Ambassador Kennedy Retiurns Home (October 1940)

Joseph P. Kennedy
Figure 1.--Here Ambassador Kennedy is returning home from London (October 1940). Churchill could not have been more pleased. He had sent the family home a year earlier when the War broke out. As a defeatist and isolationist, he could have been not more misplaced as Roosevelt and Churchill struggled save Britain. He arrived in the middle of the presidential campaign. He was shocked by the President's decision to run for a third term and the changing mood in the country and the declining unfluence if the Isolantionists.

The American presidential election of 1940 is arguably the most important American presidential election in history with the exception of Abraham Lincoln's election in the 1860 campaign. The German invasion and defeat of France brought about a political earhquake. President Roosevelt decided to defy the well-established third term tradition. Everyone including Eleanor and the President were assuming that the Roosevelts were leaving Washington. The Fall of France fundmentally changed this and begun a fundamental change in American public opinion undermining the isolationist argument. Ambassador Kennedy returned to the United States in the middle of the election campaign (October 1940). Churchill could not have been more pleased. Kennedy was one of those shocked by the change of mood and the Roosevelt decesion, in part because he was considering a presidential run of his own. It was to be based on foreign policy and the need to stay out of what he saw as another European war. This seems to have been political phantasy on Kennedy's part. He had never won a political election in his life. And as a Catholic he would have been unacceptable to the South, a major source of support needed by any Democrat to win a presidential election. He undountedly could have, greatly embarassed the President and hurt his reelction campign. As Ambassadior, he could have lent prestige and valuable information that would have aided the Isolationists. The existence of the POTUS correspondence alone would have badly damaged the President. He did not publically join the Isolationist outcry against the President. One historian writes, "Joe believed that Roosevelt, Churchill, the Jews, and their allies would manipulate America into approaching Armageddon." [Leamer, p. 134.] Even so, Kennedy supported President Roosevelt's third term campaign. He apparently got a commitment from the President to support is son, Joe Jr.'s run for Governor of Massachusetts in 1942. [Fleming]


Leamer, Laurence. The Kennedy Men: 19011963 (Harper: 2002).

Fleming, Thomas. The New Dealers' War: F.D.R. And The War Within World War II (Basic Books: 2001).


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Created: 7:57 AM 4/23/2018
Last updated: 7:57 AM 4/23/2018