Guilty Men (1940)


"The Nation Is United to a Man in its Desire to
Prosecute the War in Total Form:
There Must Be a Similar Unity in the National Confidence"

Foot, Michael, Owen, Frank, and Howard, Peter, under the pseudonym Cato. Guilty Men. London: Victor Gollanz, 1940.

Octavo. Hardcover. 3rd Printing.

First edition, third printing, of this contemporary indictment of the Chamberlain government and its policy of appeasement written by three politically active journalists under the pseudonym "Cato." Written by three journalists--Michael Foot, a future leader of the Labour Party; Frank Owen, a former Liberal MP; and Peter Howard, a Conservative--Guilty Men angrily takes on the 15 public figures including Chamberlain who caused the most damage by supporting the policy of appeasement toward Hilter's Germany. Writing 25 chapters in just one month, the journalists took on both British foreign policy and the failure of the Chamberlain government to prepare England for war. In particular, the authors attacked the disastrous unpreparedness at Dunkirk and the failure to invest in armaments and protecting the food supply. Leftist publisher Victor Gollancz was convinced to publish the screed, but asked the authors to tone down their fiery rhetoric. The public, however, was more than ready to hear about the pre-Churchill government's missteps as they fervently prepared for war under their new prime minister. While major booksellers like W.H. Smith refused to sell the book, it nevertheless went into 12 printings the first month. The identity of "Cato" sparked widespread speculation in the press, including among Guilty Men's actual authors who saw no reason not to get in on the fun. The truth was simpler than many supposed--as employees of Daily Express publisher Lord Beaverbrook, a prominent Conservative supportive of appeasement, the journalists were forced to publish anonymously. They chose "Cato," the pseudonym previously used by 18th-century British writers John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon to attack corruption and immorality within the British government based on Cato the Younger, who martyred himself rather than bow to Julius Caesar. The journalists and Guilty Men did long-lasting damage to Chamberlain's reputation and contributed to the popular opinion that appeasement was a policy worthy of scorn rather than a viable and strategic policy. While Chamberlain has been somewhat vindicated in recent years, he has never fully escaped the stain on his character caused by Guilty Men. Book about-fine, dust jacket near-fine with only pinpoint foxing to rear panel, faintest circular impression (possibly a lamp base) to front panel, and mild toning to spine. An exceptional copy.