Gentlemen, you will never make peace with Napoleon! Napoleon cannot be master of the world until he has smashed us up, and believe me, gentlemen, he means to be master of the world! You cannot make peace with dictators. You have to destroy them, wipe them out!
Lord Horatio Nelson, That Hamilton Woman
Something for the weekend. Heart of Oak from That Hamilton Woman (1941). Sir Winston Churchill died 50 years ago today. He loved that film, echoing as it did his own struggle against Hitler in the earlier stand of Great Britain against Napoleon, and would frequently show it to guests during the War.
When Churchill was born veterans of Trafalgar still lived, the same vintage as our current World War II veterans. Churchill lived into the dawning of the Space Age. He led a long and colorful life and he changed History. The beginning of World War II seemed like the dawning of a new era: the age of totalitarian empires. The weak and disunited democracies seemed to be on their way out. Churchill changed all this by keeping Britain fighting, even when victory seemed impossible, and gave his nation their finest hour. Having reduced the Thousand Year Reich to rubble and ashes, he sounded the alarm against the Soviet Union in 1946. Instead of the democracies ending up on the ash heap of history, it was the totalitarian empires who did so, ending like vanishing fever dreams at the dawn of a new day. Churchill, although he battled depression his entire life, was ever an optimist about free peoples. This was captured I think in his finest speech with this passage:
Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilisation. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be freed and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands.
Churchill was the indispensable man of the last century for all those who cherish freedom, and this is a good day to recall him and why it is up to us to continue the fight he waged and to recall his warning if we ever tire of the struggle:
But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.