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The Speeches of Winston Churchill

ISSUE:  Winter 1943

The Unrelenting Struggle. By Winston S. Churchill. Little, Brown and Company. $3.50.

The Unrelenting Struggle” embraces the speeches of Mr. Winston Churchill from November 12, 1940, to December 30, 1941. It covers one of the most fateful years in all human history, and the unrolling of the scroll and the telling of the story are done by a man intimately acquainted with all the details, being in many instances the planner and the director of them. The collection will be especially interesting to those who enjoy the onrolling thunder of Mr. Churchill: to all interested in the moving events of the war it will be well worth the time spent in the reading.

The reader is materially assisted by the arrangement of the speeches. Mr. Charles Eade has prepared a most interesting volume. He has set forth by way of background, in each case where they are needed, a few paragraphs showing the dates of important events which occurred shortly before Mr. Churchill spoke.

Two things stand out throughout the entire series: one is the unwavering and unswerving confidence of Mr, Churchill in the British Empire as an exponent of liberalism and progress, a bastion and bulwark of free men and free institutions, and the other is his unshakeable conviction as to ultimate victory.

Desperate as were the fortunes of the Empire in November, 1940, and as vast as were the additions to its strength during the year of 1941, there is not the slightest intimation in any of his utterances that he ever entertained the least doubt as to the ultimate outcome of the struggle in which the British peoples are engaged. Russia came in as a result of Germany’s unexpected assault in June. The United States was brought in because of Japan’s treacherous attack in December. Between the two, 300,000,000 peoples were ranged against the enemies of Great Britain, and resources of incalculable strength were thrown into the balance. The newcomers are welcomed by Mr. Churchill, not as saviors of a desperate situation, but as fellow warriors, come late to the fray, who will be permitted to share in the glory of the overthrow of the enemies of civilization.

There is nothing petty or small in his position. His belief in the invincibility of the Empire’s strength does not lead him to disparage or to underestimate the value and the timeliness of the support of Russia and the United States. His indomitable courage, unyielding tenacity, and profound knowledge of the unorganized strength of the British Commonwealth of Nations caused him to appraise her chances more generously than did the onlookers and bystanders. He grasped too, I think, more than any other living person, the fact that the conflict could not possibly be localized, and that its spread would inevitably bring to the side of Great Britain allies more numerous and more powerful than those available to Germany and Italy.

As he has been an almost life-time member of the House of Commons, and a defender of its rights and prerogatives, Mr. Churchill’s views on the MacDonald Bill, as expressed in the House on February 27, 1941, are particularly interesting. When Mr. Malcolm MacDonald, Minister of Health, was appointed High Commissioner in Canada, a Bill was introduced into the House of Commons enabling him to retain his seat in Parliament. As the Prime Minister stated in his discussion, the application of this Bill was quite general, though it was associated with a particular case. The need for the Bill arose out of the prohibition against Members of Parliament holding offices of profit. Since the High Commissioner in Canada was regarded as holding an office of profit, special legislation was needed to enable him to act, unless he was willing to give up his place in the House of Commons, and this Mr. MacDonald was unwilling to do.

Mr. Churchill’s defense of the request is worthy of study. He justifies it on two grounds. He points out that the appointment of Sir Stafford Cripps as Ambassador to Russia went unchallenged, although he doubted its validity. He shows, and with great force, that it is nonsense to permit one and prohibit the other. He takes, also, the sound position that all persons in time of war ought to be allowed to serve in every way possible. He points out that it is often possible to utilize Members of Parliament in positions of responsibility where they can be of great value, and that this warrants their serving in a dual capacity in times of war, even though by such services their constituents are left practically without representation. He believes that the constituents would willingly make such a sacrifice.

Mr. Churchill does not make it plain that he regards the practice as undesirable in ordinary times. It is difficult to believe that he would approve of such procedure other than in times of great emergency. It is doubtful that constituents so treated would submit, and certainly the practice is most dangerous because this power in the hands of an ambitious executive would inevitably result in the destruction of the legislative branch of the Government. As a matter of fact, the prohibition finally came because of the subservience of the peoples’ Representatives to the Crown on account of favors promised or granted. The rule is one that should be strengthened rather than weakened.

The reader cannot help being struck by the value of the Prime Minister’s reports on the war to the House of Commons. They are comprehensive; and by means of these reports, given at frequent intervals if necessary, the representatives of the people are kept advised on the progress of the entire war effort. It is unfortunate that some such machinery is not available to the Congress of the United States. Although called upon for vast grants of power and for the large appropriations necessary for the defense of the nation, the Congress is without means of securing first hand war information, except through its Committees, and this is unsatisfactory. A direct report to the two Houses, or either of them, by a Cabinet Member, would be most valuable. It probably would be found to be useful as a regular practice.

One passage in Mr. Churchill’s speech to the Congress of the United States, made on December 26, 1941, should be read and reread by those interested in world stability and peace. It should be memorized by those who represent the English and the American peoples at the peace conference. It is this:

“Twice in a single generation the catastrophe of world war has fallen upon us; twice in our lifetime has the long arm of fate reached across the ocean to bring the United States into j the forefront of the battle. If we had kept together after the last war, if we had taken common measures for our safety, this renewal of the curse need never have fallen upon us.”


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