Churchill’s words: Choosing between War and Shame—and getting both.
It is frequently asked: What did Churchill say about those who trade honor for peace having in neither in the end?
“War and Shame”
There are two quotations. The first was Churchill in a letter to Lloyd George on 13 August 1938, just before the Munich Conference, which led to World War II a year later.
I think we shall have to choose in the next few weeks between war and shame, and I have very little doubt what the decision will be.
Reference is Churchill by Himself, page 256, quoting Martin Gilbert, ed., The Churchill Documents, vol. 13, The Coming of War 1936-1939 (Hillsdale College Press, 2009), page 1117.
“We shall choose Shame, and then have War thrown in”
A month later, Churchill wrote to his friend Lord Moyne, explaining why a proposed visit to Moyne in Antigua might be problematic. From Churchill by Himself, page 257, Gilbert page 1155:
We seem to be very near the bleak choice between War and Shame. My feeling is that we shall choose Shame, and then have War thrown in a little later on even more adverse terms than at present.
Coincidentally, the date on WSC’s letter to Lord Moyne was was September 11th.
It is often believed that Churchill addressed a similar remark to Neville Chamberlain directly after Munich. The venue usually cited is the House of Commons. But Churchill never so addressed anyone, in or out of Parliament. William Manchester’s The Last Lion, vol. 2, which quotes the Moyne remark on page 334, goes on to state (364):
In almost any gathering [after Munich] it would have been indiscreet to remark… “Churchill says the government had to choose between war and shame. They chose shame. They will get war too.”
To end with a red herring, Churchill is sometimes credited in this context with: “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” This is tracked to Benjamin Franklin. According to Bartlett’s, it was a common statement before the American Revolution, made as early as 1755. If Churchill ever used it (I cannot track that he did), he was quoting Franklin.