The National Churchill Museum of the United States at Westminster College in Fulton, MO
Finest Hour 175, Winter 2017
A Note, or Two Notes, to Pamela Plowden
Following the tragic death of their two-year-old daughter Marigold in 1921, Winston and Clementine Churchill received numerous letters of sympathy. One letter of condolence arrived from Pamela Plowden (see p. 15), to whom Winston had proposed marriage in 1899. She refused him, instead marrying Victor, Earl of Lytton, thereby herself becoming the Countess of Lytton.
Upon receipt of the letter from Pamela, Churchill replied to his first great love with this hand-written note:
Thank you so much my dear for yr kind letter. It is indeed sad & cruel to lose our beautiful baby. We had high hopes of her as she showed so much character as well as the charm of early morning. One must hope that there will be fruition elsewhere, & that it is really true that ‘whom the Gods love well die young’. Yours affectionately W.
At the National Churchill Museum, Director and Chief Curator Timothy Riley recently discovered a previously unknown second note, which was still inside the original envelope. The handwritten message—instructions for a telegram—is from Clementine Churchill. It reads:
João Carlos Espada is the director and founder of the Institute for Political Studies at the Catholic University of Portugal. This article is extracted from his new book The Anglo-American Tradition of Liberty: A View from Europe (Routledge, 2016).
Winston Churchill was indeed the best representative of an old, well established and highly respectable political tradition: the Anglo-American political tradition of liberty under law. His political philosophy was not that of a maverick or an outsider, but that of a very old political tradition that goes back to Magna Carta, the Glorious Revolution, and the American Revolution.
This tradition, of limited government and of liberty under the law, has often been associated with a specific English political tradition, the conservative one. Whether or not Churchill considered the principle of limited government as a specific conservative principle is a matter open to dispute. Churchill certainly expressed in a very telling manner his opposition to revolutionary plans to redesign a social order. But it seems to me that he associated this opposition to unlimited political power with a broad consensus between the two main British parliamentary families in the nineteenth century, the Conservatives and the Liberals.
This is particularly striking when he recalled the political philosophy of Sir Francis Mowatt, a top civil servant who had been private secretary to Gladstone and had served both under him and Disraeli, the two rival leading statesmen of Victorian England, one Liberal and the other Conservative. Sir Francis’s political philosophy, as described by Churchill, could hardly be more opposed to revolutionary and absolutist political projects: Read More >
Warren Kimball is a member of the Editorial Board of Finest Hour and Robert Treat Professor Emeritus of History at Rutgers.
One of the challenges of writing proper history is telling what and why something happened within a broad enough context to avoid distortion-by-brevity.
A corrective, if I may, to Michael McMenamin’s telling of the Cape Town gold story in “Action This Day” (FH 171). It is a nice tale, but told in a short version tends to perpetuate two myths. Unfortunately, Winston Churchill’s war memoir contributed to the mythology. The first is the image of greedy Americans “squeezing” out all they could from what Churchill described as a “helpless debtor.” The second is the obvious assumption, by Churchill and at least two British official historians, that the proposal to ship gold across the Atlantic, risking U-boat attacks, came from those avaricious Americans.
As McMenamin described, Sir Frederick Phillips of the British Treasury (in Washington to discuss financial matters) “was told” on 23 December 1940 that Roosevelt had “arranged” for shipment of Cape Town gold to the United States. True enough, but the reality is that the suggestion of a gold transfer was not an American brainstorm. Rather it came four days earlier from Phillips himself, although he seems to have been surprised that his casual idea had been adopted and acted upon so quickly. As a Treasury official reported to the Department Secretary, Henry Morgenthau, Jr., “Phillips whether it would be possible for the Treasury…to buy gold situated in Australia or South Africa.” He even wondered if American warships might carry the gold.1 Read More >
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