It was October of 2001 at the Grand Hotel in Point Clear, Alabama. The distinctively clipped, English accent of the speaker was unmistakeable. “The protection of freedom in the world today depends on the global alliance of the English-speaking peoples,” she said.
And, as always, Margaret Thatcher was right.
This was one of the final three or four public speeches that Lady Thatcher ever gave. About six weeks later, it was announced that she had suffered a series of small strokes over the preceding three or so months — indeed, there were signs in Point Clear, as the evening wore on, of a little bit of confusion and repetitiveness from the great lady — and that she therefore would stop giving speeches. But for the first hour or so of the evening, the former British Prime Minister was very much at the top of her game, clear and eloquent and insightful.
Her point was not that English-speaking peoples are inherently superior — far from it. Her point was that the political institutions and cultures of the English-speaking peoples were the ones most respectful of liberty (the only exception, perhaps, is Switzerland), and the ones also most protective of it. The United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and increasingly India, she said, along with a few other scattered former colonies of Great Britain — all with the common heritage stemming from the British republican/constitutional system that began developing with Magna Carta — were devoted to free markets and individual liberty. If these English-speaking peoples do not stand strong for the values of liberty, and are not willing to defend them, then nobody else will do so, or at least not with effectiveness.
It was a very good point. True, and inspirational.
Margaret Thatcher, who served in Parliament with an elderly Winston Churchill, was very much a proponent of this quintessentially Churchillian worldview. Also, of course, she shared Churchill’s revulsion for Communism, especially as exemplified in the Soviet empire. And by the fall of 2001, in a new millennium, she clearly recognized international jihadism as a threat approximately as great as the one the Soviets had posed.
Domestically, meanwhile, she was far firmer than Churchill in favor of free markets, against the excesses of the welfare state and the unionized power grabs, and for limited government.
Many words will be written about what an important and effective ally she was for Ronald Reagan as Reagan led the international alliance that destroyed that Soviet empire. Many words will be written about her stalwart personal character, her courage, her intelligence, and her grace. The laudatory words will certainly be on target. She was one of the great leaders of the 20th Century — or, indeed, of any century since the Enlightenment.
On the very night that Ronald Reagan died in 2004, I happened to be in London. In fact, at approximately the moment Reagan died, I was finishing up a meal at Rules of London, sitting at a corner table, staring at a wonderful wall mural of a very well done imaginary image, somewhat whimsical, of Margaret Thatcher dressed in a suit of armor with an iron lance in her hand. The expression on her face was resolute — and serene in its resolution.
I rather imagine that Thatcher herself probably loved that mural inside London’s famous restaurant. My wife and I certainly did.
Margaret Thatcher was very much of the character of the spirit of the best of medieval chivalry — a female Lord Percival whose heart on all essential matters was pure and whose public virtue was married to unflinching courage.
Today she joined Reagan, and her beloved husband Denis, and Churchill, in the Lord’s joy. May she rest in the Lord’s peace forever.