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The Great Democracies (The History of the English Speaking Peoples, Vol 4 The Great Democracies)

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Publisher: Dodd, Mead & Co., N.Y.
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Churchill opens the 20th Century--with a bang

  • Feb 21, 2012
Rating:
+4
In the final volume, Churchill brings his history up to the opening of the 20th Century (for an interesting extension of Churchill's outline to the end of the century, read Andrew Roberts fine effort

The job gets harder as the current of the English-speaking people broadens and deepens in imperial reach around the globe.  Ireland supports rapid growth, then suffers famine, immigration, and religious warfare.  South Africa expands across the continent but fractures in ugly warfare.  India becomes an empire "almost by accident" (p. 100 of the 1958 Dodd, Mead & Company edition).  The United States gets its footing (again, Churchill proudly repeats as in the previous volume, behind the shield of the British Navy).  But through it all, Churchill finds the similarities; indeed his description of British political wrangling at the beginning of the 19th century might serve to describe today's American political scene as well, with a simple substitution of party names:

If caution must be the hall-mark of history, all that may be said is that the men in power were vigorously opposed by the men who were out, while in between stood large numbers of neutral-minded gentlemen placidly prepared to support whichever group held office . . . The ins and outs might as well have names, and why not employe the names of Whig and Tory which their supporters cast at one another?


Churchill's section on the American Civil War is interesting in its view from the perspective of a friendly foreigner.  First, on the doorstep of secession and war:

Here democracy, shielded by the oceans and the Royal Navy from European dangers, founded upon English institutions and the Common Law, stimulated by the impulse of the French Revolution, seemed at last to have achieved both prosperity and power.  The abounding industrialism of the Eastern states was balanced and fed by an immense agriculture of yeomen farmers.  In all material affairs the American people surpassed anything that history had known before. 

Friendly foreigner, indeed, Churchill seems fascinated by the spectacle of the war, and it is fascinating to see his fondness for Confederate Generals Lee and Jackson, and also for the much-maligned Union general McClellan.  Lincoln cashiered him after the blood-bath at Antietam was followed up by weeks of inaction as Lee and his battered army retreated south to fight on years longer.  But Churchill reminds us, as only an outsider can, that Lincoln for all his greatness, was a poor manager of military leadership.  For a modern and polemical view of the Special Relationship between England and America, read the ever-boisterous Christopher Hitchens.

After the Civil War, Churchill's coverage of the end of the century--America's Reconstruction, Ireland's Home Rule, South Africa's Boer War, and the Gladstone, Disraeli, and Salisbury governments at home--seems rushed.  The scope of the topic overwhelmed the delivery system of such a broad narrative history.  

So, we have come with Churchill to the threshold of the 20th Century, where the strength, solidarity, and self-support of the English-speaking peoples would be tested as never before.  As Churchill was writing, they were fighting on the same side in the second global contagion of war.  It was almost as though Churchill could just let the march of time write the conclusion of his history.

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February 21, 2012
Sir Winston Churchill was a master of the English language.


"Here democracy, shielded by the oceans and the Royal Navy from European dangers, founded upon English institutions and the Common Law, stimulated by the impulse of the French Revolution, seemed at last to have achieved both prosperity and power. The abounding industrialism of the Eastern states was balanced and fed by an immense agriculture of yeomen farmers. In all material affairs the American people surpassed anything that history had known before. "


In addition, Sir Winston Churchill was correct in citing the use of the English Common Law by the colonies. Without the English Common Law, this nation could not have developed into an economic powerhouse as quickly as it did.


The English Common Law was needed for financiers,
buyers, sellers, judges, lawyers and legislators throughout these United States.


The English Common Law provided the legal and financial model for conducting business uniformly with law, stare decisis and a whole host of important mechanisms to facilitate the whole process of commerce in the colonies.
 
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