Winston Churchill: Thanksgiving 1944

We must never cease to proclaim in fearless tones the great principles of freedom and the rights of man which are the joint inheritance of the English-speaking world and which through Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, the Habeas Corpus, trial by jury, and the English common law find their most famous expression in the American Declaration of Independence.

Sir Winston Churchill

America has had fewer firmer friends among foreign leaders than the Great Commoner, Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister who heroically led Great Britain to victory in World War II.  Half American courtesy of his mother, Churchill was often regarded as having a brash American style according to more staid English politicians.   The first person to be granted honorary American citizenship by an Act of Congress, Churchill had a life long fondness for his maternal native land.  During World War II he was ever grateful for America as an ally which saved Great Britain.  Here is what he wrote about his reaction to the news of Pearl Harbor:

No American will think it wrong of me if I proclaim that to have the United States at our side was to me the greatest joy. I could not foretell the course of events. I do not pretend to have measured accurately the martial might of Japan, but now at this very moment I knew the United States was in the war, up to the neck and in to the death. So we had won after all! Yes, after Dunkirk; after the fall of France; after the horrible episode of Oran; after the threat of invasion, when, apart from the Air and the Navy, we were an almost unarmed people; after the deadly struggle of the U-boat war — the first Battle of the Atlantic, gained by a hand’s breadth; after seventeen months of lonely fighting and nineteen months of my responsibility in dire stress, we had won the war. England would live; Britain would live; the Commonwealth of Nations and the Empire would live. How long the war would last or in what fashion it would end, no man could tell, nor did I at this moment care. Once again in our long Island history we should emerge, however mauled or mutilated, safe and victorious. We should not be wiped out. Our history would not come to an end. We might not even have to die as individuals. Hitler’s fate was sealed. Mussolini’s fate was sealed. As for the Japanese, they would be ground to powder. All the rest was merely the proper application of overwhelming force. The British Empire, the Soviet Union, and now the United States, bound together with every scrap of their life and strength, were, according to my lights, twice or even thrice the force of their antagonists. No doubt it would take a long time. I expected terrible forfeits in the East; but all this would be merely a passing phase. United we could subdue everybody else in the world. Many disasters, immeasurable cost and tribulation lay ahead, but there was no more doubt about the end.

Silly people — and there were many, not only in enemy countries — might discount the force of the United States. Some said they were soft, others that they would never be united. They would fool around at a distance. They would never come to grips. They would never stand blood-letting. Their democracy and system of recurrent elections would paralyze their war effort. They would be just a vague blur on the horizon to friend or foe. Now we should see the weakness of this numerous but remote, wealthy, and talkative people. But I had studied the American Civil War, fought out to the last desperate inch. American blood flowed in my veins. I thought of a remark which Edward Grey had made to me more than thirty years before — that the United States is like “a gigantic boiler. Once the fire is lighted under it there is no limit to the power it can generate.” Being saturated and satiated with emotion and sensation, I went to bed and slept the sleep of the saved and thankful.”

It is no surprise therefore that at a Thanksgiving dinner held at the Albert Hall on November 23, 1944, Churchill gave the speech in the above video wishing America a Happy Thanksgiving.  Small wonder that as celebrated as Churchill is in the United Kingdom, his memory is also cherished by many Americans, including the author of this post.  He stood for freedom in a very dark time and he loved America only a bit less than his own country.

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  1. Considering that Ireland wasn’t his country I don’t know why it should have. Further considering that he and Michael Collins negotiated the peace that brought about an independent Ireland, I think he did the Irish a fairly good turn on that occasion, as did Collins. In 1929 Churchill wrote this about Collins:

    “Successor to a sinister inheritance, reared among fierce conditions and moving through ferocious times, he supplied those qualities of action and personality without which the foundation of Irish nationhood would not have been re-established.”

  2. I would have thought what Sandy did, not knowing history myself. Glad to learn about how Chuchill regarded Ireland, Donald! Whether it’s history or nuclear energy (or any topic, for that matter), it’s important to always get the facts (something I do poorly outside of my field of expertise). I know little about the former, so thanks!

  3. Thank you for that Churchill speech. I’ve long had a keen interest in all things about WWII, but I know little about Churchill and England’s part in it. I wonder, would you have any book recommendations about him and/or England in the war? I know there’s so much out there to pick from but would rather have a recommendation or two from someone like you!

    Thanks for a great site.

    God bless.

  4. It is good and edifying to read about the powerful speeches of Winston Churchill during the Second World War. At every turn of events in human history, God appoints someone to be His instrument of saving humankind from physical annihilation, coupled with freeing humans from Satan-instigated bondage. Winston Churchill was the person at that time; and he appropriately enlisted the support of Roosevelt. Thank Heavens that Satan and his Axis of Evil were defeated in that war. But Satan continues to try! Satan’s present try is to employ and mobilize Islam to unleash another Armageddon. It appears that the West and other members of the free world are taking Islam’s threat with levity. History abounds on how Islam had tried to annihilate the free world and spread the horrible horrors of the Islamic religion on humankind. If the rest of the world thinks it could stand behind the rules of human rights to allow Islam to continue gaining its spread in those places, then the world would hold itself to blame. Islam must be made to exist only in countries it holds sway over at the moment. The conduct of different Islamic sects all over the world must warn other nations to beware in allowing this religion to have any foothold in their territories. Islam cannot cohabit with any other religion. This is just the truth. This is just the rational and objective truth. Don’t bother about the rules of human rights for Islam itself is no respecter of human rights.

