Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Churchill Series - Apr. 21, 2009

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

Churchill’s official biographer, Sir Martin Gilbert tells us:

Churchill’s return to New York coincided with Black Thursday, the sudden collapse of the New York stock market. That night Churchill dined with Bernard Baruch on Fifth Avenue.

“He had gathered around his table,” Churchill later wrote, “forty or more of the leading bankers and financiers of New York, and I remember that when one of them proposed my health he addressed the company as “Friends and
former millionaires.”

Churchill himself was deeply involved in the American stock market and suffered severe financial loss. But the payments he received for the articles he had contracted to write for such a high remuneration more than covered his losses.

On the day of the Crash, Churchill witnessed its consequences at first hand. “Under my window, he later wrote, “a gentleman cast himself down fifteen stories and was dashed to pieces, causing a wild commotion and the arrival of the fire brigade.” …
Later that day Churchill was invited to visit the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Gilbert continues :
The 1,200 members of the [Exchange] were precluded, Churchill wrote, “by the strongest rules from running or raising their voices unduly. So there they were, walking to and fro like a slow-motion picture of a disturbed ant heap, offering each other enormous blocks of securities at a third of their old prices and half their present value, and for many minutes together finding no one strong enough to pick up the sure fortunes they were compelled to offer.
The article just quoted appeared in the Dec. 9, 1929 edition of the Daily Telegraph. It tells us a lot about Churchill that in the midst of perhaps the greatest financial panic of the twentieth century he could keep his head and tell readers that those shares on offer represented “sure fortunes” for those strong enough to buy.

Churchill and his brother Jack sailed for England on October 30. Tomorrow I’ll share a few thoughts as a wrap-up to this series within the series covering Churchill's almost three month long trip across Canada, down the West coast, and then across America to New York and other East coast sites including Washington.
Martin Gilbert,
Churchill and America. (pgs. 118-123)