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to build more, for the reason that we have not and can not procure the officers to man them. The testimony before the committee shows that we lack 3,000 officers and 6,000 enlisted men necessary to operate the ships we have. The enlisted men have to be trained and officers have to be educated before they are competent to take charge of war vessels. Battleships without officers and men are useless, and at the present rate of graduation it will take the Naval Academy 20 years to supply the ships we already have with officers. It is, therefore, nothing less than folly and the most inexcusable extravagance to continue the building of more ships when we know that we can not use them.
If the public defense were the object to be attained, if the efficiency and adequacy of the Navy were the purpose in view, if the profits to be made out of the construction of more ships were not the inspiration of the clamor for more ships, we would take a few of the $46,000,000 which the bill proposes to expend on new ships and invest them in the enlargement of the Naval Academy, so as to provide the officers necessary for the ships we have.
But if you will consider the reasons urged in favor of building more ships, the correctness of our position, that we need no more, becomes still more apparent. The clamor for more ships is so dogmatic and insistent that it is certain the advocates of a larger Navy would discover and present sound and convincing reasons, if any existed, and if the reasons urged are fallacious, it is the best assurance that no good ones exist.
First, it is said that the Navy is an insurance, and even the Secretary of the Navy suggests this in his report as an argument. The resemblance of the Navy to an insurance policy is difficult to discover. Insurance is a contract by which for a small sum, called the premium, the insurer agrees to pay a much larger sum on the happening of the contingency insured against. In the case of the Navy, however, the people, who are the insured, have paid within the last 20 years nearly $2,000,000,000 on the Navy and have had one war which cost about $300,000,000. The premiums paid by the people are more than six times as great as the cost of the war. It seems to us that the people pay more than the face of the policy as the premium and also the entire loss, and yet this loose, nonsensical talk about insurance finds lodgement in the minds of sensible men. If by insurance it is meant that a navy will prevent war, we deny the proposition. Japan and China both had navies and they became engaged in a war. Russia and Japan both had navies, and their fleets did not prevent war between them. The United States and Spain both had 'fleets, and they engaged in war. England had a great navy, and it did not keep her out of war with the Boers. In all of these cases one nation had the superior and the other the inferior fleet, and neither the superior fleet of one nor the inferior fleet of the other kept them out of war. On the other hand, three-fourths of the nations of the earth have practically no navies, and yet they seldom have wars with other nations.
Since the fleets of China, Russia, and Spain were destroyed neither one of these nations has been engaged in wars. The truth is that nations are led into war by a passion of revenge for some fancied or real wrong or for the purpose of conquest and commercial aggrandizement, and these passions drive them into war whether they have
navies or not. In fact, the lack of a navy tends to keep them out of war. The insurance argument, therefore, is one of those mythical pretexts which the mind fabricates as an excuse to justify what the heart desires.
Another reason often put forth is that we ought to continue to build more battleships to take the place of such as become obsolete, and it is said that a battleship becomes obsolete when it is 20 years old. If this were a good argument it would not apply now or justify this bill, because the oldest battleships in the Navy, the Indiana, Oregon, Massachusetts, and Iowa are only 17, 16, and 15 years old. If the argument of old age is the excuse for building more ships they should at least wait until our ships have passed from manhood to old age before the argument is made.
But the truth is that the argument that ships become obsolete at 20 years is a mere pretext to excuse extravagance. The Secretary of the Navy has told us repeatedly that it is the policy of the department to keep all the battleships up to the point of efficiency, according to its original design, and in accordance with this policy the Indiana, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Iowa have been repaired and renewed at great expense during the last few years. On the Oregon alone $627,000 has been spent. If these great ships are soon to die of old age, it was a criminal waste of the public funds to expend all this money upon them. But the money was not wasted. Their turrets and the mounts of the guns have been modernized. They are protected by armor 13 inches thick and each of them has four 13-inch guns. These guns are larger, will carry a larger charge of powder, and will shoot with more destructive force than nine-tenths of the guns in all the navies of the world. The contention that they are soon to become obsolete is one of the numerous inventions of extravagance in the expenditure of the public funds.
Another reason urged by the advocates of more ships is that in a few years our Navy will sink to the fifth place among the navies of the world. This is based on a counting process which leaves out of consideration 25 of our battleships which like the drinks of Rip Van Winkle are not to be counted at all, and on the assumption that foreign Governments will build so many battleships in the future, a thing which the Secretary of the Navy says is very difficult to find out, and which is largely guesswork. This contention really is that we ought to build more ships not because our Navy is inadequate, but because foreign Governments will build more. The truth is that foreign Governments have been struggling to keep up with us. When within 10 years we spend $410,455 321 more on our Navy than France, $452,666,114 more than Germany, and $1,019,890,156 more than Japan, it looks like the cheek of logic to contend that we ought to spend more because they will do so. We build more ships because they do and they build more because we do, and so all the enlightened nations of the earth according to this contention are running a race of folly to build useless ships each because the other does.
Since Germany, France, and Japan have all these years been under our influence and have been impoverishing their people to build useless battleships, because we have set them the example, the only logical conclusion is that if we were to abandon this foolish policy, these great Governments of Europe would follow us in our wisdom more readily than they followed us in our folly. At any rate, we do
not favor that monkey-like statesmanship which imitates the follies of foreign Governments.
In conclusion, we appeal to the Democratic Members of the House to stand by the policy of the party and uphold the wisdom of its caucus in decreeing three separate times that we need no more battleships. We urge them to fulfill the pledges of economy made in every platform of the party since 1832. We call their attention to the fact that the appropriations this year have already exceeded those of last year by $121,000,000, and we urge them to show at least as much regard for the condition of the Treasury, as much regard for economy, and as much sympathy for the toiling masses, who are now groaning under the burdens of taxation and are looking with longing hopes and expectant hearts to the Democratic Party, as the Republican Party showed in nine different years when they had control of the Government.
In 1891, 1893, 1894, 1897, and 1901 the Republicans had sufficient regard for the condition of the Treasury and sufficient sympathy for the people to refuse to authorize any more battleships, and in the years 1892, 1904, 1906, and 1907 the Republicans had sufficient regard for the condition of the Treasury and for economy to refuse to authorize more than one battleship. The Republican Members of the House may not now have the same regard for the condition of the Treasury and for economy as their party showed in the nine years mentioned, nor the same as they would have if their party would be in power and charged with the responsibility of making the next naval appropriation bill, but however this may be we feel that we have a right to call on our fellow Democrats of the House to support us in our efforts to be as economical and show as much regard for the condition of the Treasury and as much sympathy for the people as the Republicans did in the nine years mentioned. Respectfully submitted.
A. W. GREGG.