Personality of the Century "We Have Not Yet Reckoned Our Debt"

The Washington Evening Star

25 January 1965

CHURCHILL is dead, gone from the world he saved. And the world he saved, distracted still by the flow and eddy of modern events, has not yet reckoned its debt to him. Perhaps that sum cannot be reckoned up, so great it is. Our very troubles of this time derive from that more nearly mortal evil which Churchill fought and ended.

Are the emerging nations irritated and frustrated at what they take to be survivals of Colonialism? Had it not been for Churchill, they would have been spared their hurt feelings, for they would never have emerged at all.

Does France grow restive at the failure of the nations to see her glory? The question would not have arisen without Churchill to fight for a France that had been given up for lost.

Are Americans troubled with the problems of a superpower? They’d have been spared their troubles had not Churchill stood when all else fell.


Is it hard and endless to achieve European union? There was a European unity of slavery and depravity designed to last a thousand years. Because of Churchill it is no more.

The Russians themselves may count their debt to that great man. Had England made its peace with evil, the Russian state would have dropped into the dark of history or have become, in the extension of the Stalin-Hitler pact, the complete political expression of the worst shadows in Stalin’s mind.

But Churchill did not fail. He lived and spoke and fought, and so all of us live as we do. In an age of progressive thought, he seemed an odd hero. He liked cigars and brandy and high cuisine. He believed deeply in the virtue of royalty. He believed in the British Empire, in gallantry, in chivalry. He believed in language and in the golden deeds of England’s past. In an age that wrote history in terms of social movements and philosophical evolution, Churchill read history as a glorious record of brave people and the things they did for their country.

He was old-fashioned and out of date. He made mistakes, sometimes big ones, as every human does. But when the hour struck it was his alone. For the evil that rose in Germany was a timeless evil. To meet it required a cast of mind that Churchill had, a dedicated innocence, a belief in battles and in courage. The German war-gods came up from under mountains and brandished again their hammers and axes. Their shadow of death spread through the heart of Europe, north to the polar ice, south to the Sahara, over all of France, and paused for a moment at the little strip of water before England.

In that moment Churchill spoke and his voice was like Roland’s horn at Roncesvalles. He broke the spell of the evil magician and roused the world to fight for its freedom. Against the Wehrmacht’s mechanical might, he had, for a while, only the gallantry, the courage, the spirit of his people. These old-fashioned virtues held the battle.

He saved the world and his world at home replied by turning him out of office, for a new time had come. He said that he would not preside over the dissolution of the British Empire, but it is dissolved and it had to be dissolved. Yet whatever hope of freedom and dignity all people have today, they owe in part to the last glorious fight of that Empire, and to its ability to bring forth, as its last gift, that man.


Commencing in Finest Hour 97, “Personality of the Century” is an ongoing series of op-ed pieces designed to qualify Churchill for Time magazine’s designation by the end of the century. Selected articles will be targeted to op-ed sections of major newspapers and compiled for presentation to the editors of Time. This obituary, published in Finest Hour 75 in 1992, was brought to our attention by the late longtime member Dr. Herbert Goldberg. Upon re-publication many readers wrote to say it was one of the best pieces they had ever read.

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