Study Guide

Winston Churchill in The Great Arsenal of Democracy

By Franklin Delano Roosevelt

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Winston Churchill

Power To The People. Or At Least, Like, Benefits.

When Adolf Hitler refused to put an end to all military operations in Poland, Great Britain declared war on Germany on September 3rd, 1939. It marked the beginning of World War II—and also the epic failure of Neville Chamberlain's appeasement policy.

And while we're not going to say that Winston Churchill was smirking about all this—he was worried about his country, after all—we're pretty glad he felt a little smug. Because one of the biggest critics of that policy was ol' Winnie.

In the early 1900s, Churchill joined the House of Commons, first as a Conservative and then a Liberal, and he worked hard on a variety of social reforms, like guaranteeing a minimum wage and creating some kind of public health care system.

(If those issues seem mighty familiar, check back at what FDR was doing a couple of decades later.)

The average British Joes and Jills appreciated Churchill's efforts to advocate on their behalf, but lots of upper class British folk were none to happy with him. Churchill's father was an English aristocrat, so to poo-poo the high life in favor of making it easier for the lower class seemed like a major betrayal to other British Conservatives.

And World War I did little to improve Churchill's rep among the upper class—come to think of it, his standing suffered a bit with the rest of Britain, too. In an effort to turn the tide in 1915, Churchill planned an invasion of Gallipoli in Turkey, but it ended in disaster, and Churchill bounced around in various government jobs well into the 1930s.

But judging from ferocious photographs—like this one—you probably guessed Churchill always had a lot to say. And you'd be 100% correct.

When Hitler started going a little crazy in Germany, Churchill spent lots of time trying to get the British to do something to put a stop to Nazism and its plans for world domination. But many people were still bitter about Gallipoli, and so refused to listen.

Bad call, Britain.

Getting Bull(dog)ish

Germany was determined to go to war, and when Churchill gave his first speech as Prime Minister in May 1940, he made it clear to the House of Commons that Great Britain was in for a serious fight—but the only acceptable outcome was victory at all costs.

He and FDR were similar in that they both worked hard to keep spirits up in their respective countries. Churchill gave lots of passionate speeches, both in Parliament and over the radio, to motivate the British people to keep on keepin' on, especially when the Battle of Britain began.

In the early part of the war, before the U.S. was actively involved, Churchill's role as motivator was a huge part of Allied success. Despite the constant Axis invasions throughout Europe, the British continued to fight, and fight hard, to keep themselves free. No easy task, considering the constant bombings courtesy of Nazi Germany, but Churchill refused to accept defeat.

That stubbornness earned him the nickname "British Bulldog" (but, to be fair, he also looked like a dang bulldog), and probably helped his case with American industry. When FDR gave his "Great Arsenal of Democracy" speech and asked the U.S. to get to work producing weapons and supplies, he wanted to help Churchill—and mentioning Britain's dedication to the fight inspired similar patriotic feelings in the American people, so they started to get to work.

We can't say it was super surprising. Churchill and FDR were besties, so this had probably been their plan all along.

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