Churchill Quotations for December 7th

Churchill Quotations for December 7th

Q: “I notice that on December 7th, 1936…

…Churchill was howled down in Par­lia­ment, plead­ing for more time for Edward VIII to decide on his future. What a rever­sal in for­tune! Only five years lat­er on the same date, he knew the war was won.” —J.G., Rye, New York

A: He had his downs and ups…

[Decem­ber 7th, 1936, House of Com­mons:] May I ask my Rt. Hon. Friend [Prime Min­is­ter Bald­win] whether he could give us an assur­ance that no irrev­o­ca­ble step… [Hon. Mem­bers: “No!”] …that no irrev­o­ca­ble step will be tak­en before the House has received a full state­ment, not only upon the per­son­al but upon the con­sti­tu­tion­al issues involved. May I ask him to bear in mind that these issues are not mere­ly per­son­al to the present occu­pant of the Throne, but that they affect the entire Con­sti­tu­tion.” [Hon. Mem­bers: “Speech,” and “Sit down!”]

At that moment Churchill tem­porar­i­ly lost all his recent­ly-built polit­i­cal cap­i­tal by ris­ing to defend Edward VIII. The King was fac­ing abdi­ca­tion over his insis­tence on mar­ry­ing Wal­lis Simp­son. His col­leagues shout­ed down the Mem­ber for Epping. Ruled out of order for mak­ing a speech dur­ing Ques­tion Time, he stormed from the House. “I am fin­ished,” he muttered.

Five years later, a lot had happened

Decem­ber 7th 1941, Che­quers: Churchill was at the Prime Minister’s coun­try res­i­dence, din­ing with U.S. Ambas­sador John Gilbert Winant and FDR’s emis­sary Averell Har­ri­man, when he received news of the Japan­ese attack on Pearl Har­bor. They imme­di­ate­ly put in a call to the President.

In two or three min­utes Mr. Roo­sevelt came through. “Mr. Pres­i­dent, what’s this about Japan?” “It’s quite true,” he replied. ‘They have attacked us at Pearl Har­bor. We are all in the same boat now”…. I got on again and said, “This cer­tain­ly sim­pli­fies things. God be with you,’ or words to that effect.” Churchill wrote nine years later:

“No American…

…will think it wrong of me if I pro­claim that to have the Unit­ed States at our side was to me the great­est joy. I could not fore­tell the course of events. I do not pre­tend to have mea­sured accu­rate­ly the mar­tial might of Japan, but now at this very moment I knew the Unit­ed States was in the war, up to the neck and in to the death.

So we had won after all! Yes, after Dunkirk, after the fall of France; after the hor­ri­ble episode of Oran; after the threat of inva­sion, when, apart from the Air and the Navy, we were an almost unarmed peo­ple; after the dead­ly strug­gle of the U-boat war—the first Bat­tle of the Atlantic, gained by a hand’s-breadth; after 17 months of lone­ly fight­ing and 19 months of my respon­si­bil­i­ty in dire stress.

We had won the war. Eng­land would live; Britain would live; the Com­mon­wealth of Nations and the Empire would live. How long the war would last or in what fash­ion it would end no man could tell, nor did I at this moment care. Once again in our long Island his­to­ry we should emerge, how­ev­er mauled or muti­lat­ed, safe and vic­to­ri­ous…. Being sat­u­rat­ed and sati­at­ed with emo­tion and sen­sa­tion, I went to bed and slept the sleep of the saved and thankful.

1940: His most important letter to FDR

Lon­don, Decem­ber 7th, 1940 (sent on 8th), to Pres­i­dent Roo­sevelt: The moment approach­es when we shall no longer be able to pay cash for ship­ping and oth­er sup­plies…. More­over, I do not believe that the Gov­ern­ment and peo­ple of the Unit­ed States would find it in accor­dance with the prin­ci­ples which guide them, to con­fine the help which they have so gen­er­ous­ly promised only to such muni­tions of war and com­modi­ties as could be imme­di­ate­ly paid for. You may be cer­tain that we shall prove our­selves ready to suf­fer and sac­ri­fice to the utmost for the Cause, and that we glo­ry in being its champions.

Accord­ing to Richard Lamb (Churchill as War Leader, 77), WSC con­sid­ered this his most impor­tant let­ter to Roo­sevelt: “It gave a full state­ment of Britain’s hope­less finan­cial posi­tion…. Straight­away Roo­sevelt stat­ed at a press con­fer­ence that he would ‘lease’ mate­r­i­al to Britain, get rid of the ‘dol­lar sign’…. These words had immense sig­nif­i­cance and raised the cur­tain on the his­toric Lend Lease arrangement.”

December 7th in other years

Lon­don, Decem­ber 7th, 1923: “My dear Churchill: Your defeat stamps this elec­tion and cov­ers Leices­ter with shame, but I rejoice to see you stick to your plat­form of oppo­si­tion to extremes on either side of pol­i­tics.” —Sir William Tyrrell. (By 32 votes, WSC had lost his attempt to return to Par­lia­ment for West Leicester.)

New Del­hi, Decem­ber 7th, 1935: “Dear Mr. Churchill: May I send you the greet­ing of the sea­son and good wish­es for the New Year. May the New Year bring more hap­pi­ness and bet­ter oppor­tu­ni­ties for advanc­ing a bet­ter under­stand­ing between the two coun­tries. I showed your cable to Gand­hi­ji who was very pleased.” —Gan­shayam Das Birla

Con­stan­tino­ple, Decem­ber 7th, 1943: “Do you know what hap­pened to me today, the Turk­ish Pres­i­dent kissed me. The truth is I’m irre­sistible. But don’t tell Antho­ny [Eden], he’s jeal­ous.” —WSC to his daugh­ter Sarah.

Lon­don, Decem­ber 7th 1947: “Hal­i­fax’s virtues have done more harm in the world than the vices of hun­dreds of oth­er peo­ple. And yet when I meet him, I can’t help hav­ing friend­ly talk.” —WSC to his doc­tor, Lord Moran

Bermu­da, Decem­ber 7th, 1953: “I can­not make it out…. t seems that every­thing is left to Dulles. It appears that the Pres­i­dent is no more than a ventriloquist’s doll…. This fel­low preach­es like a Methodist Min­is­ter, and his bloody text is always the same: That noth­ing but evil can come out of meet­ing with Malenkov. Dulles is a ter­ri­ble hand­i­cap. Ten years ago I could have dealt with him…. I have been humil­i­at­ed by my own decay.” —WSC to Lord Moran

Further reading

Din­ner at Che­quers on the Night That Changed Every­thing,” 2021.

For more ver­sions of the Cheques con­ver­sa­tions see “Cana­da First to Declare War,” 2017.

Quo­ta­tions from Churchill By Him­self: In His Own Words (Kin­dle edi­tion, 2016).

One thought on “Churchill Quotations for December 7th

  1. It’s incred­i­ble that one man could have writ­ten or spo­ken such an array of elo­quent and utter­ly sig­nif­i­cant rhetoric on just one, sin­gle day of the cal­en­dar year, the 7th Decem­ber. But I imag­ine that Churchill’s bril­liance com­bined with his lengthy life at the fore­front of British pol­i­tics and his remark­able indus­try with the pen, would throw up mul­ti­ple gems for the oth­er 364 days too!

    He had a gift, didn’t he>—RML

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