Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The Churchill Series – Aug. 22, 2007

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

This is the second in a five-part series intended to refute assertions by some historians that Churchill was insensitive to the problems and accomplishments of ordinary people, particularly ones who worked for him.

In the first post historian Maurice Ashley, who as a young academic worked for Churchill and remained a friend thereafter, set out the case “for the prosecution.” Ashley did it as a “professional duty.” He never himself agreed with “the prosecution.”

Today I begin “the case for defense” with the following from Grolier Online (scroll down) :

As Liberal M. P. for Northwest Manchester and for Dundee, he was in a position [during the first decade of the 20th century] to share in the long Liberal run of power and to take his place in one of the ablest British governments in modern times. As undersecretary of state for the colonies he played a considerable part in making a generous peace with the Boers.

As president of the board of trade (1908-1910) and home secretary (1910-1911), he contributed largely to the early legislation of the welfare state. He helped to create labor exchanges, to introduce health and unemployment insurance, to prescribe minimum wages in certain industries, and to limit working hours.
And this from Spartacus (scroll down):
Following the 1910 General Election Churchill became Home Secretary. Churchill introduced several reforms to the prison system, including the provision of lecturers and concerts for prisoners and the setting up of special after-care associations to help convicts after they had served their sentence.
Among the many social reforms Churchill helped put in place the one I believe he was most proud of was the program of old age pensions.

For this post I wanted to find in My Early Life (Touchstone, 1996) the passages in which he speaks about the salutary effect old age pensions have had on the lives of millions. But the book doesn't have an index and I couldn't find the passages. I'll try for tomorrow.

Tomorrow we’ll look at the life of the person I believe first taught Churchill about the lives of ordinary people: his nanny and surrogate mother, Ms. Elizabeth Ann Edwards.