The “People’s Budget” dominated the attention of the nation and Churchill. A principal protagonist in the looming battle between the Commons and the Lords, he told Clementine that he could not make up his mind “whether to be provocative or conciliatory . . . But on the whole I think it will be the former!” He was. He accused the Lords of thinking “they were the only persons fit to serve the Crown. They regard the government as their perquisite and political authority as merely an adjunct to their wealth and titles.” It was not the kind of remark likely to earn the affection of his own class.
‘Take that in the name of the insulted women of England.’
In September Churchill went to Germany to observe maneuvers of the German army and visit German Labor Exchanges. Of the former, he was impressed by the size and armaments, and by the fact that the army could march 35 miles in a day. Of the Labor Exchanges, he commented that “the honour of introducing them into England would be in itself a rich reward.”
The first Churchill child, Diana, was born on 11 July. The birth was very trying for Clementine and she spent the summer with her mother recuperating in Sussex where, she wrote Winston, “the butter is yellower, the cream thicker and the honey sweeter.” The baby remained in London with her father. “The P.K. [Puppy Kitten] is very well,” he wrote, “but the nurse is rather inclined to glower at me as if I was a tiresome interloper. I missed seeing her [the PK] take her bath this morning. But tomorrow I propose to officiate”
‘He had a soft spot for dukes— Blenheim and all that…’
On the political front, the battle raged with fellow Liberal ministers as well as with the Tories. Within Cabinet the row was over how many dreadnoughts were required to meet the German naval challenge. McKenna, the First Lord, wanted six; Lloyd George and WSC maintained that four were sufficient. Sir John Fisher, the First Sea Lord, recognized the formidable political power of the Lloyd George-Churchill partnership when he suggested, with delicious irony, that four dreadnoughts be named “No. 1. WINSTON, No. 2. CHURCHILL, No. 3. LLOYD, No. 4. GEORGE. How they would fight! Uncircumventable!”
The prospects of the brilliant Asquith Government were dim because of by-election losses and the economic depression. But the crisis looming between the reactionary Tory back-benchers and the House of Lords on one side, and the Liberal backbenchers and their Labour allies on the other, was to be the Government’s salvation.
The focus of the battle was the “Peoples’ Budget” of Lloyd George and the results were the death of the old laissez-faire Liberalism and the first light of day for the welfare state. Throughout the debate, Churchill took pride that he had drawn a line “below which we will not allow persons to live and yet above which they may compete with all the strength of their manhood.”
Although The Times called the budget “unadventurous,” it was a divisive influence within the Marlborough family. Clementine, noting that Winston’s cousin Sunny was preoccupied with the budget, predicted that “it will make politics very bitter for a long time.” Expecting their first child, Clementine and Winston prepared to move to a new house at 33 Eccleston Square in Pimlico. They took an 18-year lease at £195 per year.
Randolph called this period his father’s “new departure.” Was he truly “an architect of the modern welfare state” or merely a defender of traditional class society? Historians disagree. RSC referred to the reciprocal fascination, friendship and partnership between WSC and Lloyd George. But Margot Asquith wrote, “From Lloyd George he was to learn the language of Radicalism. It was Lloyd George’s native tongue, but it was not his own, and despite his efforts he spoke it with a difference.” Margot wrote him frequently, usually encouraging his support for her husband, the Prime Minister, even asking him to intervene with the editor of the Manchester Guardian because of its critical stand. But Churchill replied that papers had better be left alone.
Churchill planned to visit Paris, but Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey made him promise not to meddle in foreign policy. Grey warned him that he could not discuss politics abroad as a private individual: “Importance will be attached to all you say.
Large, enthusiastic crowds cheered the wedding party at St. Margaret’s, Westminster on 12 September. After a honeymoon trip to Austria and Italy, the couple took up residence in Churchill’s house on Bolton Street. WSC felt confined as President of the Board of Trade: “There is nothing in this pie for me. Lloyd George has taken all the plums.” But the two quickly fashioned a remarkable program of social reform: legislation on sweated labor, a system of labor exchanges, old-age pensions and unemployment insurance. Not dogmatic for either state or private participation in economic and social affairs, Churchill believed a union of the resources of the state and the personal energies of the people would alleviate the worst sources of poverty and ignorance.
Winston and Lloyd George, who were rapidly becoming known as the House of Commons’ “terrible twins,” fretted about the House of Lords. When the Lords killed a Liquor Licensing Bill Winston roared,” . . . we shall send them up a budget in June as shall terrify them. They have started a class war, they had better be careful.”
