Stanley Baldwin

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The greatest crime to our own people is to be afraid to tell the truth … the old frontiers are gone.

Stanley Baldwin, 1st Earl Baldwin of Bewdley KG PC (3 August 186714 December 1947) was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on three separate occasions (1923–24, 1924–29 and 1935–37).


True to our traditions, we have avoided all extremes. We have steered clear of fascism, communism, dictatorship, and we have shown the world that democratic government, constitutional methods and ordered liberty are not inconsistent with progress and prosperity.
  • A lot of hard-faced men who look as if they had done very well out of the war.
    • Of the new MPs elected in 1918; quoted by John Maynard Keynes in Economic Consequences of the Peace, Ch. 5
  • I am just one of yourselves, who has been called to special work for the country at this time. I never sought the office. I never planned out or schemed my life. I have but one idea, which was an idea that I inherited, and it was the idea of service — service to the people of this country. My father lived in the belief all his life … It is a tradition; it is in our bones; and we have to do it. That service seemed to lead one by way of business and the county council into Parliament, and it has led one through various strange paths to where one is; but the ideal remains the same, because all my life I believed from my heart the words of Browning, "All service ranks the same with God". It makes very little difference whether a man is driving a tramcar or sweeping streets or being Prime Minister, if he only brings to that service everything that is in him and performs it for the sake of mankind.
    • Speech in Worcester (7 November 1923); published in On England, and Other Addresses (1938), p. 19
  • To me, England is the country, and the country is England. And when I ask myself what I mean by England when I am abroad, England comes to me through my various senses — through the ear, through the eye and through certain imperishable scents … The sounds of England, the tinkle of the hammer on the anvil in the country smithy, the corncrake on a dewy morning, the sound of the scythe against the whetstone, and the sight of a plough team coming over the brow of a hill, the sight that has been seen in England since England was a land … the one eternal sight of England.
    • Speech on England (May 1924); published in On England, and Other Addresses (1938), pp. 6-7.
  • I am a man of peace. I am longing and working and praying for peace, but I will not surrender the safety and security of the British constitution. You placed me in power eighteen months ago by the largest majority accorded to any party for many, many years. Have I done anything to forfeit that confidence? Cannot you trust me to ensure a square deal to secure even justice between man and man?
    • Speech on BBC radio on the General Strike (8 May 1926), as quoted in Baldwin : A Biography by Keith Middlemas and John Barnes (1969), p. 415
  • England totally disarmed and an easy prey to hostile forces! Can you think of anything more likely to excite cupidity and hostile intention? We should sink to the level of a fifth rate Power, our Colonies would be stripped from us, our commerce would decline, famine and unemployment would stalk the land. … I share your longing for peace. God forbid that it should be again disturbed! The constant and undivided effort of the Government is for its preservation. But I have yet to learn that the cause of peace can be served by rendering our country impotent.
    • Letter to Arthur Ponsonby (16 December 1927); published in Semi-detached Idealists: The British Peace Movement and International Relations, 1854-1945 (2000) by Martin Ceadel, p. 271
  • If I did not believe that our work was done in the faith and hope that at some day, it may be a million years hence, the Kingdom of God will spread over the whole world, I would have no hope, I could do no work, and I would give my office over this morning to anyone who would take it.
    • Speech to the British and Foreign Bible Society (2 May 1928); published in This Torch of Freedom (1935), pp. 92 - 93
  • Tom Mosley is a cad and a wrong 'un and they will find it out.
    • On Oswald Mosley (21 June 1929). "They" were the Labour Party which had recently won a general election. Quoted in Whitehall Diary : Volume II (1969) by Thomas Jones, p. 195.
  • What the proprietorship of these papers is aiming at is power, and power without responsibility — the prerogative of the harlot through the ages.
    • Baldwin was attacking the leading press barons of his day (Lord Beaverbrook and Lord Rothermere); the phrase was suggested by Baldwin's cousin Rudyard Kipling (17 March 1931)
  • I think it well … for the man in the street to realise that there is no power on earth that can protect him from being bombed. Whatever people may tell him, the bomber will always get through. The only defence is offence, which means that you will have to kill women and children more quickly than the enemy if you want to save yourselves.
