Relevance: from “Churchill in His Own Words”

Relevance: from “Churchill in His Own Words”

Active on the polit­i­cal scene for an almost unprece­dent­ed fifty years, Churchill saved every­thing he wrote and said, and his archives pro­vide a rich resource. If you try hard enough, you can use him like the Bible, find­ing a quote to sup­port every shade of polit­i­cal opinion—especially pro­vid­ed you care­ful­ly avoid the larg­er con­text. In this way, Churchill has been labeled an anti-semi­te, a war­mon­ger, a con­spir­a­tor in the bomb­ing of Pearl Har­bor, the pro­mot­er of poi­son gas against Iraqis, an inside cause of the 1929 Wall Street crash, and oth­er inani­ties too numer­ous to mention.

Many gen­uine quotes from Churchill By Him­self  have not only stood the test of time but sound eeri­ly famil­iar in today’s world:

 “Broad­ly speak­ing, short words are best, and the old words, when short, are the best of all.”  —Accept­ing the Times Lit­er­ary Award, Lon­don, 2 Novem­ber 1949

“In finance, every­thing that is agree­able is unsound and every­thing that is sound is dis­agree­able.” —1926

Polit­i­cal Philosophy

Above all was Churchill’s absolute indif­fer­ence to polls or poular­i­ty. In 1936, when he stood almost alone in Par­lia­ment, urg­ing his coun­try to rearm in the face of Hitler, his ring­ing dec­la­ra­tion shows how far Churchill ranks above the ordi­nary politi­cian in any age

I would endure with patience the roar of exul­ta­tion that would go up when I was proved wrong, because it would lift a load off my heart and off the hearts of many Mem­bers. What does it mat­ter who gets exposed or dis­com­fit­ed? If the coun­try is safe, who cares for indi­vid­ual politi­cians, in or out of office?  —1936

Show­ing that you can use Churchill to sup­port all sides of a ques­tion, here is a quo­ta­tion I con­firmed for the Oba­ma cam­paign in 2008, over the ques­tion of whether it is prop­er to meet and talk with dis­agree­able peo­ple. Churchill said:

There is noth­ing improp­er in bel­liger­ents meet­ing to dis­cuss their affairs even while actu­al bat­tles are going on. All his­to­ry abounds in prece­dents. All the time that Napoleon was fight­ing his des­per­ate cam­paigns in France in 1814 the Inter­na­tion­al Coun­cil, com­posed of his rep­re­sen­ta­tives and those of the Allies, were in con­stant con­fer­ence at Chatil­lon-sur-Seine. —1954

And here is anoth­er Churchill quote which the McCain Cam­paign asked for that year:

Class quar­rels, end­less par­ty strife, on a back­ground of apa­thy, indif­fer­ence and bewil­der­ment, will lead us all to ruin. Only a new surge of impulse can win us back the glo­ri­ous ascen­dan­cy which we gained in the strug­gle for right and free­dom, and for which our fore­bears had nerved our hearts down the long aisles of time. Let us make a supreme effort to sur­mount our dan­gers. Let faith—not appetite—guide our steps.  —1945

The belief that politi­cians are moti­vat­ed only by oppor­tunism and get­ting re-elect­ed is respon­si­ble for the mod­ern cli­mate of doubt and dis­trust in gov­ern­ment – and, more dan­ger­ous­ly, ques­tion­ing time­proven insti­tu­tions and nations. A pop­u­lar lament is that we have no Churchills. Yet we have some lead­ers who fol­low Churchill’s dic­tum, say­ing what they believe regard­less of the con­se­quences. There is hope yet.

On Elec­tions

No one has ever sug­gest­ed that pro­longed elec­tion­eer­ing is capa­ble of set­tling our problems….One can hard­ly imag­ine any­thing more unfor­tu­nate than that we should find our­selves split in half on domes­tic pol­i­tics, with both par­ties gath­er­ing and arrang­ing their forces for anoth­er tri­al of strength. That this should con­tin­ue for many months with­out rem­e­dy can only be dis­as­trous to our pros­per­i­ty, and may well endan­ger both our life and even our sur­vival as a great pow­er. —1950

I have noticed that when­ev­er a dis­tin­guished politi­cian declares that a par­tic­u­lar ques­tion is above Par­ty, what he real­ly means is that every­body, with­out dis­tinc­tion of Par­ty, shall vote for him. —1905

On Mus­lim Warriors

How dread­ful are the curs­es which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides  the fanat­i­cal fren­zy, which is as dan­ger­ous in a man as hydropho­bia in a dog, there is this fear­ful fatal­is­tic apa­thy. The effects are appar­ent in many coun­tries. Improv­i­dent habits, sloven­ly sys­tems of agri­cul­ture, slug­gish meth­ods of com­merce, and inse­cu­ri­ty of prop­er­ty exist wher­ev­er the fol­low­ers of the Prophet rule or live. A degrad­ed sen­su­al­ism deprives this life of its grace and refine­ment; the next of its dig­ni­ty and sanc­ti­ty. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property—either as a child, a wife, or a concubine—must delay the final extinc­tion of slav­ery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great pow­er among men.

