Diary of Lieutenant X (Aime Ernest Motsch)

Wednesday, May 18, 1898

Evening: The Navy and the Colonies

The succulent fruits, foliage more beautiful than a Corinthian basket, palm trees as tall as human beings, all speak of the unlimited wealth of these islands. The Canaries (one of the most wonderful places in the world), Cuba, the Antilles, and the Philippines are worth an empire. Just as Burke says, referring to Old England oppressive her overseas colonies: “She was not worthy to keep them.” So, Spain is being punished for what she has done to this wonderful land these past four centuries. Undoubtedly, the Spaniards, because of a weak navy, will lose the Philippines the same way they lost the Antilles. All it takes is an insignificant battle for them to lose their possessions.

This is a lesson for those in France who pretend to believe that there is no longer a need for the navy. The fact that each day increases the importance of the navy’s role in the war. The Spaniards have only a few thousand men in the Philippines. Without the support of a navy, armies cut off from the metropolis are as useless as bodies without limbs. In my opinion, a country which does not have a powerful navy should never have colonies that, in case of war, are incapable of defending themselves.

We should be rational about our militaristic ideology. If a nation must show its strength both on land and at sea, the navy should not be sacrificed to the army, or vice-versa. In five years, the Germans will have a fleet to contend with, Europe’s eagerness to colonize every point on the globe will spread war on all the seas. It is not, however, in the colonies themselves that Europe will win or lose considerable territory but rather in the terrible battles which will be fought within the confines of Europe, and also at sea, in the increasing battles between navies of different strengths.

The navy’s raison d’etre is directly proportional to the economic wealth of a country. A naval war is the war of rich countries which hope to profit from it. With its single fleet, England stood up to Napoleon’s invincible army. When Rome sought to conquer the world, she chose to attack by sea. The grandeur of England is completely out of proportion to its resources and, I think, to the genius of its people. Still, England’s political power for the past 200 years is a reflection of its naval strength.