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The Angel Of The Revolution George Chetwynd Griffith

The Eve Of Battle

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To grant the loan would be to save the Italian fleet and army for the Triple Alliance; to refuse it would be to detach Italy from the Alliance, and to drive her into the arms of their foes, for not only could she not stand alone amidst the shock of the contending Powers, but without an immediate supply of ready money she would not be able to keep the sea for a month.

Thus, he said in conclusion, the fate of Europe, and perhaps of the world, lay for the time being in their Lordships' hands. The Double Alliance was already numerically stronger than the Triple, and, moreover, they had at their command a new means of destruction, for the dreadful effectiveness of which he could vouch from personal experience.

The trials of the Russian war-balloons had been secret, it was true, but he had nevertheless witnessed them, no matter how, and he knew what they could accomplish. It was true that there were in existence even more formidable engines than these, but they belonged to no nation, and were in the hands of those whose hands were against every man's, and whose designs were still wrapped in the deepest mystery.

He therefore besought his hearers not to trust too implicitly to that hitherto unconquerable valour and resource which had so far rendered Britain impregnable to her enemies. These were not the days of personal valour. They were the days of warfare by machinery, of wholesale destruction by means which men had never before been called upon to face, and which annihilated from a distance before mere valour had time to strike its blow.

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If ever the Fates were on the side of the biggest battalions, they were now, and, so far as human foresight could predict the issue of the colossal struggle, the greatest and the most perfectly equipped armaments would infallibly insure the ultimate victory, quite apart from considerations of personal heroism and devotion.

No such speech had been heard in either House since Edmund Burke had fulminated against the miserable policy which severed America from Britain, and split the Anglo-Saxon race in two; but now, as then, personal feeling and class prejudice proved too strong for eloquence and logic.

Italy was the most intensely Radical State in Europe, and she was bankrupt to boot; and, added to this, there was a very strong party in the Upper House which believed that Britain needed no such ally, that with Germany and Austria at her side she could fight the world, in spite of the Tsar's new-fangled balloons, which would probably prove failures in actual war as similar inventions had done before, and even if her allies succumbed, had she not stood alone before, and could she not do it again if necessary?

She would fulfil her engagement with the Triple Alliance, and declare war the moment that one of the Powers was attacked, but she would not pour British gold in millions into the bottomless gulf of Italian bankruptcy.

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The Angel Of The Revolution
George Chetwynd Griffith

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