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Churchill Talks To America
FOR SEVEN DECADES OUR EBULLIENT COUSIN INSTRUCTED US ON EVERYTHING: THE BOERS, PROHIBITION, HITLER, CHARLIE CHAPLIN’S FEET, AND THE COMMON CAUSE OF THE ENGLISH-SPEAKING PEOPLES
December 1973 | Volume 25, Issue 1
Churchill’s exhilaration at being “bound together by common peril, by solemn faith and high purpose” with the United States cropped out in many of his wartime messages. He told Congress on May 19, 1943: “The experiences of a long life and the promptings of my blood have wrought in me the conviction that there is nothing more important for the future of the world than the fraternal association of our two peoples in righteous work both in war and peace.”
The end of the war did not, of course, bring an end to the perils shared by the English-speaking peoples, nor to Churchill’s efforts to persuade those peoples of their common destiny. Churchill had written in the Collier’s issue of September 30, 1939, that Bolshevism and Nazism were like the North and South poles: “If you woke up one morning at either, you would not know which it was.” In the spring following the war’s close Churchill came to Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, and declared in his most memorable American speech: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an Iron Curtain has descended across the Continent.”
In that speech he prophesied the beginnings of the new European community that has since taken shape. But his main theme was, once more, that the British and American peoples should walk forward together “in sedate and sober strength,” with “all British moral and material forces and convictions … joined with your own in fraternal association.”
After the war Churchill turned his literary talents to his massive, multivolume histories. But his lifelong enthusiasm for common cause among the English-speaking nations never wavered. In Churchill’s mind this was first and foremost a union of mind and spirit, a close and warm understanding among members of the family.
He had once found himself at a Washington dinner party (he wrote in Collier’s , August 5, 1933) when the company of forty or fifty surrounded him in a half circle to engage him in “one of the frankest and most direct political interrogations” to which he had ever been subjected:
For two hours we wrestled strenuously, unsparingly, but in the best of tempers, with one another, and when I was tired of defending Great Britain on all her misdeeds, I counter-attacked. …
Nowhere else in the world, only between our two people, could such a discussion have proceeded. The priceless gift of a common language, and the pervading atmosphere of good sense and fellow feeling, enabled us to rap all the most delicate topics without the slightest offense given or received. It was to me a memorable evening, unique in my experience, and it left in my mind enormous hopes of what will some day happen in the world when, no doubt, after most of us are dead and gone, the English-speaking peoples will really understand each other.
Thirty-six years later President Eisenhower gave a dinner for his eightyfour-year-old comrade-in-arms, and Churchill said a few words that were close to his heart:
… And let us be united. Let us be united, and let our hopes lie in our unity. Because we understand each other. We do really understand each other. We understand when things go wrong, or things are said, or anything like that, we really can afford to pass them by. … I earnestly hope that an effort will be made, a fresh and further effort forward, to link us together. Because it is really of the utmost importance that we, who think so much alike, should see clearly before us the plain road onwards through the future.
Unique among the figures of history, Winston Churchill moved his two nations along that road together.