The Life of Winston Churchill Essay

This essay has a total of 1918 words and 8 pages.

The Life of Winston Churchill



Winston Churchill, born on Nov. 30, 1874, at Blenheim Palace, the famous palace near
Oxford built by the nation for John Churchill, 1st duke of Marlborough, the great soldier.
Blenheim, named after Marlborough's grandest victory (1704), meant much to Winston
Churchill. In the grounds there he became engaged to his future wife, Clementine Ogilvy
Hozier (b. 1885). He later wrote his historical masterpiece, The Life and Times of John
Churchill, Duke of Marlborough, with the archives of Blenheim behind him. English on his
father's side, American on his mother's, Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill embodied
and expressed the double vitality and the national qualities of both peoples. His names
testify to the richness of his historic inheritance: Winston, after the Royalist family
with whom the Churchills married before the English Civil War; Leonard, after his
remarkable grandfather, Leonard Jerome of New York; Spencer, the married name of a
daughter of the 1st duke of Marlborough, from whom the family descended; Churchill, the
family name of the 1st duke, which his descendents resumed after the Battle of Waterloo.
All these strands come together in a career that had no parallel in British history for
richness, range, length, and achievement.


Churchill took a leading part in laying the foundations of the welfare state in Britain,
in preparing the Royal Navy for World War I, and in settling the political boundaries in
the Middle East after the war. In WORLD WAR II emerged as the leader of the united British
nation and Commonwealth to resist the German domination of Europe, as an inspirer of the
resistance among free peoples, and as a prime architect of victory. In this, and in the
struggle against communism afterward, he made himself an indispensable link between the
British and American peoples, for he foresaw that the best defense for the free world was
the coming together of the English-speaking peoples. Profoundly historically minded, he
also had prophetic foresight: British-American unity was the message of his last great
book, A History of the English-Speaking Peoples.


He was a combination of soldier, writer, artist, and statesman. He was not so good as a
mere party politician. Like Julius Caesar, he stands out not only as a great man of
action, but as a writer of it too. He had genius; as a man he was charming, gay,
ebullient, endearing. As for personal defects, such a man was bound to be a great egoist;
if that is a defect. So strong a personality was apt to be overbearing. He was something
of a gambler, always too willing to take risks. In his earlier career, people thought him
of unbalanced judgment partly from the very excess of his energies and gifts. That is the
worst that can be said of him. With no other great man is the familiar legend more true to
the facts. We know all there is to know about him; there was no disguise.


His father, Lord Randolph Churchill, was a younger son of the 7th duke of Marlborough. His
mother was Jennie Jerome; and as her mother, Clara Hall, was one-quarter Iroquois, Sir
Winston had an Indian strain in him. Lord Randolph, a brilliant Conservative leader who
had been chancellor of the exchequer in his 30's, died when only 46, after ruining his
career. His son wrote that one could not grow up in that household without realizing that
there had been a disaster in the background. It was an early spur to him to try to make up
for his gifted father's failure, not only in politics and in writing, but on the turf.
Young Winston, though the grandson of a duke, had to make his own way in the world,
earning his living by his tongue and his pen. In this he had the comradeship of his
mother, who was always courageous and undaunted.


Rejoining his regiment, he was sent to serve in India. Here, besides his addiction to
polo, he went on seriously with his education, which in his case was very much
self-education. His mother sent out to him boxes of books, and Churchill absorbed the
whole of Gibbon and Macaulay, and much of Darwin. The influence of the historians is to be
observed all through his writings and in his way of looking at things. The influence of
Darwin is not less observable in his philosophy of life: that all life is a struggle, the
chances of survival favor the fittest, chance is a great element in the game, the game is
to be played with courage, and every moment is to be enjoyed to the full. This philosophy
served him well throughout his long life. In 1897 he served in the Indian army in the
Malakand expedition against the restless tribesmen of the North-West Frontier, and the
next year appeared his first book, The Story of the Malakand Field Force. He entertained
himself by writing a novel, Savrola (1900), which curiously anticipates later developments
in history, war, and in his own mind.


On the outbreak of the South African War in 1899, he went out as war correspondent for the
London Morning Post. Within a month of his arrival, he was captured when acting more as a
soldier than as a journalist, by the Boer officer Louis Botha (who subsequently became the
first prime minister of the Union of South Africa and a trusted friend). Taken to prison
camp in Pretoria, Churchill made a dramatic escape and traveled via Portuguese East Africa
back to the fighting front in Natal. His escape made him world-famous overnight. He
described his experiences in a couple of journalistic books and made a first lecture tour
in the United States. The proceeds from the tour enabled him to enter Parliament (M. P.'s
were not paid in those days).


On Jan. 23, 1901, Churchill became member of Parliament for Oldham (Lancashire) as a
Conservative. But he had returned from South Africa sympathetic to the Boer cause, and his
army experiences had made him extremely critical of its command and administration, which
he proceeded to attack all along the line. The tariff proposals of Joseph Chamberlain
completed his alienation from the Conservative party, and in 1904 Churchill left the party
to join the Liberals. In consequence he was for years execrated by the Conservatives, and
was unpopular with army authorities.
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