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Toasts of the President and Prime Minister Wilson of Great Britain.

July 29, 1966

Mr. Prime Minister, gentlemen:

Sir Henry Wotton, in his letter to James the First, referred to "My good associates, by whose light and leading I have walked."

Someone suggested, today, Mr. Prime Minister, that I begin by saying this toast: "My good disassociates."

But that is not the case at all.

For 200 years the British and the Americans have had their differences, but from them have emerged a strong bond, a hearty spirit, and a mutual respect that neither adversaries nor age can diminish.

Prime Ministers and Presidents have met often in the long history of our two nations-usually with admirable results.

You may recall that during the War of 1812, President James Madison made a sudden and unplanned--and not altogether pleasant--move away from his house. His departure might have been stayed had he met as frequently with his counterpart, the Earl of Liverpool, as I have with you.

Let us hope we do not make the same mistake again. Mrs. Johnson has always admired Dolley Madison, but I do not think she desires to emulate her--at least in that way.

You and I have many things in common, Mr. Prime Minister.

One, of course, is politics--and election results--including the difficult problem that goes with an enlarged majority.

Another is economics--including that most fascinating and most unfortunately named subject, "the balance of payments."

You and I know it most appropriately as the "imbalance of payments." Those who wonder if we can solve this problem, I think, should be reminded of the woman in an English court that was charged with shoplifting, who was asked if she had anything to say on her own behalf. She said, "Yes, sir, I have. I take only British goods."

A third interest, Mr. Prime Minister, is our mutual fascination with transportation. Today I am thinking of ships and airplanes in particular.

While you and I share a common purpose in several fields, the same is true, I think, of our peoples in our two countries.

Anglo-American relations are not a partisan issue in either your country or mine.

Our friendship for many years is built on a common history, a common language, and most of all common trust--and a common responsibility to the peace of the world. We have worked together as steadfast friends in a never-ending quest for peace and order. And we shall continue to do so.

Both of our countries in this century have given their treasure and the lives of their people to ensure that reason, and not force, is the way to the future.

We are aware, as we meet here this afternoon, that timid men do not master great problems like those that we face during these hours.

My countrymen in particular have learned that England is not a nation of amateurs. We know her as a country whose greatest resource, as Francis Doyle once wrote, is "the strong heart of her sons."

That is why I am confident you shall prevail.

To those who urge you to think small, I can only reply: "Impossible. A nation that has given us the tongue of a Shakespeare, the faith of a Milton, and the courage of a Churchill must always be a force for progress, an influence for good, in the affairs of men."

In World War II, Mr. Prime Minister, England saved herself by fortitude and the world by example. You personally are asking of the British people today the same fortitude--the same resolve--that turned the tide in those days.

I do think and I must say that England is blessed now, as it was blessed then, with gallant and hardy leadership. In you, sir, she has a man of mettle. She is blessed with a leader whose own enterprise and courage will show the way. We believe your firmness and your leadership have impressed the people of the world deeply in the tradition of the great men of Britain.

Mr. Prime Minister, I feel blessed, in a time of some distress and danger, with a comrade who has, in addition to his pluck, a delightful sense of humor.

In the late evening, when I am going through that night reading and the cables, Mr. Prime Minister, that does make a difference.

Lord Palmerston once said that Britain has no permanent friends--she has only permanent interests. With due respect to that illustrious British statesman, I must disagree. For Americans, Britain is a permanent friend, and the unbreakable link between our two nations is our permanent interest.

So to this small gathering of leaders of this Government, and to some of our friends in the press, I should like to ask all of you to join me in a toast. In the presence of her Prime Minister, let us all now toast the Queen.

Note: The President spoke at 2:10 p.m. at lunch in the State Dining Room at the White House. Prime Minister Harold Wilson responded as follows:
Mr. President:

I would like to thank you for the very kind and warm words you have addressed to my colleagues and myself on this brief but I believe important visit here to Washington.

I am touched that you should quote the words of Wotton to James the First, who was described in his time as "the wisest fool in Christendom."

I have, myself, many delusions of grandeur, but facing the competition I do face in Christendom, I have not yet aspired to that particular title.

I was also very touched about your reference to the Earl of Liverpool who was described by none other than Disraeli, one of my most distinguished predecessors, as "an arch nonentity in a cabinet of nonentities."

That is why I am glad, Mr. President, you rejected for your theme both the words of Wotton and Liverpool, and took your decision not to address my colleagues and myself as "disassociates."

We are allies and not satellites and I think as long as we are allies and not satellites we are of more use to you, we are more use to ourselves, and we are more use to the world.

I hope, Mr. President--and I know that I am not including you here--that no one will be in doubt about the determination of the United Kingdom to put our balance of payments in order. I think we have shown that with the decisions announced last week and with the further decisions the Cabinet took yesterday, which are in the process of being announced today.

We have taken steps which have not been taken by any other democratic government in the world. We are taking steps with regard to prices and wages which no other British Government, even in wartime, has taken. I hope this will now be accepted as a sign of our complete determination.

Of course there are doubts about us. There were doubts in 1940, as you said, Mr. President, and those doubts were proved to be the doubts of small-minded men.

As you have said, we can't think small in Britain. Britain can't think small. We have to face our roles, our world role in foreign policy and defense policy with overstretched resources, be they military or be they economic.

But that will not force us into thinking small or turning into little Englanders, or for that matter little Europeans.

So far as the future is concerned, we believe if Britain threw in the sponge now, the effects would not be confined to Britain. We believe it would be followed by other countries and before long it would be in a 1930's situation.

If we have to fight alone, we shall do so. It won't be the first time.

I am confident, Mr. President, we shall not be fighting alone. I am much reassured by the discussions we have had this morning and by what you have said in your kind words of welcome this afternoon.

Mr. President, there are many and wider world affairs that we have talked about than those you and I have just mentioned. I don't think anyone is in doubt about the British Government and people's stand in their support for the United States Government and in the solidarity with which we uphold the Atlantic community.

We are in Europe, yes, and we look forward to playing a bigger part in Europe, if we can get the conditions that make this possible.

But we would never do that if it meant turning our back on our Atlantic loyalties and--if I can use the phrase from your White Sulphur Springs speech--our Pacific loyalties, as well.

We will have to do that on the basis of value for our money, or our economy in everything we do, but, Mr. President, I hope you will not feel in what you are trying to do for the world, and in which you are supported, I know, by all of your colleagues here, whatever minutiae of disagreement there may be in your country and it is not for me to comment on, in which I know you are supported by your political colleagues of every party and in which you are supported, I know, by your people.

So, as far as that is concerned, Mr. President. you can count on our full support, because, as you have said, we can't measure these issues in the pure interchange of telegrams, of arguments about this or that particular disagreement.

There is something basic in the approach and there has been for generations past in the relation between Britain and the United States and we intend that those relations shall continue.

In that spirit, Mr. President, I would like to ask all of my colleagues to rise and join me in a toast to the President of the United States.

[As printed above, this item follows the text released by the White House Press Office.]

Lyndon B. Johnson, Toasts of the President and Prime Minister Wilson of Great Britain. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/239328

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