Books of the Day
The Hour and the Man
Into Battle : Winston Churchill's War Speeches. Compiled by Randolph Churchill. (Cassell. 8s. 6d.) WE have it on the authority of Cassius that Julius Caesar bade the Romans mark him and write his speeches in their books. We owe the record of the speeches of the leader of our day not to his own inspiration but to the suggestion and selection of his son, and, surely, a son never undertook a more grateful task. Some of us will recall the delight with which we read Mr. Churchill's bio- graphy of his father. That was thirty-five years ago. Now a younger Randolph pays, in turn, his tribute to his father. What- ever the inspiration, we can be grateful for another Churchill book to put alongside Arms and the Covenant, and that earlier volume, Liberalism and the Social Problem. This new book divides itself into three parts : The speeches made by Mr. Churchill as a private member; those made as First Lord of the Admiralty; and the war speeches of the Prime Minister. Many histories of this time will come to be written, but none will be better than this. Just as Wordsworth's " Sonnets to Liberty," read with their connecting story, make almost the best history of our struggle with Napoleon, and Abraham Lincoln's speeches and letters give us the best history of the American Civil War, so these speeches (admirably elucidated by Mr. Randolph Churchill's stunmary of events) give us the best and most authen- tic history of this war. Although the temptation will be to turn at once to the war speeches of the Prime Minister, where our master of English prose rises to the height of his great argument, the earlier speeches made before the war (filling nearly one-third of the book) deserve close reading. Here we have the story, which posterity will study with amazement, of the warnings that were unheeded, the undisturbed complacency of those charged with the awful responsibility for the defence of this nation, and the blindness of those who because of their high position should have been the seers of the people and the guardians of their interests. It was only when Hitler marched into Prague that " the damnable outrage opened the eyes of the blind, made the deaf hear, even in some cases the dumb spoke." It is a disturbing thought that, as a result of the electoral truce, the British people will have to endure the continuance of a parlia- mentary majority—the blind and the deaf and the dumb—whose failure to discharge their trust is, on Mr. Churchill's own showing, largely responsible for the jeopardy in which we stand today.
The later speeches of the book will be read without controversy and with gratitude. Happy is the nation that in its hour of need can find the man. The people of the Northern States in America came somehow to believe that Abraham Lincoln was the direct gift of Providence in the dark peril of the Civil War. The preparation of the man coinciding with the unfolding of the event is almost the highest point in the epic of America. France today has suffered defeat and humiliation largely because there was no man to whom the people could turn in the hour of their extremity. France had no Churchill, no Roosevelt, no Metaxas. Happily for us the man was there, fashioned, disciplined and equipped. Whatever may be thought of the ways of Providence, and however readily we may brush aside Milton's proud con- fidence in God's dealing with his Englishman, we can yet rejoice that the man was there. Behind the speeches recorded in this book, and further back than their immediate preparation, there is the remarkable apprenticeship. We may, indeed, take these things for granted, but the historian of the future will have more to say. He will dwell upon the amazing coincidence that the son of an American mother was called to lead the British nation at a time when the unity of the English-speaking people was the • supreme consideration in their hour of crisis. Lord Randolph's father and mother did not approve that early courtship, but happily their objections were overruled, with the result that the Potomac flowed into the Thames How did it come to pass that the Chronicler of the last great war has become the leader in this later and vaster struggle? How is it that the historian of the war against the menacing tyranny of Louis XIV is today foremost in the resistance to Hitlerism and the Nazi power? Is it a mere co- incidence that the biographer of the great Duke of Marlborough IS now called on to apply all the lessons taught by his mighty forebear as to the hegemony of Europe, the virtue of sea power anti the significance of the Mediterranean? What happy con- sPiracY of circumstance gave us at this most critical hour our leading Lincoln, statesman and our foremost orator, endowed with
s power of speaking right home to the hearts of the People?
It is •
, no little thing that the Prime Minister in this our finest hour is himself an historian. Behind every one of the speeches this book is the appeal of the past. Most speeches in our pre- ,..sent Parliament might be made in a country that never had a r4storY at all. • Mr. Churchill always recalls our heritage. He
quotes Drake and Nelson, and, of course, Marlborough. He tells us of Napoleon at Boulogne looking vainly across the ditch. He recalls to the people of London, threatened by fire and bomb, the conspicuous part played by their ancestors in the Civil War when they established for ever parliamentary institutions. Appealing to France in the hour of her bitter trial he speaks of Jena and Mont- mirail, of Napoleon and Gambetta. He cries to a people who have the tradition of the Revolution in their 'blood, at the very time when they are being invited to forget the three mighty words they have carried over Europe
Vive la France! Long live also the forward march of the common people in all the lands towards their just and true inheritance, and towards the broader and fuller age.
Mr. Churchill is sparing in his quotations. One of them, however, was superbly chosen. When upon his becoming Prime Minister he spoke to the British people, be brought his appeal to an end with words that brought a hush upon our hearts : Today is Trinity Sunday. Centuries ago words were written to be a call and a spur to the faithful servants of Truth and Justice: "Arm yourselves, and be ye men of valour, and 1Se in readiness for the conflict; for it is better for us to perish in battle than to look upon the outrage of our nation and our altar. As the will of God is in Heaven, even so let it be."
Mr. Churchill has reached great heights but that was his finest hour.
Very wisely Mr. Randolph Churchill has included not only the great public declarations, but also many speeches actually given in Parliament. The speeches of Pericles and Lincoln were all delivered on great State occasions as are those of Mr. Roosevelt today. These earlier speeches, however, were made in the rough and tumble of parliamentary debate, subject to the tiresome exi- gencies of the Commons time-table, and sometimes in the face of those who in their hostility were desiring his exclusion from the House. This is as it should be. Here are speeches not declaimed from behind the protection of guards and bayonets, but the natural product of free institutions. They are not the pronouncements of the autocrat, but the contributions of a man who has the love of free discussion in his blood. Here in these speeches the reader will find soaring eloquence, the rapier thrust, the solemn appeal, the searching warning, and, with it all, rich over-flowing English good humour. Whom does he recall? Perhaps the historian of the future will go across the channel for his parallel and will tell us that the speeches of Mr. Churchill suggest the eloquence of Mirabeau, the single-mindedness of Robespierre, the courage and audacity of Danton, and, perhaps, a touch of Talleyrand.
However, whatever analogy may be drawn, we can follow Mr. Churchill's example in his recent quotation of Meredith :
Yet try thy steel.
Thou, fighting for poor human kind, wilt feel
The strength of Poland in thy wrist, to hew
A chasm sheer into the barrier rock,
And bring the army of the faithful through. IsAAc FOOT.