May 23, 2013



“Stalin always kept his word with me. I remember particularly saying to him when I visited Moscow in 1944, ‘You keep Roumania and Bulgaria in your sphere of influence,’ but he let me have Greece.” —Churchill to Eisenhower, 1956

Spring 1881 • Age 6
“Make it up, Gorst?”

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Spring saw the death of Benjamin Disraeli, Lord Beaconsfield, former Prime Minister and titular head of the Conservative Party, who earlier that year had vetoed a plan by Lord Randolph and the Fourth Party to embarrass the Liberal government by seeking to limit its Coercion Bill for Ireland to a year’s duration.

The other three members of the Fourth Party—Wolff, Balfour, and Gorst—accepted Disraeli’s decision but Lord Randolph did not. As Robert Rhodes James wrote in Lord Randolph Churchill: “He was a bad person to whom to offer any advice….So strong were his feelings about Gorst that Arthur Balfour took care to sit between them in the House, since both would speak to him but not to one another.”

By Spring, however, the Fourth Party was back together. Lord Randolph took the first step to heal the breach by supporting Gorst in a debate. Taking his seat, Lord Randolph leaned over Balfour––who was still sitting between them—and said, “Make it up, Gorst?” Rhodes James wrote that the episode, so typical of Lord Randolph, “publicly proclaimed the reunification of the Fourth Party.”

Without Disraeli to dissuade them, the Fourth Party attacked Gladstone’s Land Bill for Ireland. While the Land Bill addressed many Irish grievances, it did nothing to calm the troubled island and fulfilled Lord Randolph’s prescient warning in mid-March: “…remedial measures which are planted under the shadow of Coercion, and watered and nourished by the suspension of the Constitution, must be from their nature poor and sickly plants of foreign origin, almost foredoomed to perish before they begin to grow.”

Spring 1906 • Age 31
“A painful impression”

Churchill’s loyalty to his new party was put to the test on the first day of spring. Lord Milner, the former High Commissioner in South Africa, had admitted to permitting the illegal flogging of Chinese coolies in South African mines without a trial or conviction—despite assurances from the British Government to both the Chinese Government and Parliament that such conduct would not be permitted. Milner acknowledged that he had made a mistake. While Milner was popular with British South Africans, the Liberal press in Great Britain was quick to attack him.

As Under-Secretary of State for the colonies, Churchill was the primary spokesman for the Colonial Office in the House of Commons. While in South Africa, he had met Milner and been impressed by him. A Liberal MP moved to censure Milner, gleaning much popular support in the Commons; but Churchill knew it would not be well received in South Africa, where drafting a new constitution for the Transvaal was soon to be on his plate.

Churchill persuaded the Liberal government to allow him to introduce an amendment which condemned flogging but did not single out Milner by name. It was uncertain that Churchill could persuade the more radical members of his new party to show restraint, but he tried. “When we have so many real things to do which must be done in the present and in the future,” he said, “why cannot we leave the past alone?”

Churchill’s amendment passed. While it was a good speech, many thought WSC had been too harsh in his assessment and ultimate dismissal of Milner’s future in public life. Even Churchill’s friend and private secretary Edward Marsh deemed it one of WSC’s “failures.” King Edward agreed and wrote in a letter: “It is a pity that Lord Elgin does not seem to be able to control the violent and objectionable language of his Parliamentary Under-Secretary. It has made a painful impression on most people.”

Spring 1931 • Age 56
“The ponderous mass of teutonic humanity”

Churchill continued to lead the nationwide campaign against dominion status for India in favor of more autonomy at the state level. On 22 April 1931, he addressed the Junior Imperial League Rally at Chingford:

I see Lord Irwin wrote to a Socialist M.P. that the atmosphere in India was sweeter. It was not very sweet during the massacre of Cawnpore, where the babies and mutilated, violated women were thrown into the sewers. But perhaps it will be sweeter here. Let me tell you what will cleanse the Indian atmosphere, the one sovereign carbolic lotion which will restore the health of the British Empire in India. It is the Conservative Party standing up boldly and declaring its own faith and convictions upon the Indian question. When the Conservative Party wrenches itself away from the socialists’ slippery slope to ruin and bloodshed in India, then you will see quickly a remarkable change for the better in all our affairs.

