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Winston Churchill's First Speech as Prime Minister in 1940: "Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat"

by Ron Kurtus (revised 4 June 2015)

Winston Churchill became the United Kingdom of Great Britain Prime Minister on May 10, 1940, near the beginning of World War II. Three days later, he made his first speech to the House of Commons. In it, he made the oft-quoted statement, "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat."

This was the first of many inspirational speeches he made during the war.

(Text of Address)

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions.



Learning from speech

Read this address to gain insight on improving your speech writing, public speaking, and historical knowledge.

Speech writing

Things to note when studying the speech are:

Outline the speech to show where new ideas are presented and grouped. Point out where effective imagery, examples, or emotional appeal is used.

Public speaking

Read part of the speech aloud—perhaps to a small audience or to yourself in a mirror. Pause at the commas and periods to allow for better understanding by the audience. Vary your pitch, rate and emotional level as you see fit.

Historical significance

In May, 1940, Neville Chamberlain had been removed as Great Britain's Prime Minister by the King, because of his inaction in the threat of war from Germany. Winston Churchill was assigned the position. He then asked the House of Commons for a vote of confidence in his new all-party government with this "blood, toil, tears and sweat" speech.

Audio of address

You can hear an audio of Winston Churchill's speech to read along. Note that it is not Churchill's voice but a slightly mechanical computerized voice. Unfortunately, it does not contain the inflection and emphasis of a true orator.

Note: If you want to hear the text being read, click the Play button. It takes a few seconds for the sound to start. The voices are somewhat mechanical for computer use.

Length of speech = 4 min. 17 sec.


Text of address

Prime Minister Winston Churchill:

Introduction

I beg to move that this House welcomes the formation of a Government representing the united and inflexible resolve of the nation to prosecute the war with Germany to a victorious conclusion.

Body of speech

On Friday evening last, I received His Majesty's commission to form a new administration. It as the evident wish and will of Parliament and the nation that this should be conceived on the broadest possible basis and that it should include all parties, both those who supported the late Government and also the parties of the Opposition.

I have completed the most important part of this task. A War Cabinet has been formed of five Members, representing, with the Opposition Liberals, the unity of the nation. The three party Leaders have agreed to serve, either in the War Cabinet or in high executive office. The three Fighting Services have been filled. It was necessary that this should be done in one single day, on account of the extreme urgency and rigor of events. A number of other positions, key positions, were filled yesterday, and I am submitting a further list to His Majesty tonight. I hope to complete the appointment of the principal Ministers during tomorrow. the appointment of the other Ministers usually takes a little longer, but I trust that, when Parliament meets again, this part of my task will be completed, and that the administration will be complete in all respects.

I considered it in the public interest to suggest that the House should be summoned to meet today. Mr. Speaker agreed, and took the necessary steps, in accordance with the powers conferred upon him by the Resolution of the House. At the end of the proceedings today, the Adjournment of the House will be proposed until Tuesday, 21st May, with, of course, provision for earlier meeting, if need be. The business to be considered during that week will be notified to Members at the earliest opportunity. I now invite the House, by the Motion which stands in my name, to record its approval of the steps taken and to declare its confidence in the new Government.

To form an Administration of this scale and complexity is a serious undertaking in itself, but it must be remembered that we are in the preliminary stage of one of the greatest battles in history, that we are in action at many other points in Norway and in Holland, that we have to be prepared in the Mediterranean, that the air battle is continuous and that many preparations, such as have been indicated by my honorable friend below the Gangway, have to be made here at home.

In this crisis I hope I may be pardoned if I do not address the House at any length today. I hope that any of my friends and colleagues, or former colleagues, who are affected by the political reconstruction, will make allowance, all allowance, for any lack of ceremony with which it has been necessary to act.

I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this government: "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat."

Closing remarks

We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy?

I can say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy.

You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory; victory at all costs; victory in spite of all terror; victory, however long and hard the road may be. For without victory, there is no survival.

Let that be realized: no survival for the British Empire; no survival for all that the British Empire has stood for, no survival for the urge and impulse of the ages, that mankind will move forward towards its goal.

But I take up my task with buoyancy and hope. I feel sure that our cause will not be suffered to fail among men. At this time I feel entitled to claim the aid of all, and I say, "Come then, let us go forward together with our united strength."


Summary

Winston Churchill gave his first speech to the Great Britain House of Commons after becoming Prime Minister in 1940, near the beginning of World War II. In the speech, he made the famous statement, "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat."

Use Churchill's first address to the House of Common to improve your skills in speech writing, public speaking and history.


Be eloquent


Resources and references

Ron Kurtus' Credentials

Websites

Winston Churchill's Speeches

Historic Speeches Resources

Books

Top-rated books on Winston Churchill

Top-rated books on Battle of Britain

Top-rated books on Famous Speeches

Top-rated books on Oratory and Rhetoric


Questions and comments

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