American Rhetoric: Movie Speech

"Young Winston" (1972)

 

Address to the House of Commons

Audio mp3 delivered Simon Ward

Mr. Speaker, I stand here tonight to plead the cause of economy. It may be, at some other time and under other circumstances, I may take a directly opposite position. But tonight, I speak on behalf of military economy and retrenchment.

The Secretary of State for War is asking -- indeed, demanding -- a great deal of money. I do not think he should have it. I say it humbly but with, I hope, becoming pride, no one has a better right to this position than I have. For it is a cause I have inherited. And it is a cause for which the late Lord Randolph Churchill made the greatest sacrifice of any Minister of modern times.

I am glad the House has allowed me, after an interval of 15 years, to lift again the tattered flag that I found lying on a stricken field.

It is quite recent history, Lord Randolph was Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord Salisbury was Prime Minister, as he is now, and on this same issue of economy Lord Randolph Churchill went down -- forever. But wise words, Sir, stand the test of time. And his words were wise.

I have frequently been surprised, since I have been in this House, to hear with what composure, and how glibly, Members, and even Ministers, talk of a European war. I say, Sir, we must not regard modern war as a kind of game in which we may take a hand, and with good luck and good management play a adroitly for an evening; and, when we have had enough, come safely home with our winnings.

  Oh, no, Sir. It is no longer a game. A European war cannot be anything but a cruel and heart-rending struggle which, if we are ever to enjoy the bitter fruits of victory, must demand, perhaps for years, the whole manhood of the nation, the entire suspension of peaceful industries, and the concentrating to only one end of every vital agency in the community.

Ah, yes, it may be that the human race is doomed, never to learn from its mistakes. We are the only animals on this globe who periodically set out to slaughter each other for the best, the noblest, the most inescapable of reasons. We know better. But we do it again and again in generation after generation. It may be that our empire, too, is doomed -- like all those that have gone before it -- to continue to spew and waste its best blood on foreign soil, no matter what we say or do in this place, or think, or believe, or have learned from history.

But, thank God for us, there is still such a thing as moral force. And in spite of every calumny and lie, it is known that upon the whole -- and it is upon the whole that such things must be judged -- British influence is a healthy and a kindly influence.

And so I say, Sir, at this particular moment in history, we would make a fatal bargain if we allowed a moral force, which this country has for so long exerted, to become diminished, or perhaps destroyed for the sake of a costly, trumpery, dangerous, military playthings upon which the Secretary of State for War has set his heart.

 

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