Notes from Books and Readings From and On Winston S. Churchill
Frankling and Winston
“The Power of Proximity”
In 1942, Winston Churchill had just come back from Hyde Park on the overnight train back to Washington D.C. At the White House a telegram on a pink piece of paper was handed to Roosevelt. “Toburk has surrendered with twenty-five thousand men take prisoner.”
The Germans had humiliated the British. Churchill and England took a huge body blow. FDR, wrapped in empathy and having the experience of feeling helpless while having immense power strummed together a response described by the General in the room: “There was not one word too much or too little.” Roosevelt had said “What can we do to help.”
Churchill’s response: “Give us as man Sherman tanks as you can spare, and ship them to the Middle East as quickly as possible,” Churchill said, looking ahead. Roosevelt called for George Marshall and put the problem to him: “Mr. President” Marshall replied: “The Sherman’s are only coming into production. The few hundred have been issued to our armored division, who have hitherto had to be content with obsolete equipment.”
However, Churchill’s charm and relationship with them had paid off.
Marshall continued: “Never the less if the British need is so great they must have them; and we could let have a hundred 105mm self propelled guns in addition.
It was a critical gesture and played a huge role in the victory of Alamein. Standard protocol would have been numerous wires back and forth from General to General, ego to ego, department to department.
“My husband always had a joy in the game of politics” It was always to him an interesting game, like chess — something in which you pitted your wits against somebody else.”
His powers were those of imagination, experience and magnanimity. He saw men as a noble and not as a mean creature. Politicians who spend long years in the arena, as Churchill did, learn that this morning’s foe may become this evening’s ally.
He never hated nations or men as such. He only hated their ideas. He would knock a man down in order to him back up again in a better frame of mind.
“Anger is a waster of energy. Steam which is used to blow off a safety valve would be better used to drive the engine.” – Churchill
“My views are a harmonious process which keeps them in relation to the current movement of events.” – Churchill
“When the notes of life ring false, men should correct them by referring to the tuning fork of death. It is when that clear menacing tone is heard that the love of life grows keenest in the human heart.” – Churchill
Franklin always said that no leader should get too far ahead of his followers.
Walking with Destiny
“I felt as if I were walking with destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour and for this trial…”
“To understand a man look at the world when he was the age of 20.” – Napolean
“It is a fine game to play — the the game of politics — and it is well worth waiting for a good hand before really playing.” – Lord Salisbury (Churchill’s father)
Here are Churchill’s five tips on speaking:
- First is the ‘exact appreciation of words’ which includes ‘the continual employment of the best possible word.’ His style and advice was using ‘short, homely words of common usage.’ These words needed to be understandable, but the sentences didn’t need to be short. Ideally they would have an ‘internal rhythm.’
- Second is the ‘influence of sound on the human brain.’ Churchill believed the most impactful when ‘ the sentences of the orator when he appeals to his art become long, rolling and sonorous.’ Great orators are able to express their words in blank verse — opposed to regular prose. Shakespeare was his life-long influence when emulating blank verse.
- Third is ‘the steady accumulation of argument.’ In Churchill’s words ‘a series of facts is brought forward all pointing in a common direction. The crowd anticipate the conclusion and the last words fall amid a thunder of assent.’
- Fourth is the use of analogy. Analogies are a lost art these days. Churchill puts it well, obviously: ‘they translate an establish truth into simple language’.
- Fifth and final: ‘the emotions of the speaker and listeners are alike aroused and some expression must be found that will represent all they are feeling.
“We shape out buildings; and thereafter they shape us.”
“Study history, study history. In history lie all the secrets of statecraft.”
“I wanted learning and I wanted funds. I wanted freedom. I realized there was no freedom without funds. I had to make money to get essential independence; for only with independence can you let your own life express itself naturally. To be tied to someone else’s routine, doing things you dislike — that is not life – not for me…So I set to work. I studied, I wrote, I lectured…I can hardly remember a day when I had nothing to do.”
“Anger is a waste of energy. Steam which is used to blow off a safety valve would be better used to drive the engine.”
“Of this I am certain, that if we open a quarrel between the past and the present, we shall find that we have lost the future.”
“When the notes of life ring false, men should correct them by referring to the tuning fork of death. It is when that clear menacing tone is heard that the love of life grows keenest in the human hearts.”
“I pity undergraduates. After all, a man’s life must be nailed to a cross of either Though or Action.”
“Progress is a principle of the human race.”
“As one’s fortunes are reduced, one’s spirit must expand to fill the void.” – Churchill
He was a child of nature. He venerated tradition, but ridiculed convention.
“Neither charity nor pity can inspire the acts of a Government. The intersects of the community as a whole must direct them.”
