The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy

The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P. Kennedy

David Nasaw

Language: English

Pages: 896

ISBN: 1594203768

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


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.

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convinced they knew what they were doing. After Kristallnacht, he was no longer sure this was the case. Besieged internally and internationally for what was now perceived as a sell-out at Munich, the Chamberlain government was floundering. Instead of answering its critics by offering up new policy initiatives, the prime minister remained largely silent, reinforcing the notion that he was spineless, ineffective, incapable of standing up to Hitler. Kennedy was disturbed both by Chamberlain’s

first Eunice, then Pat, and visited the Kennedy family at Hyannis Port, where he had gotten along rather famously with Joe Kennedy. “He was always pleasant; he was never a crab,” Kennedy recalled in a 1960 interview, describing a Joe McCarthy very unlike the nasty, scowling politician the rest of the world had come to know. “He went out on my boat one day and he almost drowned swimming behind it, but he never complained. If somebody was against him, he never tried to cut his heart out. He never

service position as an assistant bank examiner. In January 1914, he resigned his position, and after helping to rescue the East Boston bank his father had founded from a hostile takeover, he was named its president. According to the Boston newspapers, he was at age twenty-five the youngest bank president in the nation. 1918: Fore River shipyard, Kennedy with J. W. Powell (far left), general manager of the shipyard, and Charles M. Schwab (center), chairman of the board of Bethlehem Steel.

of the country,” Joseph Kennedy was being referred to as a “rich bootlegger” by those out to derail his son’s campaign for the presidency. Most of the stories about bootlegging originated in unsubstantiated, usually off-the-cuff remarks made in the 1970s and 1980s by Meyer Lansky, Frank Costello, Joe Bonanno, and other Mob figures not particularly known for their truth telling. Their revelations provoked journalists, reporters, and amateur historians to seek out additional stories that were used

nothing so much as being with his children, who adored him as he did them. He was a near-perfect father as far as they were concerned. He never scolded or spanked, seldom raised his voice, was patient and generous. His only requirements were that they be courteous, watch out for one another, and always be on time. Those who wanted to go riding with him had to get up at six A.M. when he did. They were given a five-minute warning—the amount of time it took to get the car out of the garage. If

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