, but the whole Cabinet
are responsible, and the present Leader of the House, in following the
hon. member in that debate, emphasized that fact, and pointed out the
importance of complete Cabinet responsibility. That doctrine was
emphatically maintained. There are practical reasons why this question
should be pressed home on this occasion. This is obviously the time to
press it home if ever it should be done, and it seems to me that such
practical reasons are to be found in two considerations. We have been
told that at the beginning of every war it is always fated that there
should be muddling. We have been told it from both sides of the House,
that we always begin by muddling our wars. If there is one fact more
certain than another, it is that in future wars, not with Boer
Republics, but with Great Powers, there will be no time for muddling at
the beginning of war, and it is vital that this muddling should be
guarded against. If we are to look forward as a matter of certainty that
this country is always to muddle at the beginning of a war, then we may
look forward with almost certainty to defeat."

Dilke then examined the excuses that had been made for the Government,
to the effect that the war took them by surprise and that they had no
knowledge of the Boer preparations. He showed that both these pleas were
inconsistent with the facts. Mr. Balfour had said that the Government
had thought it their duty, during the negotiations which preceded the
war, to abstain from unnecessary menace. Dilke pointed out that they did
not so abstain. Lord Salisbury had said on July 28th, 1899, "the
Conventions are mortal ... they are liable to be destroyed." That could
only be understood by the Boers as holding out the prospect of a war in
which the independence of their country would be taken away. Were these
words wise when used without the smallest preparation for war having
been made? As regards knowledge of the Boer preparations, the
Intelligence Department had admirably done its work. No Government was
ever so well informed as to the resources of its opponents as the
British Government in entering upon this war. Dilke went on to say:

"Both by those who would have anticipated war and by the Government
it has been alleged that the existence of a Parliamentary Opposition
was the reason why the military precautions of the Government were
inefficacious. But the Government has been in power since July,
1895, and has been supported by overwhelming majorities, and it
would have had the cheerful acquiescence of the House of Commons for
every measure of military precaution and all the military
expenditure which was asked. The Cabinet are responsible; but if
there is to be any difficulty on account of the existence of a
constitutional Opposition--even a weak one--I say that by that
doctrine we are fated to be beaten on every occasion we go to war.
The time for the reform of our military system will come when this
war has ended. We cannot reform it in a time of war. We have often
addressed the House upon this subject. We preached to deaf ears. We
were not listened to before war. Shall we be listened to when war is
over? While I admit that in a time of war you cannot reform your
military system, what you can do is to press home to the Cabinet the
responsibility.... For some years past there have been discussions
as to Empire expansion which have divided some of us from others on
military questions. There are some of us, who are strong supporters
of the Government in preparing for war in the present situation of
the world, who are not in favour of what is called the expansion of
the Empire. We have resisted it because we believed the military
requirements of the Empire were greater--as it was put by Lord
Charles Beresford, whom we see here no longer--than we were prepared
to meet. And the Government now come down to the House and quietly
tell us that that is so. They have put it in the Queen's Speech. We
have it stated that, although the money we have to spend in military
preparations is more than that of any other Power in the world, we
are going to be asked to spend more. I should hope that good may
come out of evil, and that a result of this sad war may be the
proper utilization of our resources in preparing, in times of peace,
all the military forces of what people call Greater Britain.... I
venture to say that the Government went into this war without the
preparation they should have made. Their neglect of that precaution
has brought about the reverses we have met with, and the natural
consequence is the failure of our arms I have described. As regards
the Crimean War, which in some respects has been compared with this,
one is reminded of the present Commander-in-Chief, who has written
these momentous words: The history of the Crimean War shows 'how an
army may be destroyed by a Ministry through want of ordinary
forethought.' I confess that I think there is only one point in
which the two cases are exactly parallel--for there are many
distinctions between them--and that is in the heroism of officers
and men."

On July 27th, 1900, on the occasion of a supplementary estimate for the
South African War, Dilke criticized the censorship of letters from the
front, in consequence of which the truth about the military mistakes
made remained unknown. He reviewed a series of blunders that had been
made in the war, and quoted the opinion of an eminent foreign strategist
to the effect that "the mistakes which had been made were mistakes on
immutable and permanent principles." Thus, there was a doubt whether the
army had been properly trained for war in the past and was being
properly trained at that moment. He asked for a full inquiry into these

That inquiry was never made. The Royal Commission appointed after the
war to inquire into its conduct began by disclaiming authority to
inquire into the policy out of which the war arose, and by asserting its
own incompetence to discuss the military operations.

In a paper contributed to the _New Liberal Review_ of February, 1901,
Dilke reviewed the South African War, and summed up:

"The war, then, has revealed deficiency in the war training of the
Staff in particular, and of the army generally. It has shown that
the recommendations of the Commander-in-Chief to the Cabinet for the
nomination of Generals to high commands were not based on real
tests. It has called attention to the amateurishness of portions of
our forces. It has proved that for years the reformers have been
right, and the War Office wrong, as regards the number and
proportion of guns needed by us and the rapidity of the mobilization
of our artillery.

"Remedies which will certainly be attempted are--Better training of
the Staff, especially in the thinking out and writing of orders;
weeding out of incompetent amateurs from among our officers; better
pay for the men; careful preparation in time of peace of a picked
Imperial force of mounted infantry from all parts of the Empire. But
greater changes, urgently as they are demanded by the national
interest, will not be accomplished, as public excitement will die
down, and triflers and obstructives will remain at the head of
affairs, in place of the Carnot who is needed as organizer to back
the best General that can be found for the Commander-in-Chief.

"The greatest of the lessons of the war was the revelation of the
neglect, by statesmen, to prepare for wars which their policy must
lead them to contemplate as possible.... The long duration of the
war, with all its risks to our Imperial interests, is to be laid at
the door of the politicians rather than of the Generals. This, the
greatest lesson, has not been learnt."


After the General Election of December, 1900, there was a shifting of
offices in the Cabinet, by which Mr. Brodrick succeeded Lord Lansdowne
as Secretary of State for War, and Lord Selborne became First Lord of
the Admiralty instead of Mr. Goschen. Lord Roberts was brought home from
South Africa to become Commander-in-Chief, and the direction of the war
was left in the hands of Lord Kitchener. The first important event in
the new Parliament was a speech by Lord Wolseley in the House of Lords,
in which he warned the nation against the dangerous consequences of the
system introduced in 1895, which failed to give its proper place to the
military judgment in regard to preparations for war. The warning was
disregarded. Mr. Brodrick announced the determination of the Government
to maintain the system set up in 1895, and to give to Lord Roberts as
Commander-in-Chief the same position of maimed and crippled authority as
had been given to Lord Wolseley six years before.

