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1930 - 1938: The Wilderness

March 18, 1931. Albert Hall, London

At this moment of crisis for Baldwin, a by-election was taking place in St. George's, Westminster. At one point Baldwin considered resigning his seat and standing as a candidate, but in the event the pro-Baldwin banner was carried by Duff Cooper against an anti-Baldwin candidate vigorously supported by Beaverbrook and Rothermere. The impact of this meeting at the Albert Hall just outside the constituency was overshadowed by Baldwin's attack the same evening on the "Press Lords," whom he condemned as seeking "power without responsibility the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages". The phrase came from Baldwin's cousin, Rudyard Kipling. It was devastating. Duff Cooper won easily and Baldwin's leadership was preserved.

I think it hard that the burden of holding and organising this immense meeting should be thrown upon the Indian Empire Society. One would have thought that if there was one cause in the world which the Conservative party would have hastened to defend, it would be the cause of the British Empire in India. One would have expected that the whole force of the Conservative party machine would have been employed for months past in building up a robust, educated opinion throughout the country, and in rallying all its strongest forces to guard our vital interests. Unhappily all that influence, and it is an enormous influence, has been cast the other way. The Conservative leaders have decided that we are to work with the Socialists, and that we must make our action conform with theirs. We therefore have against us at the present time the official machinery of all the three great parties in the State. We meet under a ban. Every Member of Parliament or Peer who comes here must face the displeasure of the party Whips. Mr. Baldwin has declared that the three-party collusion must continue. And in support of that decision he has appealed to all those sentiments of personal loyalty and partisan feeling which a leader can command. Is it not wonderful in these circumstances, with all this against us, that a few of us should manage to get together here in this hall to-night? [Editor's Note: An allusion to the great numbers who filled the building.]

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1934 Nov 16

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May 2, 1935. House of Commons

We have before us in the sphere of foreign policy three new and separate documents of importance. We have the League of Nations  resolution; we have the declarations of the Stresa Conference; and we have the Prime Minister's article in his own organ, the News-Letter. I find myself - I think in common with the great majority of the House, not in one party but in all parties - in very general agreement with the Prime Minister and His Majesty's Government upon the measures taken by theGovernment in these three documents.

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December 10. 1936. House of Commons

Nothing is more certain or more obvious than that recrimination or controversy at this time would be not only useless but harmful and wrong. What is done is done. What has been done or left undone belongs to history, and to history, so far as I am concerned, it shall be left.

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May 21, 1937. German Embassy, London.

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March 24, 1938. House of Commons

The final two majestic paragraphs of this great speech on the failure of Britain to respond to the Nazi menace, were included with the rest of the speech Churchill’s collection of speeches, Arms and the Covenant (While England Slept in USA), but not in the Complete Speeches. Their editor, the late Sir Robert Rhodes James, explained that his text largely was taken directly from Hansard. This suggests a degree of editing by Churchill or his editor and son in the book. He was certainly an indefatigable reviser. If he did so in this case, he revised well.

The Prime Minister, in what I think it is not presumptuous for me to describe as a very fine speech, set before us the object which is in all our minds—namely, how to prevent war. A country like ours, possessed of immense territory and wealth, whose defences have been neglected, cannot avoid war by dilating upon its horrors, or even by a continuous display of pacific qualities, or by ignoring the fate of the victims of aggression elsewhere. War will be avoided, in present circumstances, only by the accumulation of deterrents against the aggressor. If our defences are weak, we must seek allies; and, of course, if we seek allies, alliances involve commitments. But the increase of commitments may be justified if it is followed by a still greater increase of deterrents against aggression.

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1938 Apr 30

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October 5, 1938. House of Commons

Chamberlain_MunichNevelle Chamberlain returns from MunichIf I do not begin this afternoon by paying the usual, and indeed almost invariable, tributes to the Prime Minister for his handling of this crisis, it is certainly not from any lack of personal regard. We have always, over a great many years, had very pleasant relations, and I have deeply understood from personal experiences of my own in a similar crisis the stress and strain he has had to bear; but I am sure it is much better to say exactly what we think about public affairs, and this is certainly not the time when it is worth anyone's while to court political popularity.

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Broadcast to the United States and to London

by Winston S. Churchill 

16 October 1938

From Churchill, Into Battle (London: Cassell, 1941), pages 83-91.
Renewal copyright Winston S. Churchill © 2001.


I avail myself with relief of the opportunity of speaking to the people of the United States. I do not know how long such liberties will be allowed. The stations of uncensored expression are closing down; the lights are going out; but there is still time for those to whom freedom and parliamentary government mean something, to consult together. Let me, then, speak in truth and earnestness while time remains.

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1938 Oct 16

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