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Winston Churchill :
selected quotations

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Winston Churchill, 1874 – 1965
English soldier, politician and historian, UK Prime minister 1940-45 and 1951-55. An MP for over 64 years.

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  • The power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgement of his peers, is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist.

  • We contend that for a nation to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.

  • A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.

  • Nancy Astor: “Sir, if you were my husband, I would give you poison.”
    Churchill: “If I were your husband I would take it.”
    [Unreliable attribution]

  • It is a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations.

  • If you will not fight for right when you can easily win without blood shed; if you will not fight when your victory is sure and not too costly; you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you and only a precarious chance of survival. There may even be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no hope of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves.

  • I decline utterly to be impartial as between the fire brigade and the fire.
    House of Commons, 7 July 1927

  • Britain and France had to choose between war and dishonour. They chose dishonour. They will have war.
    To Neville Chamberlain in the House of Commons, after the Munich accords (1938)

  • Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941. Thereafter, Churchill worked hard to build an effective alliance with his former communist enemy. He defended his actions, remarking,
    “If Hitler invaded Hell, I would at least make a favourable reference to the Devil in the House of Commons”.

  • An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile hoping it will eat him last.
    [In the House of Commons, January 1940]

  • I do not like elections, but it is in my many elections that I have learnt to know and honour the people of this island. They are good through and through.
    [Thoughts and Adventures, published 1932]

  • There is not much collective security in a flock of sheep on the way to the butcher.
    [speech at the New Commonwealth Society luncheon, Dorchester Hotel, 25 November 1936]

  • So they [the Government] go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful to be impotent.
    [in the House of Commons, 12 November 1936]

  • Dictators ride to and fro upon tigers which they dare not dismount. And the tigers are getting hungry. [letter, 11 November 1937]

  • The empires of the future are the empires of the mind.
    [speech at Harvard, 6 September 1943]

  • We must build a kind of United States of Europe.
    [in Zurich, 19 September 1946]

  • No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.
    [in the House of Commons, 11 November 1947]

  • When I am abroad I always make it a rule never to criticize or attack the Government of my country. I make up for lost time when I am at home.
    [in the House of Commons, 18 April 1947]

  • In war: resolution. In defeat: defiance. In victory: magnanimity. In peace: goodwill.
    [The Second World War vol. 1 (1948) epigraph, which according to Edward Marsh in A Number of People (1939), occurred to Churchill shortly after the conclusion of the First World War]

  • A modest man who has much to be modest about.
    [of Clement Attlee; in Chicago Sunday Tribune Magazine of Books 27 June 1954]

  • I know of no case where a man added to his dignity by standing on it.

  • If you have ten thousand regulations you destroy all respect for the law.

  • Most wars in history have been avoided simply by postponing them.
    [J. K. Galbraith A Life in Our Times (1981) ]

  • A sheep in sheep’s clothing. [of Clement Attlee]
    [Lord Home The Way the Wind Blows (1976) ]

  • [Said during a lunch with the Arab leader Ibn Saud, when he heard that the king’s religion forbade smoking and alcohol]
    I must point out that my rule of life prescribed as an absolutely sacred rite smoking cigars and also the drinking of alcohol before, after, and if need be during all meals and in the intervals between them.
    [Triumph and Tragedy]

  • [To Bessie Braddock MP who told him he was drunk]
    And you, madam, are ugly. But I shall be sober in the morning.

  • When I look back on all these worries I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.
    [Their finest hour]

  • The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of the civilisation of any country.

    A calm and dispassionate recognition of the rights of the accused against the state, and even of convicted criminals against the state, a constant heart-searching by all charged with the duty of punishment, a desire and eagerness to rehabilitate in the world of industry all those who have paid their dues in the hard coinage of punishment, tireless efforts towards the discovery of curative and regenerating processes, and an unfaltering faith that there is a treasure, if you can only find it, in the heart of every man these are the symbols which in the treatment of crime and criminals mark and measure the stored-up strength of a nation, and are the sign and proof of the living virtue in it.
    [House of Commons speech, given while Home Secretary, July 20, 1910]

  • A newly elected young Tory MP, eagerly taking up a place on the benches and pointing to the benches opposite, said to Churchill, “So that’s the enemy”.
    Churchill supposedly replied, “No son, that’s the opposition”,
    and then pointed to the benches behind and said, “That is the enemy”.

  • First - country, second - constituency, third - party.

  • We are all worms, but I do believe that I am a glow worm.

  • 'All men are created equal,' says the American Declaration of Independence,
    'All men shall be kept equal,' say the British Socialist Party.
    [1951 General Election campaign. The Labour Party and its Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, were defeated. They had been in power for six years - 26 July 1945 to 26 October 1951. They had defeated the Conservative Party and the war-time Prime Minister, Winston Churchill.]

  • The difference between our outlook and the Socialist outlook on life is the difference between the ladder and the queue. We are for the ladder. Let all try their best climb. They are for the queue. Let each wait in his place until his turn comes.
    [1951 General Election campaign.]

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