Mr. Brodrick, while carrying on the war in South Africa, attempted at
the same time to reform the army. The results were the more unfortunate
because on vital matters, both of organization at the War Office and of
the reorganization of the army, Mr. Brodrick insisted on overriding the
great soldier to whom, as Commander-in-Chief, was due whatever
confidence the country gave to the military administration. Mr. Brodrick
was much preoccupied with the defence of the United Kingdom against
invasion. In the debate on the Army Estimates of 1901, Dilke said:

"I am one of those who hold that the command of the seas is the
defence of this country. I believe that the British Army exists
mainly for the reinforcement of the Indian garrison, and, if
necessary, as the rudiment of that army which, in the event of a
great war, would be necessary."

Dilke continued to support the Admiralty in its endeavours to strengthen
the navy. In the debate on the Navy Estimates of 1901 (March 22nd) he

"The Secretary of State for the Colonies a few years ago made a
speech in favour of an alliance with a military Power. [Footnote:
See _infra_, p. 491.] He said that the alternative was to build up
so as to make ourselves safe against a combination of three Powers,
and that that would entail an addition of fifty per cent. to the
estimates. Since that time we have added more than fifty per cent.
to our estimates. Of course the expenditure is very great; but is
there a man in this House who believes that it is not necessary for
us to maintain that practical standard which would lead even three
Powers to hesitate before attacking? During the last year we have,
happily, had friendship between ourselves and Germany; I believe
that friendship may long continue, and I hope it will. But it is
impossible to shut our eyes to the fact that there have been
distinctly proposed to the German Houses, by Admiral Tirpitz,
estimates which are based on the possibility of a war with England.
Von der Goltz, who is the highest literary authority on this
subject, has said the same thing. We have seen also that remarkable
preparation of strategic cables on the part of Germany ... in order
to be entirely independent of British cables in the event of a
possible naval war. In face of facts of that kind, which can be
infinitely multiplied, it seems to me it would be monstrous on our
part to fail to maintain that standard, and that it is our bounden
duty to make up for the delays which have occurred, and to vote
programmes for the future which should be sufficient to keep up that

When the Navy Estimates for 1902 were introduced into the House of
Commons by Arnold-Forster as Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty,
Mr. Lough moved an amendment: "That the growing expenditure on the naval
defences of the Empire imposes under the existing conditions an undue
burden on the taxpayers of the United Kingdom." Dilke, in opposing the
amendment, deprecated the introduction of party considerations into a
discussion concerning the navy. The time taken to build ships ought to
be borne in mind. The usual period had lately been four years; many of
the ships of the 1897 programme had not yet been commissioned; therefore
it was necessary to remember that the country would go into a naval war
with ships according to the programme of four or five years before war
was declared. Mr. Goschen was a careful First Lord of the Admiralty, yet
Mr. Goschen in his programme year after year alluded to the necessity of
maintaining a fleet which would cause not two but three Powers to pause
before they attacked us. To his (Dilke's) mind, it was infinitely more
important to the country that its expenditure should be shaped, not
towards meeting a sudden attack by two Powers, which was not going to
occur, but towards meeting--not immediately, but in time to come--the
possibility of an eventual joining together of three Powers, one of
which was very rapidly building a magnificent fleet. From that point of
view the programme of the Government this year was a beggarly programme.

In introducing the Navy Estimates for 1903 Arnold-Forster said that they
were of a magnitude unparalleled in peace or war. Dilke, in supporting
them, said (March 17th):

"The standard which Lord Spencer gave to this House was not a fleet
equivalent to three fleets--not a fleet, certainly, on all points
equivalent to the fleets of France, Germany, and Russia--but a
standard which gave us such a position in the world of fleets as
would cause three Powers to pause before they entered into a
coalition against us. That was a position he had always contended
was necessary for the safety of this country.... The only weak point
that one could discern as really dangerous in the future was the
training of the officers for high command and the selection of
officers, which would give this country, in the event of war, that
real unity of operations which ought to be our advantage against any
allied Powers."


On June 20th, 1902, Lord Charles Beresford had raised the question of
the organization of the Admiralty, which he held to be defective for the
purpose of preparation for war. "The administrative faculty," he said,
"should be absolutely separate from the executive faculty, but at
present they were mixed up." Campbell-Bannerman held that no change was
necessary. Dilke supported Lord Charles Beresford, and after reviewing
the cordite debates of 1895, to which both the previous speakers had
referred, gave his reasons for holding that the duty of the Cabinet was
to control both services in order to secure that each should take its
proper share in defence. "If there was a very strong man, or even one
who thought himself very strong, at the head of either department, the
present system tended to break down, because, unless there was some
joint authority in the Cabinet strong enough to control even a strong
First Lord of the Admiralty, no joint consideration of the views of the
two departments could be obtained. At the present moment the two
services competed." Lord Charles Beresford and Dilke were supported by
Sir John Colomb, and in his reply Arnold-Forster said: "I cannot but
reaffirm the belief I held before I stood at this table, and since I
have stood here, that there is a need for some reinforcement of the
intellectual equipment which directs or ought to direct the enormous
forces of our Empire." The question was raised again on August 6th by
Major Seely, in a speech in which he commented on the lack of a body
charged with the duty of studying strategical questions. Mr. Balfour
thereupon said:

"We cannot leave this matter to one department or two departments
acting separately. It is a joint matter; it must be a joint matter.
I hope my honourable friend will take it from me that the Government
are fully alive, and have, if I may say so, long been fully alive,
to the difficulty of the problem which presents itself to his mind
and which he has explained to the House; and that that problem is
one always present to our minds. It is one which we certainly do not
mean to neglect to meet and grapple with to the best of our

In 1903, in an article contributed to the Northern Newspaper Syndicate,
Dilke wrote:

"We are face to face with the fact that Mr. Brodrick's scheme is
admitted from all sides, except by those actually responsible for it
who are still holding office, to be a failure; that under this
scheme the charge on the British Empire for defence in time of peace
stands at eighty-six millions sterling, of which fifty-two millions
at least are for land defence, nevertheless ill secured; that
without a complete change of system these gigantic figures must
rapidly increase; and that, while all agree that in our case the
navy ought to be predominant, no one seems to be able to control the
War Office, or to limit the expenditure upon land defence as
contrasted with naval preparations. The service members of the House
of Commons, who used to be charged with wasting their own and the
nation's time upon military details, or upon proposals for increase
of expenditure, have shown their patriotism and their intelligence
by going to the root of this great question. They brought about the
declaration of the Secretary of the Admiralty, Mr. Arnold-Forster,
on June 20th, 1902, and the complete acceptance of that declaration
by the Prime Minister on August 6th. They have now forced on
Parliament and on the Prime Minister the necessity of taking real
action upon his declaration that 'the problem of Imperial defence
cannot be left to one department or two departments acting
separately.' The utilization of the resources of the British Empire
for war must be the business of the Prime Minister, who is above the
War Office and the Admiralty, and who alone can lead the Cabinet to
co-ordinate the efforts of the two services."

