We published in 2010 an account of Churchill’s youthful (circa 1910) fling with Eugenics, a pseudo-science popular at the turn of the century, that favored sterilizing or confining the “feeble-minded” to “maintain the race” (race being whatever race the Eugenics enthusiast happened to be).
This drew an irate letter from a man who said he will never think the same of Churchill, knowing that he could have supported such horrendous ideas (which were actually once law in Britain and in some American states):
No truly educated intelligent person, even in those early years, can have bought into Eugenics. Churchill’s was not just a fling of youth or immaturity but the decided opinion of a nearly middle-aged man. His support of Eugenics could only lead to the extremities practiced to a tee by the Nazis.
Our article simply outlined the factual history of Churchill’s youthful (age 35) Eugenics fling—and it certainly was a fling, because he abandoned it quickly, along with most intelligent people, though not all of them. And to say that “no truly educated intelligent person” could adopt such views reminds me that a terrible lot of educated intelligent persons quite happily adopted Nazism and Bolshevism.
That aside, students of Churchill need always to consider the wider picture, starting with an excerpt we published with that article, from Paul Addison’s Churchill on the Home Front:
Churchill’s intentions were benign, but he was blundering into sensitive areas of civil liberty. Yet it is rare to discover in the archives the reflections of a politician on the nature of man. Churchill’s belief in the innate virtue of the great majority of human beings was part and parcel of an optimism he often expressed before the First World War.
I think Professor Addison by implication suggests that Churchill’s optimism was somewhat tempered by World War I—or certainly by World War II, and with good reason.
To assert that a fleeting belief in Eugenics by a young Churchill disqualifies him as a hero despite his later accomplishments is to accept what the deconstructionists say, that since our past is imperfect, we have no pretense to moral leadership.
Concluded in Part 2…