Showing posts with label New Welcome Lodge. Show all posts
Showing posts with label New Welcome Lodge. Show all posts

Friday, 9 June 2017

Herbert Morrison

Portrait of an Appalling Man - by Paul Foot

(February 1974)

From International Socialism (1st series), No.66, February 1974, pp.27-28.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Herbert Morrison: Portrait of a Politician
Bernard Donoughue and G.W. Jones
Weidenfeld & Nicholson, £6.00.

HERBERT MORRISON was appalling. In his youth he flirted with Marxist ideas and organisations until one day he went to listen to Ramsay Macdonald. From that day, Morrison modelled himself on ‘the old man’, and took up Macdonald’s stance on the extreme right wing of the Labour Party. As leader of the first Labour-controlled London County Council from 1934; as Home Secretary during the war and as overlord of the Labour government’s post-war home policy he never abandoned his passionate hatred of communism or of independent working class activity.

When in the early 1920s, the Labour-controlled Poplar borough council paid its unemployed more than the pitiful rates allowed by law and paid its workers more than the rate negotiated by collective bargaining machinery, Morrison, then secretary of the London Labour Party, denounced the Poplar Councillors: ‘No electorate,’ he argued, ‘could trust local authorities which spent ratepayers’ money so recklessly.’

Any direct action by workers or their representatives horrified Herbert Morrison. ‘He rather scorned strikes’, write his biographers. After the collapse of the General Strike in 1926, he gleefully rubbed home the lessons to his supporters.

‘A general strike,’ he argued, ‘must become a physical force, revolutionary struggle aimed at the forcible overthrow of the constitutional government and the seizing of power by the General Council of the Trades Union Congress... nobody with half a brain believes that in Britain such a policy could be successful.’

The alternative to all this direct action nonsense. Morrison argued, was to build up the Labour Party and get hold of parliamentary office.

Parliamentary office gave him what he needed to carry out his concept of ‘socialism’ - a well-ordered, well-regulated state capitalist society in which Morrison would be chief orderer and chief regulator. He was the bureaucrat par excellence. Or, as Beatrice Webb put it in her diaries, ‘Herbert Morrison is the quintessence of Fabianism.’ Give him the machinery of government, the blue books, the statistics, the loyal civil servants, the insignia of office and Morrison was in his element. Socialist society, he believed, would be built by a handful of able and enlightened bureaucrats in Whitehall.

‘Public ownership’ to Morrison meant control by bureaucrats selected ‘on their ability’ by the minister. When he was minister of transport in 1930, he refused to appoint workers’ representatives to the board of his new London Transport undertaking. He wanted the undertaking to be run exclusively by ‘men of a business turn of mind’ which, he explained graciously, ‘might include such people as trade union bodies as well as men of business experience in the ordinary sense of the word’. These included Lord Ashfield, the tycoon who owned the main private London transport companies before Morrison’s 1930 Bill.

‘Morrison,’ writes Mr Jones, ‘came to admire Ashfield and had him in mind to be the chairman of the new board. To nationalise Lord Ashfield was his objective.’ Lord Ashfield was thoroughly sympathetic. ‘He became a devotee of the public corporation,’ and did a lot to persuade Liberals and Tories in the House of Commons that ‘Morrisonisation’, as it came to be known, was really a more efficient form of running capitalism.

This relationship with big business was taken up even more enthusiastically when Morrison took charge of Labour’s economic policies after the war. ‘Morrison liked dealing with tycoons,’ writes Mr Bernard Donoughue, his other biographer, ‘and in general they liked him, as Chandos said, “because you got down to brass tacks with him”.’

When the Morrisonisation of Steel was proposed by the majority in the Labour Cabinet in 1947, Morrison discovered to his horror that the steelmasters were against it. The coalowners and the railway bosses had, after a few statutory grumbles, conceded the Morrisonisation of coal and rail transport. But Sir Andrew Duncan, the steel industry leader and a favourite tycoon of Morrison’s, did not want steel Morrisonised. 

Morrison promptly sabotaged the Cabinet’s plans by working out new proposals, in secret, with Sir Andrew. The majority of the Cabinet, prompted by Aneurin Bevan, finally forced through steel nationalisation against Morrison’s wishes, but Morrison’s sabotage ensured that steel was not nationalised until the end of the Labour government’s term of office. This left Sir Andrew and his friends much more time to mobilise.

Morrison was one of the fiercest anti-communist witch-hunters in British history. He carried out a ruthless and permanent campaign against communists of every description. But his hatred of communists in Britain did not extend to Russia. As Mr Jones writes:
‘He found little similarity between the attitudes of Russian communists and the Communist Party of Great Britain. The former appeared cautious, believing in gradual development; they did not accept workers’ control.’

When Morrison was Home Secretary in January 1941 he proposed that the Daily Worker, the organ of the British Communist Party, which was then advocating a ‘revolutionary defeatist’ line on the war, should be banned by government decree. The Tory-dominated Cabinet agreed. Writing about the incident in his autobiography, Morrison commented: ‘Not unexpectedly there was no protest from Russia about the closing down of the Daily Worker. The Soviet Union admires bold and firm action.’ One state capitalist censor could quickly detect another.

Morrison was a social imperialist of the old Jimmy Thomas school. Visiting New York in 1946, he proclaimed: ‘We are friends of the jolly old Empire. We are going to stick to it ...’ He added, for good measure, ‘The monarchy is a real factor among cementing influences between Britain and the Commonwealth. The monarchy is a great institution.’

