Winston Churchill on Giuseppi Garibaldi

Winston Churchill on Giuseppi Garibaldi

(Updat­ed from 2014.) A cor­re­spon­dent asks if there were any words by Churchill about Giuseppe Garibal­di (1807-1882), the Ital­ian demo­c­ra­t­ic patri­ot who con­tributed to the found­ing of Italy.

There is no doubt that Churchill read about and respect­ed Garibal­di, whom he men­tions more than a few times in his writ­ings and speech­es. Some say “Blood Toil Tears and Sweat” was per­haps a para­phrase of sim­i­lar, ear­li­er lines by the Ital­ian. Per­haps not. In my book, Churchill in His Own Words,  I note he was using ele­ments of “blood, toil, tears and sweat” as ear­ly as 1899. Ralph Keyes (The Quote Ver­i­fi­er) men­tions these ele­ments dat­ing back to Cicero, Livy and John Donne. Churchill read most of those.

Garibaldi in Churchill’s novel

Churchill makes ref­er­ences in pass­ing in his books Great Con­tem­po­raries and Step by Step. In “Churchill’s Nov­el Savro­la,” the late Dr. Patrick Pow­ers wrote:

Savrola’s library includes Boccaccio’s Decameron, which takes place near Flo­rence, reflect­ing Churchill’s inter­est in the polit­i­cal life of post-Roman Italy. Also, Churchill announced to his moth­er in April 1898 that among his next writ­ing projects would be a biog­ra­phy of Garibal­di, the pop­u­lar 19th cen­tu­ry demo­c­ra­t­ic revolutionary.

Clear­ly Churchill is pre­oc­cu­pied at this time with the chal­lenge con­front­ed by the pop­u­lar lead­ers Savonaro­la or Garibal­di who, in post-Roman Italy, head­ed demo­c­ra­t­ic efforts to restore and extend ancient Roman lib­er­ties, and who encoun­tered resis­tance from the demo­c­ra­t­ic pop­u­la­tion they would ben­e­fit and elevate.

Garibal­di. (Wiki­me­dia Commons)

From the Official Biography

This sent me to the Offi­cial Biog­ra­phy, Win­ston S. Churchill by Ran­dolph Churchill and Mar­tin Gilbert (Hills­dale Col­lege Press). They reveal that Churchill’s thought of writ­ing a biog­ra­phy of Garibal­di (Vol­ume 1 and The Churchill Doc­u­ments, Vol­ume 2.) Also, in The Churchill Doc­u­ments, Vol­ume 3,  his moth­er writes in 1907: “Mind you get Trevelyan’s Garibal­di to read en route” (on WSC’s upcom­ing vis­it to East Africa).

There is also an index note to Garibal­di in WSC’s fil­ial biog­ra­phy,  Lord Ran­dolph Churchill, where he quotes his father: “Would you undo the Rev­o­lu­tion of Naples because Garibal­di might not be alto­geth­er a man of your mind? You know you would not; you know that those rev­o­lu­tions were jus­ti­fied by atro­cious Governments.”

Anoth­er source is Win­ston S. Churchill: His Com­plete Speech­es 1897-1963 (8 vols, 1974). In 1944 he speaks of Ciano, Mussolini’s ill-fat­ed for­eign min­is­ter, “on whom the curse of Garibal­di has ver­i­ta­bly fall­en.” Per­haps a read­er will help me under­stand what WSC was think­ing. I do not see the parallel.


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