Published on May 23rd, 2011 | by Yellow Magpie3
Joseph ‘Joe’ Kennedy: The Patriarchal Shadow That Hangs Over The Kennedys
‘Out of the furnace of flames and torrid heat comes the hardened steel blade. A blade that owes it very existence to its hellish birth.’
He was the dominant figure that ruled over the Kennedy family but he was far from perfect. Power-hungry and filled with ambition, if anybody got in his way Joe would simply use what ever means, either fair or foul, to get his desired result.
The third generation of a family that had fled Ireland to escape the famine during the 1840’s, Joseph Kennedy was born into a high achieving clan. His father, business man, P.J, and mother, Mary, brought Kennedy up in Boston, Massachusetts. P.J. was one of the Catholic leaders and was head of a local ward, or ward boss.
From this background, Kennedy was encouraged to achieve and while in Harvard College, the private University, he began furiously networking to gain entry into Harvard’s privileged clubs.
A Heart Of Infidelity
Joe Kennedy would go on to marry his wife, the highly-sought-after, Rose Elizabeth Fitzgerald, on October, 1914. Despite being wed to Rose, Kennedy had many extra-martial affairs, some of which were indiscreet. He had relationships with several actresses. The most famous of all was Gloria Swanson, who rose to fame during the silent film era.
These affairs would be part and parcel of Kennedy’s life.
Kennedy was never one to let the law get in the way of his plans and there is considerable evidence to suggest that he was responsible for a multitude of unsavoury and highly illegal tactics during his life.
Critics have implicated him in importing and selling alcohol (bootlegging) in America during the Prohibition. It is thought that he was a major player in this practice. Something which mob boss Frank Costello attested to.
Insider Trading And Market Manipulation
Insider Trading, the practice of financially benefiting from inside knowledge, was not given proper legislation until 1934. Neither was market manipulation. Joe Kennedy was therefore free to engage in these practices.
In 1923, the huge Bull market made Kennedy quite rich. He would become even more wealthy for betting short on companies that he would spread scurrilous rumours about. It should be noted that Kennedy was not the only one who benefited from these tactics and J.P. Morgan also became rich from actions that would now earn serious jail-time.
During the mid-1920’s Kennedy moved into the Film Industry and Hollywood. After buying out the Film Book Offices of America with a group of investors he set his sights on purchasing film theatres. One company that he wished to purchase was Pantages Theatre and he set about making an offer for the company.
Nonetheless, Alexander Pantages refused to sell the company for the large sum of $8 million (over $103 million in today’s money).
Strangely, Pantages would later be accused and tried for rape. Pantages Theatre lost their goodwill and Pantages was forced to accept Kennedy’s revised offer of $3.5 million ($45 million).
Later Pantages would allege that Kennedy was responsible for the rape allegation. He was later vindicated of rape after a second trial.
A Hand In The Wall Street Crash?
Some commentators maintain that Joe Kennedy had a contributing part to play in the Wall Street Crash of 1929. He was thought to be the main man behind the ‘Bear Raid’ that weakened the stock exchange just before the crash.
The Bear Raid consisted of investing money in certain shares going short. In other words, if the shares in a company lost value Kennedy would gain financially. To facilitate the shares collapsing, negative rumours would be put into the public domain about certain companies that would scare investors and their shares would plummet.
British Ambassador And Caustic Coughlan
During the 1930’s an Irish-Canadian priest called Charles Coughlan gained notoriety for his bigoted and racist radio broadcasts. The inflammatory and highly egotistical Coughlan was starting to become a menace to the authorities. American president, Franklin Roosevelt sought out prominent leaders of the Catholic community, Kennedy among them, to quell Coughlan’s influence.
Roosevelt rewarded Kennedy for his contribution with the post of British Ambassador.
Condoning Hitler And Nazism
Kennedy’s strong political ambitions were to be dashed by his inability to recognise Adolf Hitler’s ruthless nature. He believed in Neville Chamberlain’s erroneous policy of appeasement. Kennedy publicly endorsed this view contrary to the word of warning offered from Winston Churchill.
Prior to the actual war occurring, Kennedy, twice acting unilaterally, sought personal meetings with Hitler.
While Great Britain was being bombed in 1940 by Nazi Germany, Kennedy was adamant that America should not send either economic or military aid to Britain.
Kennedy was putting himself in the limelight to position a run for the American presidency. A critic of Ambassador Kennedy, Josiah Wedgwood keenly noted, ‘We have a rich man, untrained in diplomacy, unlearned in history and politics, who is a great publicity seeker and who apparently is ambitious to be the first Catholic president of the U.S.‘
Meanwhile, Kennedy, once more acting on his own, stated ‘Democracy is finished in Britain.’ This was the final straw for the U.S. authorities who now realised that Kennedy could not be trusted with the Ambassadorial role. Kennedy would resign before he pushed.
An ‘Unperfect’ American
Joe Kennedy was far from the perfect model citizen. Manipulative and power-hungry, there were few things that he was unwilling to do for personal gain.
Out of this background, with the dark paternal shadow hanging over him, John. F. Kennedy would become the most famous president in U.S. history. Would he have achieved what he did without having a ruthless father? We will never know.
Check out Yellow Magpie’s John F Kennedy: The Man Behind The Image for further insight.
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Check out Yellow Magpie’s Joseph P. Kennedy Quotes: John F. Kennedy’s Harsh And Sometimes Brutal Father to find out what the man’s thought’s were on his son being president, voting and men.
The Sins of the Father: Joseph P. Kennedy and the Dynasty he founded is a riveting read about a highly manipulative and devious character that would become the head of one of the most powerful and famous families in American history.
Written by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Ronald Kessler, it chronicles a darker side of the Kennedy’s that is often glossed over. What is also noteworthy about the book is that it pays special attention to Joe Kennedy’s effect on his wife and her resultant depression.
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