March 12, 2015

Finest Hour 159, Summer 2013

Page 11

Q: Since Winston Churchill’s mother was American, why was he not an American citizen from birth? If he had been, could he have lawfully entered British politics without renouncing his American citizenship? This is a fascinating premise for a piece of alternative history! Incidentally, I am a great supporter of “birthright citizenship,” and cannot understand why so many of my fellow conservatives deplore it.

A: We referred the first part of this question to colleagues and -received the following definitive report from Kevin Bishop, special assistant to President Larry Arnn at Hillsdale College in Michigan:

“Churchill’s mother was not required to renounce her U.S. citizenship, as far as we can tell. However, prior to the Citizenship Act of 1934, persons born abroad of one citizen parent and one alien parent were given citizenship only if the father was the citizen. Mothers giving birth abroad could not pass on citizenship unless they were born after 1934. Thus Lady Randolph’s citizenship was irrelevant in determining her son’s citizenship.”

It is interesting to note that the Immigration and Nationality Technical Correction Act of 1994 retroactively allowed persons born abroad before 1934 to receive citizenship from their mothers—thus Churchill would be a full-scale American citizen, not just an honorary. The 1994 law specifically mentions retroactive application. Full text at “Except as provided in paragraph (2), the immigration and nationality laws of the United States shall be applied (to persons born before, on, or after the date of the enactment of this Act) as though the amendment made by subsection (a), and subsection (b), had been in effect as of the date of their birth, except that the retroactive application of the amendment and that subsection shall not affect the validity of citizenship of anyone who has obtained citizenship under section 1993 of the Revised Statutes (as in effect before the enactment of the Act of May 24, 1934 (48 Stat. 797).”

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Mr. Bishop adds: “As to what might have happened had the law already been changed in 1874, even if Churchill had been a U.S. citizen, he was probably too great an admirer of his father to have considered trying his luck in America.”

But Churchill did reflect on the possibility in his first speech to Congress on 26 December 1941:

“‘By the way, I cannot help reflecting that if my father had been American and my mother British, instead of the other way round, I might have got here on my own. In that case, this would not have been the first time you would have heard my voice. In that case I should not have needed any invitation, but if I had, it is hardly likely it would have been unanimous. So perhaps things are better as they are.’”

Q: A reader of Paul Reid’s Defender of the Realm asks about its “frequent reference to the amount, brands, mixture, and timing of Churchill’s alcohol intake and a few references to his being drunk. I could not reconcile this with what I have read for years in Finest Hour. I am aware of the effort you have made to debunk myths, including his alleged alcoholism. So I am left wondering whether FH has tended to minimize his drinking, given the very convincing descriptions in Defender of the Realm.”

A: We hope we haven’t led anyone down false paths! William Manchester tended to overdo the drinking in his two volumes of The Last Lion, but I didn’t criticize Paul Reid’s take as I read Defender. If you find anything glaringly different from what we reported, please advise.

Someone said Churchill could not have been an alcoholic because “no alcoholic could drink that much.” There is something to this. My view has always been that whatever the amount, he was rarely if ever the worse for it. “Breakfast wine” was not a daily habit. He nursed “scotch-flavored mouthwash,” a habit he gained by purifying drinking water in Empire backwaters.

He drank a lot at meals but diluted it with food during long dining hours. Alanbrooke sometimes thought WSC was drunk, but he wrote those waspish diaries late at night when he was tired and frustrated; only later when he was pressed for cash did Alanbrooke allow them to be published—accompanying WSC’s copy with an apology!

After years of searching, we finally found someone who remembered Churchill clearly inebriated—a bodyguard at Teheran who helped him and Eden wobble back to the embassy after a long night of toasts with the Russians. He was the only witness, including friends and family, to Winston Churchill the worse for drink.

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