In October, 1903, Arnold-Forster was appointed to succeed Mr. Brodrick
as Secretary of State for War. He had previously expressed, in
conversation, his wish to see the whole subject of Imperial defence
entrusted to a Committee of three men conversant with it, and had named
Sir Charles Dilke and Sir John Colomb as two of the three whom he would
choose if he had the power. In November a Committee of three was
appointed by Mr. Balfour to report on the organization of the War
Office. Its members were Lord Esher, Admiral Sir John (now Lord) Fisher,
and Sir George Sydenham Clarke (now Lord Sydenham). The first instalment
of this Committee's report, published on February 1st, 1904, proposed
the reconstitution of the War Office on the model of the Board of
Admiralty, and as a preliminary the dismissal of the Commander-in-Chief
and the heads of the great departments at the War Office.

At the same time the Cabinet Committee of Defence was reconstituted
under the presidency of the Prime Minister (Mr. Balfour). Thus at
length, eleven years after Sir Charles Dilke's first conversations with
Mr. Balfour on the subject, was adopted the suggestion he had urged for
so many years, and so fully explained in his speech of March 16th, 1894,
that a Prime Minister should undertake to consider the needs both of the
army and navy, and the probable functions of both in war.


The result was very soon manifest in a complete change of policy, which
was no doubt facilitated by the presence in the Cabinet, as Secretary of
State for War, of Mr. Arnold-Forster, one of the signatories of the
joint letter of 1894.

On March 28th, 1905, Arnold-Forster said:

"We have been adding million after million to our naval expenditure.
Are all these millions wasted? If it be true, as we are told by
representatives of the Admiralty, that the navy is in a position
such as it has never occupied before--that it is now not only our
first line of defence, but our guarantee for the possession of our
own islands--is that to make no difference to a system which has
grown up avowedly and confessedly on the basis of defending these
islands by an armed land force against an invasion? Is that to make
no difference? Is this view some invention of my own imagination?
No, sir, that is the deliberate conclusion of the Government,
advised by a body which has been called into, I believe, a useful
existence during the last eighteen months, and which I regret was
not called into existence much longer ago--the Committee of
Defence.... I have seen it stated that, provided our navy is
sufficient, the greatest anticipation we can form in the way of a
landing of a hostile army would be a force of 5,000. I should be
deceiving the House if I thought that represented the extreme naval
view. The extreme naval view is that the crew of a dinghy could not
land in this country in the face of the navy."

This speech showed the conversion of the Government, for which Sir
Charles Dilke had laboured so long, to the doctrine of the primacy of
the navy and of defence by the command of the sea.

On May 11th, Mr. Balfour in the name of the Committee of Defence put
forth the general view which that body had reached. In the first place,
provided the navy was efficient, a successful invasion of the country
upon a large scale need not be contemplated. Secondly, the Committee had
gone on the broad line that our force should as far as possible be
concentrated at the centre of the Empire. This had rendered unnecessary
expenditure which had been undertaken under a different view of our
needs, the most notable case being the works at St. Lucia, which had
been made by Lord Carnarvon into a great naval base. Lastly, with regard
to India, the Government adopted Lord Kitchener's view that in addition
to drafts there should be available in the relatively early stages of
the war eight divisions of infantry and other corresponding arms.

Dilke, who had described himself as a constant supporter of the
blue-water view, agreed with the Government with regard to invasion, and
welcomed Mr. Balfour's moderate view with regard to the needs of India.
But he pointed out that vast sums of money had been spent in the
fortification of places which were now discovered to be unnecessary.

"He asked the Committee to remember how far the responsibility of
all this expenditure had been on the present occupants of office. He
believed that the Defence Committee of the Cabinet was created by
Lord Rosebery at the end of his Administration in 1895. That was the
first form of the Committee. Immediately the new Government came in
it assumed its second form, and the Defence Committee of the
Conservative Government, formed in 1895 under the presidency of the
Duke of Devonshire, lasted for many years, and was composed of
substantially the same gentlemen as were in power now. It was
constantly vouched to the House as the great co-ordinating
authority, and as the body responsible for expenditure on an
enormous scale on principles diametrically opposed to those now
held. The third form of the Committee was that which was adopted
when the Prime Minister acceded to his present office. The right
hon. gentleman came to this House and at once explained the new form
of the Committee on March 5th, 1903.... The Committee had heard
to-day the extent to which invasion at home was believed in by the
Defence Committee.... It was firmly expected from the moment that
the Government announced their naval view that the reduction would
be under the military head. But instead of that the reduction had
been on the Navy Estimates, and that had not been accompanied by a
reduction on the army votes. That had been the amazing effect of the
co-ordination. Had any member of the Committee calculated how much
money had been wasted in the last nine and a half years by the
non-adoption in 1895, when virtually the present Government came
into office, of the policy which had been adopted now?"


The Government which had thus tardily followed Sir Charles Dilke's lead
had lost the confidence of the country. The General Election of 1905
gave the Liberals a large majority. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, the
new Prime Minister, had not forgotten Dilke's vote in the cordite
division of 1895, and did not share his view of the necessity to be
ready for war, and to rely, not upon arbitration, but upon the
organization of defensive preparations. Dilke was not included in the
new Ministry, in which Mr. (now Lord) Haldane was appointed Secretary of
State for War. Mr. Haldane undertook a fresh reorganization of the
military forces of the country, taking the Committee of Defence and the
Army Council as they were left by Mr. Balfour after the changes proposed
by the Esher Committee. The Order in Council gave the Secretary of State
the power to reserve for his own decision any matter whatever, and to
impose that decision upon the Army Council, a power not contemplated by
the Esher Committee's report. Mr. Haldane availed himself of this power
and of the assistance of Colonel Ellison, who had been Secretary to the
Esher Committee, but was not a member of the Army Council, to prepare
his scheme. It consisted in the organization of an expeditionary force,
which was to be composed of six divisions and a cavalry division, with a
total field strength of 160,000 men, fully equipped for war, together
with additional troops at home to make good the losses of a campaign.
This force was to be made up of the regular army (of which the
establishments were reduced by some 20,000 of all arms), of its reserve,
and of the militia, renamed special reserve, also with a reduced
establishment, and with a liability to serve abroad in case of war. The
Volunteer force was to be renamed the Territorial force, and its
officers and men to be brought under the Army Act, the men to be
enlisted for a term of years and paid. It was to be organized, as the
Norfolk Commission had suggested, into brigades and divisions. But the
further suggestion of the same Commission, that a member of the Army
Council familiar with the volunteer system should be charged with its
supervision, was not adopted. Mr. Haldane's view was that the
territorial troops could not in peace receive a training which would
prepare them for war, but that, as England was not a Continental Power
and was protected by her navy, there would be six months' time, after a
war had begun, to give them a training for war. The force was to be
administered by County Associations to be constituted for the purpose.
The scheme was gradually elaborated, and in its later stage improved by
the transformation of the University and some other volunteer and cadet
corps into officers' training corps. The works which, at the suggestion
of Sir John Ardagh, had been prepared for the defence of London were

