In a new biography of Winston Churchill (to be published by Faber this month) Robert Sencourt reminds us that the Prime Minister worked hard, not only to rouse the country to the sense of the German danger, but to render that danger impossible again by an international policy of practical Christianity and commonsense.
The man who leads us today is trained not only to carry his country to victory, but to make a real peace.
The following are extracts from an early chapter of the coming biography.
" Means of destruction, incalculable in their effects, wholesale and frightful in their character, and unrelated to any form of human merit ; the march of science unfolding ever more appalling possibilities, or the fires of hatred burning deep in the heart of some of the greatest peoples in the world fanned by continual provocation and unceasing fear, and fed by the desperate sense of national wrong and national danger"
fr simply was not true that the Allied victory was all that mattered, that democracy was the sum of every virtue: militarism the source and quintessence of ill. The truth was that both were growing rapidly out of date. Both were inadequete to provide a new life of industry and commerce with an adequate scheme. Both lost sight of the ways of life in losing touch with that religion which, eternal in its principles and elastic in its expediency, could alone flash the needful truth on the murky hours. Through the later years of the war from the only greet organisation which remained above the contagion of nationalism and whose lips are ever repeating the evangel of life, from the eternal city which, among the majestic monuments of the Roman peace which are the holiest legacy of the ancient Empire, had built herself a centre and a capital for a universal religion of hope and faith and human charity—from holy Rome a sweet sane voice arose. It was such a message as Christians might have hoped to hear from a Vicar of Christ on earth. It was the yoke of that wisdom which makes her doctrine shine like the morning and sends forth light afar, who is the minister of them that would order the world according to equity and righteousness; who would lead them soberly in their doings and preserve them in their power.
The voice of a great Pope had been insistent: it had been echoed in England by an older statesman who had the ear of his King. Lord Lansdowne's letter, like the Pope's pronouncements, restated that the great issue was economic: it pointed to the ruinous extravagance of the war; it recognised the need of that trade which alone sustained the masses of Europe to run full and free in their own channels. It insisted that the real need was peace—a just because a balanced peace.
And the Papacy was aware that while democracy was fighting militarism, both were menaced by something separate from either. For years Russia had been rotting from political leprosy, and now from Russia arose a vast and deadly menace: for death is not quiescence: it is the violent activity of forces of corruption. It was then, from before that time the bloody baboons of Bolshevism, as Mr. Churchill called them, had swept on to Christian Europe, that from its central organism the Christian religion had voiced its prophetic warning. It is considered even now fanciful to mention it: for men still confuse the reality with the dream. And the Pope was the last person to whom Mr. Winston Churchill—or for that matter, any other man of politics in Britain—would have turned for guidance. They learnt the Vatican's wisdom afterwards when some native instincts were enforced by the lessons of inexorable years.
The war had set three tasks to the victors. To deal with Bolshevism ; to reconstruct Europe according to the needs of the contemporary world which was living in terms of international trade and production; and to buckle a distempered continent within the belt of justice. They failed signally in each.
Terrible as the waste of war had been, it offered vast opportunities to swift and constructive minds, to men with imagination and ideals. Lloyd George and Winston Churchill were both such men, and together they could, if they had faced an effort greater than that of the war, have led the peoples to a victory so sure and lasting that, under their guidance, not merely their own countries, but Europe and the world, would have enjoyed such prosperity as they had never seen.
It is the glory of Churchill that he more than any other member of the Allied Governments spoke the high words of magnanimity. It was a distressing circumstance of the Allied warfare that it centred on blockade, and blockade meant foodstuffs for the army. But since foodstuffs, not being contraband of war, are required as much for the civil population as for armies, the effect of the allied warfare had been to distress, to weaken, and finally to kill The women and children of the countries they engaged against. Of all means of waging warfare, none reaches so far as blockade—reaches so far among people who take no part in warfare ; it afflicts the sick. the wounded, the young, the pregnant mother and the unborn child with lasting and depressing weakness as those who are wounded in a vital organ, and pass as useless invalids their remaining weariness of days.
