Prize Essay of 1883.
''Pour encourager les autres."
The extension of the usefulness of naval officers has recently become a matter of vital importance to the naval service of the future. The reduction in the number of officers of various grades, made during the last session of Congress, has seriously injured the prospects of the officers of the rising generation. More sweeping action in the same direction will tend to crush the hopes and paralyze the activity of all the junior grades of the service. But there can be no security against such action until the usefulness of naval officers becomes a fact admitted by the organs and representatives of public opinion. There is an evident disproportion between the number of officers and the force of seamen. The disparity between our fleet of valid men-of-war and the list of officers of rank is still more striking. These facts have been held to create a presumption that the corps of officers required reduction. Similar comparisons will continue to supply arguments for further retrenchment unless our fleet shall receive an unlooked-for increase. Two cruisers, with the possible addition of a few monitors unfit for sea service, will hardly suffice to remove the disparity even after the various grades of the navy have been reduced to the numbers authorized by the Naval Appropriation Bill of 1882.
It may, indeed, be pointed out that such disparities are incident to our national policy of maintaining reduced armaments in time of peace. The creation of a war navy for the United States must involve not only the training of a large force of seamen and the construction of a fleet, but also a complete transformation of the methods and appliances heretofore provided for these purposes. For this vast work a large and highly educated force of officers will be required. Such a force has never been improvised in any country, and the decadence of our maritime industries forbids any hope that it might be improvised here.
Our mercantile marine was much larger and more prosperous in 1861 than it is now, and it furnished some thousands of officers for the navy. But the work of organization, the technical and scientific details, and the higher commands, were necessarily assigned to the regularly trained officers who had not abandoned the service of the country.
The large number of such officers who were led to take part in the rebellion were also able to demonstrate the efficiency of the training which they had received, even when employed in defending a hopeless cause. They improvised considerable forces for aggression and for defense in States almost destitute of shipping, seamen and maritime industries. The service from which their training was derived can now afford to recognize with melancholy pride the skill and energy which enabled them to continue the struggle so long.
Reliance upon feeble maritime industries for the material resources of defense may involve delay and disaster in the event of war. Reliance upon a prostrate mercantile marine for officers to develop and employ these resources would certainly involve defeat. Any scheme which attempts to secure an exact correspondence between the number of officers and the ships and material of our navy, at its present stage, must tend to demoralize the service and may lead to its abolition.
Although these considerations may be recognized so generally that further reductions need not be apprehended, the navy can never secure the support required to prepare it for the highest usefulness in time of war until the usefulness and importance of its services in time of peace are also admitted. So long as it is authoritatively stated and extensively believed that a large part of its officers are spending their time in idleness or in the performance of needless and trifling tasks, the navy will fail to hold its proper place in public estimation. While these statements are largely based upon willful misconceptions or ignorance, it will be the effort of this essay to suggest means for removing all grounds for the reproach so freely made.
Our present cruising fleet actually requires less than one-half the officers of the navy to man its vessels. The fact that more than one-half are embarked in them involves certain discomforts to all of them, and tends to exclude the younger officers from all important and responsible duties. Every officer is compelled to spend so many years in performing the same duties that he is apt to allow himself to fall into habits of routine unfavorable to mental growth, and incapable of promoting readiness for emergencies which are certain to arise in peace and still more in war. Duties assigned merely as exercises fail to develop the sense of responsibility which should be a controlling force in the education of the young officer for the higher duties of his profession.
The fact that nearly all our ships belong to more or less obsolete types, imposes further limitations upon the value of the experience acquired at sea. In construction, in motive power, and in armament they differ totally from the vessels which we would be compelled to employ in order to meet our weakest possible enemy upon equal terms on the ocean. The management of these obsolete vessels requires skill and training, but the control of efficient men-of-war is not less difficult, and involves complex details which require enlarged experience and special study.
In spite of the drawbacks due to delayed responsibility, the benumbing effects of repetition and routine, and the obsolete character of our naval material, the time spent at sea must be beneficial to those officers who have a share in the responsible work of sailing and navigating the vessels in which they serve. Occasions must arise for the exercise of prompt decision and cool judgment, and the daily application of the scientific knowledge which has been the object of previous education makes that education a practical reality. It cannot, therefore, be deemed advisable to withdraw officers from service which may afford them opportunities of such essential value.
Duties to which naval officers may be assigned on shore vary greatly in their importance to the service, and in their effects upon those thus employed. While many officers are engaged in work of the highest value, developing their faculties and enlarging their knowledge, others are condemned to carry out a wearisome routine during their terms of shore duty. Some of them find their time imperfectly occupied, and more find themselves losing the capacity for active mental effort. Were all of them placed in positions where they could do as much for the good of the service and for their own professional and intellectual improvement as a number of those assigned to shore duty have done in recent years, there would be no occasion to discuss any plan for modifying the present system of assignment during the intervals of sea service. But some officers are assigned to duty at navy-yards or on board receiving-ships, where no amount of zeal or ability could elevate the clerical duties performed above those of an entry clerk, or the executive duties above those of a night-watchman. The routine is not less irksome where the duties are of trifling importance, nor are the least capable and willing officers always assigned to the least important places. The detail of officers is often dependent upon conditions similar to those which permit the rain to fall upon the just and the unjust.
It has been proposed as a remedy for this state of affairs that many officers should be placed upon waiting orders, or upon furlough, after completing a cruise. Any action involving pecuniary hardship and not based upon specified grounds in each individual case must often cause injustice. Idleness, associated with humiliation and privation, would drive many of the most capable officers from the service, and would tend to demoralize those who remained. Fortunately the law did not go to the extremities proposed.
A general survey of the present employment of naval officers seems to show that most of them suffer from want of opportunities for professional improvement and from too much dependence upon routine and obsolete methods. Responsibilities come too late in life to be effective in promoting intellectual activity and professional pride, both of which should be principal factors in preparing officers for usefulness in the upper grades of the service. Officers are carefully educated to perform the duties of midshipmen, and they serve a long apprenticeship before they are allowed to perform those of lieutenants. But they do not receive instruction or training for the specific purpose of fitting them to perform the duties of independent commands, and they will hereafter reach such commands at ages which must render learning new methods very hard work.
The want of mental activity and professional earnestness due to the prevailing conditions is shown In various ways. The periodicals published specially for the use of officers of the army and navy reflect, to some extent, the mental habits and tastes of their patrons. They frequently contain articles written by naval officers. Some of these productions are signed and others are anonymous, and many of them possess considerable merit. Still the prevailing characteristic of this literature, as a whole, may be described as a tendency to amateurishness. A few writers attempt the solution of practical problems of naval warfare by scientific and modern methods. Others persistently separate science from its applications, or practice from the principles which should regulate it. Some indulge in the feeble antiquarianism of a pre-scientific period or the gossip of a frivolous society. Whether dusty with age or spiced with scandal, articles which may be assigned to the class of "old wives' tales" do not belong to the present age, or to the literature of a service which must study the transformation of its methods and material as a condition of its future usefulness and of its very existence.
Under existing conditions, a certain amount of dissipation is so natural that it may fairly be treated as excusable. While proper means should be applied to prevent unreasonable and injurious excesses and to rid the service of those who render themselves unfit to do its work, the main remedy must be sought in improved conditions, especially in those which tend to promote intellectual activity and occupation. It has been shown that indulgence in the most debasing forms of vice is directly affected by such mental conditions. It may be hoped that improvement in this direction will tend also to prevent naval officers from risking their hard-earned savings in mining stocks, or in other ventures less frequently recommended in the columns of religious and other newspapers. In alluding to these subjects it is simply intended to call attention to the importance of checking the waste of energy which may result from the want of healthy interests and activities.
In seeking for channels by which the capacities of naval officers may be made available for the benefit of the country, the instincts of the naval officer who accepts the obligations of his position will tend to make him measure the interests of the public service very largely by what he knows of the interests of the navy, and he will judge of the usefulness of his employment in time of peace in connection with the probable effect it may have upon his fitness for service in war.
It may be stated that any plan for extending the usefulness of naval officers in time of peace is affected by the three following considerations:
- Their employment must be essentially useful or productive.
- It must tend to promote responsibility and mental activity.
- It must enable them to acquire knowledge which may be usefully applied in connection with their regular naval duties.
These considerations taken together exclude some fields of usefulness which might seem to invite the services of carefully educated young men, devoted to the interests of the country, and liberated from some of the disadvantages which are felt by those whose connection with the public service depends upon personal or partisan influence. Naval officers should not try to make themselves essential parts of any other service than that for which they have been trained, nor should they separate themselves from its active duties until they have acquired the experience necessary for their efficient performance.