    • Statement of (10 November 1932), as quoted in Baldwin : A Biography by Keith Middlemas and John Barnes (1969), p. 735
  • It is no ready made article; it has grown through the centuries as native to our country and people as the oak, ash, or thorn. It has given her people freedom and taught them the difference between freedom and licence. That is the Constitution that is threatened to-day, not quite openly yet, by the Socialist Party in their conference, tendenciously by sketching a course of action which if it takes place means the destruction of the Constitution. You may dispute that as much as you like, but in effect taking away the executive power of the House of Commons is the way every tyranny starts. It is proletarian Hitlerism and nothing else, and it can be nothing else. I want you to realize it in time.
    • Speech in Birmingham (6 October, 1933).
    • 'Mr. Baldwin On Disarmament', The Times (7 October, 1933), p. 14.
  • This country to-day [is] the last stronghold of freedom, standing like a rock in a tide that is threatened to submerge the world.
    • Broadcast speech (6 March 1934); published in This Torch of Freedom (1935), p. 23
  • The greatest crime to our own people is to be afraid to tell the truth … the old frontiers are gone. When you think of the defence of England you no longer think of the chalk cliffs of Dover; you think of the Rhine. That is where it lies.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (30 July 1934), as quoted in Baldwin : A Biography by Keith Middlemas and John Barnes (1969), p. 775
  • It is not the case that Germany is rapidly approaching equality with us. Her real strength is not fifty per cent. of our strength in Europe to-day.
    • Responding to claims from Winston Churchill on the size of Germany's air force in a House of Commons debate (28 November 1934); published in Hansard, House of Commons, 5th series, vol. 295, col. 882.
  • There is no country … where there are not somewhere lovers of freedom who look to this country to carry the torch and keep it burning bright until such time as they may again be able to light their extinguished torches at our flame. We owe it not only to our own people but to the world to preserve our soul for that.
    • Speech at University of Durham to the Ashridge Fellowship, as quoted in The Times (3 December 1934); also in Christian Conservatives and the Totalitarian Challenge, 1933-40 by Philip Williamson, in The English Historical Review, Vol. 115, No. 462 (June 2000)
  • I should like to make an observation to right honourable and honourable Gentlemen opposite. It is that I do not think they will help to produce the atmosphere in Europe which is so desirable by issuing papers that have been issued by the National Council of Labour, headed 'Hit Hitler'.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (11 March 1935); published in Hansard, House of Commons, 5th series, vol. 299 cols. 50-1.
  • "Magna Carta is the Law: Let the King look out."
    So it has always been with tyrants among our own people: when the King was tyrant, let him look out. And it has always been the same, and will be the same, whether the tyrant be the Barons, whether the tyrant be the Church, whether he be demagogue or dictator — let them look out.
    • Speech at Westminster Hall (4 July 1935); published in This Torch of Freedom: Speeches and Addresses (1935), p. 4
  • Whatever failures may have come to parliamentary government in countries which have not those traditions, and where it is not a natural growth, that is no proof that parliamentary government has failed.
    • Speech at Westminster Hall (4 July 1935); published in This Torch of Freedom: Speeches and Addresses (1935), p. 5
  • The lessons of this crisis have made it clear to us that in the interests of world peace it is essential that our defensive services should be stronger than they are to-day. When I say that I am not thinking of any kind of unilateral rearmament directed either in reality or in imagination against any particular country, as might have been said to be the case before the War. It is a strengthening of our defensive services within the framework of the League, for the sake of international peace, not for selfish ends...I will not be responsible for the conduct of any Government in this country at this present time, if I am not given power to remedy the deficiencies which have accrued in our defensive services since the War...One of the weaknesses of a democracy, a system of which I am trying to make the best, is that until it is right up against it it will never face the truth.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (23 October 1935).
