252 DEFEAT OF
The introduction of steam as a propelling power at sea has added ten-fold weight to these arguments of Raleigh. On the other hand, a well-constructed system of rail-ways, especially of coast-lines, aided by the operation of the electric telegraph, would give facilities for concentrating a defensive army to oppose an enemy on landing, and for moving troops from place to place in observation of the movements of the hostile fleet, such as would have astonished Sir Walter, even more than the sight of vessels passing rapidly to and fro without the aid of wind or tide. The observation of the French marshal, whom he quotes, is now no longer correct. Armies can be made to pass from place to place almost with the speed of wings, and far more rapidly than any post-traveling that was known in the Elizabethan or any other age. Still, the presence of a suffcient armed force at the right spot, at the right time, can never be made a matter of certainty; and even after the changes that have taken place, no one can doubt but that the policy of Raleigh is that which England should ever seek to follow in defensive war. At the time of the Armada, that policy certainly saved the country, if not from conquest, at least from deplorable calamities. If indeed the enemy had landed, we may be sure that he would have been heroically opposed. But history shows us so many examples of the superiority of veteran troops over new levies, however numerous and brave, that, without disparaging our countrymen's soldierly merits, we may well be thankful that no trial of them was then made on English land. Especially must we feel this when we contrast the high military genius of the Prince of Parma, who would have headed the Spaniards, with the imbecility of the Earl of Leicester, to whom the deplorable spirit of favoritism, which formed the great blemish on Elizabeth's character, had then committed the chief command of the English armies.
The ships of the royal navy at this time amounted to no more than thirty-six; but the most serviceable merchant vessels were collected from all the ports of the country; and the citizens of London, Bristol, and the other great seats of commerce showed as liberal a zeal in equipping and manning vessels, as the nobility and gentry displayed in mustering forces by land. The seafaring population of the coast, of every rank and station, was animated by the same ready spirit; and the whole number of seamen who came forward to man the English fleet was 17,472.