Employment outside the regular system of the navy should be assigned with the purpose of utilizing and developing special qualifications and individual aptitudes. This principle cannot be fully applied to details for regular service in time of peace, but it should not be ignored altogether, and it must govern the selection of officers for important duties in the event of war or other emergencies. La carriere ouverte mix talents was the maxim which swept through Europe with the impulse of the French Revolution and the eagles of Napoleon.
This principle requires recognition in the execution of any plan to educate and train naval officers for the highest usefulness in any field. It is generally held that each generation of naval officers should be made to acquire all the knowledge and skill of their predecessors, without rejecting what has become obsolete through the employment of improved methods. This having been accomplished, the officer is allowed to crown the work with a general knowledge of the improved systems of the present day. It is plain that advanced knowledge in any field implies the selection of some subjects to the partial exclusion of others. This is more than ever the case when a complete change in essential matters relating to naval warfare takes place every ten or fifteen years.
Even in the last century there were some who were bold enough to take up specialties in the naval profession and to prefer them to what have always been considered the foundations of all naval training. Among those who made such a choice was Nelson, of whom Sir Edward Codrington, who greatly admired him and who commanded a seventy-four at Trafalgar and the allied fleets at Navarino, said, while comparing him with another distinguished Admiral: "Lord Exmouth was remarkable for that gift of ready resource and wonderful personal activity which we look for in what we call a good seaman, but he was not born to command a fleet. Lord Nelson, on the contrary, was no seaman; even in the earlier stages of the profession his genius had soared higher and all his energies were turned to becoming a great commander. He had probably always been occupied in planning maneuvers and modes of attack with a fleet."
It required Nelson's genius to justify the choice he made by a career of brilliant success. It is not intended to assert that such a choice is open to young officers at the present day. But there must be a selection, implying the rejection of some subjects, if a high standard of excellence is to be attained in any profession so comprehensive and so subject to change as that of a naval officer. This necessity should be recognized in establishing systems of naval training and in detailing officers for duty in extended fields of usefulness.
In seeking to extend the sphere of usefulness of naval officers, it has been assumed that every suitable employment will afford opportunities for increased professional knowledge and experience. All such employments are, in the largest sense of the word, educational. In the customary and restricted sense also education seems to be a necessary preliminary to employment in the higher fields of usefulness.
Naval officers are carefully and liberally educated before they enter upon the active duties of their profession. But the limited qualifications required for admission to the Naval Academy, the number of technical subjects, exercises and drills, and the requirements of military discipline, combine to limit the scope of mental cultivation and attainments already restricted by the youth of the Students. The uniformity of the courses of study and the hurried progress through the long list of branches taken up, confine the student to his text-books and forbid him to complete his knowledge of those subjects for which he may have a special taste and capacity. If the fidelity of instructors and the stimulus of competition make his progress thorough, it is still lacking in opportunities for original investigation or for practical application of the scientific knowledge acquired.
Nor are these opportunities often found in the ordinary round of naval duties. The requirements of examining boards also fail to encourage such investigations and applications as might be expected from officers educated with so much care as the graduates of the Naval Academy. Examinations preliminary to promotion are properly restricted to those elementary subjects which all have equal opportunities for mastering. Moreover, examinations of this kind are becoming such infrequent events in the lives of naval officers that their influence is only slightly felt.
Officers employed in designing, constructing, or testing new arms, machinery, or vessels, in making surveys and explorations, or in work of like character, do indeed make extensive applications of the knowledge of mathematics and physics which they have been able to acquire and retain. They often find it necessary to take up elementary studies in order to fit themselves for useful work, and in nearly every case they find large gaps between their available knowledge and the practical problems which they are called upon to solve. The filling of these gaps requires time needed for work or for recreation, and the amount of work done may be lessened or its value impaired on account of imperfect knowledge. Original investigation should be connected with duties of the classes under consideration, but such investigations require time and special training as well as apparatus, which cannot be applied by those actively and constantly employed.
It would seem that there would be economy in separating the study and training which most officers need to fit themselves for special work, from the period of actual assignment to such duties. Opportunities for reviewing studies previously gone over should be connected with investigations and experiments tending to connect those studies with their practical applications. What may be called connective courses will be required by some, while others will need to be introduced to new and improved processes which the advance of science has made available since their scholastic training was completed. Every course of study offered to intending students should be arranged to fit the special abilities of those who may avail themselves of it, and to prepare them for special employment in definite fields. They will thus become more promptly and completely adapted to the various useful occupations which are now open to naval officers or to which they may hereafter be assigned.
To regulate the courses of study which should be authorized, a responsible board or a single officer of high qualifications will be required. English experience seems to be in favor of the appointment of a Director of Studies, authorized to refer special subjects to those best qualified to decide upon them. The Bureau of Navigation would naturally be the one with which such a system would be connected, with proper arrangements for referring to other bureaus, or to the Academic Board of the Naval Academy in special cases where technical or scientific information was required.
The Director of Studies might communicate to the service, through the proper channels, a program explaining his plans and the methods proposed for carrying them out. A list of proposed branches should be appended, with suggestions to enable applicants to combine and select them according to their special objects and state of preparation. Preliminary applications might then be made for permission to take up courses of study during the intervals of active employment. Such applications should contain detailed statements of the ends and means which candidates desire for themselves. Present acquirements should be frankly exposed, and letters of advice suggesting such preparatory studies and reading as may be taken up by those to whom they are addressed, should be issued by the Director of Studies.
When any applicant has completed his term of active duty he should make a final application, and his qualifications should be tested before he is assigned to his proposed work. Examinations, written or oral, would be the means of determining this. Written examinations might be conducted by letter, or the candidate might merely be required to send in a paper showing original research in his special subject. Evidence of special aptitude and earnest purpose would be the main requisite to enable the Director of Studies to make a favorable decision. This decision should assign the candidate to a course of study, to means of instruction and a place of residence, subject to the approval of the Secretary of the Navy.
The question of residence and means of instruction should be decided for each applicant in accordance with his circumstances and wishes, as far as they can be reconciled with the objects proposed. Many officers would gladly go on leave for a definite period to take the course assigned to them. Others would have to be ordered to duty at the places where they could work to best advantage. The Naval Academy, universities of established reputation, industrial establishments or governmental institutions might all present the facilities desired by candidates of various classes. Residence abroad might be necessary to enable some to carry out their plans. The importance of their purposes and the results promised should be weighed in determining the method of assignment. In cases where expense to the department would be involved, a preliminary course on leave might supply a test of the propriety of incurring it. Travelling expenses and other duty pay should not be withheld from those whose efforts are likely to benefit the service or the country.
It may be urged that the establishment of post-graduate courses at the Naval Academy would satisfy all the conditions requisite for success. But the object of the plan being to secure varied attainments, the limited range of branches for which the Naval Academy offers advantages will not be sufficient for all. Many of the officers who take these advanced courses will hereafter be instructors at the Naval Academy. To secure the best results they should be brought into contact with broader methods and ideas than can be fully applied in that institution. In-and-in breeding never succeeds in the long run, but fresh blood is needed in every system to secure soundness and vigor. The practical difficulties due to differences in age and rank would also be felt. Uniformity in treatment and the restraints of discipline necessary in such a school cannot readily be applied to officers of various grades and acquirements. They might be found obstructive to earnest students and irritating to men of mature years. The class system does not apply to the objects proposed. The association of a number of young officers might result in the establishment of an easy routine of study, or, if competition were introduced to prevent this, might repeat or intensify some of the animosities and injustices with which former unfair competitions have afflicted some grades in the service.
Discretion would be necessary in selecting officers to be allowed the advantages proposed. Taking very young officers might make these courses mere continuations of the regular school studies of the naval cadet, pursued without practical purpose and tending to exaggerate the defects due to protracted scholastic training. Officers of more mature years and larger experience would generally have some well-considered purpose in view, and would not be in danger of losing all professional habits and ideas while carrying out their plans. A careful inquiry into the nurture and training of men of scientific eminence in England showed that few of them could connect their progress in their special branches of knowledge with their school education. Most of them had some experience in practical life before they devoted themselves to their special work, to which they were led by their surroundings or by matured judgment. On the other hand, young men learn with greater ease, and recent graduates of our schools have much less ground to make up than their seniors. If only those are excluded from these opportunities who have not had time to identify themselves with the service and to become familiar with its duties, or who are unfitted by age, infirmities or habits from the fullest mental activity, good results may be anticipated from the rest.
