Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Churchill Series – July 11, 2007

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

The last two series posts concerned impressions of Churchill formed by Beatrice Webb, the Socialist reformer, author, and co-founder with her husband Sidney of the Fabian Society and the London School of Economics, when she first met him at a dinner party in July, 1902. Churchill was then 27 and sitting in his first Parliament.

Today I want to discuss a few of the people Churchill and Webb both knew. I think you’ll find some of the connections fascinating.

Webb was born in 1858. In 1882 she met the then President of the Board of Trade, Joseph Chamberlain. They had a brief, intense affair.

Joseph Chamberlain later served as Colonial Secretary during the Boer War in which Churchill fought. Chamberlain was a leading advocate of the war.

Churchill emerged from the war as one of its heroes. He used the public acclaim he received to his political advantage to gain his seat in Parliament. Almost 20 years later, Churchill himself became Colonial Secretary.

Since boyhood, Churchill had known Joseph Chamberlain and his two sons, Austin and Neville.

Well, you know where this is going with Neville.

But did you know Austin was a Member of Parliament and held a number of Cabinet offices? Or that he was an early and outspoken opponent of Hitler and appeasement?

Despite those political differences, Austin and Neville, who were half-brothers, got on very well.

Austin died in 1937 just weeks before Neville became Prime Minister.

Webb, whose husband served for a time in the Commons and was later made a peer, continued to meet Churchill socially as she did the two sons of the man with whom she’d had affair in 1882.

Webb died in 1943. Three years before she’d seen her nephew, Stafford Cripps, appointed by Churchill Ambassador to the Soviet Union.

Churchill was speaking of Cripps when he famously said, “There but for the grace of God goes God.”

There’s more I could say but this post has gone long enough.

If you google the people I’ve mentioned, you'll get confirmation of what I’ve said here.

Have a good day.


Anonymous said...

Hope you're rooting HARD for civilization...won't be much left if this goes through.