“Democracy is the worst form of Government…”

by Richard Langworth on 26 June 2009

It is fre­quently claimed that Win­ston Churchill once said “democ­racy is the worst form of gov­ern­ment, except for all the oth­ers” (or words to that effect). I have tried to locate the source of that quote, but I have not been able to trace it. Is it gen­uine, and if so, where and when? —D.C., Bogotá, Colombia

Churchill said it (House of Com­mons, 11 Novem­ber 1947)—but he was quot­ing an unknown pre­de­ces­sor. From Churchill by Him­self, page 574:

Many forms of Gov­ern­ment have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pre­tends that democ­racy is per­fect or all-wise. Indeed it has been said that democ­racy is the worst form of Gov­ern­ment except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.…

So, although these are Churchill’s words, he clearly did not orig­i­nate the famous remark about democ­racy. William F. Buck­ley, Jr., com­ment­ing on trick­ery in pres­i­den­tial debates, reminded us of Churchill’s reflec­tion when he wrote in June 2007: “We are made to ask what it is that polit­i­cal democ­racy gives us. The sys­tem is util­i­tar­ian. But is it a fit object of faith and hope?” Credit Churchill as pub­li­cist for an unsourced aphorism.

But here are some orig­i­nal things (included in Churchill by Him­self) that Churchill did say about democracy:

If I had to sum up the imme­di­ate future of demo­c­ra­tic pol­i­tics in a sin­gle word I should say “insur­ance.” That is the future—insurance against dan­gers from abroad, insur­ance against dan­gers scarcely less grave and much more near and con­stant which threaten us here at home in our own island. —Free Trade Hall, Man­ches­ter, 23 May 1909

At the bot­tom of all the trib­utes paid to democ­racy is the lit­tle man, walk­ing into the lit­tle booth, with a lit­tle pen­cil, mak­ing a lit­tle cross on a lit­tle bit of paper—no amount of rhetoric or volu­mi­nous dis­cus­sion can pos­si­bly dimin­ish the over­whelm­ing impor­tance of that point. —House of Com­mons, 31 Octo­ber 1944

How is that word “democ­racy” to be inter­preted? My idea of it is that the plain, hum­ble, com­mon man, just the ordi­nary man who keeps a wife and fam­ily, who goes off to fight for his coun­try when it is in trou­ble, goes to the poll at the appro­pri­ate time, and puts his cross on the bal­lot paper show­ing the can­di­date he wishes to be elected to Parliament—that he is the foun­da­tion of democ­racy. And it is also essen­tial to this foun­da­tion that this man or woman should do this with­out fear, and with­out any form of intim­i­da­tion or vic­tim­iza­tion. He marks his bal­lot paper in strict secrecy, and then elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives and together decide what gov­ern­ment, or even in times of stress, what form of gov­ern­ment they wish to have in their coun­try. If that is democ­racy, I salute it. I espouse it. I would work for it.” —House of Com­mons, 8 Decem­ber 1944

Share this post...Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on LinkedInPin on PinterestEmail this to someone

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Richard Langworth October 20, 2015 at 14:25

Thanks for your note. Please see our new Hillsdale Churchill Project site which is building up fast though only just launched: winstonchurchill.hillsdale.edu

The Churchill Centre website, http://www.winstonchurchill.org/ which contains 40 years of content from Finest Hour, which I edited from 1982 to 2014. Lots of good solid material there.

Trans TV October 18, 2015 at 15:05

I know this website provides quality articles and data; is there any other site which
provides such data in quality?

Serena January 20, 2015 at 03:43

Hi there! I could have sworn I’ve been to this site before but after
looking at a few of the articles I realized it’s new to me.
I’m certainly delighted I found it and I’ll be bookmarking it and
checking back often.

the carb nite solution pdf September 22, 2014 at 19:15

Thanks for your marvelous post. I will bookmark your site and will return often.

Dropbox Ipad August 28, 2014 at 04:13

Hi! I could have sworn I’ve been to this blog before but after
browsing through a few of the posts I realized
it’s new to me. Regardless, I’m certainly happy I stumbled upon it and I’ll
be bookmarking it and checking back regularly!

Shannonxjtt.Newsvine.Com August 15, 2014 at 19:17

I every time spent my haqlf ɑn hour to read thiѕ web site’s
articles or reviews all tɦe time along ԝith a cup of coffee.

All Girl Massage August 14, 2014 at 04:23

This article provides clear idea in favor of the new people of blogging, that
actually how to do blogging.

massage nyc May 24, 2014 at 00:04

An outstanding share! I’ve just forwarded this onto a co-worker who
has been doing a little research on this. And he actually bought me dinner
simply because I stumbled upon it for him… lol.
So let me reword this…. Thank YOU for the meal!!
But yeah, thanks for spending some time to discuss this topic here on your web site.

Richard M. Langworth August 1, 2013 at 16:35

Jamaal- Sure! A great place to start is one of these: http://wordpress.com/

Jamaal August 1, 2013 at 14:18

Hi! This is kind of off topic but I need some advice from an established blog.
Is it very hard to set up your own blog? I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty fast. I’m thinking
about creating my own but I’m not sure where to begin. Do you have any tips or suggestions? Many thanks

Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: