EURDEMOCRACY

Robert Schuman insisted that Winston Churchill’s first great postwar speech on Europe was not given in Zurich, Switzerland but in Metz, France on Bastille Day 1946. Schuman should know. He was at Churchill’s side as he delivered it to a huge cheering crowd in the capital city of Schuman’s native Lorraine.

 

Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, gives his world famous V-sign, as he drives through cheering inhabitants of the town of Metz, in France, on July 14, 1946, to take part in the Bastille Day celebrations. With him is Robert Schuman, the French Minister of Finance. (AP Photo)
Former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, gives his world famous V-sign, as he drives through cheering inhabitants of the town of Metz, in France, on July 14, 1946, to take part in the Bastille Day celebrations. With him is Robert Schuman, the French Minister of Finance. (AP Photo)

 

 

 

 

Here are some extracts from Churchill’s speech.

“Many memories are stirred in my mind by this visit to Metz and your joyous welcome. Sixty-three years ago my father took me on my first visit to France. It was the summer of 1883. … I attended the manoeuvres of the French Army in 1907. The Entente Cordiale had been established between Great Britain and France. I was already a youthful Minister of the Crown. I felt … that the rights and liberties of Europe would be faithfully guarded.

That was nearly 40 years ago, but from that moment I have always worked with you not only out of friendship for France but because of the great causes for which our two countries have suffered so much and risked all. The road has been long and terrible. I am astonished to find myself here at the end of it. In all that ordeal of two generations, our two countries have marched and struggled side by side and I, your guest here today, have never neglected anything that could preserve and fortify our united action. Therefore I speak to you not only as a friend but as a lifelong comrade. In all the frightful experiences we have undergone in our resistance to German aggression and tyranny our two countries have struggled along together to keep the flag of freedom flying and at an awful and hideous cost we have accomplished out duty. Never let us part. …

The injury inflicted by the First Great War upon the the life-energies of France was profound. Crowned with victory, lighted by glory, she was drained of blood. Britain, in one of those strange reactions which have so often baffled our friends and foes alike, sank into pacifism and the US with all her might and power, sought a vain refuge in isolation. These were disasters of the first magnitude.

There never was a war more easy to prevent than this last horror through which we have passed. All that was needed was to enforce the disarmament clause of the Treaty of Versailles and to make sure that Germany did not rearm. All that was needed was to assert the principle that solemn treaties, exacted from a beaten enemy, can only be altered by mutual agreement. In the League of Nations there was erected a noble instrument which, even without the aid of the United States, if it had been given a fair chance, could have maintained the disarmament of Germany and preserved the peace of Europe. But the Allies drifted amicably but helplessly like froth upon the ebb and flow of the tide. Thee is no need to apportion blame. … There are many trials before us. But our hearts should be full of thankfulness to God that we have been preserved from the most hideous forms of destruction.

Now I come to the Second World War; not so bloody, as measured by men killed in open field, but far more frightful and desperate. I was called upon to play some part in its events and every stage and crisis is burnt into my mind. … History will tell its tale, for us both, of tragedy, of triumph and of honour.

It has woven our two peoples together in a manner indissoluble and inviolable. We fought each other for many centuries. And now we must help each other all we can. …

We cannot afford to be misled or to indulge in short-term policies. Vision, courage, self-denial, faith and faithful service must animate us. And when the light does not shine clearly on our path, we must not lose heart, for I am sure — as sure as I was in 1940 — that we shall steadfastly and perseveringly make our way through.

{During} the Anglo-American liberation of French North-West Africa in 1942 and in the early stages of that operation, General Giraud and I gave each other rendezvous at Metz. Well here we are. The General — he is a deputy now — and I have this in common; we shall both find a chapter in the future editions of memorable escapes. I have escaped as a prisoner of war and no prison has ever been able to hold him. {Robert Schuman escaped from Germany from being a personal prisoner of SS General Gauleiter Josef Buerckel at the same time as Giraud. Indeed, Schuman’s escape plans were delayed as Nazis made a thorough search across Germany and occupied France for Giraud. When Schuman escaped in August 1942, the Nazis put the same figure of 100,000 Reichmarks on his head.}

When my comrade, General de Gaulle — that unconquerable French spirit — received me so splendidly in Paris in November 1944, I told him about this rendezvous in Metz and he said it must take place. I do not pretend we have never had any disagreement but we were thoroughly agreed on this. …

There are two issues which are specially appropriate to this occasion.

