Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Churchill Series – Jun. 14, 2007

(One of a series of weekday posts on the life of Winston S. Churchill.)

Readers Note: One of you picked up a spelling error in yesterday’s post. I corrected it and placed a “thank you” on the post thread.


Churchill’s predecessor as Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain, did all he could during the late 1930s to keep Churchill in “the wilderness.” He considered Churchill a dangerous war-monger and his own appeasement policy toward Hitler the way to “peace in our time.” Chamberlain fought to keep Churchill out of the Cabinet until the day war was declared in September, 1939.

After Churchill succeeded Chamberlain, he treated him with great consideration, even magnanimity; and never more so than in November 1940 in the House of Commons where he spoke of Chamberlain who’d recently died of cancer. [Excerpt]:

It fell to Neville Chamberlain in one of the supreme crises of the world to be contradicted by events, to be disappointed in his hopes, and to be deceived and cheated by a wicked man.

But what were these hopes in which he was disappointed? What were these wishes in which he was frustrated? What was that faith that was abused?

They were surely among the most noble and benevolent instincts of the human heart – the love of peace, the toil for peace, the strife for peace, the pursuit of peace, even at great peril, and certainly to the utter disdain of popularity or clamor.

What ever else history may or may not say about these terrible, tremendous years, we can be sure that Neville Chamberlain acted with perfect sincerity according to his lights and strove of the utmost of his capacity and authority, which were powerful, to save the world from the awful, devastating struggle in which we are now engaged. This alone will stand him in good stead as far as what is called the verdict of history is concerned.
Chamberlain’s letters and his aides testify to his sincerity in pursuing appeasement. Even as late as August 1939, by which time Hitler had broken his Munich agreements and most European statesmen believed war was very likely, Chamberlain persisted in his belief that he could work with Hitler.

So Churchill was right about Chamberlain’s “sincerity” but he was wrong about the verdict of history.
I’m rushing now and have had computer problems. Citations tomorrow.