WCBECOMING WINSTON CHURCHILL: The Untold Story of Young Winston and his American Mentor, by Michael McMenamin, Greenwood Publishers (2007)


Scholar Michael McMenamin has written a (nearly) tell-all about a little-known phase of the protean statesman, painter and savior of England who is so admired throughout the Western world.

Charismatic Bourke Cockran, who even in the late 19th century made over $100,000 per year, 'adopted' the young Winston when Winston's father, Lord Randolph, died in 1895. His beauteous heiress mother, Jennie Jerome, a New York beauty famed for a number of assets, became the lover of Cockran; his mother persuaded the dashing, gifted orator Cockran to mentor the thus-far undistinguished, undirected Winston. Winnie became a grateful and devoted protege of Cockran.

Winston espoused the former's views and (then-) radical notions of individualism, free trade–and Irish home rule, oddly enough. His influence was most strongly felt on the day in 1904 when Churchill, putting principle over party, left the Conservative berth he had long been a staunch part of, to join the Liberals. The issue: free trade.

Excellent scholarship and hard-to-come by dish, as we say now. Highly recommended. Especially if you are a die-hard fan of this brilliant, confident, global, remarkably prescient politician and statesman, young or old.

Stefan Jovanovich responds:

I have not read Mr. McMenamin's book so I this only as a caution about accepting uncritically the notion that in 1904 Churchill left the Tories over principle after having "long been a staunch part of" that party. Churchill was only elected to Parliament in 1900. Even with his mother's money and his famous father's reputation behind him, he was still very much a back bencher and not one who had gained much favor with his elders in the Conservative Party. He belonged to the faction that were known as the Hughligans - a name given to the supporters of Lord Hugh Cecil who were, as the name suggests, as noisily self-promoting as Churchill himself was. When he opposed Joseph Chamberlain's budget for naval expenditures and increased tariffs, Churchill's own constituents in Oldham deselected him. His leaving the Tories for the Liberals was a matter of absolute necessity; it was the only way he could remain in Parliament.

It is also wise not to read too much into Churchill's support for "free trade". Those words did not mean what we now think they do; the debate was not over the absence of tariffs but over how the colonies themselves would be allowed to engage in direct trade (the same issue that provoked the American revolution and one on which the majority of Britons remained steadfastly for preference, just as they did in 1775). In an absolute sense Churchill believed far less in "free trade" than the American Republicans of the period, who wanted tariffs but no preferences. Churchill never abandoned his belief in the economic necessity and rightness of Empire; his first official position in government was as Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies when the Liberals took office with Henry Campbell-Bannerman as Prime Minister.





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