Like the Roman, I seem to see “the
River Tiber foaming with much blood”.
Enoch Powell’s speech to the Annual General Meeting
of the West Midlands Area Conservative Political Centre,
Birmingham, England, April 20, 1968.
[VDARE.COM NOTE: Everyone
refers to this as the “Rivers of Blood” speech. As you
can see below, he didn’t quite say that. Simon Heffer’s
excellent biography of Powell was not called Rivers
of Blood, it was called Like
The supreme function of
statesmanship is to provide against preventable evils.
In seeking to do so, it
encounters obstacles which are deeply rooted in human
nature. One is that by the very order of things such
evils are not demonstrable until they have occurred:
At each stage in their onset there is room for doubt
and for dispute whether they be real or imaginary. By
the same token, they attract little attention in comparison
with current troubles, which are both indisputable and
pressing: whence the besetting temptation of all politics
to concern itself with the immediate present at the
expense of the future. Above all, people are disposed
to mistake predicting troubles for causing troubles
and even for desiring troubles: “if only”, they love
to think, “if only people wouldn't talk about
it, it probably wouldn't happen”. Perhaps this habit
goes back to the primitive belief that the word and
the thing, the name and the object, are identical.
At all events, the discussion
of future grave
but, with effort now, avoidable evils is the most unpopular
and at the same time the most necessary occupation for
the politician. Those who knowingly shirk it, deserve,
and not infrequently receive, the curses of those who
A week or two ago I fell
into conversation with a constituent, a middle-aged,
quite ordinary working man employed in one of our nationalized
industries. After a sentence or two about the weather,
he suddenly said: “If I had the money to go, I wouldn't
stay in this country.”
I made some deprecatory reply, to the effect that even
this Government wouldn't last for ever; but he took
no notice, and continued: “I have three children, all
of them have been through grammar school and two of
them married now, with family. I shan't be satisfied
till I have seen them settled overseas. In this country
in fifteen or twenty years' time the black man will
have the whip hand over the white man.”
I can already hear the chorus of execration. How dare
I say such a horrible thing? How dare I stir up trouble
and inflame feelings by repeating such a conversation?
The answer is that I do not have the right not to do
so. Here is a decent, ordinary fellow Englishman, who
in broad daylight in my own town says to me, his Member
of Parliament, that this country will not be worth living
in for his children. I simply do not have the right
to shrug my shoulders and think about something else.
What he is saying, thousands and hundreds of thousands
are saying and thinking—not throughout Great Britain,
perhaps, but in the areas that are already undergoing
to which there is no parallel in a thousand years of
In fifteen or twenty years, on present trends, there
will be in this country 3 1/2 million Commonwealth immigrants
and their descendants. That is not my figure. That is
the official figure given to Parliament by the spokesman
of the Registrar General's office. There is no comparable
official figure for the year 2000, but it must be in
the region of 5-7 million, approximately one-tenth of
the whole population, and approaching that of Greater
Of course, it will not be evenly distributed from Margate
to Aberystwyth and from Penzance to Aberdeen. Whole
and parts of towns across England will be occupied
by different sections of the immigrant and immigrant-descended
As time goes on, the proportion of this total who are
immigrant descendants, those born in England, who arrived
here by exactly the same route as the rest of us, will
rapidly increase. Already by 1985 the native-born would
constitute the majority. It is this fact above all which
creates the extreme urgency of action now, of just that
kind of action which is hardest for politicians to take,
action where the difficulties lie in the present but
the evils to be prevented or minimized lie several
The natural and rational first question with a nation
confronted by such
a prospect is to ask: “How can its dimensions be
reduced?” Granted it be not wholly preventable, can
it be limited, bearing in mind that numbers are of the
essence: the significance and consequences of an alien
element introduced into a country or population are
profoundly different according to whether that element
is 1 per cent or 10 per cent.
The answers to the simple and rational question are
equally simple and rational: by stopping or virtually
stopping, further inflow, and by promoting the maximum
outflow. Both answers are part of the official policy
of the Conservative Party.
It almost passes belief that at this moment twenty
or thirty additional immigrant children are arriving
from overseas in Wolverhampton alone every week—and
that means fifteen or twenty additional families of
a decade or two hence. Those whom the gods wish to destroy,
they first make mad. We must be mad, literally mad,
as a nation to be permitting the annual inflow of some
50,000 dependants, who are for the most part the material
of the future growth of the immigrant-descended population.
It is like watching a nation busily engaged in heaping
up its own funeral pyre.
So insane are we that we actually permit unmarried
persons to immigrate for the purpose of founding a family
with spouses and fiancées whom they have never seen.