Morrison was also, by the same token, a passionate Zionist. ‘In Israel,’ he wrote in The Times in 1950, ‘the spirit of human service exists more sincerely and more in practice than in any other part of the civilised world and we are glad it has a Labour government.’

This devotion to a civilised democratic society extended to Ireland, where Morrison was a passionate supporter of the Orange cause. In July 1943, as Home Secretary, he addressed a meeting of the 30 Club where the crusted Orange monster, Sir Basil Brooke (later Lord Brookeborough) was the guest of honour.

Morrison praised the loyalty of Ulster as ‘almost aggressive in its nature’. ‘After the war,’ writes Mr Donoughue, ‘he continued to keep a protective eye on Ulster’s interests in the Labour Cabinet.’ An elected Parliament was at stake, after all, so why should a man like Morrison care about a million evicted Palestinians, or half a million oppressed Catholics?

In his private life, Morrison emerges from the book almost as hideous as he was in public. He was greedily ambitious, arrogant, sentimental, male chauvinist, mean. And a hypocrite to the end. ‘Several times,’ he told the Daily Mail on 22 June, 1959, ‘I could have accepted a viscountcy, but all my life I’ve been of the working class and that’s how I’d like to stay.’ Three months later, on 19 September, the Tory Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, announced the appointment of Lord Morrison of Lambeth.

All this makes unpromising material for hero-worship, but Mr Jones and Mr Donoughue, lecturers at the London School of Economics, do their best to idolise Morrison. Endless senior civil servants are wheeled out to prove that Morrison was the ‘ablest’ minister they ever dealt with (is it only an impression, or is it the case that all senior civil servants take the view that any minister about whom they happen to be interviewed was the ‘ablest they ever dealt with’?). We are left to marvel at Morrison’s ‘mastery of detail’, his ‘ability to command an argument’, his ‘organisational genius’.

For the authors, politics takes place within the square mile which includes the Houses of Parliament, Whitehall, all the ministries, and the London School of Economics. Not for them the tumultuous developments outside. Hardly a mention in the book of the great social upheavals which shook the period about which they write, no explanation of the downfall of the Macdonald government; wartime socialist revival; of post-war slumplessness. 

Politics for them is how ministers behave and respond, and Morrison suits them admirably. 

The only time Mr Donoughue seems to get upset with Morrison is when the latter offends the Foreign Office mandarins with his brusque manner. ‘He handled ambassadors in a casual and offhand way’ scolds Mr Donoughue. ‘He often received them – and kept them waiting – in his room at the House of Commons leaving the unfortunate but not misleading impression that his prime loyalty and interest lay there rather than with the Office.’ Egad, Sir, What next?

If this was just an enormous book by two precise dons about a right-wing Labour leader, that would be the end of the story. But it is not. The account of Morrison’s life is so comprehensible that, almost by accident, it tells us a thing or two about British Social Democracy.

Herbert Morrison represents, perhaps more than anyone else, British Social Democracy in its heyday. 

His political life was dominated by the belief that a better life for the dispossessed could be created by the election of Labour governments and councils.

Substantial changes were made to the workers’ advantage under Herbert Morrison-especially in London. Patients in LCC hospitals were much better off under Labour; the blind and mentally ill got a much better deal; schools were improved; classes were smaller, teachers better paid; ‘a great change came over the LCC parks’ - more baths were built; more swimming pools, gymnasia, refreshment places, paddling pools, athletic grounds, bowling greens. The briefest comparison between facilities of this kind for workers in London compared with, say, New York, measures the advances of Social Democracy under Morrison in London.

Similarly, the post-war Labour government did force through a Health Service in opposition to the Tories and the doctors; it did nationalise the mines and the railways (leading to better working conditions for the workers in both industries), it did wipe out the old Poor Laws, and establish a new system of industrial injuries compensation. It solved none of the contradictions of capitalism; it left capitalism stronger in 1951 than it had been in 1945. But a wide variety of reforms in a wide variety of areas were carried out by Herbert Morrison and his colleagues.

Above all, these reforms, and the hope of much more where they came from connected the Labour Party to the working class. 

Morrison understood better than any Labour leader does today that his brand of Social Democracy can only survive as long as it sustained the active interest of large numbers of workers. Morrison never stopped writing Labour Party propaganda. The number of leaflets, pamphlets, brochures which he organised, wrote and distributed from London Labour Party headquarters all the year round was prodigious. He put a premium on individual membership of ordinary workers in the Labour Parties. He organised choirs, dramatic societies, almost anything to sustain and excite the London Labour Party membership.

Above all, he realised the danger to his political aspirations of corruption. All his life he fought relentlessly against corruption in the Labour Party, especially in local government. LCC councillors during Morrison’s rule were subjected to the strictest discipline as to their relations with officials or contractors. Morrison himself never accepted any job with private enterprise, though he was offered literally hundreds. *

Throughout Morrison’s life, the results were obvious. 

In the 1930s, and, especially, in the 1940s, the British working class did respond, not just with votes, but with interest and involvement Herbert Morrison could not speak anywhere without attracting hundreds, often thousands of people. Any post-war meeting he addressed in South London was attended by an inevitable 1500. The crowds who came to hear him were almost incredible. During the 1950 General Election, he travelled to Yarmouth to speak to a mass rally of the National Union of Agricultural Workers, whose cause he had always espoused. A hundred thousand farm workers poured into Yarmouth from all over East Anglia to hear Herbert Morrison. A hundred thousand! Imagine a visit by today’s Labour deputy, Ted Short, to Yarmouth at election time to speak on the subject of farm workers. Short would be lucky to attract 10 farm workers to his meeting.

