Lot 79: Kennedy Patriarch Endorses President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Presidential Letters, Free Franks & Speeches: Washington to Bush + Important Autographs in History, Science & the Arts
26 October 2016
New York, NY, USALive Auction
Description: KENNEDY, JOSEPH. (1888-1969). Irish-American entrepreneur and millionaire who became America’s ambassador to Britain; father of American Senators and statesmen John, Robert and Edward Kennedy. TLS. (“Joseph P. Kennedy”). 1p. 4to. New York City, November 4, 1940. On his Rockefeller Plaza stationery to Civil War scholar and autograph collector ARNOLD F. GATES (1914-1993). ********** “It gives me great pleasure to enclose a copy of my radio address of last Tuesday night. Yours very truly…” ********** A member of a prominent Boston family and a graduate of Harvard, Kennedy made his fortune investing in real estate, commodities, Hollywood, the stock market, and distribution rights for imported liquor. Although he participated in trading practices now illegal and likely made money bootlegging during prohibition, his wealth gained him entrée into the inner circles of political influence. He developed a friendship with Franklin Roosevelt who appointed him the first chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, first chairman of the Maritime Commission and ambassador to the United Kingdom, a post he held from 1938-1940. While ambassador, against the official position of the U.S. State Department, he supported Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s policy of appeasement and sought to compromise with Hitler even after the beginning of Germany’s aerial bombing of Britain. He was also outspoken about his opposition to U.S. military aid for Britain. ********** Our letter likely refers to Kennedy’s impassioned and self-funded October 29, 1940 radio address endorsing Roosevelt for reelection despite his private threats earlier in the month to “to endorse Willkie and reveal FDR’s secret cooperation with Churchill,” (“Joseph Patrick Kennedy,” The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, https://www.gwu.edu/~erpapers/mep/displaydoc.cfm?docid=erpn-jpk). In the address, which was broadcast on 114 stations, he cited his son Jack’s recently published Harvard thesis Why England Slept and stated “I have returned from war-torn Europe to the peaceful shores of our beloved country renewed by my conviction that this country must and will stay out of war… My wife and I have given nine hostages to fortune. Our children and your children are more important than anything else in the world. The kind of America that they and their children will inherit is of grave concern to us all.” Unbeknownst to Kennedy, “the draft serial number for one of his hostages of fortune, twenty-two-year-old Jack, had been drawn in [Secretary of War Henry] Stimson’s lottery that very morning,” (The Kennedy’s At War: 1937-1945, Renehan). ********** Despite his support of FDR, the state department asked for his resignation about a week later, shortly after the November 10, 1940 publication in the Boston Sunday Globe that “Democracy is finished in England. It may be here.” The loss of his diplomatic position and alliance with FDR dashed any ambitions he might have had for elected office, aspirations he transferred onto his eldest son, Joseph Kennedy, Jr. However, this desire remained unfulfilled when Joe Jr., a Navy pilot, was killed in action in 1944. All hope for seeing a Kennedy in the White House fell upon the shoulders of John F. Kennedy, Joseph’s second-born son. JFK was elected to the House of Representatives in 1946, the Senate in 1952 and, after a campaign funded by his father’s fortune, elected to the White House in 1960. John F. Kennedy’s inauguration on January 20, 1961 marked not only the culmination of his father’s lifetime political ambitions, but also the beginning of the period known as “Camelot.” ********** Gates, a well-respected amateur historian of the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln, devoted 50 years to researching those subjects, reviewing books for the Lincoln Herald and contributing to such works as the anthology Lincoln for the Ages. He was an avid letter writer and “friend and unofficial agent of many a noted author,” (“Autographica Curiosa: How Not to Impress Emily Post,” Autograph Magazine, Butts). ********** With two horizontal folds and in fine condition.