An author would like to include a quotation which he believes may have originated from Sir Winston Churchill. Purportedly, Churchill was told by a man, “If I had not been a German I would have wanted to be an Englishman.” To this he replied, “If I had not been born an Englishman, I too would have wanted to be an Englishman.” —H.P., London
I checked this line, and variations and pieces of it, against my digital file of 50 million words by and about Churchill, including all his books, articles, speeches and published papers, but there were no hits. It doesn’t sound like him, really, since the only time he contemplated being anything other than English was after the war:
From Finest Hour 55, Spring 1987, “Clark Clifford on Fulton: Diplomatic Poker on the Ride Down,” From an interview with E.F. Porter, Jr., St. Louis Post-Despatch. Reprinted by kind permission. (Clifford was aboard the train with Churchill and Truman en route to Fulton, where WSC would deliver the “Iron Curtain” speech on 5 March 1946.) Clark Clifford recalls:
We played going out and coming back, and it was really a great deal of fun because it would be interspersed with comments by Churchill, philosophical musings mostly. There’s only one that I remember. One evening, we stayed up late. Everybody else went to bed, and Charlie Ross and I stayed up and talked to him afterwards. And he was kind of mellow by that time.
He had the reputation of being a fairly formidable drinker, and I think I know the reason why. It was because he always had a Scotch highball in front of him. But he would nurse the highball, and it would take him about an hour and a half to drink it. I did not find him to be a heavy drinker at all.
This evening, he said, “If I were to be born again, I would wish to be born in the United States. At one time, it was said that the sun never sets on the British Empire. Those days are gone. The United States has the natural resources; they have an energetic, resilient people. The United States is the hope of the future.”
This did not make my book; I’m sorry to have missed it.
P..S. Clifford’s account includes a wonderful story of Truman and Co. soundly whipping Churchill at poker during that same train journey—with Presidential informality that has, I suspect, long vanished, though it was de rigueur in Truman’s time:
We played dealer’s choice: stud, draw, seven-card stud and high-low, which is a great gambling game because it keeps everybody in the pot. Well, we played about an hour and a half, and Mr. Churchill excused himself to go to the men’s room. And the President looked over to his staff and counsellors and said, “Men, Mr. Churchill has lost $850. Now, remember, he is our guest. We certainly are not treating him very well.”
And Charlie Ross (a former Post-Dispatch Washington correspondent, then Truman’s press secretary) spoke up, and said, “Boss, you can’t have it both ways. Which do you want us to do, play poker or carry this fellow along?”
So the President said, “Boys, I want Mr. Churchill to have a good time. I recognize the standards of poker as played in Great Britain aren’t nearly up to the standards in the United States. But I want him to have a lovely time.”
So he was nursed along, and he won some wonderful big pots. I saw some people drop out with three aces, and he’d win with a pair of kings. He had a marvelous time, and yet he couldn’t go back and say he’d beaten this group playing poker. When the last game was over he’d lost about $80.