There is a vast gulf between the strength of Social Democracy in Herbert Morrison’s time and social democracy today. The gulf is not in aspirations. 

Judging by resolutions at Labour Party conferences, the Party’s aspirations last year at Blackpool (or the year before at Brighton) were just as grandiose as anything Herbert Morrison ever thought up. Indeed Morrison would have been shocked at the ‘shopping list’ of nationalisation proposals drawn up at those conferences.

Rather, the gap is in the connection between the aspirations of Labour politicians and the involvement of their rank and file. No amount of nationalisation resolutions at conference can mask the breathtaking apathy of Labour’s dwindling rank and file.

The constituency parties have been abandoned to hacks and careerists, and the MPs and councillors have no one to answer to. 

As a result, the entire Party has become infected with corruption. There is hardly a Labour MP who does not hold some ‘watching brief or ‘interest’ in industry or public relations to supplement his already vast annual salary; hardly a Labour council in the country free from the attention of rogues and speculators in private enterprise. The corruption is tolerated on a wide scale. One of the few MPs who has tried to clean his Labour Party up - Eddie Milne of Blyth (former seat of Lord Robens) - is being hounded out of his candidature. The process works both ways. 

Corruption grows because the rank and file either does not exist or does not ask questions. And the rank and file is increasingly sickened by the stench of corruption.

It is no good yearning, as Mr Jones tends to do, for the ‘good old days’ when Labour politicians like Herbert Morrison meant something to people, when Labour corruption was the exception, not the rule. The deterioration of Social Democracy has its roots in the politics of Herbert Morrison, and those like him. If what matters above all is the vote – if the vote paves the path to workers’ power, it follows that the most important contribution of workers to Labour is their vote. All other forms of labour mobilisation - strikes, demonstrations, agitation, education, organisation - inevitably become an embarrassment

Any Gallup Poll will show that all these things are ‘unpopular’. If the votes are to come to Labour, Labour must oppose strikes. It must not make socialist propaganda. It must not organise at the place of work.

When all these forms of mobilisation are systematically abandoned, as they have been by the Labour Party, there is nothing else to which workers can respond. There are no pamphlets, very few leaflets, no socialist propaganda, no factory organisation, no local organisation outside vote-collecting, no youth movement worthy of the name – nothing to do to help create a new society save vote for the next hack who comes along. The demobilisation of rank and file members is death to the Labour Party, but that demobilisation is an essential part of a political strategy whose central aim is to shift capitalist society through parliamentary endeavour.

Social democracy, in short, is its own grave-digger, and the pit is now deep and black. It is worth dwelling at length on the careers of illusionists like Herbert Morrison if only to harden our resolve to build socialism on the rocks of workplace organisation and direct action which Morrison so detested.

* This statement of fact speaks volumes - one major obstacle to his personal crusade to impose from above and relentlessly enforce rules and standards for behaviour and rigidly exacting codes of proper ethical conduct in Local Government authority bureaucracies - almost a contradiction  in terms, as a concept - often awash knee-deep with other people's money (PUBLIC Money) constantly being lost due to wastage, negligence, inefficiency  and incompetence, with little, if any, risk of public disclosure, or any real accountability or risk of suffering any negative consequence to funds having to be written-off as lost and unrecoverable due to stupidity, laizness or carelessness will always tend to have the further effect of encouraging all three of those habits of unprofessionalism, along with countless other such Corrupt and Corrupting Habits of Mind and other tendencies that the first three just opened up the door for.

Squandering money that belongs to someone else who is never going to come and look for it, or wonder whether you might have just stolen some or all of it, in a workplace environment that fails to negatively disincentivise thievery, by presenting them with little, if any fear of being caught, fear of being accused, whether correctly or whether unjustly), fear of engaging in theft, and so on, with rapid onset deterioration of morality in very short order.

And since such careers employ undersalaried, under-appreciated and largely unrecognised and unseen members of several of the most in demand of the skilled professions drawn from the deep, stagnant mass of the wider overall labourforce in which always accumulates a vast, bitter, obsequious corpus of mediocre, envious boring men, disillusioned with their boring, mediocre careers and their awkward, difficult marriages to their suddenly underwhelming and rapidly debe

Monday, 26 January 2015

Churchill : Clement Attlee, The Focus and The New WelcomeLodgeLeft-Cover Staybehind Austerity Government of 1945

Clement Attlee was a loyal member of Winston Churchill's Wartime Government and War Cabinet.

Attlee himself personally played a key and integral role in Churchill's May 1940 Coup d'état to topple the Tory Government of Neville Chamberline, the elected leader of Churchill's own party, replacing him with Churchill himself, who never won a national General Election or received a popular mandate from the British Electorate in his own right prior to 1951, after 6 years of largely disastrous post-War Austerity served up under Left-Cover by the Attlee Government.

Like Churchill, Attlee too was a paid agent of influence of the pre-war Czechoslovakian government, co-conspirator in the secret combine known informally in Churchill's private papers only as "The Focus".

