Winston Churchill, Past, Present, and Future.
W. T. Stead (Coming Men on Coming Questions, No: 1, April, 13, 1905) pp. 3-5
Winston S. Churchill is the first of our coming men.
If he chooses to take it, a seat in the next Cabinet is at his disposal. Whether he will take it or not, no one knows, not even Mr. Churchill himself. For he has got ten years' start of all his competitors, and as time is on his side, he need not hurry.
Winston is to Randolph as Pitt was to Chatham. It is seldom that son follows so immediately in the steps of his father. Chatham first took ofiice when thirty-eight, Randolph when thirty-six. Pitt refused subordinate office when twenty-three, and was Chancellor of the Exchequer six months later. Winston Churchill, if the General Election takes place this year, will have the refusal of Cabinet office before his thirty-first birthday.
Winston's past has been variegated. His present is exciting. His future is more brilliant in its prospect than that of any other man, save his old colleague, Lord Hugh Cecil. If both are alive and hearty in 1910, one will be leading the Liberals, the other the Conservatives. For we are on the threshold of the era of youth.
The gerontocracy is passing. In five years' time we shall probably look in vain for a Cabinet Minister over sixty. Winston Churchill, like Millbank in "Coningsby," has "immense faith in the new generation," and if his fortuue depends upon daring, he will not fail.
Winston Churchill is an Anglo- American. His father, the third son of the sixth Duke of Marlborough, died when Winston was twenty years old. His mother was a Miss Jerome, of New York, and is now Mrs. George Cornwallis West. He was born November 30th, 1874, sent to Harrow in 1888, entered at Sandhurst in 1893, and became lieutenant in the 4th Hussars in 1895.
His first essay in journalism was as special correspondent for the Daily Graphic with Martiues Campos in the last vain effort the Spaniards were making to suppress the insurrection in Cuba. There he won his first order, "Military Merit of the First Class," with the praises of the Spanish General.
His first experience in actual warfare was gained when the 4ith Hussars were ordered to India. He fought on the Malakand Frontier, described the operations for the Daily Telegraph, and published a book about it when it was over. In 1898 he was attached to the Tirah expedition as orderly to Sir W. Lockhart.
His first success in impressing the great public with a realizing sense of his personality was when he joined the 21st Lancers in order to accompany Lord Kitchener up the Nile for the re-conquest of Khartoum. His correspondence—this time for the Morning Post—was singularly lucid, interesting, and outspoken. He was evidently more than a mere photographer in words. He wrote like a historian, and condemned his seniors with all the audacity of youth and the assurance of a judge.
No sooner was he back from Egypt than he rushed off to South Africa — this time as war correspondent only. He went out imbued with the prevalent prejudices against the Boers. When he saw them the scales fell from his eyes. They captured him when they upset the armoured train, and thereby did him the best service in the world. Nor did he do them a bad turn when he made his adventurous escape from Pretoria prison. After that picturesque incident, Winston Churchill had the ear of the public for everything he wished to say. He did his best to infuse reason and chivalry into the Jingo mob, and it was not his fault he failed.
Before the war was ended he was elected Member for Oldham as a Conservative. His first speech in the House was made in reply to Mr. Lloyd-George in the debate on the Address. The opponents of 1901 are allies to-day, and will be colleagues to-morrow.
His first parliamentary success was achieved May 12th, 1901, when he slew Mr. Brodrick's Army Scheme, although it crawled round unburied for another year. He then raised the tattered flag of Retrenchment, which had fallen from his father's hands, and on April 14th, 1902, boldly attacked the excessive expenditure of the Government. Before that date (Nov. 12th, 1901) he had somewhat timidly unfurled the Radical banner of Peace, Retrenchment, and Reform before the scandalized gaze of the members of the Constitutional Club.
His own party damned his impudence, and told all manner of stories about his egotism, his assurance, and his infernal confidence. Winston did not mind. When Mr. Chamberlain started his fiscal heresy, Winston Churchill took up a position of stern and unrelenting antagonism to Protection. He denounced the new departure before the "Sheffield Shufflers," and generally made so deep a mark on his party that in the spring of the following year, when he rose to speak, all the members of his own party got up and went out. No such supreme compliment has been paid to any member in our time.
He offered to resign his seat at Oldham to test the feeling of the constituency. The local caucus implored him to do no such thing. At next Election he will stand for North-West Manchester, a constituency which elected Sir W. Houldsworth in 1900 by a majority of 1,471. He will have to add 42 per cent, to the Liberal poll—supposing the Unionist vote remains the same—before he can win the seat.
He is described in Vacher's Parliamentary Companion as "N.P.," a man of No Party. In reality, he is personally a Tory Democrat, like his father before him. "Randy Redivivus" he is, with more than "Randy's" popularity in the country. In the House he is still looked at askance. He is so revoltingly young—only thirty-one, a beardless boy, a mere infant. But when he made his last great speech on his resolution against taxes on food, it was admitted by friend and foe alike that he had won a right to a place in the first rank of parliamentary debaters. After that night his right to a place in the next Cabinet has ceased to be a matter of argument.
Winston Churchill has a somewhat curious catch in his voice, which does not in the least prevent his being heard with ease by the largest audiences. He is a more serious politician than his father—whose Life, by the way, he is now engaged in writing for Messrs. Longmans. He is much less random and reckless than was "young Randy," who, when he first stood for Woodstock, had to gain attention by the extravagance of his epithets and the vehemence of his abuse.
"Winston," said an old parliamentary hand the other day, "never uses a bad argument." It is a great deal more than the same authority would have said of Lord Randolph.
Winston Churchill and Lloyd-George are now the Castor and Pollux of the Opposition. They are both as keen as mustard and as sharp as needles. They are always on the spot. The two of them would certainly command greater audiences than any other two men in the party, with the doubtful exception of Lord Rosebery and Mr. Morley.
I conclude this brief appreciation of this first of our coming men by quoting the tribute paid to him, when he was a stripling of six-and-twenty, by Lord Dufferin: —
He had already contrived, young as he was, to cram into his life a
finer series of military adventures than half of the general officers in
Europe, and, furthermore, he might say that upon each occasion,
whether in the Soudan, in Cuba, in India, or in South Africa, he
had played an honourable and a distinguished part. On every occasion
he had shown that chivalrous courage which became a highminded
gentleman, and, what was equally important, that capacity,that skill,
and that resource which bore testimony to his intellectual ability.
Since then in politics he has beaten his own record in war and in journalism.
Hence I put him down Coming Man, No. 1.