The riots at Cawnpore to which Churchill referred had lasted a week at the end of March. They began on 24 March when Muslims refused to close their shops during a period of mourning for a Hindu executed by the British for murdering a police officer. Churchill said on 26 March:

Wednesday’s massacres at Cawnpore, a name of evil import, are a portent. Because it is believed that we are about to leave the country, the struggle for power is now beginning between the Moslems and Hindus. A bloody riot broke out in which more than 200 people lost their lives with many hundreds wounded, in which women and children were butchered in circumstances of bestial barbarity, their mutilated, violated bodies strewing the streets for days. The British troops are now pacifying and calming the terrified and infuriated populace. But the feud is only at its beginning.

By month’s end, in Cawnpore, over a thousand Indians had died as a result of religious violence.

Germany was also on Churchill’s mind at this time, after Germany and Austria created a Customs Union with no advance warning. Writing for the Hearst papers in America, Churchill warned of the dangers of a political union between the two nations:

France with her dwindling but well-armed population sees the solid German block of seventy millions producing far more than twice her number of military males each year, towering up grim and grisly, luckily as yet largely unarmed. You cannot ask France to treat this as a trivial matter. When you have been three times invaded in a hundred years by Germany and have only escaped destruction the last time because nearly all the other nations of the world came to your aid, which they certainly do not mean to do again, you cannot help feeling anxious about this ponderous mass of Teutonic humanity piling up beyond the frontier.

Spring 1956 • Age 81
” Above all, Germany will be reunited.”

After gambling in Monte Carlo and attracting considerable attention from the press (“I had no win but came out quits after three days’ play, which was not bad,” he wrote to his friend Bernard Baruch) Churchill flew back to London in April to await the arrival of his wife Clementine from her ocean voyage.

On 16 April, Churchill wrote a letter to President Eisenhower covering a wide variety of subjects. Egypt and Israel were squaring off, but Churchill wrote that if the United States and Britain acted together, he believed war between the two could be deterred:

I am, of course, a Zionist, and have been ever since the Balfour Declaration. I think it is a wonderful thing that this tiny colony of Jews should have become a refuge to their compatriots in all the lands where they were persecuted so cruelly, and at the same time established themselves as the most effective fighting force in the area. I am sure America would not stand by and see them overwhelmed by Russian weapons, especially if we had persuaded them to hold their hand while their chance remained.

“De-Stalinization” was underway in Russia and the two Russian leaders, Bulganin and Khruschev, were soon to arrive on a state visit to Britain. Sir Martin Gilbert quotes Churchill’s message to Eisenhower:

Our Russian guests are expected this week, and we shall soon see whether anything material results….They have made an extraordinary volte-face about Stalin. I am sure it is a great blunder which will markedly hamper the Communist Movement. It would have been easy to “play him down” gradually without causing so great a shock to the faithful. Stalin always kept his word with me. I remember particularly saying to him when I visited Moscow in 1944, “You keep Roumania and Bulgaria in your sphere of influence, but he let me have Greece.” To this bargain he scrupulously adhered during months of fighting with the Greek Communists. I wish I could say the same about the Greeks, whose memories are very short.

In May, Churchill returned to Germany for the first time since the Potsdam Conference eleven years earlier to receive the Charlemagne Prize. During his acceptance speech, he once again demonstrated his prescience, describing what in fact was to happen in Europe over the next forty years:

N.A.T.O. is a striking product and expression of a world wearied of war determined to build its own organization in such strength and power that there will be peace henceforward. The principle of the Treaty is simple and majestic. We all join hands together and are sworn to fight the aggressor, whoever he may be.

A new question has been raised by the recent Russian repudiation of Stalin. If it is sincere we have a new Russia to deal with, and I do not see myself, why, if this be so, the new Russia should not join in the spirit of this solemn agreement. We must realize how deep and sincere are Russian anxieties about the safety of her homeland from foreign invasion. In a true Unity of Europe Russia must have her part. I was glad to see that Poland was not unaffected by the changes in Russian outlook that have recently come to pass. It may be that other changes will follow. Czechoslovakia will recover her freedom. Above all, Germany will be reunited.


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