Mr. Haldane first expounded his plans in March, 1906, and in the debate
of March 15th Dilke said:

"There was a little too much depreciation of the Volunteers; and
although he had always been considered a strong supporter of the
'blue-water' view, yet he had always believed in accepting from the
Volunteers all the service they could give, as he believed they
would give an enormous potential supply of men."

Mr. Haldane explained (February 25th, 1907) that the expeditionary force
would require only seventy-two batteries, while the army actually had a
hundred and five; there was therefore a surplus of thirty-three
batteries which he would use as training batteries in which to train men
for divisional ammunition columns. Upon this Dilke's comment was that
"if the officer difficulty could be solved, then the real military
problem would be solved." We could raise men fast enough through the
volunteer system, and turn them into good infantry, provided there was a
sufficient supply of officers qualified to train them; but the infantry
which could thus be produced in a few months would require to be
supplemented by artillery and cavalry which could not be improvised. He
would have faced the cost of keeping up these arms, and would not have
saved by turning batteries into ammunition columns.

In the debate on Mr. Haldane's Territorial and Reserve Forces Bill (June
3rd), Dilke voted for an amendment of which the purpose was to establish
a department at the War Office under an officer having special knowledge
and experience with the militia, yeomanry, and volunteers, ranking as
third member of the Army Council. This amendment, however, was not

In an article in the _Manchester Guardian_ of June 6th, 1907, Dilke
explained his main objections to Mr. Haldane's scheme and to the Bill
which was to lay its foundation.

"The cost," he wrote, "must undoubtedly be large, and it is difficult to
see where the substantial saving on Army Estimates, twice promised by
Mr. Ritchie when Chancellor of the Exchequer, but not yet secured, is to
be obtained. As an advocate of a strong fleet, I have a special reason,
equivalent to that of the most rigid economist, for insisting upon the
reduction in our enormous military charge, inasmuch as the money
unexpectedly needed for the army will come off the fleet."

Dilke thought that the defence of Great Britain depended upon the navy;
that so long as the navy was equal to its task invasion was not to be
feared. The function of the military forces would be to fight an enemy
abroad. He, therefore, held it a mistake to increase expenditure on
troops which it was not proposed to train to meet foreign regulars. The
Territorial army would be the volunteers under a new name, but without
an improved training. As the linked-battalion system and the long term
of service were retained, the regular army would still be costly, and
its reserves or power of quick expansion less than they might be. Mr.
Haldane would be compelled to retain a high rate of War Office
expenditure, and this would involve a reduction on the outlay for the
navy, which was all-important. Mr. Haldane, however, had the support of
a very large majority, and argument was of little avail. Sir Charles
Dilke therefore threw his weight into the debates on the Navy estimates,
in which he consistently supported the Admiralty in every increase.

Year after year he persevered in the effort to counteract the tendency
to exaggerate the importance of military schemes and military
expenditure, especially upon troops not fully trained and not kept ready
for action abroad, and to point out that the effect of such schemes
could not but be to reduce the amount of attention and of money devoted
to the navy. In 1904 (March 1st) he had said:

"It was an extraordinary fact that, in all calculations on the
subject of the expenditure of the army, the cost of the army outside
the United Kingdom was never taken into account. We were spending
vastly more upon the land services than we were upon our naval
services, and so long as that was so he confessed that he should
view with more than indulgence what was called the extravagant
policy in regard to the navy."

In 1907 (March 5th) he expressed his disapproval of the sweeping change
by which the defence of ports by submarine mines had been abolished.
"Newcastle had been defended by means of an admirable system of
submarine mines which had no equal in the world. So good was it that the
volunteer submarine miners of the Tyne division were employed to do the
laying of electric mines at Portsmouth and other naval ports. Newcastle
was now without that defence." He explained that these mines, which had
cost a million, had been sold. Had they fetched L50,000? He was not
content with Mr. Haldane's account of the steps taken to prepare for
defence against possible raid. On this subject, writing for the _United
Service Magazine_ of May, 1908, a paper entitled "Strong at all Points,"
which enforced his view of the supreme importance of the navy, he said:

"The provision for time of war, after complete mobilization of the
Territorial army, may be perfect upon paper; but the real question
is, how to obtain the manning of the quick-firing guns, say on the
Tyne, in time of political complication, by trained men, who sleep
by the guns and are able to use them when awakened suddenly in the
dead of night."

In the discussion of the estimates of July 31st, 1907, he said that,
"bearing in mind the enormous importance in naval matters of a steady
policy, he should resist any reduction that might be moved." On the same
occasion he pointed out that, "if there was any danger from Germany, it
was not the danger of invasion or from the fleet, but it was her growing
superiority in the scientific equipment of her people." Yet he declined
to encourage panic, and in the debate of March 22nd, 1909, when the
Opposition moved a vote of censure because of a supposed unforeseen
start gained by Germany in shipbuilding, pointed out the reasons for not
indulging in a scare.

