Legendary Winston Churchill: “What Good’s a Constitution?”

The British Bulldog

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Winston Churchill was perhaps one of the greatest statesmen of the 20th century. Though not American, he understood the importance of the US Constitution and its principles. Few politicians have left such a mark on world history as Winston Churchill. Often donning a pinstripe suit, homburg hat, and cigar, Churchill was certainly a figurehead to be remembered.

The British Bulldog should always hold a place in the hearts and minds of Americans.

He observed the Boer War as a reporter, served in various roles during World War I, and gallantly lead British forces to victory in World War II. For the first two years of the latter conflict, he was virtually on his own. Adolf Hitler had captured France and was advancing through Europe alongside Stalin’s USSR, both Hitler and Mussolini were pushing through North Africa, and Hirohito’s Japanese Empire was dominating the Pacific. In short, an Axis of Darkness was overtaking the Old World, and Churchill stood ready to defend one of the last vestiges of Western heritage.

A Force of Good in the World

Then, Hitler broke the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact, and invaded the USSR. Six months later, Hideki Tojo’s Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and the United States entered the war as a major Allied power. Joseph Stalin, having been betrayed, sought an alliance with the Allies. Four years later, the globe watched as the two former Axis giants – Nazi Germany and the Japanese Empire – surrendered within months of one another.

Though Britain lost its superpower status with the war’s end, Churchill remained a force of good in the world. He watched as the USSR’s “Iron Curtain” draped over half of Europe and was determined to not let Britain travel down the same path.

A decade earlier, Churchill had watched as the Nazi Party and Mussolini’s fascists gained enormous ground and popularity. The USSR had established a firm communist regime and was expanding, as well. However, Churchill was even more bewildered at a certain growing population across the pond.

Churchill and Roosevelt: Allies in War, but Politically Different

Franklin D. Roosevelt has been a political model for the Left since he entered the presidency in 1933. Though not the first to display the Progressive mindset, he certainly implemented many policies that would shape American politics to the present day. Roosevelt, better known as FDR, was the inheritor of the Progressive mantra. Theodore Roosevelt (FDR’s cousin) and Woodrow Wilson were two of the first.

TR, though a Republican president, became increasingly progressive. After being denied the GOP nomination for the 1912 election, he formed a third party – the Progressive “Bull Moose” Party – and proposed several radical, leftist ideals. His “Square Deal” concept would later be a model for FDR’s “New Deal.”

Woodrow Wilson established the Federal Reserve and adopted several of the Progressive proposals being pushed by TR. Taking a page from their book, Franklin Roosevelt crafted the New Deal. In an effort to help resolve the Great Depression, he proposed an idea: large amounts of government spending to push a series of projects.

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As a result, many new laws and agencies were created. These included the Tennessee Valley Authority Act, National Industrial Recovery Act, and Farm Security Administration. Not only did the New Deal throw America further into the depression, but many of Roosevelt’s actions were unconstitutional.

What Good’s a Constitution?

With communism and national socialism advancing through the Old World, Winston Churchill looked to America. Expecting to see a vast majority rejecting socialism, he instead witnessed the opposite. With FDR’s policies came the confiscation of crops from farmers whom the government deemed “had too much.” This was just one of Roosevelt’s unconstitutional policies. Unfortunately, both major parties have, at times, adopted ideas reminiscent of FDR’s Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act.

On August 22, 1936, Winston Churchill delivered a speech titled, What Good’s a Constitution? Embracing the concepts of the American founding, Churchill warns the United States to steer clear of socialism. He states, “Does a government exist for the individual, or do individuals exist for the government? One must recognize that the world today is deeply divided upon this…In Russia, Germany and Italy we have this somber, tremendous decision, expressed in various forms.”

Under a Socialist Banner

Churchill then turns his primary focus to Germany and Italy. Though not communist nations, Churchill acknowledged that those countries had still fallen under a socialist banner, albeit in a different form. In fact, he viewed their socialism as more deceptive than that of the Soviet Union.

On this, Churchill stated, “As long as socialists present themselves in an international guise as creators of a new world order, like the beehive or the ant heap, with a new human heart to fit these novel conceptions, they could easily be beaten, and have been very effectively beaten both by argument and by nature. But when new forms of socialism arose which were grafted not upon world ideals but upon the strongest forms of nationalism, their success was remarkable.”

In Churchill’s mind, the US was falling into the same vicinity as Germany and Italy. As Churchill observed, “In the United States, also, economic crisis has led to an extension of the activities of the Executive and to the pillorying, by irresponsible agitators, of certain groups and sections of the population as enemies of the rest. There have been efforts to exalt the power of the central government and to limit the rights of individuals…I take the opposite view. I hold that governments are meant to be, and must remain, the servants of citizens.”

Is it really a far cry to assert that FDR was following a hardline socialist path? Throughout most of the 1930s, Roosevelt and Mussolini admired one another. As the Institute for Historical Review shows, Roosevelt’s obsession with Mussolini ended when Mussolini sided with Hitler in waging war on France. Mussolini would later, alongside Hitler, declare war on the US.

Churchill Deserves a Place in the Patriot’s Heart and Mind

The fact remains, however, that FDR – at least for the first half of his presidency – admired Mussolini’s policies. In a letter, Roosevelt wrote, “I don’t mind telling you in confidence that I am keeping in fairly close touch with the admirable Italian gentleman.” One of Roosevelt’s advisers, Rexford Tugwell, said of Mussolini’s fascism, “It’s the cleanest…most efficiently operating piece of social machinery I’ve ever seen. It makes me envious.”

In 1932, Fortune magazine commented, “The corporate state is to Mussolini what the New Deal is to Roosevelt.” How horrible it must have been for Churchill to see America stumbling down the socialist path and trampling its own Constitution. He knew the US Constitution – not progressive policies – would help the nation’s citizens. Though not American, Churchill understood the importance of a good Constitution. The British Bulldog should always hold a place in the hearts and minds of Americans.

Garrett Smith
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