The choice of studies made by the officers applying for permission to make use of these opportunities should be revised by a responsible officer and adjusted to the capacities of the applicants and the needs of the service. The thorough-going specialist might be left to his subject, with suggestions in regard to the methods to be followed and the results to be sought. In most cases, however, one study might be accepted as the principal object of the course, and others combined with it. The main study should, in all cases, be capable of useful application to the improvement of the navy, and should qualify the student for active employment in a specified field of usefulness. Both the necessary preparation and the practical application of this central subject should be insisted upon throughout. Minor studies of contingent usefulness might be permitted when suggested by individual tastes and aptitudes.
The studies which are capable of useful applications in the navy or other branches of the public service may be classed in two principal groups, of which the most important includes the mathematical and physical sciences and their practical applications. The importance of these sciences in solving nautical and technical problems is evident. Each science should be studied with direct reference to its uses, and the absurd separation of theory and practice should not be tolerated. No advanced course in gunnery, navigation or steam engineering is possible without scientific knowledge. Any merely operative course will be imperfect in its methods and barren in its results. Nor should the student be allowed to confine himself to pure science or mathematics, or to waste his time in solving imaginary problems. The man who devotes himself to working out the theory of probabilities or any other unpractical subject will hardly fit himself for usefulness as a naval officer. The failure of the purely practical man when called upon to apply and control new and complex forces and machinery will be inevitable and perhaps dangerous.
The inventor whose stock in trade consists in a little mechanical ingenuity and a great deal of self-confidence is a person to be pitied. Give him a plausible manner, a talent for drawing, and good backers, and set him to work at guns, torpedoes or engines for men-of-war, and he becomes a person to be feared. If he can be made to study mathematics and mechanics until he is capable of calculating the limits of practical efficiency and the strength of material for each portion of his inventions, his fertility in new and strange devices will be moderated, and he may become harmless and even a highly useful member of society.
Dr. Siemens, whose scientific knowledge has created an enormous amount of concrete wealth, took occasion, in his address as President of the British Association last summer, to point out that, for every application of physical forces, it is necessary to compute the theoretical standard of efficiency to prevent the waste of time and energy in seeking an impossible result or in accepting an imperfect one. The straight line must be traced and the curve brought as near it as possible.
Mathematics, as applied to nautical astronomy, navigation, or surveying; mechanics, in connection with gunnery, naval construction and steam engineering; chemistry, in connection with explosives, the corrosion of materials, or photography, are all fields for students and investigators. Opportunities for learning various branches of natural history have recently been offered to a number of young officers. The eagerness with which they have been accepted and improved, and the fact that by them officers are prepared to do valuable work in connection with active duties in the vessels of the Fish Commission or in men-of-war engaged in making surveys and explorations, furnish strong arguments for the continuance of the system, and for the extension of similar opportunities to those who desire to improve themselves in other branches of knowledge even more nearly related to their practical and professional duties. It may be advisable to take some precautions to prevent very young officers from becoming engrossed in scientific pursuits before they have learned to identify themselves with the service which has the strongest claim to them and their talents.
One of the advantages which may be anticipated from the training of naval officers will be realized when our national museums shall have received valuable collections or specimens prepared and arranged in such a manner that they can be used for reference by specialists, without any of the uncertainties which render objects picked up as mere curiosities so nearly worthless. The practical value of museums of natural history, ethnology and antiquity, in promoting education, the progress of the useful arts and the elevation of the people, is now generally recognized. The opportunities enjoyed by naval officers for making valuable additions to these collections are often lost for want of interest and taste developed by study and observation. The broadest and most varied culture might often be made available were the national importance of the work recognized.
These considerations draw our attention to the second great group of studies, of which history, languages, and law are leading members. Here, even more than in the scientific group, special capacities should be considered before assigning courses of study to those who apply. They lie mostly outside the list of absolute essentials to the working naval officer, but each class offers inducements to those who seek extended usefulness in time of peace, and most of them must have their special students to make the navy a complete working organization.
History shows the value of discipline and patriotic purposes in those who serve the public; it furnishes the student of naval warfare with examples of practical importance; and it supplies the knowledge of foreign institutions and customs which is often indispensable to those who may be called upon to represent their government in transacting public business. The study of language promises even more direct benefits to the public service. Naval officers must know something of international law to conduct themselves with safety and propriety in dealing with foreign authorities and protecting national interests. Municipal law is also a branch of which those who are frequently called upon to act as magistrates cannot afford to remain ignorant. Political economy, social science, and even some knowledge of literature and art may each and all be found practically useful upon occasion. The ability to observe correctly and describe clearly the social, economical and industrial condition of countries visited may be of great value to the nation, and preparation for such services should certainly be encouraged.
Distinguished naval officers of all countries have cultivated tastes and abilities quite as remote from their every-day employments as those which have been specified. Nelson went to France to study the language during the only interval of peace in his naval career. One of the distinguished Napier family was occupied for many years after the close of a creditable record of service at sea, in writing the History of Florence. Commodore Charles Morris of our own service applied himself earnestly to the study of general history and modern languages. Dumont d'Urville owed the opportunity of rendering what was, perhaps, his most memorable service to France, to the archaeological knowledge or artistic taste which enabled him to recognize the value of the noble statue called the Venus of Milo, which is still one of the choicest treasures owned by the French republic.
Perhaps the course in law is the only one of this group which should be admitted as a principal or independent one. History, the languages, and the other branches noticed might be recognized as auxiliary or secondary subjects where they supplemented the other studies authorized, or seemed adapted to the special talents of any student. French and German are necessary to any one taking a thorough course in almost any science or technical subject. Italian also would be useful in many cases. Every student who is permitted to go abroad should be required to learn to speak at least one language with facility. In exceptional cases it might be well to encourage the study of languages so widely distributed as the Arabic, Chinese, Malay or those of the Polynesian family. The English Admiralty offers substantial rewards to those officers who qualify themselves to act as interpreters in such languages, and it is evident that such knowledge might be of the greatest value to a military or exploring expedition.
A course of study having been assigned, it is next in order to consider how it is to be carried on and how long it may last. Leave or orders for students might be made out for periods of six months, and at the expiration of each period all of them should be required to report progress. The results of special investigations, solutions of problems, and papers upon subjects in the course followed, should be sent in, and full statements in regard to reading, lectures, and practice should be made. In promising cases the course might be extended to one or even two years. An officer who had done good work on leave might be given opportunities for further progress, by assignment under orders to places where the proper facilities could be obtained. Of course any officer would at all times be subject to detail for naval duties, and no course of study should be continued after any evidence of neglect or indifference to its advantages on the part of the officer allowed to take it up had been discovered. Full particulars of the studies pursued and the results obtained should be recorded in the Office of Intelligence or some other suitable place, and this record should be consulted when officers are to be selected for special duties.
The scheme for promoting advanced education among naval officers here presented is intimately connected with the proposed employments to be hereafter discussed. It does not involve much expense, and the only rewards it promises are congenial and useful occupation to those who take advantage of it and acquit themselves with credit. Such contingent advantages will hardly attract any one without a distinct purpose and a special aptitude for work. Similar methods of encouraging study are pursued in foreign service, and in the medical department of our own, with considerable profit to all who come under their influence.
The organization of the Light-house Board and its successful operations during the last thirty years attest the benefits resulting from the employment of naval officers outside of the regular duties of the service. The distinguished officer, whose energy and intelligence secured these opportunities of usefulness to succeeding generations of naval officers, is still among us. His victory over obstinate routine and prejudice secured results of equal value to the navy and the country. The present efficiency of the Light-house system is due to him and to the faithful and intelligent officers who have succeeded him in this great work. There is little danger that these opportunities will be withdrawn from naval officers. It is to be hoped that they may be extended to afford employment to a larger number of officers, and to connect them with the service in such a manner that even better work may be done in the future.
This may be done by ordering one or more assistants to each naval inspector of a light-house district. They should be attached to the Steam-tenders, and should be required to acquaint themselves with all the details of the service, and with all the waters lighted or buoyed in their respective districts. They should be made useful in navigating the vessels, in keeping them in order, and in superintending repairs to them or their equipments, or to any other part of the material which they might be found qualified to control. Their employment in these fields would be in the interests of economy and efficiency. Superintendents of repairs are now appointed whenever work of any importance is undertaken, and their compensation often forms a large percentage of its total cost. But the main object of detailing junior officers for this work would be to train a corps of inspectors for future usefulness. The details of the operations in the more important districts can hardly be mastered in a short time by the most zealous officer, and there is danger that too many of them may fall into the hands of subordinates, and be imperfectly or extravagantly performed. The benefits which would result to the navy from the employment of young and active officers in managing vessels on our own coast, where they would be compelled to learn the art of pilotage, cannot be questioned.