Let no one suppose that the flow of
dependants will automatically tail off. On the contrary,
even at the present admission rate of only 5,000 a year
by voucher, there is sufficient for a further 325,000
dependants per annum ad infinitum, without taking into
account the huge reservoir of existing relations in
this country—and I am making no allowance at all for
In these circumstances nothing will suffice but that
the total inflow for settlement should be reduced at
once to negligible proportions, and that the necessary
legislative and administrative measures be taken without
delay. I stress the words “for settlement”. This has
nothing to do with the entry of Commonwealth citizens,
any more than of aliens, into this country, for the
purposes of study or of improving their qualifications,
like (for instance) the Commonwealth doctors who, to
the advantage of their own countries, have enabled our
hospital service to be expanded faster than would otherwise
have been possible. These are not, and never have been,
I turn to re-emigration. If all immigration ended tomorrow,
the rate of growth of the immigrant and immigrant-descended
population would be substantially reduced, but the prospective
size of this element in the population would still leave
the basic character of the national danger unaffected.
This can only be tackled while a considerable proportion
of the total still comprises persons who entered this
country during the last ten years or so. Hence the urgency
of implementing now the second element of the Conservative
Party's policy: the encouragement of re-emigration.
Nobody can make an estimate of the numbers which, with
generous grants and assistance, would choose either
to return to their countries of origin or to go to other
countries anxious to receive the manpower and the skills
they represent. Nobody knows, because no such policy
has yet been attempted. I can only say that, even at
present, immigrants in my own constituency from time
to time come to me, asking if I can find them assistance
to return home. If such a policy were adopted and pursued
with the determination which the gravity of the alternative
justifies, the resultant outflow could appreciably alter
the prospects for the future.
It can be no part of any policy that existing family
should be kept divided; but there are two directions
in which families can be reunited, and if our former
and present immigration laws have brought about the
division of families, albeit voluntary or semi-voluntarily,
we ought to be prepared to arrange for them to be reunited
in their countries of origin.
In short, suspension of immigration and encouragement
of re-emigration hang together, logically and humanly,
as two aspects of the same approach.
The third element of the Conservative Party's policy
is that all who are in this country as citizens should
before the law and that there shall be no discrimination or difference
made between them by public authority. As Mr. Heath
has put it, we will have no “first-class citizens” and
This does not mean that the immigrant and his descendants
should be elevated into a privileged or special class
or that the citizen should be denied his right to discriminate
in the management of his own affairs between one fellow
citizen and another or that he should be subjected to
inquisition as to his reasons and motives for behaving
in one lawful manner rather than another.
There could be no grosser misconception of the realities
than is entertained by those who vociferously demand
legislation as they call it “against discrimination”,
whether they be leader-writers of the same kidney and
sometimes on the same newspapers which year after year
in the 1930s tried to blind this country to the rising
peril which confronted it, or archbishops who live in
palaces, faring delicately with the bedclothes pulled
right over their heads. They have got it exactly and
diametrically wrong. The discrimination and the deprivation,
the sense of alarm and resentment, lies not with the
immigrant population but with those among whom they
have come and are still coming.
This is why to enact legislation of the kind before
Parliament at this moment is to risk throwing a match
on to the gunpowder. The kindest thing that can be said
about those who propose and support it is they know
not what they do.
Nothing is more misleading than comparison between
the Commonwealth immigrant in Britain and the American
Negro. The Negro population of the United states, which
was already in existence before the United States became
a nation, started literally as slaves and were later
given the franchise and other rights of citizenship,
to the exercise of which they have only gradually and
still incompletely come. The Commonwealth immigrant
came to Britain as a full citizen, to a country which
knows no discrimination between one citizen and another,
and he entered instantly into the possession of the
rights of every citizen, from the vote to free treatment
under the National Health Service. Whatever drawbacks
attended the immigrants—and they were drawbacks which
did not, and do not, make admission into Britain by
hook or by crook appear less than desirable—arose not
from the law or from public policy or from administration
but from those personal circumstances and accidents
which cause, and always will cause, the fortunes and
experience of one man to be different for another's.
But while to the immigrant entry to this country was
admission to privileges and opportunities eagerly sought,
the impact upon the existing population was very different.
For reasons which they could not comprehend, and in
pursuance of a decision by default, on which they were
never consulted, they found themselves made strangers
in their own country. They found their wives unable
to obtain hospital beds in childbirth, their children
unable to obtain school places, their homes and neighbourhoods
changed beyond recognition, their plans and prospects
for the future defeated; at work they found that employers
hesitated to apply to the immigrant worker the standards
of discipline and competence required of the native-born
worker; they began to hear, as time went by, more and
more voices which told them that they were now the unwanted.
On top of this, they now learn that a one-way privilege
is to be established by Act of Parliament: a law, which
cannot, and is not intended, to operate to protect them
or redress their grievances, is to be enacted to give
the stranger, the disgruntled and the agent provocateur
the power to pillory them for their private actions.
In the hundreds upon hundreds of letters I received
when I last spoke on this subject two or three months
ago, there was one striking feature which was largely
new and which I find ominous. All Members of Parliament
are used to the typical anonymous correspondent; but
what surprised and alarmed me was the high proportion
of ordinary, decent, sensible people, writing a rational
and often well-educated letter, who believed that they
had to omit their address because it was dangerous to
have committed themselves to paper to a Member of Parliament
agreeing with the views I had expressed, and that they
would risk either penalties or reprisals if they were
known to have done so.
