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Quotations


These quotes make for good story-telling but popular myth has falsely attributed them to Churchill.

"Conservative by the time you're 35"

"If you're not a liberal when you're 25, you have no heart.  If you're not a conservative by the time you're 35, you have no brain." There is no record of anyone hearing Churchill say this. Paul Addison of Edinburgh University makes this comment: "Surely Churchill can't have used the words attributed to him. He'd been a Conservative at 15 and a Liberal at 35!  And would he have talked so disrespectfully of Clemmie, who is generally thought to have been a lifelong Liberal?"

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Q. I am looking for the brief speech that Churchill made to the graduating class of, I believe, Oxford or Cambridge. Memory serves that the speech was simply "Never give up, Never give up, never give up." Is this correct?

A. This is our most frequent quote request. The speech was made 29 October 1941 to the boys at Harrow School. " Never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.'' The full speech is contained in "The Unrelenting Struggle" (London:Cassell and Boston:Little Brown 1942, and is found on pages 274-76 of the English edition). It may also be found in "The Complete Speeches of Winston S. Churchill," edited by Robert Rhodes James (NY:Bowker and London:Chelsea House 1974).

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"No One Would Do Such Things"

"So now the Admiralty wireless whispers through the ether to the tall masts of ships, and captains pace their decks absorbed in thought. It is nothing. It is less than nothing. It is too foolish, too fantastic to be thought of in the twentieth century. Or is it fire and murder leaping out of the darkness at our throats, torpedoes ripping the bellies of half-awakened ships, a sunrise on a vanished naval supremacy, and an island well-guarded hitherto, at last defenceless? No, it is nothing. No one would do such things. Civilization has climbed above such perils. The interdependence of nations in trade and traffic, the sense of public law, the Hague Convention, Liberal principles, the Labour Party, high finance, Christian charity, common sense have rendered such nightmares impossible. Are you quite sure? It would be a pity to be wrong. Such a mistake could only be made once—once for all."

       —1923, recalling the possibility of war between France and Germany after the Agadir Crisis of 1911, in The World Crisis,vol. 1, 1911-1914, pp. 48-49.

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Churchill to Mrs John Leslie

12 November 1895
763 Fifth Avenue

"…So far I think the means of communication in New York have struck me the most. The comfort and convenience of elevated railways—tramways—cable cars & ferries, harmoniously fitted into a perfect system accessible alike to the richest and the poorest—is extraordinary. And when one reflects that such benefits have been secured to the people not by confiscation of the property of the rich or by arbitrary taxation but simply by business enterprise—out of which the promoters themselves have made colossal fortunes, one cannot fail to be impressed with the excellence of the active system. But New York is full of contradictions and contrasts. I paid my fare across Brooklyn Bridge with a paper dollar. I should think the most disreputable ‘coin’ the world has ever seen [He was used to golden sovereigns and half-sovereigns]. I wondered how to reconcile the magnificent system of communication with the abominable currency for a considerable time and at length I have found what may be a solution. The communication of New York is due to private enterprise while the state is responsible for the currency: and hence I come to the conclusion that the first class men of America are in the counting house and the less brilliant ones in the government…."

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