March 20, 2015

“My Dear Harry…”

“My dear Harry” was the salutation of Churchill’s letter to U.S. President Harry Truman, thanking him for the Marshall Plan which was “saving the world from Famine and War.” In his response, Truman made an interesting observation about the Soviet Union which “seem most ungrateful for the contribution which your great country and mine made to save them. I sometimes think perhaps we made a mistake‹and then I remember Hitler. He had no heart at all. I believe that Joe Stalin has one but the Polit Bureau [sic] won’t let him use it.” Churchill shared Truman’s concerns. In an address broadcast to America he said the Soviets were directing an “unceasing stream of abuse upon the Western World and they have accompanied this virulent propaganda by every action which could prevent the world settling down into a durable peace.” To meet the world’s challenges he called for a “fraternal association” between the British Empire and Commonwealth, the European Union and the United States, with Britain serving as “the vital link between them all.”

Looking towards India he reminded people of his warnings in the early 1930s: “We are of course only at the beginning of these horrors and butcheries, perpetrated upon one another, men, women and children, with the ferocity of cannibals, by races gifted with capacities for the highest culture and who had for generations dwelt side by side in general peace under the broad, tolerant and impartial rule of the British Crown and Parliament.” In speaking to the Conservative Party Conference he forecast that “the consequences of Socialist spite, folly and blundering” would lead to a general election for which the Tories must prepare.

At Chartwell he worked on his war memoirs. His draft was challenged by Henry Luce, who had agreed to publish excerpts in Life magazine. Luce felt that there were too many documents which “mar the architectural sense” and too little “analytical insight.” Churchill agreed to make changes.

In November the Churchills attended the wedding of Princess Elizabeth to Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten, R.N. at Westminster Abbey. Clementine made some interesting observations about other notables in attendance: “Smuts [Prime Minister of South Africa]…really cares for Winston and is a source of strength and encouragement for him. Mackenzie King [Prime Minister of Canada] is unchanging as a Chinese image, and General Marshall the hope of Mankind.”

Edinburgh Castle

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One evening in late November, Churchill was enjoying a quiet dinner with his family when his daughter Sarah pointed to an empty chair and asked: “If you had the power to put someone in that chair to join us now, whom would you choose?” Sarah later remembered that she expected her father to name one of his heroes – Caesar, Napoleon or Marlborough. He took only a moment to consider and then said simply, “Oh, my father of course.” He had chosen his greatest hero of all.

Churchill went on to describe the outline of an article which was to become The Dream. “It was not clear whether he was recalling a dream or elaborating on some fanciful idea that had struck him earlier,” his son Randolph wrote, “but this was the genesis of the story.” (The Dream is available from the Churchill Store and Book Club).

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