Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The Churchill Series - Jan. 9, 2008

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

During his long life, Churchill witnessed extraordinary changes. The gas lamp gave way to the light bulb. Horse carriages were replaced by automobiles. And the ocean liners he loved gave way to four-engine planes.

But not everything changed.

Churchill, for instance, was harried throughout his entire public career by egocentric and ill-informed newspaper editors.

His offical biographer, Martin Gilbert, tells us about a Feb. 14, 1932 Washington Post editorial written when Churchill was in Washington, DC during his American lecture tour that year:

As for Churchill's call for "a working agreement between Great Britain and the United States," (the Post) was hostile.

"Not many years ago." it declared, "political and economic unity with the Yankees would have been repulsive to British statesmen." ...

"Now the tables are turned and Mr. Churchill is trying to flatter the United States into taking over some of Great Britain's (World War I debts)." ...

"What contribution has Britain to make to the cooperative bond that Mr. Churchill suggests for the two countries?"
A few years later, the Post's editorial writers were asking whether the Royal Navy was doing enough to make sure Britain would be able to protect neutral American ships in the Atlantic in the event of a "European war".

In 1939, as First Lord of the Admiralty, Churchill was responsible for making sure Britain could make that "contribution the cooperative bond" between our two nations.

Did the Post's editorial writers in 1939 remember their editorial of Feb. 14, 1932?

I doubt it.
Martin Gilbert, Churchill and America. (Free Press, 2005) (pgs. 140-141)