King a Symbol of Unity
THE PEOPLES WILL
By CLEMENT R. ATTLEE, Prime Minister of Great Britain, and WINSTON CHURCHILL,Former Prime Minister of Great Britain
Delivered in House of Commons, London, England, August 15, 1945
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. XI, pp. 679-680.
WE, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled would humbly convey to Your Majesty our congratulations on the achievement of final victory over your enemies. The enemy in Asia has followed the enemy in Europe into complete defeat and submission to the will of the victorious nations which have pledged themselves to free the world from aggression.
We would rejoice with Your Majesty in the liberation of our fellow subjects in those lands which for more than three years have been subject to ruthless oppression of the Japanese, and in the removal of the peril of invasion from your Dominions of Australia and New Zealand, your Indian Empire and the Eastern territories of your Colonial Empire. We would humbly acknowledge the great debt which your peoples owe to Your Majesty and to your most gracious consort for the courage with which you have sustained them and the sympathy which you have shown them, reaffirming their love and their loyalty during the dark years in which you shared their afflictions.
On this occasion of national rejoicing we would pay special tribute to Your Majesty's forces from all parts of the British Commonwealth and Empire, who, fighting side by side with the forces of Your Majesty's Allies, have bought with their blood and toil the return of peace to the world. Nor at this time would we forget our gratitude to the merchant marine, civil services, civil defense services and the police, and to all those who in the home office of industry or agriculture have contributed to victory. It is now our most earnest prayer that the clouds of war which have overshadowed Your Majesty's reign will lift forever and that the splendor of victory which by God's providence we celebrate today may be matched by the glory of your people's achievements in the constructive work of peace.
We have just returned from giving thanks to Almighty God for the deliverance of this country from the manifold perils that have beset her for so long, for victory vouchsafed to the forces of the United Nations against the Japanese aggressor, and for the surrender of the last of their enemies. It is, I think, altogether fitting that our first motion should be the expression of our loyalty and gratitude to the Sovereign.
It is exactly three months to the day since in this House the then Prime Minister moved a motion similar to this on the occasion of the end of the German war. In that address the House pledged its resolute support to the prosecution of the Japanese war. I imagine that few of those present on that occasion thought the end would come so soon.
Few envisaged the changed conditions in which this motion would be brought forward. We have had a general election which has made great alterations in the composition of this House. We have had a change of Government, but in the midst of change there are things which remain unaltered. Among these is the loyalty and devotion of the House to His Majesty. It is the glory of our democratic institution that the will of the people operates, and changes which in other countries are often affected through civil strife and bloodshed here in this island proceed through the peaceful method of the ballot.
The institution of the monarchy in this country, which has been worked out through long years of constitutional development, protects us from many of those evils we have seen arise in other countries. I believe that the peaceful transfer of power from one political party to another during these last few weeks so smoothly and with such acceptance has been a valuable demonstration to the world of the workings of real democracy.
Mr. Churchill, in his speech three months ago with an eloquence which I cannot emulate, drew a picture of the position of the King as a symbol el unity not only of his subjects in these islands, but of all the many nations which are united in the British Commonwealth and Empire. He spoke with the assent of all parties in this House and I shall not this afternoon attempt to traverse ground which he covered, but in rendering our congratulations and thanks to His Majesty we pay tribute to something more than the institution of Kingship.
His Majesty, the King, and his gracious consort, the Queen, have shared in our anxieties, our tribulations and our sufferings through the war and the shadow of bereavement has fallen on them as it has on the whole of our people. The King and Queen have throughout set us an example of courage and devotion which will not be forgotten, and by this and by their sympathy they have strengthened the bond uniting them to our people. This bond is no mere constitutional formality. It is based on deep affection and understanding which I believe has been strengthened by experiences through which we have passed. However well and skillfully constitutions may be framed, they depend in the last resort on the willingness and ability of human beings to make them work.
Our British Constitution in war and peace works because people understand it and know by long experience how to operate it. A constitutional monarchy depends for its success to a great extent on the understanding heart of the monarch. In this country we are blessed with a King who as my Right Honorable friend said, combines with intense love of our country and of all his people a thoroughcomprehension of our Parliament and democratic Constitution.
In difficult times ahead I believe the harmonious working of our Constitution, in which the people's will is expressed by King and Parliament, will be an example of stability in a disordered world. It is therefore, to my mind, a fortunate thing that this new Parliament, like its predecessor, should in this address have an opportunity of expressing its feelings and give thanks to the sovereign.
This crowning deliverance from the long anxious years of danger and carnage should rightly be celebrated by Parliament in accordance with custom and tradition. The King is the embodiment of the national will and his public acts involve all might and power, not only of the people of this famous island but of all the British Commonwealth and Empire. The good cause for which His Majesty has contended, the arduous vitality of all his subjects spread over one-fifth of the surface of the habitable globe, that cause has now been carried to complete success. Total war has ended in absolute victory.
Once again the British Commonwealth and Empire emerges safe and undiminished and united from mortal struggle. Monstrous tyrannies which menaced our life have been beaten to the ground in ruin and a brighter radiance illuminates the Imperial Crown than any which our annals recall.
The light is brighter because it comes not only from the fierce and fading glare of military achievement, such as an endless succession of conquerors have not known, but he-cause there is mingled with it in mellow splendor the hopes, joys and blessings of almost all mankind. This is their true glory and long will it gleam upon our forward path.