Naval officers have also been creditably and usefully engaged in the work of the Coast Survey since its inauguration. The important services rendered and the valuable knowledge acquired in this field have been recognized by competent authorities, and by the navy at large. Recent successes in the prosecution of scientific work have been due to the efforts of intelligent and skilful naval officers, who have conferred credit upon themselves, upon the Coast Survey, and upon the navy, and have done work which will benefit the country and the world.
Under these conditions it is only necessary to insist that this present connection should be maintained and strengthened, and to suggest that the regular instruction in the various branches of marine surveying should be recognized by the authorities of the Coast Survey as a means of securing larger and better results from naval officers assigned to vessels of the Coast Survey, and as a partial return for the expense incurred by the Navy Department in supplying men and officers to man these vessels. A simple and comprehensive manual, explaining the methods in actual use, would, when placed in the hands of well-grounded naval officers, be almost all that would be required. A little personal instruction during the intervals of active employment and occasional changes in the character of the duties assigned to each officer, would fit them to render important services to the navy, and prepare them for future usefulness in the Coast Survey. No officer should be allowed to waste his time in ship keeping or waiting for repairs, and professional jealousies should not be allowed to deprive him of opportunities for learning to employ his time to advantage. The Coast Survey might justly insist upon a certain amount of preparation from officers assigned to duty in its vessels; and the Navy Department might, with equal justice, require each officer who has completed a tour of duty to show that he has learned something of surveying in all its branches, and of the pilotage of the waters where he has been engaged in carrying on work.
The work of the Fish Commission satisfies the conditions upon which the employment of naval officers outside of their regular naval work should be dependent. It gives them useful work to do; it encourages and develops study and mental progress; it affords them larger opportunities for handling sea-going vessels than they can hope to enjoy while they remain in the junior grades of the navy. The nautical experience of naval officers, and their general education combined with the special instruction now accessible to some of them, should make them useful auxiliaries in the important work of this branch of the public service. If officers, whose attention has been drawn to problems in connection with the practical work of the fisheries, are given the advantages afforded by the courses of the Smithsonian Institution, excellent results may be expected.
In all the branches of the public service which have been mentioned, the usefulness of naval officers has been demonstrated. The country has received direct benefits from their employment in these fields, and the navy has shared in these benefits. It is believed, however, that larger and more useful results might be secured by extending the authority of the Navy Department, so that all the strictly maritime work of the government should be under its supervision. Naval officers employed in any one of these branches would be encouraged to improve their opportunities to the utmost, if the Department, which must regulate their employment and advancement in future, was controlling and recording the work in which they were engaged. The fact that no real school of nautical science exists except at Annapolis, and that imitations of the Naval Academy must be organized before any branch of the public service can secure qualified officers to take charge of its maritime work, justifies the assertion that economy and efficiency would result from extending the sphere of usefulness of naval officers until they have a share in all work of that class.
These considerations apply to the Revenue Marine and to the Life Saving Service. There will be few openings for naval officers in the former until some years after the proposed transfer to the Navy Department has been made. In the Life Saving Service there should be no delay in allowing naval officers to have a share in administrative duties. Their exclusion under the present system is invidious and not in the interest of the public service. Officers of the Revenue Marine regulate the nautical part of its operations, and officers of the army are called in to experiment and report upon its ordnance. The respectable attainments and experience of naval officers in both departments are ignored. They have unequalled opportunities to study the merits of similar organizations in other countries, and to observe the conditions of safety in boating under all circumstances. Their personal interests make the efficient working of the Life Saving Service a matter of importance to each one of them. Finally, they are qualified to assist in emancipating this service from the political influences which have hindered its progress toward a high standard of discipline and success.
One of the largest, most varied, and most promising fields of usefulness for naval officers will be found in the administrative services, established and proposed, for the regulation of the mercantile marine. This industry has great importance in an economical and commercial sense, and its present condition of decay is a public misfortune. As long as the country is compelled to rely upon the resources of merchant shipping for defensive strength in time of war, their decadence is a public danger. Naval officers have special qualifications for conducting the investigations and carrying out the reforms which are essential to arrest the maritime decadence which has gone so far. For acquiring the information and suggesting the means by which the defensive resources of our maritime industries may be utilized and developed for future emergencies, no other branch of the public service can ever be made available. The establishment of a Bureau of Mercantile Marine under the Navy Department supplies the most simple and economical organization which can be devised to carry out the necessary administrative reforms. Even if a different organization shall be preferred, the services of naval officers can hardly be dispensed with if real progress is to be effected.
As an important auxiliary to any bureau or department which may undertake to regulate the scattered and defective services which divide the control of our maritime industries, a permanent advisory commission should be constituted, of representatives of the maritime and commercial interests of the country, assisted by naval officers of special experience and ability. Such a board should be employed in investigating the needs of shipping, and in framing regulations, subject to the approval of the responsible head of the department, for promoting its sound and vigorous growth. The demands of the mercantile community for an organization through which their wants and wishes can be communicated to the authorities charged with the supervision of shipping would be met by the establishment of a properly constituted mercantile marine board.
Such a board would replace the curious organization known as the Board of Supervising Inspectors, which now meets annually to enact rules for the navigation of all steamers in our waters, and to impose requirements for their inspection by the local boards appointed for the purpose. The members of this board are also executive officers supervising the inspection service in the respective districts assigned to them at their annual meetings. As a board, also, they receive their individual reports and act upon them when presented. The mutual self-approval which is the natural result of this arrangement, excites the vigorous criticism of the supervising inspector-general, but his denunciations do not disturb the established methods.
The local boards of inspectors are nominated by strangely constituted boards, of which district judges and collectors of customs are members. The inspector of hulls, who should know something of shipbuilding, and the inspector of boilers, who must be an engineer, not only act together in inspecting and licensing steamers, but also in examining and licensing all masters, mates, pilots and engineers of steam vessels. The necessity for an inspector of navigation, qualified to report upon the compasses and navigating outfit supplied to each vessel, and to examine officers in navigation and seamanship, is self-evident.
The employment of naval officers in the steamboat inspection service would facilitate the reorganization needed to give it the discipline and the nautical and progressive character, without which it must be an obstacle to the revival of our mercantile marine. As long as it devotes its entire attention to the subject of regulations for the prevention of such boiler explosions as were once common on our western rivers, and to the imposition of dangerous and useless patented devices for life-saving purposes, while neglecting the means necessary to secure the safe navigation of steamers on the high seas, it will obstruct and discourage the employment of American steamers in our foreign trade. The employment of naval officers without extra compensation would be a measure of economy, and might lead to the reduction of the exorbitant fees now exacted. It might also lead to the adoption of definite standards and sensible methods for examining officers for licenses, and when this had been accomplished the annual renewal or "sale of license" would be dropped as an absurd and vexatious requirement.
Local boards of inspectors now investigate all accidents to steam vessels and all cases of misconduct on the part of licensed officers. Their lack of qualifications for this responsible task has been shown. Their approval of the material or equipment of a vessel might dispose them to shift the responsibility for any disaster to the officers on board. In general, however, the results of their judicial inquiries are inconclusive, if not worthless. Nor are the occasional investigations conducted by the Life Saving Service based on a sounder system. The safety of vessels and their passengers will be promoted by changes which shall secure prompt investigations by legal methods and by competent and impartial experts in any case of marine disaster. Here again the usefulness of naval officers might be extended by appointing them as assessors to take part in the conduct of judicial inquiries, as has been done in Great Britain, to the satisfaction of law officers, underwriters and the general public.
The unrestrained obstruction of the channels of our most important ports by the dumping of ashes, street-sweepings and dredgings shows a remarkable failure in administration.
Probably some legislation would be necessary to enable the general government to intervene to save the harbors which they have improved at such enormous expense. A few years ago an appropriation of $600,000 was demanded for the removal of shoals in New York harbor which had been thus created. The inability of local authorities to cope with this evil is shown by the fact that, after years of agitation, only one inspector is maintained to look out for thirty miles of water front at New York. The adoption of rules for the control of harbors by the authority of the United States, and the appointment of a qualified naval officer to act as a hydrographic inspector at each of the great seaports, might provide a remedy. Two or three swift steam launches, commanded by active officers, could do the work of policing a very large harbor, and the experience acquired by young officers assigned to such employment would be of great value.
In connection with the proposal to permit officers to carry on courses of study at colleges and universities, it may be found that there would be a demand for the services of some of them as instructors. The detail of naval engineers, as well as that of officers of the army, to serve in such capacities is now authorized by law.
