23 April 1953, The Honourable Artillery Company1
England has a quality which no one should overlook. England, like nature, never draws a line without smudging it. We lack the sharp logic of some other countries whom in other ways we greatly admire – in our climate, the atmosphere is veiled, there are none of these sharp presentations, and although we have our differences – especially as in a few minutes I have to go back to the House of Commons – I won’t say are slaves to differences, but at any rate present the point of view which we hold. We have our differences but they do not divide us as they do in nearly all the other countries of the world. There is a great underlying spirit of neighbourliness and there is without doubt a very strong common sense of our national unity and life which, though it doesn’t help us in the small matters with which we have to deal from day to day, may well be our salvation in our troubles.
Nothing can save England, if she will not save herself. If we lose faith in ourselves, in our capacity to guide and govern, if we lose our will to live, then, indeed, our story is told. If, while on all sides foreign nations are every day asserting a more aggressive and militant nationalism by arms and trade – if we remain paralysed by our own theoretical doctrines or plunged in the stupor of after-war exhaustion – but this is twenty years ago, this is not new – indeed, all that the croakers predict will come true and our ruin will be certain and final.
But why should we break up the solid – structure of British power founded upon so much help, kindliness, and freedom? Why should we break it up for dreams which may some day come true, but now are only dreams, or it may be nightmares? We ought as a nation and Empire – you won’t mind my mentioning that word? – I didn’t get shouted down when I said it twenty years ago tonight – Empire, we might, we ought, to weather any storm that blows at least as well as any other existing system of human government.
We are at once more experienced and more truly united than any people in the world. It may well be, I say, that the most glorious chapters of our history are yet to be written. Indeed, the very problems and dangers that encompass us in our country ought to make English men and women of this generation glad to be here at such a time. We ought to rejoice at the responsibilities with which destiny has honoured us and be proud that we are the guardians of our country in an age when her life is at stake. I have lived, since then, to see our country accomplish, achieve her finest hour and I have no doubt that if this spirit of England continues, there is no reason at all why twenty years hence someone may not stand at the table of this ancient company and speak in the sense of pride and hope in which I have ventured to address you tonight.
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