The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, Digital Edition > My Day
My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt


PARIS, Sunday—Prime Minister Churchill's speech at the Lord Mayor's banquet in London's Guildhall, as reported in the Saturday Paris Tribune, contains some interesting statements. I have not seen the whole speech and what was reported may not represent a fair reflection of the Prime Minister's views, but in any case the citizens of the United States should ponder what he said carefully. At one point the Prime Minister remarks in what seems to me an offhand fashion: "A tithe of the effort now being made by America would have prevented the second World War and would have probably led to the downfall of Hitler with scarcely any blood being shed except his own."

None of us in the United States will ever forget the magnificent service rendered to the cause of a free world by the RAF and the British Army. But Great Britain was far closer to European politics and to Germany than was the United States, and still she had not thought fit to make the effort which Mr. Churchill now reminds us we might have made at that time. The United States thought itself very much further away from European concerns in those days, and only far-sighted statesmen saw the clouds on the horizon. Even if they had foretold the actual future, those men would hardly have been believed by the American people. We are apt, all of us, even great statesmen, to forget the circumstances surrounding the past, and to talk of what should have been done in the context of the present.

It is a little hard to make out in an earlier quotation in this speech whether the Prime Minister feels that he would have acted differently from the late government in Great Britain in the matter of making "East Anglia the principal atomic base in Europe." One is given the impression that Mr. Churchill feels himself in great danger because of this action, for, he says, "In consequence we place ourselves in the very forefront of Soviet antagonism."

It would seem to me that this present unpleasant situation could not very well be avoided, for unless the Soviets have decided to remain contained where they are there is no longer any part of the world which is not in danger. Whether you have or have not incurred Soviet antagonism for some particular reason will make very little difference when once the Soviets decide to march, unless those on whom they march are prepared with equal strength. I had supposed that that was the reason why Great Britain had accepted to be the "principal atomic base."

I seem to remember a speech made in the last war where Prime Minister Churchill promised that the British would defend themselves at every step of the way were the shores of England invaded. Of course, he would promise that again; but no invasion would be necessary under present conditions. The air will carry death and destruction far more successfully even than ten years ago.

The hope of today is that all free people will realize the need for being strong if they do not wish to be slaves. Then it will be possible perhaps to take the next step of reducing the burden on each individual nation through transferring strength to the United Nations as we devise ways of inspection and reduction of armaments on an equal basis in the individual countries.

I am sure that the United States will always give careful consideration to British views on foreign affairs. The United Kingdom has long been accustomed to leadership. They should know European affairs and understand them better than we do, and we can learn much from them. But I hope that we can retain some independent judgment and avoid some of the mistakes which have been made by Great Britain and which the great nations of the world can no longer afford to make.

E. R.


Names and Terms Mentioned or Referenced

  • Paris (France) [ index ]

About this document

My Day by Eleanor Roosevelt, November 12, 1951

Roosevelt, Eleanor, 1884-1962
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Digital edition created by The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project The George Washington University 312 Academic Building 2100 Foxhall Road, NW Washington, DC 20007

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Transcription created from a photocopy of a UFS wire copy of a My Day column instance archived at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library.