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Old 09 August 2012, 11:49 PM
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Bonnie Bonnie is offline
Join Date: 01 January 1970
Location: Chapel Hill, NC
Posts: 148
United Kingdom

An early precursor to the above misattribution to Churchill seems to be this one, appearing at least by 1971 [1],

Liberty is men's birthright. However, to give the reins of government to the Congress at this juncture is to hand over the destiny of hungry millions into the hands of rascals, rogues and freebooters. Not a bottle of water or a loaf of bread shall escape taxation; only the air will be free, and the blood of these hungry millions will be on the head of Mr. Attlee. India will be lost in political squabbles.
Attlee was Prime Minister from 1945 to 1951. It was his government that introduced the Indian Independence Act of 1947. (Later forms of the above text include "men of straw" and other variations.)

But there's no evidence that Churchill said that, either.

Here's what Churchill did say about ceding governmental power to India. Then a mere member of parliament (Woodford), he observed in a parliamentary debate on 6 March 1947 [2],

Let the House remember this. The Indian political parties and political classes do not represent the Indian masses. It is a delusion to believe that they do. I wish they did. They are not as representative of them as the movements in Britain represent the surges and impulses of the British nation. This has been proved in the war, and I can show the House how it was proved. The Congress Party declared non-co-operation with Great Britain and the Allies. The other great political party, to whom all main power is to be given, the Muslim League, sought to make a bargain about it, but no bargain was made. So both great political parties in India, the only forces that have been dealt with so far, stood aside. Nevertheless, the only great volunteer army in the world that fought on either side in that struggle was formed in India. More than three and a half million men came forward to support the King-Emperor and the cause of Britain; they came forward not by conscription or compulsion, but out of their loyalty to Britain and to all that Britain stood for in their lives. In handing over the Government of India to these so-called political classes we are handing over to men of straw, of whom, in a few years, no trace will remain.

This Government, by their latest action, this 14 months limitation -- which is what I am coming to -- cripple the new Viceroy and destroy the prospect of even going through the business on the agenda which has to be settled. This can only be explained as the complete adoption of one of Mr. Gandhi's most scatterbrained observations, which I will read to the House. It was made on 24th May, 1942, after the [Cripps] Mission. He said: "Leave India in God's hands, in modern parlance, to anarchy; and that anarchy may lead to internecine warfare for a time, or to unrestricted dacoities. From these a true India will arise in place of the false one we see." There, as far as I can see, is a statement indistinguishable from the policy His Majesty's Government are determined to pursue.
So, there's Churchill's "men of straw" and, oddly enough, Gandhi's "anarchy" and "unrestricted dacoities" (acts of banditry). It's Gandhi's words that seem to suggest "rogues, rascals, and freebooters." Anyway, I'm guessing a lot of paraphrasing was going on between 1947 and 1971.

Other than that, I got nothing.

Bonnie "subcontent" Taylor


[2] Commons Sitting of Thursday (India, Government Policy), 6 March 1947; House of Commons Debates, Hansard; Vol. 434, cc. 663-776.
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