The adoption of the elective system in our leading institutions of learning must tend to produce great variety in the studies and practical applications which will be pursued. It is not improbable that an instructor in navigation and hydrography would find pupils among those who were preparing themselves for commercial life or scientific work in connection with marine biology, physical geography or meteorology. If the teacher was well qualified for his task and disposed to continue to be a learner, great advantages might result to the country and to the navy from details for this purpose.
It may seem that in presenting the claims of so many employments outside the regular naval routine the claims of the service have been neglected. Aside from the further proposals, which will be made in due course, I would point out that much of the work mentioned is of a nautical and professional kind. The detail of officers might be arranged to give nearly every officer the command of a vessel of some kind before reaching the grade of lieutenant-commander. Responsibility might also be made to develop the abilities of naval officers in other posts of duty. An officer of the British army, who has rendered valuable services in controlling the railways of Great Britain, and who has earned reputation as a man of science, in replying to a question similar to the one discussed in this essay, said: "But all duties which place them in situations of responsibility, and where judgment is required, would tend more than anything to draw out their capabilities and improve their efficiency for purposes of war."
If it be objected to all the suggestions which have involved the extension of the employment of naval officers in various branches of the public service, that deserving civilians may thus be deprived of employment, it will be proper to state that no disturbance of claims based upon long and faithful service or upon special training or fitness for the duties of any branch, is contemplated. The navy owes too much to the system which has kept it out of the bondage of political dependence to seek to disturb such a system elsewhere. But it is notorious that very few branches of the public service have recognized such methods of regulating appointments and promotions. Most of those who would be displaced have owed their positions to other than public considerations. In any case the government, after educating and training its officers at vast expense, has a right to make the best of their professional services in any public employment for which they are qualified.
The claims of various branches of usefulness outside the field of strictly naval employment have been presented in detail. To make the plan proposed complete and symmetrical, the claims of the naval service must receive equal attention. Officers must still spend most of the active portion of their lives at sea, or in the performance of naval duties on shore. No scheme of extended usefulness can afford to ignore the methods which should render such employments more fruitful and more conducive to mental activity and professional progress. The suggestions which follow are not meant to imply any general criticism of the present methods of carrying on naval duties. Supplementary requirements will be proposed with a view to the improvement of the service and its officers.
Here, as elsewhere, the main idea will be to adjust special duties to special capacities, and to utilize and develop the talents of each naval officer in some definite field. As a means of making those special abilities matters of record, let every officer below a certain rank or a certain age—neither of which should be fixed too low—be required to send to the Department, at least once a year, a report or study upon some subject of professional, scientific, or general interest. Full liberty in the choice and treatment of the subject should be allowed, but serious work should be insisted upon in every case. Surveys of shoals or harbors, sketches of coasts or landmarks, drawings of naval machinery or vessels, records of observations, solutions of problems, suggestions in regard to drill or equipment, collections of photographs or of objects of natural history, should be accepted with quite as much favor as the written reports, translations, or descriptions which might be sent in by the majority of officers. No one form of expression should be exclusively preferred. In every case, however, a full statement of all the authorities consulted and of all the assistance received should accompany the report or study. While compilations and translations may often be works of value, the superior claims of original research should not be ignored.
To ensure success at the beginning, suggestive lists of subjects should accompany the circular stating the requirements of the system. Such a list should include subjects suitable for treatment by officers of different branches of the service and of different mental habit and training, but no compulsory conditions should be annexed. Upon the receipt of the papers at the department they should be classified and indexed by officers detailed for the purpose. Each paper should be referred to some authority upon its subject for a decision as to its relative merits. A few of the most valuable and suggestive papers should be published, and all should be filed in an accessible and convenient manner. The papers selected for publication should be those which would find the largest audiences among naval officers, and would do most to awaken and stimulate the faculties of others. Some papers of the highest value might fail to be printed under this rule, because they would be interesting only to special students. They would, however, be available for reference at any time. The titles of all papers which were considered to possess special merit should be published with the names of their authors.
It is to be hoped that each year's reports would contain a number of valuable contributions to naval and scientific progress. They would be useful in compiling sailing directions, in revising technical manuals of all kinds, in preparing for the transformation of the vessels and armaments of the navy to modern types fit for war purposes, and in arranging for the attack or defense of coasts and harbors in all parts of the world where our navy might be called upon to act.
They would, moreover, indicate the state of professional knowledge in the navy at the period of their preparation, and would place on record the special qualifications of most naval officers. The files of these papers would be consulted, not only by special students, but also by those desiring to select officers for important services, and by examining boards. No injustice would be done those who have failed to be successful in any form of expression if others were selected for places where facility in employing these forms was a condition of usefulness. Nor would there be any danger that examiners would be unduly influenced by these papers. They might be led to shorten their examinations in many cases, but no candidate showing industry, a good record, and a fair amount of professional knowledge, would have anything to fear.
In the German army examinations for promotion are replaced by the requirement of studies and reports upon professional subjects, by actual tests of fitness for higher command, and by inquiry into the personal records of officers. In the French navy, a system almost identical with the one here proposed has been carried out for some years, and its principles are applied to some extent in other foreign services. In the medical corps of the navy, officers are required to make reports for publication. It is believed that this requirement has been attended with good results, although the practice of publishing all of them in full is open to some objections on the ground of expense, and need not be imitated.
Among the most important results to be expected from the system of requiring reports and studies from naval officers, is that of turning the attention of our future naval commanders to the military subjects upon which preparation for war service must be based. Navies exist only for the contingencies of war, yet very little of the training of sea officers has any direct reference to these contingencies. Discipline and responsibility do indeed develop some of the most essential qualities of the fighting man, when applied to good material. But the conditions of modern warfare—especially of naval warfare—are so complex and so subject to change, that constant mental training is needed to enable officers to anticipate and prepare for the contingencies of attack and defense. The necessary work of the naval service can very readily be expanded into a vast system of routine for peace purposes which must obstruct every attempt to prepare for war. I have heard it asserted, by those who should have known better, that "the war had ruined the navy"; that is, it had interrupted the peace routine, and had made it difficult, if not impossible, to restore the exact methods and ideas which had grown out of that routine. Strong efforts have been made to ignore every lesson taught by four years of active service, and those who partially accepted the teachings of those years have allowed the material of our navy to come to a dead stop at the point reached in 1865. The advantages of laminated armor, of smoothbore guns, and the general absurdity of iron hulls for men-of-war, were among the lessons taught at the Naval Academy for some years after the close of the civil war.
Obsolete methods in warfare show a tendency to crystallize in text-books and manuals of instruction. The Ordnance Manual in use until 1880 contained the misleading and discouraging statement that "the landing of seamen is rather a remote contingency in the naval service, and should never be resorted to when opposed by good infantry." The edition now in use introduces a chapter on boarding and repelling boarders, by sentences which indicate doubt as to the practical value of rules for the subject, but the detailed instructions thereon occupy six pages, while the subject of defense against torpedoes is disposed of in three lines, by making it dependent upon the ingenuity of the commander. In speaking of machine-guns and small-arms the precept is laid down that "their principal duty is to clear the way for and support the boarders."
It is evident that the progress of improvement in military weapons requires a constant readjustment of the regulations for drills and exercises. No amount of mechanical perfection will supply the want of intelligent preparation for foreseen emergencies. The watchword of German military training is "preparation for battle," and the most powerful organization for war purposes that the world has ever seen has been created by the scientific study of the art of war. Every officer is required to plan movements in the face of the enemy and to carry them out under conditions closely resembling those of an engagement. Every soldier is taught to do intelligently those things which he would have to do in action. During the war of 1870, German soldiers were frequently heard to remark in the heat of action, "Why, this is just like the exercises we used to have at home." To acquire this practical readiness the parade drills have been simplified as much as possible. The movements which a Prussian regiment is called upon to perform at inspection are few and simple, but each recruit must be a soldier and must know how to do his share of the work of a battle.
The system of reports and studies to which attention has been invited supplies a ready means for developing the military knowledge of naval officers. The attention of line-officers of the navy should be directed to the solution of the actual problems of modern warfare. They should study the turning of ships at full speed to ram or to avoid being rammed by another vessel, the working of naval batteries so that their fire may be made available at full range against an enemy in motion, the mounting of guns to secure an all-round fire without exposing crews to the deadly fire of machine-guns and small-arms, the disposition of naval forces for the attack or defense of particular harbors, the control of a group of torpedo boats in an attack, and the defense of vessels from torpedo attacks where Whiteheads or other formidable weapons are used.
No field of military activity deserves more attention than the handling of landing parties of seamen. The splendid arms carried by our seamen, supplemented by machine-guns of various kinds, the reduction in the size of tactical units, and the enlarged scope of individual action admitted and enforced by the conditions of modern war, all combine to increase the value of such forces.
