Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Winston Churchill: An "Eighteenth Century Statesman"

I am very excited about a new addition to my Winston Churchill collection:  A letter from Attorney General Francis Biddle to gossip columnist Walter Winchell.  The premise put forward here is interesting, and it is likely to attract arguments from Churchill supporters and critics—although I think the eighteenth-century reference is a bit harsh.

Biddle was an interesting figure in his own right.  The scion one of Philadelphia’s most prominent families, he embodied a commitment to public service throughout his career. In fact, his obituary in the New York Times in 1968 had “Noblesse Oblige” as a subhead.  Biddle was Oliver Wendell Holmes’s secretary, head of the FDR’s National Labor Relations Board, U.S. Circuit Court judge, attorney general during World War II, and one of the judges at the Nuremberg Trials.  He also served in various prominent non-government positions.

Biddle’s wife, Katherine Garrison Chapin, was a noted poet and was equally interesting.  Her work “Plain-Chant for America,” a paean to democracy, was performed by several orchestras with musical accompaniment.  She also wrote about Sojourner Truth and Charles Lindbergh among other subjects.

Walter Winchell was a one-time popular columnist specializing in sensationalism.  He also became known for his staccato radio performances highlighting the salacious news of the day.  An early anti-Nazi crusader and an FDR admirer, he later turned to promoting Joe McCarthy and his anti-communist attacks.

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