  • Do not fear or misunderstand when the Government say they are looking to our defences. I give you my word that there will be no great armaments.
    • Letter to the Peace Society (31 October 1935), during the general election.
  • True to our traditions, we have avoided all extremes. We have steered clear of fascism, communism, dictatorship, and we have shown the world that democratic government, constitutional methods and ordered liberty are not inconsistent with progress and prosperity.
    • Newsreel appearance after the general election (November 1935)
    • Variant: We, true to our traditions, avoided all extremes, have steered clear of fascism, communism, dictatorship, and have shown the world that democratic government, constitutional methods and ordered liberty are not inconsistent with progress and prosperity.
    • As quoted in Cinema, Literature & Society : Elite and Mass Culture in Interwar Britain (1987) by Peter Miles and Malcolm Smith, p. 22
  • The 1922 Club gave me a dinner in the House the other night and I think I had a great success...I had just a note or two to keep me right. I said there were some who doubted whether I was a dyed-in-the-wool Tory. I told them I wore Tory colours in my pram in the 1868 election. My father voted Whig then, but our cook was a Tory and she saw to my politics. For 94 years a Tory had represented Bewdley. I told them of my fight at Kidderminster, how I had come back from a visit to the United States a protectionist, how we were stirred by Joseph Chamberlain's tariff campaign, how we blundered badly over the Taff Vale decision. How when the war ended we were in a new world and how class conscious and revolutionary it was; how I felt that our Party was being destroyed and how I determined to do what I could to rescue it. I did not mention L[loyd] G[eorge] or Winston [Churchill]. Then in 1931 we conformed to the King's wish and all my colleagues agreed with me in doing so. I then touched on German rearmament and claimed that we could not have got this country to rearm one moment earlier than we did.
    • Conversation with Thomas Jones (22 May 1936), quoted in Thomas Jones, A Diary with Letters. 1931-1950 (London: Oxford University Press, 1954), p. 204.
  • I cannot rival L[loyd] G[eorge] at that sort of speech—full of clever thrusts, innuendos, malicious half-truths. To L[loyd] G[eorge] and Winston [Churchill] it is all part of a game; as for me, I cannot make speeches which are sheer and mere dialectic...If I had made the sort of speech about L[loyd] G[eorge] that I could have made it would be a cruel attack on an old man and it would have done no good. All through his career, except during the War, he has done no end of harm, and his Versailles peace was iniquitous and his conduct after the peace execrable.
    • Conversation with Thomas Jones (7 July 1936), quoted in Thomas Jones, A Diary with Letters. 1931-1950 (London: Oxford University Press, 1954), p. 227.
  • We none of us know what is going on in that strange man's mind. We all know the German desire as he has come out with in his book [Mein Kampf] to move East, and if he moves East, I shall not break my heart, but that is another thing. I do not believe he wants to move West, because West would be a very difficult programme for him … If there is any fighting in Europe to be done, I should like to see the Bolsheviks and Nazis doing it.
    • Baldwin to the deputation at the end of July, 1936, as quoted in Baldwin : A Biography by Keith Middlemas and John Barnes (1969), p. 947, p. 955.
  • Supposing I had gone to the country [in 1933], and said that Germany was re-arming, and that we must re-arm, does anybody think that this pacific democracy would have rallied to that cry at that moment? I cannot think of anything that would have made the loss of the election from my point of view more certain...we got from the country [in 1935], with a large majority, a mandate for doing a thing no one, twelve months earlier, would have believed possible.
    • Baldwin answering Winston Churchill in the House of Commons (12 November 1936), as quoted in Churchill: A Study in Failure 1900-1939 (1970) by Robert Rhodes James, p. 268
  • In none of these countries [Russia, Italy and Germany] was it possible to make to the people such an appeal as went home to the heart of our people, an appeal based on Christianity or ethics … The whole outlook in the dictator countries was so completely different from ours that for a long time people here could not understand how it was possible for these nations not to respond to the same kind of appeal as that to which our people responded. But they were beginning to realise it now...The only argument which appealed to the dictators was that of force.