The naval brigades which assisted in the defense of Sebastopol and Paris, and made long and arduous campaigns in South Africa and Egypt, have demonstrated the errors contained in the old and narrow views of the usefulness of seamen. The necessity for observing proper precautions in landing or marching in an enemy's country has also been increased by the changes in arms and methods. Men are often landed in peace as well as in war, and to be prepared for all contingencies officers should learn how to make a reconnaissance, to conduct a march, or to guard a post in a hostile country.
Of course these things cannot be thoroughly learned without opportunities for applying in the field the knowledge acquired by study. The system of practice should be progressive, and, instead of beginning with brigade or battalion drills, officers should land with a company or platoon and should conduct them for a mile or two inland to occupy a position assigned beforehand. Combined movements on a larger scale could then be tried; but dress parade and barrack square evolutions should not be allowed to occupy the time which is available for these more important exercises. The magnificent harbor of Port Royal offers abundant facilities for exercises of this kind as well as for every other exercise needed to prepare our ships and crews for action. Vessels can be separated from a fleet and assigned positions in which to await an attack from torpedo boats. Targets of any size might be set up on land to give opportunities for observing the effects of different projectiles and kinds of fire. A fleet supplied with a number of military studies of the capabilities for the attack and defense of the system of inland waters around Port Royal might spend a winter in active and profitable exercises.
The study of naval tactics on the high seas may be postponed until fleets capable of maneuvering in action have been constructed or designed. Tempting as such studies are, they can hardly be considered as fruitful or essential at the present time.
When the graduates of our training-ships shall make up the larger portion of the force required to man our vessels, it may be hoped that divisional officers will be able to advance the military training of their best men for beyond the rudimentary state to which they were restricted under the old system of recruiting. The necessity for such advanced training is evident, if the capabilities of the future armaments of our ships are to be practically developed. When the time spent in teaching raw landsmen the first elements of drill can be devoted to instruction in the actual methods of attack and defense, officers as well as seamen will be benefited and our naval gunnery and small arm practice will be vastly improved.
Intelligence and education will be found important factors in promoting the cooperation of our seamen in such progress. In other respects a gain in these particulars will be a blessing to the service.
An acute observer, who travelled in the South before the rebellion, and analyzed the fatal vices of the institutions which were destroyed by that event, speaks of visiting the Norfolk Navy Yard and of hearing the officers of one of our men-of-war complain of the wretched character of the recruits with whom they were supplied, and the resulting impossibility of securing a high standard of naval discipline and efficiency. The author, after reflection, concluded that in a certain amount of healthy education the remedy would be found. The social and political changes predicted in his work have largely been realized, but the education of our seamen, with a view to intelligent activity and sound discipline, still leaves room for improvement.
There is a natural tendency to neglect this subject and to accept an imitation of the seaman found in our ships, at some traditional or imaginary period of the past, as the standard article. Marlin-spike seamanship and a sailor-like bearing are matters of some real importance, but they will not make up for obstinate ignorance of everything relating to modern naval warfare, especially when combined with incorrigible drunkenness at every opportunity. Looking at military requirements alone, a certain amount of educated intelligence will be essential to the men who are to handle such complicated engines of war as a rifled gun of large caliber or a modern torpedo.
The value of education as a foundation for military and naval training is recognized in practice by all the warlike nations of Europe. In Germany a young man of good education is allowed to shorten his term of compulsory service from three years to one year. No regard for the social position or future prospects of recruits would lead the authorities controlling the sternly practical military system of Germany to make this regulation, unless they believed that educated men were able to learn their military duties so much quicker than ordinary conscripts. This feature has been adopted in France and Italy in connection with the rest of the Prussian system, and it is applied to the navy as well as to the army. In France a corps of professors is maintained to give gratuitous instruction in mathematics and navigation to the members of the Inscription maritime, from which the navy is recruited. In Italy the military and naval services are doing much to remove the reproach of popular ignorance. The naval training system of England gives to each boy who passes into the service a better education than was received by lieutenants fifty years ago, and better than is offered at public expense to other children belonging to the same classes in society.
The United States is pre-eminently the country of popular education. In most of the States, gross ignorance in a young man would be attributed to foreign birth or parentage, grinding poverty, or worthless character and abilities. A certain standard of education is necessary to enable an American of the rising generation to maintain his self-respect. If this be wanting, fidelity and discipline can hardly be maintained. To enable the navy to draw its recruits from those who are essentially American, and to make them contented and respectable public servants, the importance of education must be recognized.
The average standard of cultivation attained by children of respectable families in attendance at the public schools should regulate the educational requirements of the naval training system. The best observers would hardly include anything more than ability to read and write intelligently, some skill in arithmetic, and some notions of geography, in the list of actual results obtained. These subjects could be taught to every boy of sound mind before he is drafted to a cruising vessel. No time need be wasted on commercial arithmetic or arbitrary grammatical rules, and no subjects should be taken up to be dropped without result, as they are in common schools.
The proposed standards must, however, be made higher for those who are to be advanced to expert and intelligent torpedo-men, gunners, or engine-room artificers. Selected boys who desire to qualify themselves for special work of this kind should be given opportunities to learn something more of mathematics, and to acquire some knowledge of elementary mechanics and mechanical drawing. They would then be able to acquire a practical knowledge of the instruments and machinery which they would be employed in using, much more quickly and intelligently than those who had received no such instruction. Advanced education of this kind is given to the men of special corps in other navies, and should not be neglected in our own.
The subject of education is sometimes turned over to the chaplain or other officers not engaged in the active technical work of the service, as a matter of remote or trifling practical importance. To make it useful in regulating the naval training and improving the standard of discipline in our ships, active officers of the line and the engineer corps should supervise instruction in special branches, and should assist in conducting examinations and in selecting boys to receive special training. They would be usefully employed, and might hope to see large results from earnest work in this direction.
Only a few boys would be affected by the advanced courses suggested; the others would have received brief and elementary instruction only, and abundant time will be left for thorough practical training. It is believed that increased intelligence will result in an actual economy of time in carrying out practical exercises with thoroughness. The objection that enlisted men will be made wiser than their officers could hardly be made by any graduate of the Naval Academy, unless he had made up his mind to indulge himself in stupid indolence. Nor will discipline be impaired by education if a true standard for both be recognized.
To afford the greater part of our seamen of the future any share in the mental occupation which is necessary to insure health of mind and body to those deprived of the natural means of recreation by the confining and isolating conditions of service in a sea-going vessel, something more is needed. Among the popular amusements of the present day, miscellaneous reading holds, perhaps, the highest place. The universal prevalence of this taste is evident, and, in spite of many offensive publications, it has fewer drawbacks and dangers than most other amusements.
To the seaman who can read at all, reading offers more comfort than almost any substitute that can be proposed to fill his monotonous hours of leisure. The boys who are growing up in the service especially need inducements to avoid injurious vices and debasing idleness. To make our ships home-like and attractive, no cheaper or more effectual means can be devised than the supply of libraries of popular and interesting books to every vessel in commission. Those who glance over the newspapers and magazines every day are sometimes disposed to speak of books as being too dull for the present generation. But if the periodical literature of the day is out of reach, even the superficial and ignorant are willing to fall back on books. Newspapers are luxuries to a cruising vessel, but they can rarely be obtained when most needed. Professor Nordenskiold, in his successful Arctic expedition, was able to satisfy the newspaper hunger of his crew by serving out each morning a journal exactly one year old. But this would hardly satisfy young Americans.
The object of the suggestions which follow is a purely practical one. It includes the gratification of tastes which are almost universal among the young men who form the strength of our navy, and the supply of wants which are seriously felt. The supply of books suitable for the amusement of men condemned to the monotony of sea-life is a disciplinary and hygienic measure. It supplies healthy occupation for the mind and promotes cheerfulness; it will tend to keep men contented on board ship, and, by enlarging the range of their interests, will give them something to do when on shore which may keep them away from the wretched haunts which deprive them of money, of health, and of character.
The efforts made by charitable and religious societies to supply our men-of-war with reading matter reflect credit upon their managers, but they are not calculated to supply the want most generally felt. Nor is it creditable to the service that it should continue to be a dependant upon such agencies for books which might be supplied by its own resources. These societies have other objects in view than the supply of amusing reading, and there are others who have stronger claims on their generosity than the crews of naval vessels. Where men are regularly paid and employed in large numbers and for long periods, nothing but organized action is needed to enable them to supply themselves with respectable libraries. The officers of our cruising vessels would share in the benefits of such action, and, from their position and education, should be the ones to undertake it. All who might assist in the work would be doing something for the good of the service, and those who expected to go to sea would be serving their own interests.