This method of attack had spread its effects wherever the German language was spoken, and on into Hungary. In all those places alike the masses of the people were starving. The first meaning of the word artnietice was to release them from famine. It was Churchill who, as he dined with his Prime Minister on the evening of the armistice, argued for this humane and decent gesture. M he saw the hungry, his simple words were feed them. But no one would listen:, his words were ignored. The process of starvation was continued for eight months while the Allies debated in Paris the plans of settlement which years were to prove unjust, improvident, provocative, fragile and finally futile. They were all dominated not by the thought of Europe as the serried and interdependent whole which a century of invention had made her, but, even where in fleeting moments, they considered Europe's good, they thought of this in terms not of economy but of races and language. Their conceptions went back to the eighteenth century, to the American and French revolutions. Where men wanted bread, reason, co-ordination by trade between their forests and their fields on one side, and on the other their cities and their mills, they were given arbitrary tariff boundaries, restrictions and the devices which enable such words as liberty and equality to enrich a plotting clique. Europe exchanged the ways of life for that fetish of race which mesmerised alike the German and the Jew. She was handed over from kings and aristocracies to the tender mercies of Freemasonry.
It was not long before Churchill had summed up the situation which he tried hard to prevent. He had kept to his motto: " In victory magnanimity: its peace goodwill," but who had taken it up?
Nor did Churchill believe that the political situation disclosed the fullness of the threat. " Men had extended the scope of war with designs not only to destroy with poisoned gas and higher explosives, but to spread blight over crops, anthrax among horses and cattle, pestilent microbes along the blood-streams of human creatures till the whole world would he subject to disease, corruption, ruin. Such then," said Churchill. " is the peril with which mankind menaces itself. Means of destruction, incalculable in their effects, wholesale and frightful in their character, and unrelated to any form of (Continued al top of column 5) human merit ; the march of science unfolding ever more appalling possibilities; and the fires of hatred burning deep in the hearts of some of the greatest peoples in the world, fanned by continual provocation and unceasing fear, and fed by the desperate sense of national wrong. end national danger."
Such was the problem to which Churchill gave the title Shall We Commit Suicide? and which from the first hours of the Armistice he had the prescience to affront But the people were in no mood to hear or mark such wends. The men that spoke them would have had to go out into the wilderness to feast on locusts and wild honey. The voters of England filled the new Parliament with men who had done well out of the war. The newspapers, under the leadership of a man who had done particularly well in that way, yelled for revenge and reparation. A weary, greedy, and paganieed nation took up the cry. The national passions which, in his own words, had even before the war been unduly exalted in the decline of religion, now spread their underground fires in lava and destruction upon an already famished earth.
It is hard for a speaker to resist the mood of his audience. Can be resist it? Had not the pioneers of Europe's religion warned his followers not to cast their pearls before swine, not to give that which was holy to the dogs? There are moments when the wisest words are vain. And besides, at that moment, men were fooled by two things new to England : arstly the virulence of national propaganda which told them they were the paragons of every virtue, and their enemies the monsters of every iniquity: secondly by a word which they could stretch to mean anything but which gave them the lying dogma that the voice of the people was the voice of God. Mislead them by newspapers, flatter their vanity, excite. their cupidity, provoke their revenge, till you have made them mad: then ask them to press their slaving enemies as you can press a dry lemon till the pips squeak : and their roar of answering passion will be still the voice of God. Such was the new impact of the word democrat on the conscience of Britain. Rs effect was certainly not less than that of poison gas. So were fulfilled the words with which Churchill had first won fame in the House of Commons: " A European war can end only in the ruin of the vanquished and the scarcely less fatal commercial dislocation and exhaustion of the conquerors. The wars of peoples will be more terrible than those of Kings." Certainly time was proving it true that no Cabinet, no Cabal, no King, was as vindictive as democracy.