Winston Churchill - Worshipful Master, Studholme Lodge No. 1591 (1901)
Clement Attllee - Worshipful Master, New Welcome Lodge No. 3541 (1934)

Churchill's War by David Irving from Spike EP on Vimeo.

"After seven years' research in British and foreign archives like Washington, Moscow, Paris -- because the Churchill trustees still refuse access to his papers to any except their official biographer -- Irving has built up an unusual portrait of the man who brought devastation to Europe and ruin to his own people, while leading them to a Pyrrhic victory. Unstinting in his praise of the achievement of an old man in uniting and inspiring a moribund Mother Country to make one last great effort, Irving conceals little of the uglier detail, like how Churchill thwarted the only chances Europe had of peace in 1939 and 1940, or how he unleashed the cruel bombing war that killed one million Europeans. There are touching sidelights on Churchill' s strained relations with his own family, cast by the unpublished papers of his daughters; but a harsher light is thrown on the demi- corruption, hard drinking, cynicism, brutality, deceit and callousness of Winston's regime. He rejoiced in killing, was intoxicated by the sound of cannon, exhilarated by his own graphic language.

This is a stout picture of a hard old man, aged sixty as the book begins -- emerging from a political wilderness to fight a war with a toughness that appalled men even half his age. "Some chicken, some neck!" was his famous epigram at Ottawa at the end of 1941. He applied it to Britain; this book applies it to him.

Irving is one of the world's most widely read dissident historians: unwilling to rely on published biographies or histories, he cuts across fresh ploughed country, searching in unlikely places for the bare rock of history: diaries, files, and private papers. When Irving offers new theories, sometimes adventurous ones, these are never demolished. "Churchill," he concludes in this book, "was a man who destroyed two empires, one of them the enemy's."

DAVID IRVING was born in Essex, England, in 1938, son of a Navy officer, father of four teenage daughters. After unorthodox education in London University and a Ruhr steelworks his first book, The Destruction of Dresden, became a beststeller in 1963. He applied the same research methods to other controversial works: his biographies of Hitler and Rommel are the best known. Using primarily original documents and diaries, Irving's conclusions often differ startlingly from accepted views. He began researching this Churchill biography in 1976. "

Professional Politicians may well all be whores, but they are very rarely just COMPLETE whores, because their ability to achieve a consistently high return for their services is reliant to a very great extent upon that fact that everyone is always attempting to dance with them at once.

"In the files I found a telephone call which the Czech Ambassador Mr. Jan Masaryk made in September 1938 to Prague saying, Mr. Churchill is asking for more! 

Mr. Attlee is asking for more as well!" 
- David Irving, 1990

"...the gravamen of my attack on the Government is that it does not seem that there was a thinking-out of our plans beforehand, that there was not adequate intelligence, that there was not the necessary concentration on the essential objective and I ask whether, at any time, there was not delay and discussion where action was necessary?" 

(N.B. First Sea Lord Churchill was the intellectual author, prime mover and principle bungler of the disaster ours Norwegian Campaign, the failure of which was the entire basis for the crisis which precipitated this Consitutional Debate.

With NeoConservatives and 9/11 and Iraq War Military Commanders with a history of defeats prompting immediate promotion, this is sometimes termed as "Failing Upwards".)

"I say that there is a widespread feeling in this country, not that we shall lose the war, that we will win the war, but that to win the war, we want different people at the helm from those who have led us into it." 

- Worshipful Brother Attllee, 
New Welcome Lodge No. 5139,
Noway Debate, 
May 1940

"After the Munich Agreement of September 29, 1938, when Mr. Neville Chamberlain -- who was not in the pay of anyone, so far as I know -- went over to see Adolf Hitler and to sign, with Benito Mussolini and Edouard Daladier, the agreement which effectively spelt the end of Czechoslovakia as a military force in Europe, the Czech Government realized that their time had run out. 

One of the Conservative MPs in The Focus, General Sir Edward Spears, had a wife, an American novelist called Mary Borden. I found her private diary in Boston University, in Massachusetts. And there it was: October 3 1938 -- four days after the Munich Agreement was signed -- there was Lady Spears writing, totally unabashed, 

"Poor Edward. Now there's bound to be a General Election". "Faced with the prospect of losing £2,000 a year from the Czechs". Can you believe it! "And his seat in Parliament"

It is there in black and white in the diary of this lady, the wife of the Conservative Member of Parliament for Carlisle. 

In the files I found a telephone call which the Czech Ambassador Mr. Jan Masaryk made in September 1938 to Prague saying, Mr. Churchill is asking for more! Mr. Attlee is asking for more as well!

The Czech files show that two million pounds had already been sent from Prague to London in July 1938 for the bribing of "influential opposition Conservative MPs". With a Conservative Government in office, "opposition Conservatives" means the groups around Mr. Churchill, Macmillan, Anthony Eden. These and the rest of them took two million pounds in July 1938, to sell their own country, Britain, the Britain I was born into, down the River Moldau. It is the job of the historians to find out the really "guilty men". 

Mr. Michael Foot, a writer whom I deeply admire although a Socialist, wrote a book in 1938 called The Guilty Men. He did not know the half of it! He was pointing his finger at the innocent ones, like Neville Chamberlain, who had tried to save the peace."

"Thus even though it is quite true that any radical eugenic policy will be for many years politically and psychologically impossible, it will be important for UNESCO to see that the eugenic problem is examined with the greatest care, and that the public mind is informed of the issues at stake so that much that now is unthinkable may at least become thinkable.” 