Dilke closely watched the new developments in armament and construction,
and from time to time pressed them upon the attention of the Government.
As early as 1901, in an article reviewing the progress of war in the
nineteenth century, he had said: "The greatest change in the
battlefields of the future, as compared with those of a few years ago,
will be found in the developments and increased strength of the
artillery." In 1907, in the debate on the Navy estimates, he suggested
that "the reserve of guns was a matter which needed the utmost
diligence." Docks, he thought, were proportionately more important than
battleships. In 1907 (April 25th) he said: "A base was needed east of
Dover--Rosyth or Chatham: he need not suggest or criticize the spot that
should be chosen. Whether the Hague Conference prohibited floating mines
or not, they would be used; and that being so, they must contemplate
either the extension of Chatham or the creation of an establishment at a
different point of the east coast." To this subject he repeatedly
returned. In 1908 (March 3rd): "The necessity for a large establishment
in a safer place than the Channel had been raised for many years, and
was fully recognized when Rosyth was brought before them. Both parties
had shirked the expenditure which both declared necessary." On March
10th: "There were important works, docks and basins in which big ships
could be accommodated, and these by universal admission should be made
as rapidly as possible. Big ships were worse than useless if there was
no dock or basin accommodation for them.... The limited instalment of
one dock and one basin contemplated was only to be completed in eleven
years. He believed that was bad economy.... The need for this
expenditure had long been foreseen." Again, in 1909, on July 1st, he
pointed out that the Governments of both parties had shirked the
expenditure on Rosyth, of which the need had been known as early as
1902. The delay had been enormously grave. The report which contained
the whole scheme had been presented to Parliament in January, 1902; the
land had been bought in 1903, and the contract was made only in March,

Sir Charles's command of detail made his hearers apt to suppose that he
was mainly concerned with technical matters. But no impression could be
farther from the truth. Never for a moment did he lose sight of the
large issues, and of the purpose to which all measures of naval and
military preparation are directed. It was to the large issues that his
last important Parliamentary speech on the subject of defence was

"We talk a little," he said on March 7th, 1910, "about the possibility
of invasion when we talk of our Territorial army, but we do not--the
overwhelming majority of us--believe the country is open to invasion, or
that the fleet has fallen off in its power of doing its duty as compared
with days past.... No one of us who is prepared to pay his part, and to
call upon others to pay their part, to keep the fleet up to the highest
standard of efficiency and safety which we at present enjoy--no one of
us ought to be prepared to run the Territorial army on this occasion as
though it were the main and most costly portion of the estimates that
are put before the House. The Territorial army is defensible as the
Volunteers were defensible. It is an improvement on the volunteer
system, and it might have been made without the statute on which it is
based, but that it will add an enormous expenditure to our army is not
the case. Our Territorial army, in fact, cannot be kept in view as the
first object which we have to consider in the course of these
debates.... It is supposed to be the one certain result of the last
General Election that there is a large majority in favour of maintaining
our naval position; but we cannot maintain that naval position without
straining every nerve to do it, and we shall not be able to put all our
energy into maintaining that position if we talk about invasion, and
tell the people of this country that the fleet cannot do its duty.... If
you put the doctrine of invasion so high, and if you tell them that in
any degree their safety depends upon the Territorial army trained and
serving here at home, then you run a great risk of compromising your
naval defence and taking money out of one pocket and putting it into
another, and of being weak at both points, and creating a Territorial
army which could not face a great Continental force landed on our
shores, and at the same time detracting from the power of your fleet....
The Territorial army, like the Volunteers, is really defended by most of
us, in our hearts if not in our speech, as a reserve of the regular,
expeditionary, offensive army for fighting across the seas.... My right
hon. friend Mr. Haldane has always maintained the view that your army
and army expenditure must depend upon policy. It is no good fighting
him; he has both Houses of Parliament and both parties in his pocket. He
is a man of legions political as well as military. The school
represented by myself and the dominant school represented by him have
differed, not upon the question of policy dictating your armaments, but
upon the question of how your policy and your armaments together would
work out."

Sir Charles Dilke's last utterance on defence was a review of Sir
Cyprian Bridge's _Sea-Power, and Other Studies_, in July, 1910. It was a
plea for reliance upon the navy to prevent invasion and upon a mobile
military force for a counter-stroke. "I confess," Dilke ended, "that, as
one interested in complete efficiency rather than especially in economy
to the national purse, I join Sir Cyprian Bridge in asking to be shown,
at least, the mobile, efficient, regular force ready for immediate
service across the seas."

In the effort of a quarter of a century to have his country prepared for
the struggle which was to come Dilke was associated with others, many of
them conspicuous for knowledge and zeal; the services of Arnold-Forster,
of John and Philip Colomb, and of Chesney, have been too little
appreciated by their countrymen. Of their common endeavour Dilke was the
chief exponent. At every stage of the movement his was its most
characteristic and most comprehensive expression, marking the central
line of thought. Some of the dominant ideas were his own. From him came
the conception of defence as not merely national but imperial. He first
pointed out the true function of the Prime Minister in relation to it.
The actual development proceeded along the lines which he drew--a strong
navy; a general staff at the War Office; a regular army of first-rate
quality, that could be sent abroad at short notice, most likely for the
defence of Belgium against attacks from Germany; expansion to be sought,
in the first instance, from the numbers furnished by the volunteer
system. There were points which he failed to carry--the provision of
arms and ammunition for the multitude of soldiers who would be
forthcoming from the Empire, as well as of that modern artillery which
must play so great a part in a future campaign; the search for generals
capable of command in war; the enforcement of the responsibility of
Ministers for preparations neglected. What was accomplished and what was
left undone give the measure of Sir Charles Dilke as the statesman of
Imperial Defence.


'"_December 21st_, 1893.

'"Dear Mr. Balfour,

'"I have been thinking over the matter which you mentioned in the
tea-room yesterday. I am absolutely convinced of your own detachment
from party in connection with it, and I write as one not likely at
any time to act generally in connection with your party, unless in
the (I hope most improbable) event of doubtful or unfortunate war.

'"The suggestion that I am inclined to make is that a letter should
be written, to be signed by Sir George Chesney as a Conservative, by
myself as a Gladstonian Liberal, by Arnold-Forster as a Liberal
Unionist, and Spenser Wilkinson as a civilian expert, to Mr.
Gladstone as Prime Minister, you and Chamberlain as leaders of your
parties in the House of Commons, and Lord Salisbury and the Duke of
Devonshire as leaders of the same parties in the House of Lords;
that a copy should be sent by me confidentially to the Prince of
Wales, it not being right, of course, that we should in any way
address the Queen; that this letter should not be made public either
at the time or later; that this letter should press for the joint
consideration of the naval and military problem, and should point to
the creation of a Defence Ministry, of which the War Office and the
Admiralty would be the branches, or to a more active control of the
Secretary of State for War and the First Lord of the Admiralty by
the Prime Minister personally. We should be put in our places by Mr.
Gladstone, but I fancy, probably, not by the other four.

'"I had sooner discuss this matter first with you, if you think
there is anything in it, than with Chamberlain, because he is, oddly
enough, a much stronger party man than you are, and would be less
inclined (on account of national objects which to him are
predominant) to keep party out of his mind in connection with it. I
have not, therefore, as yet mentioned the matter to him. If you
think ill of the whole suggestion, and are not even disposed to
suggest modification of it, it can be stopped at the present point.

