Broad, Sunlit Uplands

I am not an apologist for the British Empire, nor do I excuse Sir Winston Churchill’s disparaging remarks about Mahatma Gandhi — though Gandhi himself would, in an instant. From what I’ve heard, he was not a guy to hold a grudge.

But I want to offer this bit of oratory for those who might not have heard it before, as a sample of the power of words to stir people’s souls, like Tom Paine in the American Revolution. “These are the times that try men’s souls… The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will shirk…”

Winston Churchill’s ancestors were officers in George Washington’s army who had heard these words and taken them to heart — his mother was American — and when the time came he was able to summon the same great power to mobilize a people. I think it has a lot to do with cadence — like with the blind Greek guy.

Here’s what Sir Winston had to say after Hitler conquered France, and things were not looking good for Great Britain:

“The Battle of France is over. I suspect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our empire.

The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war.

If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands.

But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age, made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.

Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.'”