“Jaw to Jaw” Versus “Jaw-Jaw”: Supermac Still Owns the Latter

“Jaw to Jaw” Versus “Jaw-Jaw”: Supermac Still Owns the Latter

“Jaw-Jaw” be-jaws the dialogue (from 2008):

On 27 June 1954, Churchill was quot­ed as say­ing “jaw-jaw is always bet­ter than to war-war.” (William H. Lawrence, “Churchill urges Patience in Cop­ing with Red Dan­gers,” The New York Times, page 1; and Wal­ter Tro­han, “‘Vig­i­lance and Time’ Asked by Churchill,” Chica­go Dai­ly Tri­bune, page 1. Did Churchill say this? —M.D.

No. From my Defin­i­tive Wit of Win­ston Churchill, page 37:

“Meet­ing jaw to jaw is bet­ter than war.” —1954 Com­mon­ly mis­quot­ed as ‘Jaw-jaw is bet­ter than war-war,’ an expres­sion coined four years lat­er by Prime Min­is­ter Harold Macmil­lan, on a vis­it to Australia.

I ver­i­fied this from Sir Mar­tin Gilbert who referred to his offi­cial biog­ra­phy, Vol­ume 8, Nev­er Despair, (Hills­dale Col­lege Press, 2013), page 1004: “Churchill then told the Amer­i­can legislators…that con­fer­ences of this kind were vital­ly impor­tant, that meet­ing jaw to jaw is bet­ter than war.”*

* foot­note 1: “On 30 Jan­u­ary 1958 Harold Macmil­lan, speak­ing in Can­ber­ra, echoed Churchill’s words with the phrase (fre­quent­ly but wrong­ly attrib­uted to Churchill him­self), ‘Jaw-jaw is bet­ter than war-war.’” Also page 1005 foot­note 1: “’Notes on remarks by the Pres­i­dent and the Prime Min­is­ter at the Con­gres­sion­al Lun­cheon at the White House, Sat­ur­day after­noon, June 26, 1954’: Eisen­how­er papers.”

Sev­er­al news­pa­per accounts appeared at the time, quot­ing Churchill as say­ing “jaw-jaw…” etc.. Clear­ly, the news­pa­pers inac­cu­rate­ly quot­ed Churchill before Macmil­lan used the phrase “jaw-jaw” (which may explain where Macmil­lan picked it up).

The Lawrence report again (2021):

The jaw-jaw busi­ness con­tin­ues to resur­face. Anoth­er read­er writes:

William H. Lawrence was not a cub jour­nal­ist, but The New York Times Senior Wash­ing­ton Cor­re­spon­dent when he wrote the sub­head the day after WSC’s meet­ing with Con­gress: “Jaw-jaw is bet­ter than war-war.” He went on, quot­ing con­gres­sion­al sources: “Turn­ing to the Far East the Prime Min­is­ter vol­un­teered that he was a strong sup­port­er of ‘peace­ful co-exis­tence with Chi­na.’ ‘I know” he said, “that some think this is almost heresy. Nev­er­the­less Eden’s two words are pret­ty good words—to jaw-jaw is always bet­ter than to war-war.”
Oth­er news­pa­pers report­ed some­what dif­fer­ent­ly but Lawrence had the stature of reli­able sources to get this quote in its rich­ness from the “no press” meet­ing. It wasn’t just the front page sub­head but the detailed  fol­low-on that lends credibility.
Now com­pare this detail to your recita­tion and accep­tance of Gilbert’s con­trary quotation—almost a throw­away line. Did he get it from a copy of speech notes that might have been changed— did he hear it— did some­one tell him? We don’t know because he cit­ed no source. Even Gilbert is chal­lenge­able, giv­en a detailed quote from a respect­ed senior journalist—versus his unat­trib­uted throw­away line. Macmillan’s use of the quote attribut­ing it to WSC lat­er rein­forces it. He cer­tain­ly had time to ver­i­fy it before using it, rather than sim­ply tak­ing it from a news­pa­per headline.

Either not verbatim, nor not 1954:

This argu­ment is unper­sua­sive and doesn’t chal­lenge Mar­tin Gilbert’s con­clu­sions. 1) Lawrence has Churchill refer­ring to “Eden’s two words,” but so far as we know, Antho­ny Eden nev­er voiced them. 2) Sir Mar­tin did offer a source (Offi­cial Biog­ra­phy VIII, 1004.): “Notes on remarks by the Pres­i­dent and the Prime Min­is­ter at the Con­gres­sion­al Lun­cheon at the White House, Sat­ur­day after­noon, June 26, 1954, Eisen­how­er Papers.” 3) Stature as a jour­nal­ist doesn’t pre­clude some­one from mak­ing a mis­take. 4) Even if Lawrence was report­ing what he thought Churchill said, that is not dis­pos­i­tive. A tran­script or offi­cial sum­ma­ry, such as the Eisen­how­er Papers, is not a “throw­away line.”

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