The problem would be vastly simplified by allowing the use of say $5000 for the purchase of books to inaugurate the system proposed. There would be neither extravagance nor injustice in such expenditure. It could be arranged so that it might be repaid in installments, but the service would be benefited by a liberal foundation fund for the purchase of books. Dues could readily be collected to provide for the care, increase and renewal of books. If blank forms, specifying the character of the libraries to be issued and the terms upon which they were offered, were sent to each vessel going into commission, there would be little difficulty in securing subscribers to a fund proportionate to the number of books required by each vessel. Libraries might be issued to officers' messes, to associations of members of the crew, or to the ship's company as a whole. In each case the signatures of the persons taking the books should be allowed to ensure the payment of the sums agreed upon. The paymaster could readily make the necessary collections, and other officers could carry on the correspondence and sign the necessary receipts. This would involve a little extra work, but it would be work in a field of the highest usefulness.
The task of purchasing books should be placed in the hands of an officer who could use the catalogues and other facilities of the library of the Navy Department. It might well be assigned to an officer acting under the direction of the Bureau of Navigation. Liberal tastes in literature, with a preference for simple and spirited modern writers, and a mild aversion for classical authors and standard works, would qualify any officer, not given to extravagance, and interested in the success of the plan, to undertake the arduous duty of purchasing libraries. Suggestions should be invited from every quarter, but the responsible officer should be at liberty to reject them when such action is necessary to ensure success. The average price of books of the class required should not exceed one dollar per volume, including cases and covers. Out of every hundred books, forty might be works of fiction, thirty voyages and travels, twenty works of history or general literature, and ten technical or scientific books. Experience would modify this list considerably, and special selections might be made for officers' reading. Due care should be taken to supply ships with books of travel and history relating to the stations to which they may be assigned. Each case of books should be furnished with price-lists in duplicate. Cases of nearly equal value should be exchangeable at any time. If the works selected were found attractive, there would be no trouble in collecting a percentage for their use large enough to put the system on a firm footing and to allow for expansion without external aid. No attempt should be made to connect this system with the small, and frequently antiquated, professional libraries supplied for the use of officers. The addition of new books to these libraries is a matter requiring constant attention, but it would not be desirable to attempt to combine the general supply of reading matter to the crew with these collections.
The details of this plan may be imperfect, but it is believed that they could be modified and made to work. The beneficial results of the introduction of books of an acceptable kind might not improbably be perceptible in the reports of punishments, the record of desertions, and the returns of sick among our seamen. The system proposed is based upon national characteristics and conditions which will be felt more and more while the training system continues to be successful. If the work must be left to voluntary action, it would seem that the organization of the Naval Institute could be used to inaugurate its operations.
In fixing the character of the navy ration, the habits and circumstances of our people and the recent progress made in preparing and preserving food-products, should be studied with more care than the dietary scales of foreign services. Our merchant seamen in the days of our maritime prosperity, and our working population at all times, have lived better than corresponding classes in other countries. If our naval seamen are to be representative Americans, they must share in these advantages.
The ration now issued is liberal in quantity and it has been somewhat improved in quality and variety. Still salt beef is retained as a part of it, to be served out after it has lost the flavor or consistency of good meat. Dr. Kane's expedition found it a scurvy-breeder during the first winter, and came to consider it as a poison before they escaped from the ice. The improved methods of canning, drying and preserving foods seem to render change an easy matter. But each of the new articles requires to be carefully tested. The canned goods selected for one Arctic expedition spoiled in the railway transit. Those used in the Jeannette caused weakness and suffering to some of those engaged in the fearful and memorable retreat of her crew.
Every cruising vessel might have a board of officers, composed of the paymaster, surgeon, and one watch-officer, to conduct systematic tests of promising samples of food-products supplied for long voyages. Each article should be tested repeatedly by chemical analysis, by actual use, and by issue to messes among the crew. Full reports in regard to the purity, keeping qualities and general merits of each sample should be made. Comparisons of such reports should render it easy to make desirable changes in the ration of our ships' companies. Officers' messes would also be enabled to purchase their supplies with less risk. The work done by the boards proposed would be directly and practically useful to all who go to sea, and would promote the interests of the public service.
The work of exploring and surveying in remote parts of the world has always been considered suitable employment for naval vessels and naval officers. Many of the scattered islands of the Pacific and some long stretches of coast of the American continent are very imperfectly known. Extensive surveys are required to render navigation safe, and to promote commerce and civilization. The exploration of the depths of the ocean and the investigation of ocean currents also promise results of commercial importance. All of this work must be done at the expense of the great maritime nations, and by men-of-war under the control of educated naval officers. The activity and vigilance necessary to ensure the safe handling of ships in unknown waters tend to develop the highest nautical qualities among the responsible officers thus employed. No better training for the seaman and the navigator can be found than that afforded during an extended voyage of exploration.
Besides the commercial and nautical value of the results attained by successful work in this field, the advancement of science should justify the equipment of exploring expeditions. Facts that were merely curious fifty years ago are now highly significant and important to scientific workers. The combination and interpretation of the records and observations of intelligent navigators will continue to furnish means for the organization of natural science. Every branch of natural history has its claims upon the attention of explorers and surveyors. The report of the Wilkes exploring expedition remains a monument to the wise liberality of the government in a past generation. The constant references to that report in the works of such writers as Darwin and Herbert Spencer show its value and do much to increase the respect entertained for our government and its naval service. Much may also be done to complete our national collections and to make them more useful in promoting research and education.
If naval officers trained for the work of surveying, observing, and collecting, take part in navigating and working vessels thus employed, there will be large gains in efficiency and economy. The large scientific staff required for the Wilkes expedition deterred several officers from accepting the commands offered to them, and delayed the departure of the vessels. The limited accommodations of a surveying vessel, combined with other considerations, render the presence of a large number of persons not connected with her regular work inconvenient and undesirable. Agassiz and other eminent men of science have testified to the cheerful and efficient assistance rendered by naval officers. It has been shown in a preceding chapter that naval officers can be trained to render still more intelligent and valuable aid by the methods of instruction now open to some of them. While men of scientific authority should be invited to take part in such expeditions, as well as in framing plans for regulating their operations, it would seem that most of the practical work might be done by trained officers of special acquirements who would be able to do their share of the regular duties of a man-of-war.
There is one field of exploration from which purely naval expeditions should be excluded for the future. The vast ice-field which surrounds the North Pole should never again be entered by the keel of any man-of-war or exploring vessel. Arctic explorations have produced some of the most fascinating literature of modern times. Its records are full of terribly impressive incidents, of which the latest and most tragic has stirred the feelings of every officer in the United States. But after a generation of heroic explorers have risked or sacrificed their lives in this work, we are compelled to ask what results have been accomplished, or at least what methods of advance have been made practicable for future expeditions? The records show that ships are helpless and useless in the ice, and that they must keep close to the coast in order to liberate themselves at all. The system of establishing stations on land is the only one which promises any results of scientific or practical value. If young and ardent naval officers wish to join in the work of these stations, and are willing to learn to be thorough observers and recorders of all the data which it is the main object to collect, their services will be found useful and acceptable to expeditions organized on this plan. Their training as seamen and navigators would increase their adaptability for the work, but those who are seamen and navigators only have no business in the Arctic ocean where ships cannot be made to assist in the work.
The habitable and fruitful portion of the earth is capable of furnishing solutions for scientific problems of far greater importance than those dependent upon the discovery of the pole. Ethnology and natural history, the distribution of animal and vegetable life, all present facts capable of comparison and interpretation. Darwin was led to adopt the views which have revolutionized natural science and made it capable of explaining social as well as physical phenomena by what he observed in his voyage in the Beagle, and the journals of intelligent travelers and navigators are constantly made use of in completing and applying the ideas and methods thus inaugurated.
The opportunities of a survey carried on by men-of-war would also tend to the extension of commercial relations and of national influence. If we send only missionaries and whalers to seas where other nations send men-of-war and merchant steamers, we can hardly expect savages to respect the power of the nation or the rights of its citizens. Moreover, the discipline of any efficient man-of-war and the armament which she carries enable her commander to insist upon proper treatment for his countrymen, and to impress his views of morality and propriety upon men not easily influenced by the arguments or persuasions of those destitute of visible strength or support. The islands of the Pacific, the coasts of the American continent, and the bed of the ocean will furnish employment for all the vessels and officers that can be spared for such purposes for many years to come.