The first is Europe.

What will be the fate of Europe? here in this continent of superior climates dwell the parent breeds of western and modern civilisation. here is the story, descending from the ancient Roman Empire, of Christendom, of the Renaissance, and of the French Revolution. It is from the hatred and quarrels of Europe that the catastrophes of the whole world have sprung. Shall we re-establish again the glory of Europe and thus consolidate the foundations of Peace? why should the quarrels of Europe wreck the gigantic modern world? Twice in our lifetimes we have seen the brave and generous people of the US spend their treasure and their blood to procure harmony in Europe and to rescue Europe from itself. Twice has the British Empire and Commonwealth of Nations plunged into the Continental struggle to prevent the overlordship of Germany. Twice has our heroic ally, Russia, poured out its blood in European battles. This time we must reach finality. Europe must arise from her ruin and spare the world a third and possibly fatal holocaust.

We victors have set up together the United Nations Organisation to which we give our loyalty and in which we found our hopes. At the head of this stands the United States of America in all her power and virtue. But without the aid of a united Europe the great new world organisation may easily be rent asunder or evaporate in futility because of explosions which originate in Europe and may once again bring all mankind into strife and misery.

Therefore the first word I give you here today is “Europe“. May she regain her happiness and may her small, as well as her great, nations dwell together in security and peace. may there be a decent life achieved and set up for Europeans. May they all be faithful servants and guardians of the World Organisation on which the hopes of tortured humanity are centred.

My second word is “France“.

There can be no revival of Europe with its culture, its charm, its tradition and its mighty power, without a strong France. Many nations in the past have wished and tried to be strong. But never before has there been such a clear need for one country to be strong as there is now for France. When I think of the young Frenchmen growing into manhood in this shattered and bewildered world, I cannot recall any generation in any country before whose eyes duty is more plainly written or in more gleaming characters. Two hundred years ago in England the Elder and the greater Pitt addressed this invocation to his fellow-countrymen, torn, divided and confused by faction as they then were.

” Be one people.”

That was his famous invocation. And in our island, for all its fogs and muddles, we are one people today, and dangers if they threaten will only bind us more firmly together. Using my privilege as your old and faithful friend, I do not hesitate to urge upon all Frenchmen, worn and worried though they may be, to unite in the task of leading Europe back in peace and freedom to broader and better days.

By saving yourselves you will save Europe and by saving Europe you will save yourselves…”

 

What did Schuman say to Churchill? As the son of a French patriot, he devoted his life to reconciliation and building a Coal and Steel Community, by studying in German universities and maintaining a wide network of friendships throughout two world wars. Some ideas of what Schuman enunciated a few years later about supranational solutionsto make war not only unthinkable but materially impossible‘ are reflected in Churchill’s speech.

His ideas of how to construct European democracy were well developed and refined through discussion and experience. Here is an extract from what he wrote in his book, Pour l’Europe:

‘ We should first understand what we mean by the term ‘Democracy‘.

What characterises a democratic State are the objectives that it sets and the means it deploys to attain them. Democracy is at the service of people and works in agreement with it. I can find no definition simpler and less technical. It fits in with that of President Abraham Lincoln: ‘government of the people, by the people and for the people‘. You can notice that it does not concern itself with the form of government. Modern democracy in the sense that I have just expressed it can be just as well a constitutional monarchy as a republic.

Often the term democracy is applied to republican states and not monarchies. I maintain that this is wrong: some monarchies such as Great Britain, Belgium and Holland, if we only refer to our nearest neighbours, are more clearly and traditionally attached to democratic principles than some republics where the people have only little direct influence on the direction and political decisions of the country. This statement makes it unnecessary for me to discuss the choice a democracy can make among various forms of government. All we need to do is to exclude what is antidemocratic..’

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

  1. Thank you very much for this informative article, a very good recollection.

    May I, however, stress that the 14th of July, our National Day, is not celebrated in France as Bastille Day, but indeed as the “Celebration of Federation”, which took place on 14 July 1790, one year later than the “Storming of the Bastille”.

    Yes Federation!

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