  5. We must never cease to proclaim in fearless tones the great principles of freedom and the rights of man which are the joint inheritance of the English-speaking world and which through Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, (the HHS Mandate: no freedom of conscience, laws inveighing against the virtue of CHARITY, the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, imposition of cruel and unusual punishment, crushing penalties) the Habeas Corpus, trial by jury, (NDAA National Defense Authorization Act: no trial by jury, indefinite imprisonment without charges, no Habeas Corpus for American citizens), and the English common law find their most famous expression in the American Declaration of Independence.

    Sir Winston Churchill

    [“The TRUTH is whatever I say the TRUTH is”
    President Barak Obama

    The American citizen is a sovereign person confirmed in self-control, created and endowed by “their Creator” with unalienable rights.
    parentheses added]

  6. @Chi,
    Not sure Islam was Mr. McClarey’s topic, but you may find comfort in study of the ejection of Islam from Europe. There was a reason for it. Spain, for example, threw out every Muslim they could find, and this after 700+ years of Muslims in Spain. There was a reason for that, too. All this is well-documented, although not widely known or taught in the US.

    @ Elizabeth,
    Churchill wrote an excellent 6-volume history of WWII from his central position. If you want to go easier on yourself, there is an abridged version in a single volume. That would allow you to read the 6 volumes of you so choose.

  7. Donald, Of course, Ireland was not his country, although he lived there for a time as a youth. Nor was America his country. Your comment that his negotiation with Collins led to an independent Ireland ignores the 1916 Rising, the Irish Civil War, the manner of the creation of Eire, and the fact that Ireland is still today not united. I have great admiration for Winston Churchill as one of the brightest lights of our lifetime, whose leadership in WWII is unquestionable, remarkable and astounding. He is a giant of western history. However, the fact that he is a giant in leading England in WWII does not mean that he was right in everything he did. Mr.Churchill’s policy on Ireland was a part of the overall English policy of oppression that led to a partitioned Ireland and, eventually, to the Troubles. See Black and Tans, for an example. I don’t think anyone can seriously dispute England’s tyranny and subjugation of Ireland for centuries. Churchill was in the flow of this policy and he was unhelpful, to say the least, in the cause of Irish freedom.



  8. Well Sandy, anyone who runs a search on this blog in regard to Ireland will quickly learn what I think about the subjugation of Ireland over the centuries by the English! However, I think it is clearly a historical fact that the peace negotiations led by Collins and Churchill did lead to the creation of an Independent Irish state. All of Ireland? No. With the Ulster Protestant population that would not have happened without an enormous civil war that the Republican forces simply lacked the military strength to win. Collins got the best deal that he could get under the circumstances and Churchill was smart enough to realize that the time had come for the English to stop pretending that they could hold onto most of Ireland forever. Prior to World War I Churchill was a vigorous supporter of Home Rule for Ireland, one of the few times he turned his back on a political principle, anti-Home Rule, espoused by his late father Lord Randolph Churchill.

  9. John2: Thanks for the recommendation! Looking at reviews on Amazon of both the 6-volume set and the abridged, I’ll be honest and say that I’ll start with the abridged.

  10. Sir Winston, for all his failings and what we would now call bigotry was essentially a chivalric gentleman; a quality that shines through from his earliest writings in The River War ( . Unlike other leaders of his era, he had little of their guile or calculating deviousness (I exclude Hitler and Stalin from consideration as they clearly were of the Devil). For these reasons, it is always possible to have affection for him whatever criticisms we have of particular actions or policies he undertook or espoused.

  11. Churchill is not a popular figure with the Northern Ireland Unionists. In the first place, when in 1913 there was a threat of armed Protestant resistance to Home Rule, he (as First Lord of the Admiralty) threatened naval action – “If Belfast shows fight I will reduce it to rubble in twenty-four hours”. In the Second World War he considered giving NI to deValera in return for use of the southern ports (which had been given up only a few years previously).

    Britain and the USA were not the easiest of allies in WW II, and there was fault on both sides. Churchill was rightly suspicious of FDR’s naive trust of Stalin and his (to us incomprehensible) belief that the greatest threat to world peace in the post-war years would be the British Empire. Having pooled our resources in the Manhattan project the Brits were understandably miffed when Congress passed the McMahon Act, which meant that the UK was on its own in developing a nuclear capability. In those cash-strapped years we did pretty well, producing the A-bomb in 1952 and the H-bomb in 1957.

    However, the US underpinning of NATO and the eventual defeat of the ‘evil empire’ was the greatest achievement of the Pax Americana. Had Churchill lived to see it, he would have felt both gratified and vindicated.

  12. That video clip was great. So inspiring ~ they all seemed to love him. Can you tell me who the men are sitting around and above him?

  13. This was an address to a joint session of Congress. The two men seated above Churchill were Speaker of the House Sam Rayburn (D.TX) and Vice President Henry Wallace (D. Moscow). I am not sure of the identities of the men seated beside Churchill.

  14. Ivan it’s true. Wallace was almost a Communist. Churchill was mystified and baffled at FDR’s thoughts, words and deeds vis a vis Stalin.

    Another facet of Churchill was his adept and skilled use of the English language. I can think of none who were better.

  15. Churchill’s almost instinctive resonance with history is exemplified in his most famous speech, when he was confident “that the New World, with all its power and might, will step forth for the liberation of the Old”. This echoes George Canning’s speech as Foreign Secretary in 1826 when he endorsed the Monroe Doctrine: “I called the New World into existence to redress the balance of the Old”.

  16. Penguin Fan, I agree. The US President scrapes through as a fool instead of a knave when it came to Stalin. His close associates on the other hand seem to have been willing dupes. What I know of Henry Wallace, I read from by Tim Tzouliadis, which builds around the terrible fate of thousand of naive Americans who went to the Soviet Union in search of work in the 1930s, a compelling narative of the inner workings of Stalinism.

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