Rhetoric from Churchill

I read some time ago that everyone should keep a book of writings that speak to them. Recording key phrases and words has been a fun exercise for many years. As I plod through a few books on Winston Churchill, his prose and vocabulary have me jotting down several lines from his millions of documented words. I figured it was probably a good time to share some of them straight from the texts. His ‘exact appreciation of words’ is a beautiful art.

Here goes:

“We shape out buildings; and thereafter they shape us.”

“Study history, study history. In history lie all the secrets of statecraft.”

“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.”

“To understand someone look at the world when they were the age of 20.”

“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.”

“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.”

“I never do any brainwork that someone else can do for me.”

“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.”

“The great question is — are political organization made for men or men for political organizations.”

“I very often yield to the temptation of adapting my facts to my phrases.”

“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.”

“Words are the only thing which last forever.”

“I am a solitary creature in the midst of crowds.”

“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.”

“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.”

“The Muse of History must not be fastidious. She must see everything, touch everything, and, if possible, smell everything.”

“No part of the education of a politician is more indispensable than the fighting of elections.”

“Never confuse leadership with popularity.”

“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.”


The context, especially with Churchill, for all of these quotes is important to understand the full story. These quotes are just a few of ones I’ve documented while reading his work. One could seemingly spend a lifetime sifting through his craft.


Show Comments