Churchill and the United States of Europe

The bust of Churchill by Nemon stands on the main stairway in Churchill College, Cambridge

Most conservatives have a huge regard for Sir Winston Churchill, and he certainly seems to have been a thread running through my own experience.  I recall that when I became twenty-one, an elderly aunt asked what I’d like for my birthday, and I tentatively requested the first volume of Churchill’s four-volume “History of the English-Speaking Peoples”.  In a burst of generosity, she gave me the whole set, and now, nearly half a century later, I still treasure them.  They were my introduction to the Anglosphere.

I recall that when applying for a place at university, I got as far as booking a berth at the Churchill Hall of Residence (now no longer there, I’m afraid) at my third-choice university, Exeter.  I was back at Exeter University recently for a debate on nuclear power.

But in the end I was offered a place at my first-choice university, Churchill College, Cambridge, where I read mathematics.

I made a visit a couple of years back to the Churchill Archive at Churchill College, where I saw not only the original drafts of the famous wartime speeches — typescripts with hand-written editorial amendments by the great man himself — but also a couple of later acquisitions: Frank Whittle’s slide rule, and one of Margaret Thatcher’s famous handbags.

So I feel a modest degree of ownership in Churchill’s legacy, and few things annoy me more than seeing opinions attributed to him which would have him turning in his grave.  Europhiles love to claim him as one of their own.  A building in the Strasbourg parliament is named for him — disrespectfully abbreviated to “The WIC Building”.  But was he not a great European statesman, they ask?  Did he not urge the creation of a United States of Europe?

Yes and No.  He passionately wanted to ensure that the horrors of 1914/18 and 1939/45 were never repeated in Europe, and he therefore supported a close alliance of France and Germany — whose differences and enmities had dogged the continent since at least the Franco-Prussian war. He saw the United States, Great Britain and Russia as sponsors and facilitators of this new détente in Europe.  But he had no intention that Britain itself should be part of any United States of Europe, and would be horrified to see the country he loved, and saved from invasion, now reduced to little more than an offshore province governed from Brussels.

He saw Britain as having the good fortune to be placed by geography and history in a hugely advantageous position: at the centre and confluence of several vital spheres of influence — Europe; the Americas, the Commonwealth (which we have so sadly neglected) — not as being absorbed into any of those spheres. So let me repeat a quotation which is very familiar indeed, yet cannot be stressed too often: “We have our own dream and our own task.  We are with Europe, but not of it.  We are linked, but not comprised.  We are interested and associated, but not absorbed.  And should European statesmen address us in the words that were used of old: ‘wouldest thou be spoken for to the King, or the Captain of the Host?’, we should reply with the Shunammite woman “Nay Sir, for I dwell among my own people’”. 

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7 Responses to Churchill and the United States of Europe

  1. Mike Spilligan says:

    I put this into my permanent “journal” some years ago and get frustrated when I see it misquoted, usually for the opposite purpose of what WSC intended.
    It’s similar with Margaret Thatcher’s “… there is no such thing as society…”, which being part of a much larger whole is turned round to mean the opposite of what she was really saying.

  2. If we are looking for supporters in the annals of history, then let us never forget that great European, Napoleon Buonaparte who truly united the continent. Nor the great Adolf Hitler who cleansed the continent of all that displeased him. I think Berlaymont ought to be renamed: the Nah building instead of the WIC building.

  3. maureen gannon says:

    Thank You, I have never seen the comment in the whole before.
    Why when it is taken out of context by the weaklings that govern us does noone challenge them to quote it in full?

  4. Russellw says:

    Wikipedia says it should be: “Shulamite” see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shunammite

  5. JonDanzig says:

    EU Commission President, José Barroso, has called for a revival of Winston Churchill’s vision for a kind of ‘United States of Europe’. Nonsense, responded the eurosceptics. Churchill was ‘one of us’ and he would’ve voted UKIP! Who’s right? See my latest ‘EU ROPE’ blog:

    http://www.churchill.eu-rope.com

  6. MIKE MAUNDER says:

    HI ROGER: Many Thanks for putting straight the stance of Sir Winston Churchill on the matter of the E.U., and indeed what his view was of the relationship we should have with Europe. Until I realised that those who were wishing to stay in the E.U., and were happy to misquote the great man, were in fact ignorant of his speeches and the mass of his writings.

    I got the very cold shoulder from a remain gent,, when I reminded him of Charles de Gaulle’s speech, upon giving Churchill an honour in France. I bet you will remember this Roger. – “France owes Great Britain a huge debt, that we will never be able to pay.” – Now CdG was not just a little bit French, he was France, and his speech was double underlined truth. Of course fully forgotten by the monkeys that came after him, and this remain gent.

    I have just seen your comments on Ken Clark’s rape speech. The massed comments that were forthcoming on that, beggars belief. I agree with your view in the difference that the law should make between the committing of this crime, and also agree on the death penalty. However, you certainly know how to raise a storm. I suggest you leave items like that to one side !

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