This I Believe

Maxwell-Fyfe, David


  • David Maxwell-Fyfe describes his beliefs in the faith of a romantic--a faith with the conviction and idealism to address the problems of the age and which recognizes humanity's need for spiritual advancement, in addition to scientific and material advancement.
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And now, This I Believe. Here is Edward R. Murrow.
This I Believe. Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe is British Home Secretary and Minister for Welch Affairs. He has been a member of Parliament since 1935. Born in Aberdeen he was educated in Edinburgh, entered the Scotts Guard, and then went up to Oxford. In 1939 he rejoined the Army as a staff major, later became deputy judge advocate and was knighted on his appointment as Solicitor General in the coalition government. After the war he presented Britain’s case against the leading war criminals at Nuremburg. Here now is Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe.
If I must label what I believe, I think I could best describe it as the faith of a romantic. By romance, I don’t mean sentimentally or foolish optimism, but some idealism, an imaginative perception, a pervading sense of tradition, and a strong consciousness of the adventure of living. The tinge of idealism which has urged the romantic always to stand out against the dull huckstering things of life, helps him now to resist the more insidious forms of materialism. For the politician, these include the temptation to bow to the lower instincts of the mob, instead of risking popularity by pointing towards the heights.
To compromise with lying and cruelty, rationalized as seeing the other person’s point of view—the temptation to put the bubble of being somebody before the achievement of doing something—this is the dross that the romantic can recognize, resist, and reject.
By tradition I’m in a sense of unity, not only with the past but with those who share the past. Shared achievements, shared misfortune, and above all shared sacrifice, acknowledge the virtues which I consider most important: loyalty, tolerance, and understanding. It may be said that selectivity in choosing sections of the past to suit our mood can create a misunderstanding of the present. I don’t agree.
The romantic sees history as a succession of problems, each to be faced on its own merits. He’s painfully aware—and any experience of government increases his awareness—that each problem provides an arguable alternative of attempted solution or impotent circumlocution. Tradition and a living sense of history stand at his shoulder, urging solution and action. They don’t stop his seeing each problem clearly and steadily according to its proportions, and not according to his own preconceptions. For the faith of a romantic is poles apart from that perfectionism which says that if you adopt someone else’s panacea for life, government, or economics, all problems will disappear. He can’t see Christianity as a release from the problems of the world.
His belief that the God who made the world came into the world and died to save it, accentuates rather than lessens his own responsibility. Every job must be done according to the highest standards of the job, with just that extra effort which is given only by the ability to throw his bonnet over the moon. I know that my faith receives many pitying smiles from the cynic and the intellectual. If I know no other, it can help me in what I believe to be my most important task: namely, to try to secure that, in the second half of our mad century, the spiritual stature of man will approximate to his material and scientific advance.
Those were the beliefs of Sir David Maxwell-Fyfe, conservative member of the British parliament.