“Revenge may be sweet, but also it most expensive.”
“You would rise in the world?…You must work while other amuse themselves. Are you desirous of a reputation for courage? You must risk your life.
“I never do any brainwork that someone else can do for me.”
“I should of made nothing if I had not made mistakes.”
“In the course of my life I have often had to eat my words, and I must confess that I have always found it a wholesome diet.”
“There are of course old men who cannot be expected to pay much attention to anything, and young men to whom nobody can be expected to pay much attention.”
“Qualities in a desirable politician: the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, and next year — and…to explain why it didn’t happen.”
Churchill could focus his mind upon it completely, and direct his gargantuan memory of facts, quotations, and statistics to master the subject so that no journalist, heckler, or parliamentary antagonist could get the better of him.
“The great question is — are political organization made for men or men for political organizations.”
“To think you can make a man richer by putting on a tax is like a man thinking that he can stand in a bucket and life himself up by the handle.”
Churchill memorized most speeches but after forgetting one’s conclusion, he ended up putting key words in sentences in psalm form.
He changed parties when he was 29. Napoleon at 30. Duke of Marlborough 38.
“I very often yield to the temptation of adapting my facts to my phrases.”
“But taking part in such an ugly brawl does not in my mind prejudice personal relations.”
“I have always felt that politicians is to be judged by the animosities that he excites among his opponents.”
“To be able to make your work your pleasure is the one class distinction in the world worth striving for.”
“Vacuity, obscurity, ambiguity and pomposity are not much less difficult to practice than their opposites.”
“Words are the only things which last forever.”
“Winston is always ready to be accompanied by those with considerable imperfections.” – Clementine (wife)
“I am a solitary creature in the midst of crowds.”
“The only way a man can remain consistent amid changing circumstances is to change with them while preserving the same dominating purpose.”
“contempt for hum drum conformity.”
“I seize the fleeting hour of leisure to write and tell you how much I like our long talk on Sunday.”
“Now, strong language is often used by weak men and it is never used more strongly than on a weak cause.”
“We do not live in a world of small intrigues, but of serious and important affairs.”
“We may late the foundation of a frank and clear-eyed friendship which I should certainly value and cherish with many serious feelings of respect.” Winston to Clementine
“The temptation to tell a chief in a great position the things he most likes to hear is one of the most commonest explanations of mistaken policy.”
“Battles are won by slaughter and maneuver. The greater the General, the more he contributes in maneuver and the less he demands in slaughter.”
Uncounted generations will trample heedlessly upon our tombs. What is the use of living if it not be to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone? How else can we put ourselves in harmonious relation with the great verities and consolations of the infinite and the eternal? Humanity will not be case down. We are going on — swinging bravely forward along the grand high road – and already behind the distant mountains is the promise of the sun.”
“The Muse of History must not be fastidious. She must see everything, touch everything, and, if possible, smell everything.”
“Personal feelings are nothing to him, thou he has a very sentimental side to his character.” The King on WSC.
“Failure and tragedy are all that are left to divide.” – WSC on the Dardenellas
“No part of the education of a politician is more indispensable than the fighting of elections.”
“Never confuse leadership with popularity.”
“If I valued the the honorable Gentlemen’s opinion I might get angry.” – WSC
“Asking me not to make a speech is like asking a centipede to get along and not put a foot on the ground.”
“Each one hopes that if he feeds the crocodile enough, the crocodile will eat him last. All of them hope that the storm will pass before their time comes to be devoured.”
“The shores of History are strewn with the wrecks of empires. They perished because they were found unworthy. We would court – and deserve – the same fate if, in the coming years, we so denied our destiny and our duty.”
Another great lesson Churchill learned in the First World War was about the importance of unity of command. “War, which knows no rigid divisions between French, Russian, and British Allies he wrote between land, sea, and air, between gaining victories and alliances, between supplies and flighting men, between propaganda and machinery, which is, in fact, simply the sum of all forces and pressures operative at a given period, was dealt with piecemeal.”
“How few men are strong enough to stand against the prevailing currents of opinion.” – WSC
“Arguing with Churchill is like arguing with a brass band.”
“The greatest tie of all is language…Words are the only things that last forever. The most tremendous monuments or prodigies of engineering crumble under the hand of time. The Pyramids moulder, the bridges rust, the canals fill up, grass covers the railroad track; but words spoke two or three thousand years ago remain with us now, not as mere relics of the past, but with all their pristine vital forces.”
“Facts are better than dreams.” (Night after getting elected)
“There is only one thing worse than fighting with allies, and that is fighting without them!”
“I am not going to tumble around my cage like a wounded canary,’ Churchill told an MP. ‘You knocked me off my perch. You have now got to put me back on my perch. Otherwise I won’t sing.’
