Some ten weeks have passed, and as these results have become plain to all the world, the German lie, or what remained of it, has begun to droop, even in the country of its birth. “Do not let us suppose,” says Captain Persius—the most honest of German naval critics, in a recent article—“that we have shaken the sea-power of England. That would be foolishness.” While Mr. Balfour, the most measured, the most veracious of men, speaking only a few days ago to the representatives of the Dominion Parliaments, who have been visiting England, says quietly—“the growth of our Navy, since the outbreak of war, which has gone on, and which at this moment is still going on, is something of which I do not believe the general public has the slightest conception.”
For the general public has, indeed, but vague ideas of what is happening day by day and week by week in the great shipyards of the Clyde, the Tyne, and the Mersey. But there, all the same, the workmen—and workwomen—of Great Britain—(for women are taking an ever-increasing share in the lighter tasks of naval engineering)—are adding incessantly to the sea-power of this country, acquiescing in a Government control, a loosening of trade custom, a dilution and simplification of skilled labour, which could not have been dreamt of before the war. At the same time they are meeting the appeal of Ministers to give up or postpone the holidays they have so richly earned, for the sake of their sons and brothers in the trenches, with a dogged “aye, aye!” in which there is a note of profound understanding, of invincible and personal determination, but rarely heard in the early days of the war.
So much for the Workshops and the Navy. Now before I turn to the New Armies and the Somme offensive, let us look for a moment at the present facts of British War Finance. By April last, the date of my sixth Letter, we had raised 2,380 millions sterling, for the purposes of the war; we had lent 500 millions to our Allies, and we were spending about 5 millions a day on the war. According to a statement recently made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer (August 10), by March next our debt will have risen to 3,440 millions sterling, 1,060 millions more than it stood at in March last; our advances to our Allies will have increased to 800 millions, while our daily war expenditure remains about the same.
Mr. McKenna’s tone in announcing these figures was extraordinarily cheerful. “We have every reason,” he said, amid the applause of the House of Commons—“to be proud of the manner in which British credit has stood the strain.” The truth is that by March next, at the present rate of expenditure, our total indebtedness (deducting the advances to our Allies) will almost exactly equal “one year’s national income,” i.e., the aggregate of the income of every person in the country. But if a man having an income of L5,000 a year, were to owe a total of L5,000, we