Yet these were as brave men as ever walked the earth. The con­vic­tion was borne in on me that their claim beyond the grave in respect of a valiant death was not less good than that which any of our coun­try­men could make. —1899

On Mag­na­nim­i­ty

When the ancient Athe­ni­ans, on one occa­sion, over­pow­ered a tribe in the Pelo­pon­nesus which had wrought them injury by base, treach­er­ous means, and when they had the hos­tile army herd­ed on a beach naked for slaugh­ter, they for­gave them and set them free, and they said: “This was not because they were men; it was done because of the nature of Man.” —1945

On Polit­i­cal Inertia

Any­one can see what the posi­tion is. The Gov­ern­ment sim­ply can­not make up their minds, or they can­not get the Prime Min­is­ter to make up his mind. So they go on in strange para­dox, decid­ed only to be unde­cid­ed, resolved to be irres­olute, adamant for drift, sol­id for flu­id­i­ty, all-pow­er­ful to be impo­tent. So we go on prepar­ing more months and years—precious per­haps to the great­ness of Britain—for the locusts to eat. —1938





Scot­tish Sci­en­tists Clone a Sheep

There seems lit­tle doubt that it will be pos­si­ble to car­ry out in arti­fi­cial sur­round­ings the entire cycle which now leads to the birth of a child. Inter­fer­ence with the men­tal devel­op­ment of such beings, expert sug­ges­tion and treat­ment in the ear­li­er years, would pro­duce beings spe­cial­ized to thought or toil….A being might be pro­duced capa­ble of tend­ing a machine but with­out oth­er ambi­tions.        —1931

The Era of Government

Social­ism has become intel­lec­tu­al­ly dis­cred­it­ed. It no longer presents itself as a solu­tion of human dif­fi­cul­ties or as an effec­tive and prac­ti­cal philosophy….We have seen gris­ly exam­ples of the ruin which it brought to States, indus­tries and com­mu­ni­ties of all kinds, whether it was applied on the largest or on the small­est scale….It has been proved on a gigan­tic scale and with per­fect clear­ness to be fatal to the wel­fare of liv­ing nations. —1929

The Next Administration

Every new admin­is­tra­tion, not exclud­ing our­selves, arrives in pow­er with bright and benev­o­lent ideas of using pub­lic mon­ey to do good. The more fre­quent the changes of Gov­ern­ment, the more numer­ous are the bright ideas, and the more fre­quent the elec­tions, the more benev­o­lent they become.  —1927

Richard Nixon, R.I.P.

It might be said that he out­lived his future by ten years and his past by more than twen­ty. The bril­liant prospects which had shone before him until he became the leader were dis­persed by the break-up of his Gov­ern­ment and the defeat of his Par­ty. The part he took as a patri­ot in sup­port­ing the War destroyed his hold upon the regard and con­fi­dence of the Rad­i­cal masses….He sev­ered him­self by pur­pose­ful action from his friends and followers….Within a decade after achiev­ing the pin­na­cle his polit­i­cal career was closed for ever. It was only two decades lat­er that his long life end­ed.  —On Lord Rose­bery, 1937

Peace­mak­ing in Ireland

Let us not be led by impa­tience, by prej­u­dice, by vex­a­tion, by anx­i­ety, into cours­es which would lay us open to charges of fick­le­ness or lev­i­ty in deal­ing with those issues so long last­ing as the rela­tions between the two islands. Let us so direct our steps that, in spite of every dis­ap­point­ment, we give this Treaty arrange­ment every pos­si­ble chance of becom­ing the true act of rec­on­cil­i­a­tion. —1922

Peace­mak­ing in the Mid­dle East

My Dear Weizmann…The won­der­ful exer­tions which Israel is mak­ing in these times of dif­fi­cul­ty are cheer­ing to an old Zion­ist like me. I trust you may work with Jor­dan and the rest of the Moslem world. With true com­rade­ship there will be enough for all.  —1951

Pales­tin­ian Statehood

When the Arab munic­i­pal­i­ties are con­duct­ing their affairs with any­thing like the pro­gres­sive vigour that is shown by the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty, and when you have come to the point of the whole prin­ci­ple of local gov­ern­ment hav­ing been imple­ment­ed by the good will and activ­i­ties of the pop­u­la­tion, your case will be enor­mous­ly stronger for a for­ward move­ment.  —1936

Civ­il War in the Balkans

In the moun­tains there began again the fierce guer­ril­la with which the Serbs had resist­ed the Turks for centuries….This con­front­ed the Ger­mans with a prob­lem which could not be solved by the mass exe­cu­tions of nota­bles or per­sons of sub­stance. They found them­selves con­front­ed by des­per­ate men who had to be hunt­ed down in their lairs. No reprisals, how­ev­er bloody, upon hostages or vil­lages deterred them.  —1921

Britain Drop­ping the Monarchy

Igno­rant peo­ple are often dis­posed to imag­ine that progress con­sists in con­vert­ing one­self from a monar­chy into a repub­lic. In this coun­try we have known the bless­ings of lim­it­ed monar­chy. Great tra­di­tion­al and con­sti­tu­tion­al chains of events have come to make an arrange­ment, to make a sit­u­a­tion, unwrit­ten, which enables our affairs to pro­ceed on what I believe is a supe­ri­or lev­el of smooth­ness and of demo­c­ra­t­ic progress. —1944


One thought on “Relevance: from “Churchill in His Own Words”

  1. Thank you Richard Lang­worth for your con­tri­bu­tion toward under­stand­ing the man Price Water­house Coop­er dis­cov­ered to be the most admired leader in the his­to­ry of humankind.

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