    • Baldwin to the Cabinet in 1937 during his last days as Premier, as quoted in The Collapse of British Power (1972) by Correlli Barnett, p. 449
  • The real need of the day is … moral and spiritual rearmament … God's Living Spirit can transcend conflicting political systems, can reconcile order and freedom, can rekindle true patriotism, can unite all citizens in the service of the nation, and all nations in the service of mankind.
    • Baldwin's response to the Munich crisis, as quoted in The Times (10 September 1938)
  • I knew that I had been chosen as God's instrument for the work of the healing of the nation.
    • Letter from 1938, as quoted in My Father : The True Story (1955) by A. W. Baldwin, pp. 327 - 328
  • Civilisation may perish as the result of war: it would certainly perish as the result of Nazi-ism triumphant beyond the borders of the country of its birth...And now we know that should the challenge come, we shall be there. In Luther's words “we can no other.” We were there when the Spanish galleons made for Plymouth: we were on those bloody fields in the Netherlands when Louis XIV aimed at the domination of Europe: we were on duty when Napoleon bestrode the world like a demi-god, and we answered the roll call, as you did, in August, 1914. We can no other. So help us, God.
    • Speech to the University of Toronto (April 1939), quoted in An Interpreter of England. The Falconer Lectures (1939), pp. 117-118.
  • The critics have no historical sense. I have no Cabinet papers by me and do not want to trust my memory. But recall the Fulham election, the Peace Ballot, Singapore, sanctions, Malta. The English will only learn by example. When I first heard of Hitler, when Ribbentrop came to see me, I thought they were all crazy. I think I brought Ramsay and Simon to meet Ribbentrop. Remember that Ramsay's health was breaking up in the last two years. He had lost his nerve in the House in the last year. I had to take all the important speeches. The moment he went I prepared for a General Election and got a bigger majority for re-armament. No power on earth could have got re-armament without a General Election except by a big split. Simon was inefficient. I had to lead the House and keep the machine together with those Labour fellows.
    • Conversation with Thomas Jones (21/22 January 1941), quoted in Thomas Jones, A Diary with Letters. 1931-1950 (London: Oxford University Press, 1954), p. 482.
  • My tongue, not my pen, is my instrument.
    • Conversation with Thomas Jones (7 January 1946), quoted in Thomas Jones, A Diary with Letters. 1931-1950 (London: Oxford University Press, 1954), p. 540.

Quotes about Baldwin[edit]

  • People of all parties came to see him, particularly the Labour men, many of whom he liked. I am sure no one can know Baldwin without liking him, even getting fond of him.
    • J. W. Robertson Scott, writing about Stanley Baldwin in 1938.
  • In a world of voluble hates, he plotted to make men like, or at least tolerate, one another. Therein he had much success, within the shores of this island. He remains the most human and lovable of all the Prime Ministers.
    • G. M. Trevelyan
  • No British Prime Minister of the last seventy years has been more harshly stereotyped than Stanley Baldwin. No one has been so much ignored, after the initial judgements of contemporaries had been made.
    • Keith Middlemas
  • In all essentials Stanley Baldwin’s outlook is very close to ours.
    • Ramsay Macdonald, 1923.
  • Stanley has been in politics practically all the time we have been married - about 30 years. Some women say they don’t want their husbands in politics because of its effect upon their temperament. My husband has remained unchanged. He is sweet-tempered, he is just that kind of a man.
    • Lucy Baldwin, 1923.
  • He believed that social obligations went with wealth and he lived by that precept.
    • Lord John Biffen, speaking about Baldwin in 2006.
  • I had no idea he could show such power. The whole Conservative Party turned round and obeyed without a single mutineer. I cease to be astonished at anything.
    • Winston Churchill, after Baldwin persuaded his own backbenchers to drop a private member’s bill intended to cripple trade-union and Labour party finances, 1925.