This was the summer of courtship between WSC and Clementine Hozier. At Blenheim in August, WSC proposed. Among the torrent of congratulations was a note from King Edward. Winston’s future best man, Lord Hugh Cecil, told him “it will be excellent for you mentally, morally and politically. A bachelor is regarded as morally unprincipled.”
Just prior to his proposal, Winston was staying wish his friend Freddie Guest, when a fire broke out. In his element, the pyjama-clad Churchill donned overcoat and fireman’s helmet, directing the fire brigade. He wrote Clemmie that “the fire was fun and we all enjoyed it thoroughly,” although Freddie Guest was distraught wish the losses. Also this summer, his brother Jack married Lady Gwendeline Bertie (“Goonie”), who remained a lifelong friend of Winston and Clementine.
Neither Clementine Hozier nor Winston Churchill had wished to attend the dinner party at Lady St. Helier’s, but a change of mind favored both. Clemmie later recalled that WSC “made a bad impression on me,” but was eventually won over by his “dominating charm and brilliancy.” Although she accompanied her mother to Europe, she and Winston kept in constant touch by mail.
“sic itur ad astra”—”so shalt thou scale the stars.”
Newly-appointed Ministers were then required to seek reelection—usually a formality, but not in Winston’s case. Despite the support of free traders, the cotton and commercial community of Manchester, he was defeated. The Tory Daily Telegraph gleefully headlined: “Winston Churchill is out, OUT, OUT!” Immediately invited to run in Dundee, then solidly Liberal, WSC embarked on his first involvement in the politics of social reform—a natural extension, he believed, of his father’s Tory Democracy. His own philosophy was outlined in an article in The Nation entitled “The Untrodden Field of Politics” (Woods C34).
On return from Africa, Winston’s claims to Cabinet appointment could no longer be denied and most believed his promotion was imminent. King Edward and Herbert Asquith, planning the latter’s succession to ailing Campbell-Bannerman as Prime Minister, heard gossip that WSC wanted to enter the Cabinet keeping his post of Under-Secretary. But the King desired another, more suitable office for Winston. On 12 March Asquith offered WSC either the Colonial Office, the Local Government Board or the Admiralty; WSC asked for the Colonial Office, but on 8 April the new Prime Minister chose to offer his young colleague the Board of Trade.
Churchill was now actively speaking and writing. Having an opportunity to combine these joys and talents, he told the Authors’ Club of London that “to sit at one’s table on a sunny morning, with four clear hours of uninterruptible security, plenty of nice white paper, and a Squeezer pen—that is true happiness.”
He frequently spoke on his recent trip to Africa, East Africa’s future development, and Africa and the Cotton Trade —as well as the need for a progressive social philosophy. Some doubted his sincerity. Beatrice Webb wrote in her diary, “Winston has a hard temperament, with the American capacity for the quick appreciation and rapid execution of new ideas, whilst hardly comprehending the philosophy beneath them.” But Charles Masterman noted that WSC felt called upon by Providence to do something for the poor “whom he has just discovered.”
My African Journey After observing French Army maneuvers in September, Churchill traveled through Italy to Vienna, Syracuse and Malta, where he was “installed in much state” in the palace of the Grand Masters of the Knights of Malta. Then the cruiser Venus was placed at his disposal for travel to Cyprus and Africa.
From Nairobi, he traveled north, partly on the Nile, visiting Omdurman where he’d fought 12 years before, and Khartoum, where his manservant Scrivings died suddenly of food poisoning. This startled WSC, who realized “. . . how easily it might have been me.”
Though thousands of miles from home, Churchill never left the limelight. Punch published an article, “Winston Day By Day,” and colleagues followed his journey in the press. He kept in touch with his mother and brother Jack, and inundated the Colonial Office with correspondence, much to the chagrin of permanent undersecretary Sir Francis Hopwood, who warned Lord Elgin: “Churchill is most troublesome… and will I fear give trouble as his father did.” (London would have been more upset if it had known that WSC, as he wrote confidentially to Jennie, was involved in a plan to extend the jurisdiction of the Empire without consulting Elgin.) He also was permitted to write directly to King Edward VII about his experiences.
At the maneuvers he was impressed by the discipline of the German Army but thought that it did not show appreciation for the deadly power of modern weapons. (The Germans reached the same conclusion and began to change their tactics.) Kaiser Wilhelm chatted with WSC for 20 minutes, mostly about the Boer War and a rising of natives in German South West Africa. The Kaiser later sent WSC pictures of the maneuvers and Churchill responded with a copy of Lord Randolph Churchill.