'"The addition of Spenser Wilkinson to a member of each party is
because I owe to him the clearing of my own mind, and believe that
he is probably the best man on such questions who ever lived, except
Clausewitz. When I first wrote upon them in _The Present Position of
European Politics_ in 1886-87, and in _The British Army_ in 1887-88,
I was in a fog--seeing the existing evils, but not clearly seeing
the way out. In the Defence chapter of _Problems of Greater Britain_
I began to see my way. Admiral Colomb, and Thursfield of _The
Times_, who are really expositors of the application to our naval
position of the general principles of military strategy of
Clausewitz, helped me by their writings to find a road. I then set
to work with Spenser Wilkinson, whose leaders in the _Manchester
Guardian_ (which he has now quitted, except as an amateur) struck me
as being perfect, to think out the whole question; and we succeeded,
by means of a little book we wrote together--_Imperial Defence_,
published in February, 1892--in afterwards procuring the agreement
of Lord Roberts in views widely different in many points from those
which Lord Roberts had previously held. We are now in the position
of being able to declare that in naval particulars there is no
difference of opinion among the experts, and that in military there
is so little upon points of importance that the experts are
virtually agreed. This is a great point, never reached before last
year, and it is owing to Spenser Wilkinson, and in a less degree to
Arnold-Forster, that it has been reached.

'"The question of the length at which the proposed letter should
develop the existing dangers and the remedies is, of course,

'"The dangers are much greater than even the alarmist section of the
public supposes. For example, the public have not in the least
grasped the fact that we were on the brink of war with France at the
moment of the Siam blockade, nor have they realized the great risk
of the fall of the monarchy in Italy and of a complete change in
Italian policy, leading more or less rapidly to an alliance with
France and Russia. The adoption of Lefevre's policy by the Liberal
party, which is possible at any time, and the announcement that we
do not hope to hold the Mediterranean, might attach to the Franco-
Russian combination even the present advisers of King Humbert.

'"With regard to Siam, neither the English nor the French Government
dare publish the despatches which passed about the blockade, and
they have not been able to come to an agreement as to what portion
of the papers should be published, although both Governments have
long since promised publication. The words used in the House of
Commons by Sir Edward Grey were altered by the French Government
into meaningless words, and the words actually used excluded by
Governmental action from every newspaper in France."'

[Footnote: On December 25th, 1913, M. d'Estournelles de Constant
wrote to the _Frankfurter Zeitung_ an article warning Europe against
the chance of war breaking out, not because it is desired, but "by
chance, by mistake, by stupidity," and he cited an instance from his
experiences in 1893:

"The stage was Siam, where British India and French Indo-China were
seeking to push, one against the other, their rival spheres of
influence. Lord Dufferin, British Ambassador in Paris and ex-Viceroy
of India, was upholding the British claim, but it was in London that
the negotiations were carried on. The irreparable conflict broke out
on the day when the French Admiral, the bearer of an ultimatum,
anchored his ships in the very river of Bangkok. I was negotiating,
but during this time the British Government telegraphed to the
Admiral commanding the Pacific station to proceed also to Bangkok
with his whole fleet, which was far superior in numbers to ours.

"I knew nothing about it; no one knew anything about it. I was
negotiating, and it was war almost to a certainty without anybody
suspecting it. I only knew this later. Happily, wireless telegraphy
did not then exist, and the orders of the Admiralty did not reach in
time the British squadron, which was then sailing somewhere in the
Pacific. Thanks to this chance delay, the negotiations had time to
come to a successful conclusion, and the agreement was concluded."]

On the same day Dilke received the following reply:

"I shall be most pleased to have a further conversation with you on
the all-important subject on which we had a brief talk yesterday,
and which is dealt with in your letter of to-day.

"I should like, however, to discuss the matter first with Lord
Salisbury (whom I shall see to-morrow), and, if you will allow me,
to show him your letter.

"I may, however, say at once that I have _always_ been in favour of
a Defence Committee of Cabinet, with expert advisers and permanent
records carrying on the work from Government to Government; and
that, oddly enough, I pressed the idea on Asquith last week. I think
he and Rosebery would be in favour of the plan; not so the older
members of the Cabinet."

'On Friday, January 5th, 1894, I had a long interview with Balfour
upon my letter, and wrote on it to Wilkinson as follows:


'"76, Sloane Street, S.W.,
'"_January_ 5_th_, 1894.

'"Dear Wilkinson,

'"I saw Balfour (in a full discussion) this afternoon. We
provisionally agreed, with Lord Salisbury's consent, that Sir George
Chesney, Arnold-Forster (if he agrees), you, and I, should sign a
letter which we should address (with the view to publishing it with
the replies) to Mr. Gladstone as Prime Minister and leader of my
party, to Lord Salisbury and to Balfour as leaders of Sir George
Chesney's party, and to the Duke of Devonshire and Chamberlain as
leaders of Arnold-Forster's party, and of which I should privately
send a copy to the Prince of Wales in the hope of its reaching the
Queen. In this letter we should press for the joint consideration of
the naval and military problem, and point either to the creation of
a Defence Ministry, of which the War Office and Admiralty would be
the branches--to which the objection is that Parliamentary consent
would be necessary--or to a more active control over the Secretary
of State for War and the First Lord of the Admiralty, and their
Estimates, by the Prime Minister personally, or to that which is
Balfour's own scheme and which has the support, among our people, of
Rosebery and Asquith: the creation of a Defence Committee of the
Cabinet, ordinarily to consist of the Prime Minister, of the leader
of the other House, of the Secretary of State for War, the First
Lord, and (doubtless) the Chancellor of the Exchequer (?), with
expert advisers and permanent records which would carry on their
work from Government to Government. Mr. Gladstone would snub us. The
other four would not, and our proposal (that is, our third proposal,
which is Balfour's) would probably be adopted when the Conservatives
came in, and continued by the Liberals.

'"Balfour would be very willing to express his favourable opinion of
our view in debate in the House of Commons, should we raise one next
Session, and Lord Salisbury is less inclined to make a strong and
distinctly favourable reply to our letter than is Balfour.

'"Balfour would go more willingly, if possible, than he does into
the schemes if he could see his way beforehand to the saving of
money on the army for the purpose of devoting it to the navy. He
says that he himself cannot put his finger on the waste which he
knows must exist, that Buller has to some extent his confidence and
tells him that there is none, although Balfour is not convinced by
this. We discussed our Indian army scheme, to which he sees no
objection, and (very fully) the Duke of Cambridge and the extent to
which he will be supported by the Queen.

'"Balfour sees immense difficulty in the absence of a sufficiently
commanding expert, and in the consequent jealousy between the
Admiralty and War Office officials.

