Winston Churchill and Harry Truman arrive in Fulton, Missouri on 5 March 1946
On 5 March 1946, Winston Churchill gave his famous ‘Iron Curtain’ speech at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. The speech that Churchill called the ‘Sinews of Peace’ later became better known for the famous phrase it contained, ‘iron curtain’.
But did Churchill coin the phrase?
Churchill’s first known use of the phrase was in a letter to President Truman in May of 1945, where he wrote:
‘An iron curtain is drawn down upon their front. We do not know what is going on behind. There seems little doubt that the whole of the region Lubeck-Trieste-Corfu will soon be completely in their hands. [Following American withdrawal] a broad band of many hundreds of miles of Russian-occupied territory will isolate us from Poland.…it would be open to the Russians in a very short time to advance if they chose, to the waters of the North Sea and the Atlantic.’
A list of some of the best ‘one-liner’ Churchill quotes
Searching the internet will return hundreds of short quotes attributed to Winston Churchill–many of which are incorrect. Here we examine a list of Churchill’s best ‘one-liners’ throughout his life.
“Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result.” —1898
“I object on principle to doing by legislation what properly belongs to human good feeling and charity.” -1902
“War never pays its dividends in cash on the money it costs.” —1901
“Those who dealt in guineas were not usually of the impoverished class.” —1903 (The guinea, 21 shillings or £1/1/0, was sometimes featured in snooty adverts promoting high-priced goods in guineas rather than pounds.)
“Direct taxation was a great corrector of extravagance.” —1904
“The nose of the bulldog has been slanted backwards so that he can breathe without letting go.” —1905
‘A single glass of champagne imparts a feeling of exhilaration. The nerves are braced, the imagination is agreeably stirred, the wits become more nimble. A bottle produces a contrary effect. Excess causes a comatose insensibility. So it is with war, and the quality of both is best discovered by sipping. Winston Churchill, 1898, Malakand Field Force.
‘First things first. Get the champagne.’ Winston Churchill, 1931, New York.
‘I could not live without Champagne. In victory I deserve it. In defeat I need it.’ Winston Churchill, 1946 Read More >
‘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.…’
According to Sir Martin Gilbert, on October 28 1951, in an attempt to persuade the Liberals to join his new Government as Prime Minister for the second time, Winston Churchill had invited the Leader of the Liberal Parliamentary Party, Clement Davies, to visit him. Pitblado (his Principal Private Secretary) later recalled how, as the talk progressed, Churchill ‘was politely gloomy’. At one point the conversation turned to the past:
Clem Davies: Do you remember speaking at Bradford in 1909? Winston: No. Clemmie: Yes dear, you must. Winston. Ah yes. That was when I was a young Liberal. I must have made a very truculent speech. Read More >
Is France finished? Is that long and famous history, adorned by so many manifestations of genius and valour, bearing with it so much that is precious to culture and civilisation, and above all to the liberties of mankind—is all that now to sink for ever into the ocean of the past, or will France rise again and resume her rightful place in the structure of what may one day be again the family of Europe? I declare to you here, on this considerable occasion, even now when misguided or suborned Frenchmen are firing upon their rescuers, I declare to you my faith that France will rise again.
-Winston S Churchill, 10 November 1942, Mansion House, London. Read More >
‘I devoured Gibbon. I rode triumphantly through it from end to end and enjoyed it all. I scribbled all my opinions on the margins of the pages, and very soon found myself a vehement partisan of the author against the disparagements of his pompous-pious editor.… From Gibbon I went to Macaulay. I had learnt [as a boy] The Lays of Ancient Rome by heart, and loved them; and of course I knew he had written a history; but I had never read a page of it.…I accepted all Macaulay wrote as gospel, and I was grieved to read his harsh judgments upon the Great Duke of Marlborough. There was no one at hand to tell me that this historian with his captivating style and devastating self-confidence was the prince of literary rogues, who always preferred the tale to the truth, and smirched or glorified great men and garbled documents according as they affected his drama.’
– Winston S Churchill, My Early Life, 1930. Read More >
‘[Lloyd George had a moderately phrased amendment but] soon became animated and even violent. I constructed in succession sentence after sentence to hook on with after he should sit down.…Then Mr. Bowles whispered “You might say ‘instead of making his violent speech without moving his moderate amendment, he had better have moved his moderate amendment without making his violent speech.’” Manna in the wilderness was not more welcome!.…I was up before I knew it, and reciting Tommy Bowles’s rescuing sentence. It won a general cheer.…Everyone was very kind. The usual restoratives were applied, and I sat in a comfortable coma till I was strong enough to go home.’
– Winston S Churchill, My Early Life, 1930. Read More >
The greatest tie of all is language.…Words are the only things that last for ever. The most tremendous monuments or prodigies of engineering crumble under the hand of Time. The Pyramids moulder, the bridges rust, the canals fill up, grass covers the railway track; but words spoken two or three thousand years ago remain with us now, not as mere relics of the past, but with all their pristine vital force.
-Winston S Churchill, 15 May 1938, News of the World. Read More >
‘The word “disinflation” has been coined in order to avoid the unpopular term “deflation”.…I suppose that presently when “disinflation” also wins its bad name, the Chancellor [Sir Stafford Cripps] will call it “non-undisinflation” and will start again.’
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On this day in 1940, Winston Churchill gave to the House of Commons what many consider to be his most famous speech: "Their Finest Hour". This speech was made following France’s armistice, and espoused British national survival in the face of Nazi tyranny.
This speech can be read in full in Winston Churchill’s "The War Speeches", found in the first volume "Into Battle" (which was published in the U.S. and Canada under the title "Blood, Sweat and Tears"). We have many fine copies of "The War Speeches", including a newly acquired, Churchill-signed copy that can be found on our website by searching "208643".
The International Churchill Society (ICS), founded in 1968 shortly after Churchill's death, is the world’s preeminent member organisation dedicated to preserving the historic legacy of Sir Winston Churchill.
At a time when leadership is challenged at every turn, that legacy looms larger and remains more relevant than ever.