The Hydrographic Office only needs larger resources to enable it to regulate the operation of surveying expeditions and to publish to the world the results achieved. Its methods and organization would admit of the expansion required, and those officers who were familiar with its duties would be valuable assistants in carrying on the work of a surveying vessel. In this field, and in its meteorological department, the capabilities of the Hydrographic Office should be recognized and developed. No part of the work of collecting meteorological data and publishing them to navigators in the form of wind, weather, and current charts, should be allowed to fall into the hands of any organization established for other purposes, or imperfectly prepared to accomplish practical results.
The Naval Observatory has also a claim for means to enable it to extend the benefits of its time-signals to every port or anchorage frequented by sea-going vessels on our coast. This institution is connected with the navy for practical purposes, and it should be enabled to render liberal aid to navigators in accordance with the methods suggested by the practical experience of naval officers. It should also be used to promote training in the use of astronomical instruments, a number of naval officers to take part in observing celestial phenomena or in conducting accurate surveys. While it may not be possible or desirable to make every naval officer a practical astronomer, it is necessary that the service should keep up a regular succession of trained observers capable of doing good work upon occasion. If training on this system is continued, and if officers are employed in transmitting standard time and correcting the navigating instruments, the work of the Naval Observatory will be come one of the most important fields of usefulness open to naval officers.
The system of requiring reports and studies from officers of certain grades will tend to enlarge the work of the Office of Intelligence, which has recently been organized in the Navy Department. The considerable amount of valuable information and original research which this system would produce should be made available and useful to individual students and to other organizations. The publication of bulletins of the work of this office would also tend to the advancement of professional knowledge. The work of this office will require special capacities from those engaged in it, and it will also afford special experience tending to fit them for duties of great importance.
The Naval Academy will offer inducements to many who may desire to avail themselves of opportunities for taking advanced or experimental courses of study. Many of its resources are not made the most of by the cadets during their hurried course. The presence of advanced students might be made useful to those taking the regular course of studies. Any movement for the extended application of scientific methods to naval requirements will tend to connect itself with the Naval Academy. Officers who have made themselves specialists should be employed in revising text-books and manuals of technical subjects, in order to keep them in harmony with the results of progress. The lessons of every recent naval war should be studied in connection with each of the branches taught at the Naval Academy, and pamphlets or lectures should be used to interest the cadets of the higher classes in these subjects. The professional course at this institution should certainly include an analysis of the methods employed and the results achieved during the last great war in which our navy bore a part.
A summary of the contents of the preceding pages may fitly introduce the concluding remarks of this essay. The reasons for extending the sphere of usefulness of naval officers and the general considerations regulating their employment in the proposed fields were first presented. The principle upon which the succeeding recommendations are based is that of making use of special faculties in doing special work. For the development and cultivation of these faculties a system of advanced education and training is proposed. The opportunities for the useful employment of naval officers in branches of the public service which are not at present under the control of the Navy Department are next presented. Special importance is assigned to the supervision of our maritime industries and the care and preservation of our harbors. Methods of extending the usefulness of naval officers while engaged in the performance of strictly naval duties are next treated at some length. The proposal to require reports and studies from officers of nearly all grades is advocated as a means of training for the higher professional duties as well as for collecting valuable information. Methods for increasing the intelligence and promoting the comfort of the seamen of the navy by encouraging sound elementary education, by supplying attractive libraries to men-of-war, and by improving the navy ration, are next presented. Finally, the claims of various organizations employing naval officers in useful scientific work are presented with a view to their recognition and the development of their resources.
The recommendations made with the purpose of using and cultivating special abilities may be found defective in detail without impairing the value of the principle upon which they are based. Many of them are mere suggestions, and the definite form in which others are presented has not been adopted from any disposition to cut off discussion or amendment. It has seemed best to offer something definite enough to admit of criticism and revision. This paper can have no practical value unless some of its suggestions provoke discussion and arouse interest among those to whom it relates.
The effect of the system proposed upon the regular naval employment of naval officers may require some explanation. Duty in those branches of the public service which enable officers to take an active part in the management of sea-going vessels should be recognized as sea service, and alternated with shore duty of a strictly naval character. On the other hand, shore duty of a kind extraneous to the naval service should be assigned only to those who have completed tours of duty in cruising men-of-war. The essential nature of the employment in each case should be considered; no officer should be withdrawn from active professional work for more than three years at any time. All courses of study would, of course, be taken up during the periods now spent on shore duty of an inactive kind or on waiting-orders. Those who had completed such courses should be assigned to employments favorable to the practical application of their newly-acquired knowledge.
The system of reports and studies to be sent in at regular intervals would occupy a considerable amount of the spare time of those who endeavored to accomplish results of value and importance. As the reports of officers of enlarged experience and mature character would generally be the most valuable, they should be given time and opportunity for collecting the information and doing the work required. To allow for this while on sea service, junior officers should be required to perform a certain portion of the routine duties of the ship. Thus midshipmen and ensigns may be learning the duties of watch and division officers in a practical and responsible manner, while officers who have been carrying on these duties for many years are fitting themselves for higher commands and wider fields of usefulness.
It may be objected that employment in some of the branches of the public service which have been proposed would tend to cause the resignation of some of them whose tastes and abilities might lead them to other fields of usefulness than those of the naval service. The occasional resignation of such officers would hardly injure the service; on the contrary, it would help to afford much-needed opportunities for promotion to young officers who might otherwise be compelled to wait for a weary period. Nor would those who voluntarily left the navy to do special work in other branches of the public service, be lost to the country or deprived of all interest in the service for which they had been educated.
It may be thought that rewards of some kind will be necessary to induce any considerable number of officers to prepare themselves for extended fields of usefulness. No such necessity will exist if willing and capable officers offer themselves whenever there is a demand for their services; and there is every reason to believe that there will be an abundant supply. The English system of giving increased pay to those who qualify themselves to serve as gunnery officers, interpreters, etc., seems to establish too low a standard for the majority, and to be inapplicable to our service. The promotion, in advance of their regular turns, of those who distinguish themselves in these fields of employment, or in any other manner, might seem desirable if the practical difficulties of the plan were less formidable. To base selection upon explicit reasons or fixed standards would tend to discourage the cultivation of special talents and the acquirement of varied knowledge. Competition of any kind introduces uniformity, if injustice is to be avoided. Practical equality in opportunities is unattainable in the naval service, and the irritation of protracted competition is unfavorable to the discipline of the service and to the sound mental progress of officers of mature years. Selection based upon principles and methods which cannot be announced beforehand involves still more injustice and demoralization. It would bring into the naval system the dangerous habit of relying upon favor or influence for advancement, which has been found inconsistent with soundness and efficiency in the civil service. Moreover, selections made in time of peace, by whatever methods they may be regulated, must be largely independent of the military or fighting qualities of those preferred.
There is no lack of inducements for earnest and faithful work in any of the directions which have been pointed out. Every officer of active mind and definite purpose will be glad to be assigned to duty in any congenial employment where his responsibilities and opportunities for improvement will be increased. Those who hope to qualify themselves for command and for war service will be the first to seek posts of responsibility and activity from which they might be debarred by their rank were they strictly confined to naval routine. The weakness of our naval material renders such preparation a matter of the first importance to those who must develop and transform our fighting fleets, and who may be compelled to accept the censure due to those who have not provided for the necessary improvements of our material.
Nor can training for command be postponed by officers now in the junior grades until they shall have reached the period of actual assignment to its duties. Age will render it hard for them to learn promptly and thoroughly what they ought to know.
Other and higher considerations invite naval officers to seek enlarged opportunities for serving their country. The nation, which has a right to all our energies, has passed beyond the type of a militant society and has become a great industrial society. It is organized for peace rather than for war. Its defensive powers depend upon its wealth and its industrial and scientific progress. It is the duty of those who may at any time be called upon to use these resources for warlike purposes to study them in detail, and, as far as possible, to connect themselves with those industries and interests upon which the navy must depend for its growth and transformation in time of war.
Realizing, as Americans, that we belong to the nation of the future, and believing that the navy will continue to be a factor and an element in our national progress, we should blend our personal ambitions in efforts for the future of the service. Tradition and example are very powerful in controlling its progress, and we owe much to those who have maintained the traditions of professional skill and intellectual activity which have characterized our service at every period of its history of glorious achievements. Many who have contributed to these results have never reached high rank or personal distinction, and their merits may have failed to secure recognition or reward. The service at the present day offers few large emoluments or public honors to the rising generation of its officers. It may, however, give them opportunities for applying their faculties for the benefit of the country and the navy of the future. Those who understand and accept such responsibilities may not escape from obscurity, but they will work to connect the service with the progress of the nation and of the race. They will devote themselves to enlarging their capacities for usefulness and to setting a good example to those who may come after them—Pour encourager les metres.