Churchill’s 1943 Speech to Congress

Churchill’s 1943 Speech to Congress

A friend writes ask­ing for the audio of Churchill’s sec­ond of three speech­es to Con­gress, and pos­es a ques­tion: “Roo­sevelt attend­ed nei­ther the 1941 nor 1943 speech­es. Why not?”

Click here for clear audio of the 50-minute speech.

Pres­i­dents nev­er attend speech­es to Con­gress by for­eign heads of state or gov­ern­ment. Part of this is cer­tain­ly cour­tesy, so as not to steal focus from the guest. In a deep­er sense, it is an asser­tion of the sep­a­ra­tion of pow­ers between Con­gress and the Exec­u­tive. A sim­i­lar tra­di­tion in Britain is when the House of Com­mons slams the door on Black Rod, when he sum­mons Mem­bers to the House of Lords to hear the Queen’s Speech. He then bangs the door again, three times. Mem­bers of Com­mons walk out, talk­ing loud­ly, and troop to the Lords to hear the speech. The rit­u­al empha­sizes Com­mons’ independence.

Not a P.C. Congress

Churchill and his par­ty, he said,

have not trav­elled all this way sim­ply to con­cern them­selves about improv­ing the health and hap­pi­ness of the Mika­do of Japan. I thought it would be good that all con­cerned in this the­atre should meet togeth­er and thrash out in friend­ly can­dour, heart to heart, all the points that arise; and there are many.

Any­where war indus­try was con­cen­trat­ed was fair game, Churchill told Con­gress. If there were pop­u­la­tions around it, they would be well advised to leave:

If they do not like what is com­ing to them, let them dis­perse before­hand on their own. This process will con­tin­ue cease­less­ly with ever-increas­ing weight and inten­si­ty until the Ger­man and Ital­ian peo­ples aban­don or destroy the mon­strous tyran­nies which they have incu­bat­ed and reared in their midst….

It is the duty of those who are charged with the direc­tion of the war to over­come at the ear­li­est moment the mil­i­tary, geo­graph­i­cal, and polit­i­cal dif­fi­cul­ties, and begin the process, so nec­es­sary and desir­able, of lay­ing the cities and oth­er muni­tions cen­tres of Japan in ash­es, for in ash­es they must sure­ly lie before peace comes back to the world.

CongressDear oh dear, how ter­ri­bly bul­ly­ing. How arro­gant, insen­si­tive and war­like! But those sen­ti­ments were not heard. Mem­bers of Con­gress and Amer­i­can audi­ences react­ed with cheers. The New York Times head­lined, “Churchill Pre­dicts Huge Allied Dri­ve in 1943.”

It was, of course, anoth­er age. This was the last war in his­to­ry declared by Con­gress. And Churchill knew, as he wrote in his mem­oirs, that “the Unit­ed States was in the war, up to the neck and in to the death…. We should not be wiped out. Our his­to­ry would not come to an end. We might not even have to die as individuals.”

How Times Have Changed

Hav­ing locat­ed and lis­tened to the online audio, I had an odd sen­sa­tion. It wasn’t over the clas­sic Churchill per­ora­tion. Most of all I was struck by the announc­er. He remind­ed me how much has changed.

The announc­er is full of hyper­bole, patri­o­tism and praise, total­ly unques­tion­ing of the speak­er. It is so dif­fer­ent from how one expects a speech like that would be cov­ered today. One can imag­ine the media talk­ing heads at the end of it: “Final­ly we switch to Berlin for Herr Goebbels’ response…..”

My friend in Eng­land quips: “The BBC would give out a hot­line num­ber for coun­sel­ing to those dis­turbed by what they have heard.” Cer­tain­ly many groups would be “offend­ed.”

In anoth­er wartime speech, in Cana­da, Churchill declared: “We have not jour­neyed all this way across the cen­turies, across the oceans, across the moun­tains, across the prairies, because we are made of sug­ar candy.”

Let us hope that is still true.

2 thoughts on “Churchill’s 1943 Speech to Congress

  1. The Wind­sors vis­it­ed the States sev­er­al times while he was Gov­er­nor of the Bahamas (1940-45), and their third vis­it began 9 May 1943. The Duke vis­it­ed Bahami­an labor­ers in Flori­da and New Jer­sey, spoke to Gen­er­al Foods about Bahamas oper­a­tions, and met with British colo­nial offi­cials in Wash­ing­ton. Churchill, who had hol­i­dayed with FDR at what is now Camp David, addressed Con­gress on 19 May. The Wind­sors attend­ed in the diplo­mat­ic gallery. Michael Bloch, in The Duke of Windsor’s War, records that Wind­sor got more applause than Churchill, dis­con­cert­ing the lat­ter. They met twice, once with the Pres­i­dent, talk­ing about the war and Windsor’s future. The Duke want­ed to be assured he’d done well in the Bahamas. (He hadn’t done well, which I know from local sources as a part-time Bahami­an resident.) 

    Churchill smoothed his feath­ers, promised he’d look for some­thing for him to do, and lat­er offered him the gov­er­nor­ship of Bermu­da (a pro­mo­tion from the Bahamas, then con­sid­ered the worst gov­er­nor­ship in the Empire). Wind­sor refused: “I can’t see much point in island-jump­ing. I’m for the big hop to a main­land.” A main­land job he nev­er got. Bloch believes Churchill nev­er lost “his respect and sym­pa­thy for his for­mer King [and] his expressed desire to improve his lot.” But Churchill after all depend­ed strong­ly on his friend­ship with the King and Queen, who had despised the Wind­sors since the Abdi­ca­tion. And so the Duke wast­ed away, an exile, to the end of his life. It was, real­ly, his own doing. As Alis­tair Cooke said, “He was at his best only when the going was good.” (See “Alis­tair Cooke: An Intro­duc­tion and an Appre­ci­a­tion.”)

  2. Have just seen news­reel Churchill’s 1943 speech to Amer­i­can Con­gress. Can any­one tell me why Edward and Mrs. Simp­son were doing there, in what looks like prime seats? Churchill had no time for them.

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