  • [Baldwin's] genius in this respect more than made up for his limitations as orator or debater. Baldwin was a master of the art of creating feeling, but an even greater one at the important art of detecting it. He would attack, not the argument being put forward, but the feeling behind it of which the case was the expression. When defending himself, he would not deploy fact after act in skilful order, but appeal to the nobler and more humane feelings of his enemy. He was a great disarmer, though now and again he hit back like a butcher.
    • Aneurin Bevan, as quoted in Baldwin : A Biography by Keith Middlemas and John Barnes (1969), p. 667
  • There was an attraction at first that Mr Baldwin should not be clever. But when he forever sentimentalises about his own stupidity, the charm is broken.
    • Skidelsky (1992:232) quoting Keynes Papers PS/6
  • Baldwin, Stanley … confesses putting party before country, 169-70; ...
    • Winston Churchill, index entry in "The Second World War : Volume I : The Gathering Storm" (1948)
  • I wish Stanley Baldwin no ill, but it would have been much better if he had never lived.
    • Winston Churchill on declining to send an eightieth birthday letter to Baldwin, as quoted in The Wicked Wit of Winston Churchill (2001) edited by Dominique Enright, p. 58
  • Decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful to be impotent.
    • Winston Churchill
  • He occasionally stumbled over the truth, but hastily picked himself up and hurried on as if nothing had happened.
    • Winston Churchill
  • Stanley Baldwin was a successful Premier because every conventional Englishman knew that he shared his prejudices and represented his interests.
    • Kingsley Martin, Editor. A Second Volume of Autobiography. 1931-45 (London: Penguin, 1969), p. 21.
  • He ambled along, dilatory always, but instinctively astute. He misled everyone but responded quickly to popular moods. I learnt from close friends of his that fear of war was always a principal motive of his policy, or lack of it; this view of him is fully borne out by his conversations with Tom Jones, his close friend, and one of the Cabinet Secretariat. He knew, like Chamberlain after him, that rearmament was the first step to another German war, and there was truth in the accusation made by his Right-Wing critics that he and MacDonald obstructed the increases of British defence that would normally have been considered necessary if Britain was to defend the Empire without powerful allies. Baldwin was never an Imperialist. At the same time, he did nothing to make the Disarmament Conference a reality and everything to destroy the alternative policy of collective security. His fear and hatred of war were perfectly sincere and he ended his famous 'the-bomber-will-always-get-through' speech by an earnest appeal to youth to prevent such a horror. ... What was the key to Baldwin?...It was the Worcestershire countryside and the works of Mary Webb, a warm-hearted popularizer of country life, not the ideas and values of his cousin, Rudyard Kipling, which appealed to him. In short, he was a 'Little Englander'. His disliked foreigners and believed that England could not survive another war. Big ideas like the League were dangerous, but the British people would fight for their interests if sufficiently hard-pressed. They might have to arm against Hitler, and though he did not much care about the Empire, he thought it treasonable to talk, as many were doing, about returning the colonies to Germany. ... He drew contrast between the tranquil, old-world life of the countryside...and the dire results of a civilization of mechanical speed, ruthlessly binding every worker to a conveyor belt...His real philosophy, no doubt. Humane, kindly, the outlook of a genial country gentleman, not of Kipling, and not - no, certainly not, of the Federation of British Industries... He had the right qualities of leading a coalition. He acted like a Conservative, spoke like a Liberal and was always in words and actions a true representative of the great British middle-class.
    • Kingsley Martin, Editor. A Second Volume of Autobiography. 1931-45 (London: Penguin, 1969), pp. 191-199.
  • What [Free Churchmen] have felt is — that in you we have had a man at the head of our national affairs whom we could entirely trust. I am just old enough to remember the kind of faith Free Churchmen had in Mr. Gladstone. I do not think I am exaggerating when I say they have placed a very similar faith in you.
    • Rev. J. D. Jones to Baldwin (19 May 1937)
  • There was no one half so good at the business of getting the middle class and the working class to vote the same way.
    • Marquis of Linlithgow to Lady Salisbury (16 June 1936)

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