- Julian Huxley, 
UNESCO Charter,
UNESCO: It's Purpose and Philosophy, 


It is not possible to implement an effective National Policy of Eugenics in the absence of universal, nationalised healthcare and social services.

It first requires that capacity and capability of the State to catalogue the entire society and hold a complete and detailed inventory of the entire population.

" will be important for UNESCO to see that the eugenic problem is examined with the greatest care, and that the public mind is informed of the issues at stake so that much that now is unthinkable may at least become thinkable.” 

Whilst Home Secretary in 1911, Winston Churchill authored the Mental Defficiency Act of 1913, which calls for the mandatory sterilisation of "Mental Defectives", and their isolation from the general population in concentration camps to perform forced labour in service of the State.

It passed in 1913 with only a single "Nay" vote from Tony Benn's grandfather who attempted to filibuster single-handed it on ground of moral obscenity.

In 1920, Churchill (as Minister for War) wrote a front-page editorial denouncing Bolshevism as an international multi-generational Satanic Jewish conspiracy for World Domination going back at least as far as the French Revolution.

This is additionally problematic when we consider that Churchill's mother was Jewish, making him a born Jew as defined by Abrahamic law, if not a practitioner of the Jewish religion, and good evidence also suggests that he is the confirmed bastard child of Edward VII, further explaining the distance and hostility young Winston had for his syphilitic late common-law father, Sir Randolph Churchill.

Sir Winston has a Jewish official Biographer, Sir Martin Gilbert, CBE, who has to explain all of these things - and to his credit in one sense, for the most part he does not even bother to try.

Churchill and Eugenics
By Sir Martin Gilbert CBE

Abstract: When he was Home Secretary (February 1910-October 1911) Churchill was in favor of the confinement, segregation, and sterilization of a class of persons contemporarily described as the "feeble minded." The most significant letter Churchill wrote in support of eugenics was not, however, deliberately left out of the official biography by Randolph Churchill for reasons of embarrassment, but simply through oversight. -Ted Hutchinson

The author ( is an honorary member and trustee of The Churchill Centre, is the official biographer of Sir Winston Churchill and the author of more than eighty books, on the two World Wars, the Holocaust and 20th century history as well as Churchill.

Randolph Churchill has been accused of deliberately omitting from his narrative volumes and from the companion volumes-because he was ashamed of it-a letter from Churchill to Asquith, written in December 1910, stating that "The unnatural and increasingly rapid growth of the Feeble-Minded and Insane classes, coupled as it is with a steady restriction among all the thrifty, energetic and superior stocks, constitutes a national and race danger which it is impossible to exaggerate."

I can state without fear of contradiction that Randolph never saw this letter, of which there was no copy in the Churchill papers. Here is the story of that letter, and its context.

"The improvement of the British breed is my aim in life," Winston Churchill wrote to his cousin Ivor Guest on 19 January 1899, shortly after his twenty-fifth birthday. Churchill's view was reinforced by his experiences as a young British officer serving, and fighting, in Arab and Muslim lands, and in South Africa. Like most of his contemporaries, family and friends, he regarded races as different, racial characteristics as signs of the maturity of a society, and racial purity as endangered not only by other races but by mental weaknesses within a race. As a young politician in Britain entering Parliament in 1901, Churchill saw what were then known as the "feeble-minded" and the "insane" as a threat to the prosperity, vigour and virility of British society.

The phrase "feeble-minded" was to be defined as part of the Mental Deficiency Act 1913, of which Churchill had been one of the early drafters. The Act defined four grades of "Mental Defective" who could be confined for life, whose symptoms had to be present "from birth or from an early age." "Idiots" were defined as people "so deeply defective in mind as to be unable to guard against common physical dangers." "Imbeciles" were not idiots, but were "incapable of managing themselves or their affairs, or, in the case of children, of being taught to do so." The "feeble-minded" were neither idiots nor imbeciles, but, if adults, their condition was "so pronounced that they require care, supervision, and control for their own protection or the protection of others." If children of school age, their condition was "so pronounced that they by reason of such defectiveness appear to be personally incapable of receiving proper benefit from instruction in ordinary schools." "Moral defectives" were people who, from an early age, displayed "some permanent mental defect coupled with strong vicious or criminal propensities on which punishment had little or no effect."[1]

In 1904, as Churchill was crossing from the Conservative to the Liberal benches, A.J. Balfour's Conservative government set up a Royal Commission "On the Care and Control of the Feeble-Minded." When the commission reported in 1908 to the Liberal Government-which had come into office at the end of 1905, and of which Churchill was a Cabinet Minister-it recommended compulsory detention of the mentally "inadequate," as well as sterilisation of the "unfit," so that it would be impossible to have children and thus perpetuate what were then seen as inherited characteristics. Until that time only the criminally insane, whom the courts had judged to be a danger to themselves and others, were sent to mental asylums. Detention of the "feeble-minded"-for life-was considered by the Royal Commission to be vital to the health of the wider society.

