May 13

1940 Blood, toil, tears, and sweat

In the late spring of 1940 things were going very badly for the good guys. Poland, Holland, Belgium, and Norway had been overrun by Nazi armies and France was on the point of collapse. The British Parliament had just replaced Neville Chamberlain, who saw the danger of Hitler too late, with Winston Churchill, who had been warning about the fascist menace for years. Churchill hastily assembled a War Cabinet with the cooperation of the Opposition Labour and Liberal parties and rose to speak in the House of Commons, giving his first address as Prime Minister. His words may serve as a standard against which to measure the rhetorical abilities of our North American politicians in these squalid times.

I hope that any of my friends and colleagues, or former colleagues, who are affected by the political reconstruction, will make allowance, all allowance, for any lack of ceremony with which it has been necessary to act. I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this government: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”

We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival. Let that be realised; no survival for the British Empire, no survival for all that the British Empire has stood for, no survival for the urge and impulse of the ages, that mankind will move forward towards its goal. But I take up my task with buoyancy and hope. I feel sure that our cause will not be suffered to fail among men. At this time I feel entitled to claim the aid of all, and I say, “come then, let us go forward together with our united strength.”

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