The war in South Africa droned on, and the expense of paying for it was the major issue. Speaking in the House on 17 July, Churchill said: “What is of great importance is that this House as a whole is thoroughly agreed upon the principal features of the policy that has led to all this expenditure which everyone deplores. But hon. members opposite have indeed advocated a somewhat curious policy. The Rt. Hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition I believe hopes to check the expenditure and to bring the war to an end at an early date by combining the policy of swords with that of olive branches. That is an extraordinary policy, and I quite agree with the Rt. Hon. Gentleman that the party opposite is the only party in the State who could carry it out, for it is the only party which has in itself all the elements which make for peace and for war.”
It was during this period that Churchill joined forces with a few other dissident young Tory MPs, Ian Malcolm, Lord Percy, Arthur Stanley, and Lord Hugh Cecil. As Churchill’s son wrote in the Official Biography, “Later they were on occasion to be outrageous in their Parliamentary manners and the critics dubbed them the Hughligans, or Hooligans.” Together, they made things hot for the Tory establishment.
Churchill spent the last week of August and most of September in Scotland, including visits with the Duke of Sutherland, Lord Londonderry and Churchill’s uncle, Lord Tweedmouth.
During his stay in Scotland, he wrote several letters to The Times defending the sanitary conditions in the Scottish tweed industry against an anonymous correspondent, who had suggested that “scrupulously cleanly persons will hesitate to wear such garments.” Churchill replied: “Of course it may be possible that your correspondent is only one of those pseudo-scientific persons who have a mania for discovering bacilli in everything; and who, when they are neither anonymous nor insignificant, from time to time, and particularly in the holiday time, endeavour to alarm the British public through the columns of the newspapers.”
The Spring of 1901, William Manchester wrote, was when Churchill “established himself as a rising political star.” In the House in March, he spoke in support of the Government against an amendment seeking to appoint a Commission to enquire into the Army’s dismissal of Major General Sir Henry Colville as Commander-in-Chief of Gibraltar. Colville had been dismissed when official enquiries into his conduct in South Africa disclosed he had failed to attempt to relieve beleaguered British troops despite being in a position to do so. Colville refused to go quietly, and appealed to supporters in Parliament, claiming that he had not been criticized at the time in official dispatches.
Churchill came to the rescue of a government described by his son, Randolph, as “hard-pressed to resist” the amendment, helpfully explaining to the House that “those who have not themselves had any actual experience of war may have some difficulty in understanding” why Colville was not criticized at the time. The reason, Churchill continued, was that the military in wartime typically did not tell the truth: “I say that I have noticed in the last three wars in which we have been engaged a tendency among military officers…to hush everything up, to make everything look as fair as possible, to tell what is called the official truth….all the ugly facts are smoothed and varnished over, rotten reputations are propped up, and officers known as incapable are allowed to hang on and linger in their commands in the hope that at the end of the war they may be shunted into private life without a scandal.”
Winter found Churchill speaking in Boston, where he was introduced by Mark Twain: “England sinned when she got herself into a war in South Africa which she could have avoided, just as we have sinned in getting into a similar war in the Philippines. Mr. Churchill by his father is an Englishman, by his mother he is an American, no doubt a blend that makes the perfect man. England and America; we are kin. And now that we are also kin in sin, there is nothing more to be desired. The harmony is perfect‹like Mr. Churchill himself, whom I now have the honour to present to you.” Twain inscribed for Churchill a collection of his works: “To be good is noble; to teach others how to be good is nobler, & no trouble.”
While in America, Winston’s friend, Bourke Cockran, arranged for him to meet President McKinley and to dine with New York Governor Theodore Roosevelt. Queen Victoria died in January and Churchill sailed from New York to England on February 2nd, the day of her funeral.
The House of Commons was full on the night of Churchill’s maiden speech February 18th. Beginning with the Boer War, he defended the Army’s conduct in prosecuting it: “From what I saw of the war, and I sometimes saw something of it, I believe that as compared with other wars, especially those in which a civil population took part, this war [was] carried on with unusual humanity and generosity.” But he criticized proposals to impose a military government over the Boers, advocating instead a civil government: “As soon as it is known that there is in the Transvaal a government under which property and liberty are secure, so soon as it is known that in these countries one can live freely and safely, there would be a rush of immigrants from all parts of the world to develop the country and to profit by the great revival of trade which usually follows war of all kinds.”
Join or Renew NowPlease join with us to help preserve the memory of Winston Churchill and continue to explore how his life, experiences and leadership are ever-more relevant in today’s chaotic world. BENEFITS >BECOME A MEMBER >
Finest Hour Image
The most recent issues of Finest Hour are available online to members. Join to automatically receive a subscription to BOTH Finest Hour and the Churchill Bulletin.LEARN MORE >VISIT FINEST HOUR ARCHIVE >
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.