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For the band, see Blood, Sweat & Tears
It was Churchill's first speech to the House after taking over as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in the first year of World War II, having replaced Neville Chamberlain on 10 May, and the first of three speeches which he gave during the period of the Battle of France.
Churchill's phrase has been called a paraphrase of one uttered on 2 July 1849 by Giuseppe Garibaldi when rallying his revolutionary forces in Rome: "I offer hunger, thirst, forced marches, battle, and death." As a young man, Churchill had considered writing a biography of Garibaldi. Theodore Roosevelt uttered a phrase more similar to Churchill's in an address to the Naval War College on June 2, 1897, following his appointment as Assistant Secretary of the Navy: "Every man among us is more fit to meet the duties and responsibilities of citizenship because of the perils over which, in the past, the nation has triumphed; because of the blood and sweat and tears, the labor and the anguish, through which, in the days that have gone, our forefathers moved on to triumph." Churchill's line has been called a "direct quotation" from Roosevelt's speech. Churchill, a keen soldier, was likely to have read works by Theodore Roosevelt, who was a widely published military historian; it is also possible he read the speech after being appointed First Lord of the Admiralty, a position similar to Roosevelt's.
Other versions of the phrase are "It [poetry] is forged slowly and painfully, link by link, with blood and sweat and tears" (Lord Alfred Douglas, 1919), "Blood, sweat, and tear-wrung millions" (Lord Byron, 1823), and "...mollifie/ It with thy teares, or sweat, or blood" (John Donne, 1611). In Latin, Cicero and Livy had used the phrase "sweat and blood".
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We are in the preliminary stage of one of the greatest battles in history.... That we are in action at many 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 have to be made here at home.
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. 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 aim? I can answer in one word: 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.
(Text transcription as originally read by Churchill)
Churchill was not the preferred choice of most Conservatives to succeed Chamberlain. He had been unpopular since the 1930s, and most MPs had ignored his speeches denouncing the prime minister's appeasement policy toward Germany; even others who opposed Chamberlain avoided him. One historian has described the speech's effect on Parliament, however, as "electrifying ... He was still speaking at the House of Commons, but it was now listening, and cheering." Other great speeches followed, including the "We shall fight on the beaches" speech of 4 June and the "This was their finest hour" speech of 18 June, and were a great inspiration to country after its defeats in the first year of the war.