“No part of the education of a politician is more indispensable than the fighting of elections.” – Churchill
“Never confuse leadership with popularity.” – Winston Churchill
“The shores of History are strewn with the wrecks of empires. They perished because they were found unworthy. We would court — and deserve — the same fate if, in the coming years, we so denied our destiny and our duty.” – Churchill
“Each one hopes that if he feeds the crocodile enough, the crocodile will eat him last. All of them hope that the storm will pass before their time comes to be devoured.” – Churchill
“Great battles, won or lost, change the entire course of events, create new standards of values, new moods, new atmospheres, in armies and in nations, to which all must conform.” – Churchill
“Expert knowledge, however indispensable, is no substitute for a generous and comprehending outlook upon the human story, with all its sadness and with all its unquenchable hope.”
“Fixed the destinies of my life.”
“Let luck rebalance her books.”
“Verdict of experience.”
“Paths cross for a reason, let’s find out why our’s did.”
“the repository and embodiment of many forms of…”
“He makes them feel they are living their history.” – Ritchie on Churchill
“Fate holds terrible forfeits for those who gamble on certainties.” – Churchill
“The longer you can look back, the farther you can look forward.” – Churchill
“pusillanimous and defeatist doctrines.” – Churchill
“We championed several causes together which did not command the applause of large majorities; but it is just in that kind of cause, where on is swimming against the stream, that one learns the worth and quality of a comrade and friend…” – Churchill
“Hitler and his Nazi gang have sown the wind; let them reap the whirlwind.” – Churchill
“overworked adjective; ‘iconic’ ”
“When one wakes up after daylight, one should breakfast; five hours after that, luncheon. Six hours after luncheon, dinner. Thus one becomes independent of the sun, which otherwise meddles too much in one’s affairs and upsets the routine of work.” – Churchill
“I see the light gleaming behind the clouds.” – Churchill
“What is the use of living, if it be not to strive for noble causes and to make this muddled world a better place for those who will live in it after we are gone?” – WSC
The Last Lion – William Manchester
“Don’t interrupt me when I am interrupting.” – W. S. C.
“Winston is a man of simple tastes. He is always prepared to put up with the best of everything.”
“flaccid sea anemones of virtue who can hardly wobble an antenna in the waters of negativity.”
“I like short words and vulgar fractions” – WSC
“You must pay attention to euphony.”
About another MP: “He can best be described as one of those orators who, before they get up, do not know what they are going to say; when they are speaking, do not know what they are saying; and when they have sat down, do not know what they have said.” – WSC
Throughout his youth, he once said, “it is my only ambition to be master of the spoken word.”
“Winston has spent the best years of his life writing impromptu speeches.”
He estimated that the preparation of a forty minute speech took between six and eight hours.
On John Foster Dulles “he is the only bull who brings his own china shop with him.”
John Maynard Keynes singled out his most striking virtue: his intense concentration on the matter at hand.
“I could not but feel the adverse and hostile currents that flowed about me.” – WSC
“The nose of the bulldog has been slanted backwards so that he can breathe without letting go.” – WSC
Perhaps it is better to be irresponsible and right than responsible and wrong.” – WSC
“Chance, Fortune, Luck, Destiny, Fate, Providence, seem to me only different ways of expressing the same thing, to wit, that a man’s own contribution to his life story is continually dominated by an external superior power.” – WSC
“The higher mind has no need to concern itself with the meticulous regimentation of figures.”
“It becomes a memory, but remains a monument.” - WSC
“People who are not prepared to do unpopular things and to defy glamour are not fit to be Ministers in times of stress.” - WSC
"I would rather be right than consistent." - WSC
"In the course of my life I have often had to eat my words, and I must confess that I have always found it a wholesome diet." - WSC
Books and Influences Churchill Read:
Gibbons Five Volume Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
William James' The Variety of Religious Experiences
J.A. Froud's History of England
Sir Richard Burton's Arabian Nights
King James Bible
C.S. Forestor's Biography on Nelson
"An interior vision which must be brought to the light of day. They felt privileged to assist."
“Too impatient to master the procedures.”
“Where there is a great deal free speech, there is always a certain amount of foolish speech.”
"When the situation was manageable it was neglected, and now that it is thoroughly out of hand, we apply too late the remedies which then might have effected a cure. There is nothng new in the story. It is as old as the Sibylline books. It galls into that long dismal catalogue of the fruitlessness of experience and the confirmed unteachability of mankind. Want of foresight, unwillingness to act when action would be simple and effective, lack of clear thinking, confusion of counsel until the emergency comes, until self-preservation strikes its jarring gong – these are the features which constitute the endless repetition of history."