The Other Churchill

Most conservatives would agree that Western civilization owes an unpayable debt to Winston Churchill — President Obama clearly doesn’t, as his very first act in the White House was to return Winston Churchill’s bust to Great Britain — but that is another story.

We know about Churchill’s almost superhuman efforts to stop Hitler’s killing machine virtually alone, when even his place at the top of the British government wasn’t assured. It can be shown that, had Hitler won his personal duel against Churchill in 1940, the USA wouldn’t have entered the war at the critical moment, Germany would have made Great Britain a vassal state and would have beaten the Soviet Union, it would have built the atom bomb before the Manhattan Project and, together with Japan, would have attacked the continental USA from the Azores islands in Europe and from islands in the Pacific. The world would certainly be much different today.

But perhaps some of us don’t know that Winston is not our only debtor in the Churchill family. The other one is his ancestor, John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough (1650-1722).

In the 13th century, budding English individualism in its small towns would eventually allow England to be the engine of capitalism and the cradle of Parliamentary democracy. But this development wasn’t predetermined at all.

Marlborough helped secure the modern Anglosphere by these actions:

  • He served the English Catholic King James II, but his defection to the Protestant William of Orange was one of the key factors in the success of the Glorious Revolution of 1688. An even more important factor was the defection to William of the Protestant Princess Anne, later Queen Anne, daughter of and successor to James II. Princess Anne acted under the influence of John Churchill and his wife Sarah.
  • The Glorious Revolution, by ending the dynasty of James II and his son James Francis Edward, stopped any possibility of England becoming an absolutist Catholic nation subordinate to France; it also established the English Bill of Rights that led to a constitutional monarchy in England and began modern English parliamentary democracy.
  • As if this weren’t enought, a few years later in the War of the Spanish Succession, Marlborough stopped Louis XIV’s goal of building a new Holy Roman Empire in all of Europe, by defeating the French armies in the battles of Blenheim, Ramillies, Oudenarde and Malplaquet.

There is a clear path from Magna Carta to the Glorious Revolution, the Bill of Rights, the colonist charters in America, and to our Constitution.

Our world would be very different if this hadn’t occurred.

02/06/2011