The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy
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2013 Pulitzer Prize Finalist
New York Times Ten Best Books of 2012
“Riveting…The Patriarch is a book hard to put down.” – Christopher Buckley, The New York Times Book Review
In this magisterial new work The Patriarch, the celebrated historian David Nasaw tells the full story of Joseph P. Kennedy, the founder of the twentieth century's most famous political dynasty. Nasaw—the only biographer granted unrestricted access to the Joseph P. Kennedy papers in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library—tracks Kennedy's astonishing passage from East Boston outsider to supreme Washington insider. Kennedy's seemingly limitless ambition drove his career to the pinnacles of success as a banker, World War I shipyard manager, Hollywood studio head, broker, Wall Street operator, New Deal presidential adviser, and founding chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. His astounding fall from grace into ignominy did not come until the years leading up to and following America's entry into the Second World War, when the antiwar position he took as the first Irish American ambassador to London made him the subject of White House ire and popular distaste.
The Patriarch is a story not only of one of the twentieth century's wealthiest and most powerful Americans, but also of the family he raised and the children who completed the journey he had begun. Of the many roles Kennedy held, that of father was most dear to him. The tragedies that befell his family marked his final years with unspeakable suffering.
The Patriarch looks beyond the popularly held portrait of Kennedy to answer the many questions about his life, times, and legacy that have continued to haunt the historical record. Was Joseph P. Kennedy an appeaser and isolationist, an anti-Semite and a Nazi sympathizer, a stock swindler, a bootlegger, and a colleague of mobsters? What was the nature of his relationship with his wife, Rose? Why did he have his daughter Rosemary lobotomized? Why did he oppose the Truman Doctrine, the Marshall Plan, the Korean War, and American assistance to the French in Vietnam? What was his relationship to J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI? Did he push his second son into politics and then buy his elections for him?
In this pioneering biography, Nasaw draws on never-before-published materials from archives on three continents and interviews with Kennedy family members and friends to tell the life story of a man who participated in the major events of his times: the booms and busts, the Depression and the New Deal, two world wars and a cold war, and the birth of the New Frontier. In studying Kennedy's life, we relive with him the history of the American Century.
day, at cabinet, Halifax declared that he had “reached the conclusion that perhaps the best course was to do nothing as any positive action on our part would only make the position of the German Jews still worse.” The cabinet agreed with him that it was a mistake to muddy the diplomatic waters “with this Jewish question.” When one of the ministers asked about the use of “economic sanctions” against Germany over its treatment of the Jews, Halifax responded that “his anxiety was that Germany should
state with the Jews a minority, with immigration allocated for the next 5 years to between 100,000 and 150,000 with 10,000 children additional every two years. He was a little hazy on the figures, but said this approximated it. . . . He just wanted to give me a bare outline and you can see this is because they are still talking it over. They are really sparring for time, and, I should judge, giving the Arabs the better of it.” The ambassador closed his cable by reporting that he had asked Dr.
expected, and rightly, that the Republicans would attack him as soon as the deal was announced and that there might even be calls for his impeachment. The last thing he needed, in such circumstances, was to have Kennedy join the opposition. Roosevelt wrote Kennedy back the day after he received his letter. He did not apologize for excluding Kennedy from the negotiations but reassured him that he was still a vital member of his team. “The destroyer and base matter was handled in part through
own particular sort of department.”11 — In mid-March 1920, a month after Kathleen’s birth and during Jack’s convalescence in Maine, the Kennedys sold their Beals Street house to Eddie Moore and his wife and moved into a new one at the corner of Abbottsford and Naples roads in one of the wealthier sections of Brookline. Their Beals Street house was large, but not large enough for four children and three full-time servants. It was also situated in one of the lower-middle-class
taken for granted now that he was going to lose Protestant votes that usually went Democratic and would have to compensate by polling a larger than usual big-city Catholic vote. Unfortunately, it appeared as late as six weeks before the election that Catholic voters might not be solidly behind the Democratic candidate. CITY’S CATHOLICS SPLIT ON ELECTION, the New York Times reported in a page-one headline on September 20, confirming Joseph Kennedy’s worst nightmares. “If Jack Kennedy thinks he has