As Conservative party Prime Minister, Stanley Baldwin faced a period of economic and political turmoil, which included the General Strike of 1926 and the abdication of Edward VIII in 1936. By 1937, the year of this broadcast, the international outlook had turned very ominous, as the extreme nationalist policies of Nazi Germany increasingly threatened war. Under this shadow Baldwin used his last speech as Prime Minister to make comparison with the positive qualities of the British way of life.
This is an edited extract from a longer recording.
Let me end in this, the last speech I shall make before a great audience as Prime Minister of this country. Let me proclaim my faith, which is the faith of millions of all races from end to end of the British Empire. Here we have ceased to be an island, but we are still an Empire.
And what is her secret? Freedom, ordered freedom, within the law, with force in the background and not in the foreground: a society in which authority and freedom are blended in due proportion, in which state and citizen are both ends and means. It is an empire organised for peace and for the free development of the individual in and through an infinite variety of voluntary associations. It neither deifies the state nor its rulers.
The fruits of a free spirit of men do not grow in the garden of tyranny. It’s been well said that slavery is a weed that grows in every soil. As long as we have the wisdom to keep the sovereign authority of this country as the sanctuary of liberty, the sacred temple consecrated to our common faith, men will turn their faces towards us and draw their breath more freely. The association of the peoples of the Empire is rooted and their fellowship is rooted in this doctrine of the essential dignity of the individual human soul: that is the English secret, however feebly and faintly we have, at times and places, embraced and obeyed it.
And the torch I would hand to you and ask you to pass from hand to hand along the pathways of the Empire, is a great Christian proof rekindled anew in each ardent generation: that is a message I’ve tried to deliver as Prime Minister of England in a hundred speeches, and I can think of no better message to give you to take away tonight than that.