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Santiago Robinson
Santiago Robinson

Memoirs Of The Second World War: An Abridgement...

The "Moral of the Work" was first published in 1948 in Volume I of Churchill's six-volume history, The Second World War. The words appear prominently and alone on the page immediately following the author's Acknowledgements.In a cynical post-war world slipping inexorably into a new Cold War, perhaps some considered it banal or at least overly simplistic to ascribe any moral to the greatest conflict the world had yet seen. Churchill did not. Likely better than most, he well understood the often senseless and bloody chaos and vagaries inherent to the human condition. Precisely "because we are so often mocked by the failure of our hopes and the upsetting of our calculations" did he recognize the vital role of purposeful resolve, reasoned defiance, and generous decency in public affairs, and of "rectitude and sincerity" in personal conduct (from Churchill's gracious wartime eulogy of his great pre-WWII political nemesis, Neville Chamberlain).The "Moral" testifies to both Churchill's own statecraft and to the failures of statecraft that precipitated the Second World War and would unfortunately persist in its wake.The words also trace a vital arch underpinning Churchill's political thought and character and spanning his public life. The guiding sentiments encapsulated by the "Moral" allowed Churchill, for all his reputed pugnacity, to achieve farsighted perspective and bridge material, empathetic, and intellectual differences throughout his long life.As early as 1906, Churchill expressed his thought in similar terms, "As we have triumphed, so we may be merciful; as we are strong, so we can afford to be generous" (21 March 1906 speech in the House of Commons).According to Churchill's Private Secretary and close associate, Eddie Marsh, Churchill first composed what became his "Moral of the Work" soon after the First World War as "a lapidary epigram on the spirit proper to a great nation on war and peace" (Marsh, A Number of People, p.152). As a tremendously fitting commentary on the failures of the victors to secure the post-WWI peace, Churchill was asked to pen an inscription for a French First World War memorial, but "The inscription was not accepted" (My Early Life, p.346).Churchill "had seen the danger of another war with Germany even before the first had entered its final phase. In articles published in both America and Britain during 1917, he insisted even then on far-reaching efforts to meet those German demands that were justifiable" (Woods, Artillery of Words, p.86).On 23 November 1919, only a year after Armistice Day and certainly long before the bitter sentiment of the victors had faded, Churchill wrote in the Illustrated Sunday Herald, "The reconstruction of the economic life of Germany is essential to our own peace and prosperity. We do not want a land of broken, scheming, disbanded armies, putting their hands to the sword because they cannot find the spade or the hammer." Churchill's warnings would be substantially ignored by the victors. Fourteen years later a defeated and desperate Germany would elect Adolph Hitler.Churchill's moral and pragmatic consistency as a statesman did not waver. In September 1946, in the wake of the war in which he was perhaps Germany's most implacable foe, Churchill would tell assembled European leaders: "The first step in the re-creatio