The sense of being a persecuted minority which is growing
among ordinary English people in the areas of the country
which are affected is something that those without direct
experience can hardly imagine.
I am going to allow just one of those hundreds of people
to speak for me. She did give her name and address,
which I have detached from the letter which I am about
to read. She was writing from Northumberland about something
which is happening at this moment in my own constituency:
Eight years ago in a
respectable street in Wolverhampton a house was sold
to a Negro. Now only one white (a woman old-age pensioner)
lives there. This is her story. She lost her husband
and both her sons in the war. So she turned her seven-roomed
house, her only asset, into a boarding house. She worked
hard and did well, paid off her mortgage and began to
put something by for her old age. Then the immigrants
moved in. With growing fear, she saw one house after
another taken over. The quiet streets became a place
of noise and confusion. Regretfully, her white tenants
The day after the last
one left, she was awakened at 7 a.m. by two Negroes
who wanted to use her phone to contact their employer.
When she refused, as she would have refused any stranger
at such an hour, she was abused and feared she would
have been attacked but for the chain on her door. Immigrant
families have tried to rent rooms in her house, but
she always refused. Her little store of money went,
and after paying her rates, she had less than £2 per
week. She went to apply for a rate reduction and was
seen by a young girl, who on hearing she had a seven-roomed
house, suggested she should let part of it. When she
said the only people she could get were Negroes, the
girl said “racial prejudice won't get you anywhere in
this country”. So she went home.
The telephone is her
lifeline. Her family pay the bill, and help her out
as best they can. Immigrants have offered to buy her
house—at a price which the prospective landlord would
be able to recover from his tenants in weeks, or at
most in a few months. She is becoming afraid to
go out. Windows are broken. She finds excreta pushed
through her letterbox. When she goes to the shops, she
is followed by children, charming, wide-grinning piccaninnies.
They cannot speak English, but one word they know. “Racialist”,
they chant. When the new Race Relations Bill is passed,
this woman is convinced she will go to prison. And
is she so wrong? I begin to wonder.
The other dangerous delusion from which those who are
wilfully or otherwise blind to realities suffer, is
summed up in the word “integration”.
To be integrated into a population means to become
for all practical purposes indistinguishable from its
other members. Now, at all times, where there are marked
physical differences, especially of colour, integration
is difficult though, over a period, not impossible.
There are among the Commonwealth immigrants have come
to live here in the last fifteen years or so, many thousands
whose wish and purpose is to be integrated and whose
every thought and endeavour is bent in that direction.
But to imagine that such a thing enters the heads of
a great and growing majority of immigrants and their
descendants is a ludicrous misconception, and a dangerous
one to boot.
We are on the verge of here of a change. Hitherto it
has been force of circumstance and of background which
has rendered the very idea of integration inaccessible
to the greater part of the immigrant population—that
they never conceived or intended such a thing, and that
their numbers and physical concentration meant the pressures
towards integration which normally bear upon any small
minority did not operate. Now we are seeing the growth
of positive forces acting against integration, of vested
interests in the preservation and sharpening of racial
and religious differences, with a view to the exercise
of actual domination, first over fellow immigrants and
then over the rest of the population.
The cloud no bigger than a man's hand, that can so
rapidly overcast the sky, has been visible recently
in Wolverhampton and has shown signs of spreading quickly.
The words I am about to use, verbatim as they appeared
in the local press on 17 February, are not mine, but
those of a Labour Member of Parliament who is a Minister
in the present Government.
The Sikh communities'
campaign to maintain customs inappropriate in Britain
is much to be regretted. Working in Britain, particularly
in the public services, they should be prepared to accept
the terms and conditions of their employment. To claim
special communal rights (or should one say rites?) leads
to a dangerous fragmentation within society. This communalism
is a canker: whether practised by one colour or another
it is to be strongly condemned.
All credit to John Stonehouse for having had the insight
to perceive that, and the courage to say it.
For these dangerous and divisive elements the legislation
proposed in the Race Relations Bill is the very pabulum
they need to flourish. Here is the means of showing
that the immigrant communities can organize to consolidate
their members, to agitate and campaign against their
fellow citizens, and to overawe and dominate the rest
with the legal weapons
which the ignorant and the ill-informed have provided.
As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding. Like
the Roman, I seem to see
“the River Tiber foaming
with much blood”.
That tragic and intractable phenomenon which we watch
with horror on the other side of the Atlantic but which
there is interwoven with the history and existence of
the States itself, is coming upon us here by
our own volition and our own neglect.
Indeed, it has all but come. In numerical terms, it
will be of American proportions long before the end
of the century. Only resolute and urgent action will
avert it even now.
Whether there will be the public will to demand and
obtain that action, I do not know.
All I know is that to see, and not to speak, would
be the great betrayal.
Posted on VDARE: February