'"Will the letter which Sir George Chesney has do as a base, or
would it be better to write a shorter and a fresh letter? If the
latter, will you try your hand at it, if you approve? And after
noting this will you return it to me, that I may send it to Sir
George Chesney and then to Arnold-Forster?

'"Balfour had in reading _us_ [Footnote: "Us" refers to the joint
work on Imperial Defence. One of the recommendations was to
substitute marines for soldiers in the small garrisons, such as
Bermuda.] asked questions through George Hamilton, who agrees with
us, on the point of further employment of marines, and has been told
that they would be sadly costly.

'"Yours very truly,
'"Charles W. Dilke."'


In reply to the joint letter, Chamberlain wrote to Dilke:

"I have received the interesting paper on the subject of National
Defence which you have communicated to me on behalf of yourself and
the other signatories. One of the greatest difficulties which any
politician must feel in dealing with this question has been the
apparent difference of opinion among those best qualified to speak
authoritatively on the subject, and it is an important advance to
find practical proposals agreed to by some of those who have given
special study to the problems involved. Without venturing at the
present state of the inquiry to commit myself to any specific
proposal, I may say that I am favourably inclined to the main lines
laid down in your paper--namely, the closer union between the two
great departments of national defence, and the recognition of the
responsibility of the professional advisers of the Cabinet on all
questions of military and naval provision and administration."

Mr. Balfour wrote:

"I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of February 12th,
dealing with certain very important points connected with the
problem of National Defence. Though it would be inopportune for me
to pass any detailed judgment upon the scheme which you have laid
before me in outline, and though it is evident that difficulties of
a serious kind must attend any effort to carry out so important a
change in our traditional methods of dealing with the Admiralty and
the War Office, I may yet be permitted to express my own conviction
that the evils that you indicate are real evils, and that the
imperfections in our existing system, on which you insist, might
under certain not impossible contingencies seriously imperil our
most important national interests.

"That four gentlemen of different training, belonging to different
parties in the State, approaching this subject from different points
of view, and having little, perhaps, in common except a very
intimate knowledge of the questions connected with National Defence,
should be in entire agreement as to the general lines along which
future reformation should proceed, is a fact of which the public
will doubtless take note, and which is not likely to be ignored by
those responsible for the preservation of the Empire."

'Our letter was in all the papers about February 28th (1894), with
replies from Balfour and Chamberlain. Mr. Gladstone's reply, written
just before he resigned, was in his own hand, and more than usually
legible. Though it was not marked "Private," I did not print it, as
it seemed too personal and playful. It meant that he had resigned,
but I did not know this till an hour after I had received it:

'"You will forgive my pleading eyesight, which demanded the help of
others and thereby retarded operations, as an excuse for my having
failed to acknowledge the paper on Naval Defence which you were so
good as to send me. You will, I fear, find me a less interesting
correspondent than some who have replied at length, for I fear I
ought to confine myself to assuring you that I have taken care it
should come to the notice of my colleagues."

'On March 9th I sat near to Asquith at a dinner, and he told me that
his Defence Committee of the Cabinet, favoured by Balfour and
Rosebery, would soon be "a fact." The decision was made known in a
debate which I raised on the 16th.'

A note adds: 'When the Tories came in in June, 1895, they adopted the
scheme of a Minister (the Duke of Devonshire) over both army and navy,
which had been put forward in the Dilke--Chesney--Arnold-Forster--
Wilkinson correspondence with Balfour and Chamberlain, and originally
invented by me. On the night of the Government (Liberal) defeat
Campbell-Bannerman had promised a Commander-in-Chief who should be the
Chief Military Adviser, a double triumph for my view.'



In 1903, Chamberlain, by raising the question of Tariff Reform and
putting himself at the head of a movement for revising the Free Trade
policy which had been accepted by both the great political parties since
1846, practically broke up the Conservative Government. It survived,
indeed, under the leadership of Mr. Balfour; but it was only a feeble
shadow of the powerful Administration which Lord Salisbury had formed in

On the motion for adjournment before the Whitsuntide recess (May 28th,
1903), Sir Charles raised the whole question of commercial policy,
directing himself chiefly to the speeches that had been made by Mr.
Balfour and by Mr. Bonar Law. But it was Mr. Chamberlain's policy that
was in question. Years later, after the whole subject has been
incessantly discussed, it is difficult to realize the effect produced by
the sudden and unexpected onset of that redoubtable champion. Free Trade
had been so long taken for granted that the case for it had become
unfamiliar; what remained was an academic conviction, and against that
Chamberlain arrayed an extraordinary personal prestige backed by a
boldness of assertion to which his position as a business man lent
authority. To meet an onset so sudden and so ably conducted was no easy
task, and for Dilke there was the unhappy personal element of a first
angry confrontation with his old ally. Mr. Chamberlain described Sir
Charles's motion as gratuitous and harassing, "an affair of spies," for
a day had been fixed for the regular encounter. Yet what was needed then
was to show on the Liberal side that confidence which anticipates the
combat. The temper of the time is well indicated by a letter from an old
friend, the Bishop of Hereford:

"I hope you will stick to the business, and protect ordinary people
from the new sophistry both by speech and writing. So few people
have any intellectual grip that everything may depend on the
leadership of a few men like yourself, who can speak with knowledge
and authority, and will take the trouble to put concrete facts
before the public."

Meanwhile Tariff Reform had begun to act as a disintegrant on the
Unionist party, and by the end of October, 1903, Lord James was writing
to Sir Charles Dilke as to the position of Unionist Free Traders: "Can
nothing be done for these unfortunate men?" There is no evidence that
their state moved Sir Charles to compassion, but it is clear that he
feared lest a regrouping of parties should destroy the commanding
position which Radicals had gained, and as soon as Parliament
reassembled he took action.

'_Thursday, February 11th_, 1904.--I sought an interview with John
Redmond, to whom I said that there seemed a rapidly increasing risk
of the speedy formation of a Whig Administration dominated by
Devonshire influence, and that it might be wise that he, with or
without Blake, should meet myself and Lloyd George for the Radicals,
J. R. Macdonald for the Labour Representation Committee, and with
him either Snowden or Keir Hardie. Redmond assented, and I then saw
Lloyd George. Lloyd George was at first inclined to assent, but on
second thoughts asked for time, which I think meant to see Dr.

'_Friday, February 12th_, 1904.--Lloyd George had not made up his
mind either way, but thought that it would be wise to meet except
for the fact that trouble might happen afterwards as to what had
passed. I pointed out that this could be easily guarded against by
his writing me a letter making any conditions or reservations which
he thought necessary, which I should show to Redmond, and write to
him that I had so shown. On this he promised to let me know on
Monday what he thought, and probably would prepare a draft letter.