Such detention, as well as sterilisation, were at that time the two main "cures" to "feeble-mindeness." They were put forward by the eugenicists, those who believed in "the possibility of improving the qualities of the human species or a human population by such means as discouraging reproduction by persons having genetic defects or presumed to have inheritable undesirable traits (negative eugenics) or encouraging reproduction by persons presumed to have inheritable desirable traits (positive eugenics)."[2]

In introducing its recommendations in 1908, the Royal Commission On the Care and Control of the Feeble-Minded-one of whose eight members was the chairman of the eugenics-influenced National Association for Promoting the Welfare of the Feeble-Minded-expressed its concern about "the numbers of mentally defective persons" in Britain "whose training is neglected, over whom no sufficient control is exercised and whose wayward and irresponsible lives are productive of crime and misery...and of much continuous expenditure wasteful to the community." The Royal Commisison suggested that permanent institutional care was the means to establish control over the feeble-minded. It also advocated the establishment of industrial "colonies" with schools.[3]

Churchill shared the Royal Commission's fears and supported its recommendations. The improvement of the health and well-being of the British race was a central aspect of his political and social outlook. As President of the Board of Trade, while advancing important measures of social reform, he had seen widespread poverty and demoralisation throughout Britain. In 1910, on becoming Home Secretary, he read a booklet by Dr. H.C. Sharp, The sterilisation of Degenerates. Dr Sharp was a member of the Indiana Reformatory. In 1907, while the Royal Commission was taking evidence in Britain, the State of Indiana had passed a Eugenics Law making sterilisation mandatory for those individuals in State custody who were judged mentally unfit. They were also refused the right to marry.[4] Other States passed similar laws. Between 1907 and 1981, more than 65,000 individuals were forcibly sterilised in the United States.[5]

Using a thick blue pencil, Churchill marked in Sharp's pamphlet the sections about the Indiana legislation and the operations that had been carried out on both men and women to sterilise them. In September 1910, Churchill wrote to his Home Office officials asking them to investigate putting into practice the "Indiana Law"-dominated by sterilisation, and the prevention of the marriage of the "Feeble-Minded." Churchill wrote: "I am drawn to this subject in spite of many Parliamentary misgivings....Of course it is bound to come some day." Despite the misgivings, "It must be examined." He wanted to know "what is the best surgical operation?" and what new legal powers would be needed to carry out sterilisation.

Churchill was answered by his Chief Medical Adviser of Prisons, Dr. Horatio Donkin, who described the Indiana arguments for eugenics as "The outcome of an arrogation of scientific knowledge by those who had no claim to it....It is a monument of ignorance and hopeless mental confusion."[6]

In October 1910 a deputation to the Government called for the implementation of the Royal Commission's recommendations without delay. Churchill, in his reply, recalled the fact that there were at least 120,000 "feeble-minded" persons "at large in our midst" who deserved "all that could be done for them by a Christian and scientific civilization now that they are in the world," but who should, if possible, be "segregated under proper conditions so that their curse died with them and was not transmitted to future generations."

Churchill had not given up his belief in sterilisation as well as segregation. On studying the case of Alfred Oxtoby, who had been convicted in June 1910 of bestiality and of indecently assaulting a twelve-year-old girl-and who had been described by the local police in the East Riding of Yorkshire as mentally inadequate and "over-sexed"-Churchill wrote to his advisers: "This seems to be a case where a complete cure might be at once effected by sterilisation." Churchill went on to ask: "Can this ever be done by consent?" In reply, Donkin wrote that sterilisation would not in fact remove Oxtoby's sexual drive, and that he was too insane to give informed consent. Oxtoby was sent to Broadmoor criminal lunacy asylum. Churchill asked that his case be kept under review at the Home Office in the hope that sterilisation would become possible in the near future.[7]

With Dr. Sharp's pamphlet and the Oxtoby case much in mind, Churchill decided to take the initiative with regard to the implementation of the Royal Commission's recommendations. He wrote to the Prime Minister, H.H. Asquith, in December 1910, about the "multiplication of the unfit" that constituted "a very terrible danger to the race." Until the public accepted the need for sterilisation, Churchill argued, the "feeble-minded" would have to be kept in custodial care, segregated both from the world and the opposite sex.

In his letter, Churchill told Asquith: "The unnatural and increasingly rapid growth of the Feeble-Minded and Insane classes, coupled as it is with a steady restriction among all the thrifty, energetic and superior stocks, constitutes a national and race danger which it is impossible to exaggerate. I am convinced that the multiplication of the Feeble-Minded, which is proceeding now at an artificial rate, unchecked by any of the old restraints of nature, and actually fostered by civilised conditions, is a terrible danger to the race." Concerned by the high cost of forced segregation, Churchill preferred compulsory sterilisation to confinement, describing sterilisation as a "simple surgical operation so the inferior could be permitted freely in the world without causing much inconvenience to others."

Churchill's letter to Asquith showed how much he regarded British racial health as a serious and an urgent issue. As he wrote to the Prime Minister: ‘I feel that the source from which the stream of madness is fed should be cut off and sealed up before another year has passed.'[8].

To reinforce his sense of urgency, Churchill circulated to his Cabinet colleagues the text of a lecture by Dr A.F. Treadgold, one of the expert advisers to the Royal Commission. It was entitled "The Feeble-Minded-A Social Danger." Written in 1909, the lecture gave, in the words of Churchill's covering note, "a concise, and, I am afraid not exaggerated statement of the serious problems to be faced." Churchill added: "The Government is pledged to legislation, and a Bill is being drafted to carry out the recommendations of the Royal Commission."[9]

In February 1911, Churchill spoke in the House of Commons about the need to introduce compulsory labour camps for "mental defectives." As for "tramps and wastrels," he said, "there ought to be proper Labour Colonies where they could be sent for considerable periods and made to realize their duty to the State."[10] Convicted criminals would be sent to these labour colonies if they were judged "feeble-minded" on medical grounds. It was estimated that some 20,000 convicted criminals would be included in this plan. To his Home Office advisers, with whom he was then drafting what would later become the Mental Deficiency Bill, Churchill proposed that anyone who was convicted of any second criminal offence could, on the direction of the Home Secretary, be officially declared criminally "feeble-minded," and made to undergo a medical enquiry. If the enquiry endorsed the declaration of "feeble-mindedness," the person could then be detained in a labour colony for as long as was considered a suitable period.

