the collier in specified localities on definite dates, which is almost impossible without naval stations, must also be established, as a failure to meet would result in leaving the cruiser helpless. Wind is no longer a motive power for ships of war, and the days when a cruiser could keep the sea and do the work she was designed for, so long as her provisions and water held out, are gone. Coal is now the prime necessity, and unless our cruisers have points provided for them to which they can go with a certainty of finding a supply, they will on the outbreak of war have to be brought home to operate off our own coasts from the home bases of supply, or else be left powerless in neutral harbors until the close of the war.
The only other solution is to build cruisers of such size that they can carry their own coal and remain at sea for long periods independent of coal depots or supply vessels.
According to the published performances of our cruisers the very best that has yet been done by one of them is the late voyage of the Philadelphia, steaming from Callao to Honolulu, a distance of 5,200 miles, burning 703 tons of coal in eighteen days, at the rate of 12 knots an hour, and 39 tons of coal a day, which gives a distance of 7.3 knots per ton of coal burned.
As this ship and all the others of her class (and we have a number of them) can carry only about 1,000 tons of coal, in some cases less, she would have been powerless to reach any other port from Honolulu had she not been able to replenish her supply upon arrival.
It is not known that the cruisers of any foreign power have done so well; and it is a fact that, class for class, our cruisers carry more coal and steam better than do those of other nations; but it is also a fact that we need much greater coal-carrying capacity than we have at present, or else we must follow foreign example and establish coal depots.
It is published that we have two commerce-destroyers, with light batteries, substantially completed, each to carry 2,200 tons of coal, which at the Philadelphia's rate of 7.3 knots per ton of coal, would enable them to cover at slow speed about 16,000 miles; but if they are to destroy commerce they will have to occasionally steam at much greater speed than 10 to 12 knots, and it is safe to say that in time of war they could not cover a greater distance than 12,000 miles without replenishing their supply. This would mean an immediate return after a cruise of 6,000 miles, as we have now no place to which they could go away from our mainland, with a certainty of getting the coal that is absolutely necessary to their usefulness.
England does not need a coal capacity in any of her vessels greater than will enable them to traverse 4,000 or 5,000 miles, as we have seen that her coal depots are planted along the trade routes at distances of about 3,000 miles.
France, where she has important commercial interests, has similar depots; so have Germany, Holland, and Spain.
Russia is nearly as badly off as is the United States, but she has the fortified depot of Vladivostock in Asiatic waters and has lately acquired the use of French ports wherever she may need them. Even with these advantages she is furnishing herself with crusiers of great size, carrying over 3,000 tons of coal.
We have neither the depots nor the cruisers of great coal endurance; and the most rational mode of strengthening this very apparent weakness would seem to be to obtain coal depots, as the English do, and to begin by accepting the most valuable one of Hawaii.
As an example on this point, no foreign armored ships have a greater coal endurance than those of Italy, yet not one of these immense ships can steam over 7,000 miles without replenishing its supply, and some of them can not do so well.
As the distance from Italy to the coast of the United States is practically about 5,000 miles, they would have a very brief period of usefulness after arrival on our coasts, in the absence of the bases possessed by other European powers, and would have to rely on supply cruisers over a long line of communication, which could be cut off by cruisers, in the absence of the most efficient patrol.
The same is quite true of the United States or any other power which undertakes a naval expedition without a base, as no number of batteries or battalions stationed on the mainland can secure the safety of the needed supplies while in transit, or the usefulness of a naval force at any distance from a home port.
The development of foreign commerce is one, perhaps the principal, argument advanced for the free-trade policy of the Democratic party. While not agreeing with this policy, I am willing to agree that ocean trade is an important source of prosperity to any nation. That of the Pacific is just opening on an era of activity which will be vastly augmented on the completion of an isthmus canal, and this trade belongs to the United States, if we are wise enough to secure it.
But trade, to establish itself on a sound basis, must feel assured of protection at all times, and know that it will not have to be abandoned on the outbreak of every little war which may turn loose upon it a pack of destroyers of insignificant strength, compelling it to lie idle with all the capital involved until peace prevails again.
If the United States aim at commercial supremacy in the Pacific, its trade must have such assurances, and a first necessity is the acquisition of bases for the protectors. Not only Hawaii is needed, but Somoa (distant 2,200 miles); a station at the mouth of the canal (say, 4,200 miles from Honolulu and 3,000 from San Francisco); and another at the Straits of Magellan (distant 4,000 miles from the isthmus and 5,000 from Somoa). With these bases, a properly organized fleet of sufficient size to keep the communications open between them, will hold the Pacific as an American ocean, dominated by American commercial enterprise for all time.
Now, the value of these islands to the United States for the reasons I have stated has long been appreciated by American statesmen.
Minister Stevens, whatever attacks may be made upon him, is certainly an able, farsighted, and loyal American, and his letter of November 20,1892, to Secretary Foster, on this subject, is well worthy of perusal.
Minister McCook wrote in 1866 to Secretary Seward in regard to the Sandwich Islands, in part, as follows:
"They are the resting place, supply depot, and reshipping point of all our American whaling fleet. The greater part of the agricultural, commercial, and moneyed interests of the islands are in the hands of American citizens. All vessels from our Pacific coast to China pass close to these shores.
"Geographically these islands occupy the same important relative position toward the Pacific that the Bermudas do toward the Atlantic coast of the United States, a position which makes them important to the English, convenient to the French, and, in the event of war with either of those powers, absolutely necessary to the United States."