'_February 18th, 1904.--Further talk with George. A little afraid of
being attacked by Perks for selling the pass on education. I said
that I must go on alone to a certain extent, and he then consented
to come in, and on my suggesting reservations--as, for example, on
education--he said: "No, I can trust the Irish as regards the
personal matter, and, as I come in, I will come in freely without
any reservations."'

Through the general unsettlement which Chamberlain's new policy had
created, a dissolution and a change of Government were now possibilities
of a not distant future, and speculations were rife as to the future
position of Sir Charles. Lady Dilke, who regarded the admission of her
husband to office as a proof of his public exoneration from the charges
brought against his character, was ardently desirous that he should
accept without reserve any offer of a place in the Cabinet, and it was
much against her wish that Sir Charles imposed conditions, in
conversation with a political friend who had been a member of the last
Liberal Cabinet. So far as anxiety again to hold office existed on his
part, it was more because of her wishes in the matter than from any
strong political ambition of his own. [Footnote: He wrote to Mr. Deakin
from Geneva, December 9th, 1904: "Only one word of what you say on 'too
tardy rewards in higher responsibilities'! I was in the inner ring of
the Cabinet before I was either a Cabinet Minister or a Privy
Councillor, 1880-1882, and I am not likely to have the offer of the
place the work of which would tempt me. The W.O. would kill me, but I
could not refuse it. I have been told on 'authority' that it will not
come to me."]

But the motive which in this, as in all else, swayed him so strongly was
now to be taken away.

Lady Dilke's wish for her husband's return to office was shared by many
Radical politicians, and in the course of the summer Captain Cecil
Norton, one of the Liberal Whips, in a speech expressed his opinion of
the value of Sir Charles Dilke's services, and his anticipation that the
fall of the Tory Government would bring back the Radical leader of 1885
to his full share of power. This utterance was enough to set the old
machinery in motion against him. A series of meetings had been organized
by the advanced Radical section of the House of Commons, and the first
was to have been held in Newington, Captain Norton's constituency, with
Sir Charles for the chief speaker. Threats of a hostile demonstration
reached the Newington committee, and it was decided--though Sir Charles
Dilke was opposed to any change--that the series should be opened with a
speech from him in his old constituency, the place where he was best
known and where he had most friends. It was fixed for October 20th,

Nothing of the reason for this change was told to Lady Dilke. Her health
had given some cause for anxiety, though at Dockett Eddy in August and
at Speech House in September she had been more bright, more gay, than
ever. She herself wrote to friends that she had "never been so happy in
her life," but felt need of rest, and was going to Pyrford for a long

She reached Pyrford with her husband on October 15th, and he wished her
to see a doctor, but she refused. "He would stop my going up with you on
Thursday, and I want to go. I think I ought to be there."

It was long since Dilke had stood before those whom he once represented,
and she was determined to be with him; she assisted at the triumphant
success of this meeting; but the strain of coming up to London and the
excitement justified her forecast of the doctor's opinion. That night
she was taken ill, yet till the morning would make no sign, for fear of
disturbing her husband. She admitted then that she was very ill; to
Pyrford, however, she was set on returning; in London she "could not
rest." By Sunday she seemed to be on the highroad to recovery, but on
that Sunday night the end came.

Those last days and hours have been fully described by Sir Charles in
the memoir prefixed to her posthumous book. All that he has written in
his own Memoir is this: 'October 23rd, 1904: Emilia died in my arms
after one of our happiest Sunday afternoons.'

So ended the marriage which, contracted under gloomy auspices in 1885,
had resulted in nineteen years of unbroken felicity. Her praise has been
written in love and reverence by her husband, who was her equal comrade.
The union between them was so complete as to exclude the thought of
gratitude, but whatever man can owe to a woman Sir Charles Dilke owed to
his wife; and though she died without achieving that end on which she
had set her heart, of utterly and explicitly cancelling by public assent
all the charges that had been brought against him, yet she had so lived
and so helped him to live that he was heedless of this matter, except
for her sake.

Over her grave many hands were stretched out to him. Chamberlain wrote
from Italy:

"My Dear Dilke,

"I have just seen with the deepest sympathy and sorrow the news of
the terrible loss you have sustained.

"Consolation would be idle in presence of such a blow, but I should
like you to feel that as an old friend, separated by the unhappy
political differences of these later years, I still share your
personal grief in losing a companion so devoted to you, and so well
qualified to aid and strengthen you in all the work and anxiety of
your active life.

"When the first great shock is past, I earnestly trust that you may
find in the continued performance of your public duties some
alleviation of your private sorrow, and I assure you most earnestly
of my sympathy in this time of trial.
"Believe me,
"Yours very truly,
"J. Chamberlain."

Mr. Morley wrote also:

"My Dear Dilke,

"I did not hear the news of the unhappy stroke that has befallen you
until it was a fortnight old. You need not to be told what a shock
it was. I think that I had known her longer than anybody--from the
time of a college ball at Oxford in 1859; a radiant creature she
then was. To me her friendship was unwavering, down to the last time
I saw her, when she gave me a long and _intime_ talk about the
things that, as you know, she had most at heart. I am deeply and
sincerely sorry and full of sympathy with you. Words count little in
such a disaster, but this I hope you will believe.
"Ever yours,
"John Morley."

When after his wife's death Sir Charles again took up his life in
London, those who saw him off his guard recognized keenly the effect of
this last sudden blow, heavier because unexpected. The very mainspring
of his life had been weakened. But he exerted himself to prepare Lady
Dilke's unpublished writings, and to write the memoir which prefaced
them. Of this he says:

'I put my whole soul into the work of bringing out her posthumous
book with a proper memoir, and it nearly killed me. I was never so
pleased with anything as with the success of the book. To hundreds
of the best people it seems to have meant and said all that I wished
it to say and mean.'

Probably, also, to many readers it gave for the first time a true image,
not of her only for whose sake it was written, but of him who wrote. One
letter of this moment deserves to be put on record. Mr. Arnold-Forster

"Dear Sir Charles,

"In a very few days the Session, with all its conflicts, its
misunderstandings, and its boredom, will be upon us. Before it comes
let me take advantage of one of the few remaining days of calm to
write a line to you.

"It is inevitable, and no doubt right, that you and I should find
ourselves on different sides; we shall probably differ on a good
many points, and on some we shall very likely express our
differences. But I trust that nothing in the rough and tumble of
public work will interrupt the pleasant relations which have so long
existed between yourself and me, and the existence of which I have

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