No legislation was introduced along these lines while Churchill was at the Home Office. In October 1911 he was appointed First Lord of the Admiralty, in charge of the Royal Navy, with new concerns and new responsibilities. On 17 May 1912, while he was at the Admiralty, a Private Members' Bill was introduced in the House of Commons, entitled the "Feeble-Minded Control Bill." This called for the implementation of the Royal Commission's conclusions. Hundreds of petitions were sent to Parliament in support of legislation. The Committee to further the Bill was headed by the two Anglican primates, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York. H.G. Wells was a supporter of the Bill. G.K. Chesterton led a public campaign against the Bill. Dean Inge, the Dean of St Paul's, complained that eugenics was so logical it was only opposed by "irrationalist prophets like Mr. Chesterton." In his public lectures and published articles W.G. Chesterton ridiculed what he called "the Feeble-Minded Bill.'"

The Feeble-Minded Control Bill rejected compulsory sterilisation, but made it a punishable misdemeanour to marry or attempt to marry a mental defective, or to solemnise, procure or connive at such a marriage. It provided for registration and segregation. And it gave the Home Secretary the power to commit any person who fell outside the definition of feeble-mindedness but whose circumstances appeared to warrant his inclusion.

On its first reading, the Bill had only thirty-eight opponents. But the Liberal newspapers opposed it vigorously, and Josiah Wedgwood, a Liberal Member of Parliament, denounced it as a "monstrous violation" of individual rights. Roman Catholics leaders denounced it as "contrary to Christian morals and elementary human rights." When Wedgwood spoke in the House of Commons against it, he called it "legislation for the sake of a scientific creed which in ten years may be discredited."

The Private Members Bill was withdrawn, but the Liberal Government, conscious of the strength of public feeling in favour of a measure based on the Royal Commission's conclusions, decided to introduce its own "Mental Deficiency Bill," for the compulsory detention of the "feeble-minded." This Government Bill was introduced to Parliament on 10 June 1912. In urging the passage of the new Bill, Churchill's successor as Home Secretary, Reginald McKenna, said: "I commend it to the House in the confident assurance that if it is passed into law we shall be taking a great step towards removing one of the worst evils in our time."

In his summing up, Josiah Wedgwood said: "I urge that the Government should, if this legislation goes through, see that all the homes in which defectives are looked after are homes run by the Government, and not for private profit, where the inspection is of the best and where the treatment is of the very highest character, and that the earliest possible term should be set to this licensing of private homes where private profit is likely to be the main cause of the existence of the home, and where, to a large extent, employment will be carried on under extremely undesirable conditions by people who are absolutely unable to protect themselves."[11]

Between 24 and 30 July 1912, a month after the Second Reading of the Mental Deficiency Bill in Parliament, the first international Eugenics Conference was held in London, and was attended by four hundred delegates. Churchill was a Vice-President of the Congress, and Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, was one of its directors, as was Charles Eliot, a former President of Harvard, and the Regius Professor of Medicine at Oxford, Sir William Osler. The Canadian-born Osler, who had been created a baronet the previous year, was one of the world's most prominent practitioners of clinical medicine.

The Congress opened with a reception and a banquet that was addressed by the former Prime Minister, A.J. Balfour. A programme of entertainment was provided by a committee headed by the Duchess of Marlborough (the American heiress Consuelo Vanderbilt, who was married to Churchill's cousin the Ninth Duke of Marlborough). Churchill did not attend.

The Congress on Eugenics led to renewed public pressure for Britain to adopt eugenics laws. In October 1912, Churchill discussed the proposed laws with Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, who wrote in his diary: "Winston is also a strong eugenist. He told us he had himself drafted the Bill which is to give power of shutting up people of weak intellect and so prevent their breeding. He thought it might be arranged to sterilise them. It was possible by the use of Roentgen rays, both for men and women, though for women some operation might also be necessary. He thought that if shut up with no prospect of release without it many would ask to be sterilised as a condition of having their liberty restored. He went on to say that the mentally deficient were as much more prolific than those normally constituted as eight to five. Without something of the sort the race must decay. It was rapidly decaying, but could be stopped by such means."[12]

The views of the eugenists were much influenced by the American psychologist Henry H. Goddard, who asserted that "feeble-mindedness" was a hereditary trait, almost certainly caused by a single recessive gene. His view was widely spread in 1912 with the publication of his book The Kallikat Family: A Study in the Heredity of Feeble-Mindedness, about those in the general population who carried the recessive trait despite outward appearances of normality. Goddard, the creator of the term "moron," was the director of the Vineland Training School-originally the Vineland Training School for Backward and Feeble-minded Children-in New Jersey. In his book, Goddard recommended segregating the "feeble minded" in institutions like his own, where they would be taught various forms of menial labour.[13]

