Lot 7: John F. Kennedy 1952 Autograph Letter Signed With Catholic Content
8th November 2017
ALS signed “Jack,” one page both sides, 6 x 9, United Air Lines letterhead, postmarked at O'Hare Airport, Chicago, November [1952?]. Letter to John Mahanna, editor of the Berkshire Eagle, in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. In full: "Many thanks for your letter and for the help in covering my visit. As you said, I got several letters about the Wheelwright dinner. I think that the priest up there should be reprimanded by the Bishop for attempting to make a religious war out of a school election. And then they complain about Al Smith's treatment. Bob Johnson told me Daughy was ill and I had planned to call him & hope he recovered quickly. To say I was going to call headquarters to talk to the ladies is wholly untrue—I would be glad if you told him so. I shall try and get up this summer if Congress gets out in time. My best to Emma—I shall look forward to seeing you both soon." Matted and framed with a color copy of the front of the letter and the original mailing envelope, addressed in Kennedy's hand, to an overall size of 22.5 x 23.5. In fine condition, with some show-through from red underlining to the front; there are examples in Kennedy's other handwritten letters on airline stationary, particularly to his father, in which he underlines information that he wants to highlight. Accompanied by several items related to Kennedy's Catholicism: a secretarially signed letter on his religion from the Kennedy for President campaign, April 25, 1960, in part, "It is my firm conviction that any citizen who by his actions has demonstrated his forward and qualified acceptance of the First Amendment including the separation of Church and State, on the record, his dedication to the public interest should be eligible for any political office in the United States," with a carbon copy of the original letter sent to Kennedy; a form letter bearing a printed signature of Richard Cardinal Cushing, in part, "In his religious thinking, the late President anticipated the spirit of the Second Vatican Council; in the social order he advocated recognition of the human rights of all people; in the political order he took the torch of liberty, justice and charity and handed it to a new generation...His place in history will be prominent and permanent, 'for greater love no man hath than to lay down his life for others,'" framed with a portrait of the Cardinal and JFK together; a copy of the 1965 book Religious Views of President John F. Kennedy in His Own Words; a March 3, 1959 issue of Look magazine, the cover headed, "Democratic Forecast: A Catholic in 1960"; and various clipped magazine articles on JFK's religion. During Kennedy's campaigns for Senate and the presidency, anti-Catholic sentiment remained somewhat mainstream throughout America. Only one Catholic, Alfred E. Smith—who Kennedy mentions here—had been the presidential nominee for a major party, having lost the 1928 election at the head of the Democratic ticket. Kennedy had to make clear his commitment to the separation of church and state in order to allay the public's fear that a Catholic president would 'take orders from the Vatican.' This fairly early handwritten letter reveals, in confidence, his steadfast belief in the partition between religion and government, as he castigates a priest for apparently meddling in a local election. A rare and significant Kennedy letter with reference to his controversial Catholic faith.
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