The Mental Deficiency Bill passed its third reading in the House of Commons in 1913, with only three votes being cast against it. The new law rejected sterilisation, which Churchill had earlier advocated, in favour of confinement. On 16 November 1914, in describing the working of the Act during the previous year, Reginald McKenna told the House of Commons: "Institutions and homes provided by religious and philanthropic associations, and by individuals, have come forward in considerable numbers, and the Board has certified or approved of thirty-one of them, making provision for 2,533 cases. In addition to these there are the nine hospitals and institutions formerly registered under the Idiots Act which have become certified institutions or houses under the Mental Deficiency Act, and continue to provide accommodation for many hundreds of defectives. Nine local authorities have entered into contracts with one or other of these institutions for the reception of defectives from their area; five of these contracts cover a number exceeding eighty, and in the remaining four the numbers to be received are not specified."[14]

The concept of hereditary mental illness that could be halted by sterilisation remained widespread for many years. In 1927, in the United States, in the case of Buck versus Bell, the distinguished Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, then in his twenty-fifth year on the Supreme Court, closed the 8-1 majority opinion upholding the sterilisation of Carrie Buck-who along with her mother and daughter had been labelled "feeble-minded"-with the six words: "Three generations of imbeciles are enough."

In 1928 the Canadian Province of Alberta passed legislation-the Sexual Sterilisation Act of Alberta-that enabled the provincial government to perform involuntary sterilisations on individuals classified as "mentally deficient." In order to implement the 1928 act, a four-person Alberta Eugenics Board was created to approve sterilisation procedures. In 1972, the Sexual sterilisation Act was repealed, and the Eugenics Board dismantled. During the forty-three years of the Eugenics Board, 2832 sterilisation procedures were performed.[15]

Britain never legislated for sterilisation or carried it out. Detention in institutions was the chosen path since the Mental Deficiency Act 1913. That act continued in force for almost half a century. The 1959 Mental Health Act, introduced by Harold Macmillan's Conservative Government, was described in its preamble as "An Act to repeal the Lunacy and Mental Treatment Acts 1890 to 1930, and the Mental Deficiency Acts, 1913 to 1938, and to make fresh provision with respect to the treatment and care of mentally disordered persons and with respect to their property and affairs; and for purposes connected with the matters aforesaid."[16]

A year later the Mental Health (Scotland) Act 
repealed the Lunacy (Scotland) Acts 1857 to 1913, and the Mental Deficiency (Scotland) Acts, 1913 and to 1940 "to make fresh provision with respect to the reception, care and treatment of persons suffering, or appearing to be suffering, from mental disorder, and with respect to their property and affairs; and for purposes connected with the matters aforesaid."[17]

Detention, not sterilisation, had been the chosen legislative path in Britain between 1913 and 1959. But with the advances in medical science and medical ethics, fewer and fewer categories of "persons suffering... rom mental disorder" were considered needy of detention. Causes such as food and nutritional deficiency, poverty and deprivation, abuse and neglect, were identified as among the reasons-and early diagnosis, medication, therapy, community care and family support systems as the methods of treatment-of what was considered, at the time of Churchill's support for eugenics before the First World War, as hereditary "feeble-mindedness" with no cure.

[1] The text of the Medical Deficiency Act 1913 was published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) in its issue of 16 November 1912, pages 1397-9.

[2] ‘Eugenics': Random House Dictionary: Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. 21 March 2009.

[3] Report of the Royal Commission on the Care and Control of the Feeble-Minded, 1908. His Majesty's Stationery Office, Command Paper 4202 of 1908.

[4] sterilisations were halted in Indiana in 1909 by Governor Thomas R. Marshall, but it was not until 1921 that the Indiana Supreme Court ruled that the 1907 law was unconstitutional, as it was a denial of due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. A 1927 law provided for appeals in the courts. In all, approximately 2,500 people were sterilised while in State custody. Governor Otis R. Bowen approved repeal of all sterilisation laws in 1974. By 1977 the related restrictive marriage laws were repealed.

[5] Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Iceland, Norway and Sweden and Switzerland have at different times used sterilisation for the mentally ill. The number of sterilisations in Sweden was 62,000. The most notorious sterilisation legislation was promulgated in Nazi Germany in July 1933, under which more than 150,000 Germans, including many children and babies, judged ‘mentally unfit' were sterilised, and an equal number killed by gas or lethal injection between 1933 and 1940.

[6] Home Office papers, 144/1098/197900.

[7] Home Office papers, 144/1088/194663.

[8] Asquith papers, MS 12, folios 224-8.

[9] Cabinet papers, 37/108/189.

[10] Hansard, Parliamentary Debates, 10 February 1911.

[11] Hansard, Parliamentary Debates, 10 June 1912.

[12] W. S. Blunt, My Diaries: 1888-1914, 2 Volumes. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1921.

[13] Henry H. Goddard, The Kallikat Family: A Study in the Heredity of Feeble-Mindedness. New York, The Macmillan Company, 1912.

[14] Hansard, Parliamentary Debates, 16 November 1914.

[15] The Alberta Sexual Sterilisation Act was disproportionately applied to those in socially vulnerable positions, including women, children, the unemployed, domestic help, rural citizens, the unmarried, people in institutions, Roman and Greek Catholics, and people of Ukrainian, Native and Métis ethnicity.

[16] Royal Assent, 29 July 1959.

[17] Royal Assent, 29 July 1960.