Ted Kennedy, Irish-American History Buff
A month later, I met Caroline Kennedy and her three children in Philadelphia’s 30th Street Station. We chatted for an hour or so about their interest in American history while waiting for the other Kennedys to arrive on a bus from Washington, D.C. I had read the collection of great American speeches that Caroline had edited — a superb piece of historical research, with vivid prose on every page. Several of the best speeches were by her Uncle Ted.
The senator and his wife soon arrived, along with the senator’s two sisters Eunice and Jean, and Ethel Kennedy with many of her grandchildren. We toured Independence Hall while I told stories about the Continental Congress and their struggle to find the courage to declare independence. I gave stumpy, eloquent John Adams credit for supplying a lot of that courage. I portrayed a Thomas Jefferson so anxious about his wife’s refusal to answer his letters that he almost went home and abandoned his rendezvous with history. I told how Jefferson’s great manifesto was read to the people on July 9, 1776 in the yard of the Philadelphia State House by Colonel John Nixon, son of Irish-born Richard Nixon.
I could see that the name Nixon made Senator Kennedy uneasy. “Tom,” he said. “Maybe you should point out those were good Nixons.” Though we were deep in the 18th century, the senator was still the senior spokesman of the Democratic Party.
We had lunch at the City Tavern, another historic site. Before the food was served I gave a talk, “Yankee Doodle with a Brogue,” about the Irish in the American Revolution. Everyone was amazed and delighted to learn that an estimated thirty-three percent of George Washington’s army was Irish. I told them about Commodore John Barry, “father of the American Navy,” who was from County Wexford.
I discussed at length one of my favorite characters, Charles Thomson, the secretary of the Continental Congress and close friend of Ben Franklin. Born in County Derry, Thomson was known as “the Sam Adams of Philadelphia.”
When Parliament passed its first attempt to tax the Americans, the Stamp Act of 1765, a discouraged Franklin wrote Thomson from London that “the sun of liberty is set, and Americans must light the lamps of industry and economy.”
Thomson replied: “Be assured that we shall light torches of a very different sort.”
I added stories about the Irish at Bunker Hill, focusing on Colonel John Stark and his New Hampshire regiment, which had Irish names by the dozen on their muster list. Stark changed the course of American history by foreseeing the British plan — to attack along the Mystic River beach and assault the Bunker Hill fort from the rear. If they had succeeded, the Revolution would have collapsed.
Stark put two hundred of his best sharpshooters behind an improvised stone wall on the beach and cut this “flying column” to pieces. The dismayed British were forced to resort to a costly frontal assault on the fort and the men behind a rail fence at its base.
- Gay wedding cakes latest target of anti-gay...
- Racist incidents in Ireland up by 85 percent...
- An open letter in strong defence of capitalism.
- Gay teacher fired from Catholic school after...
- A Magdalene Laundry US adoptee who holds...
- Families as well as Catholic Church and governm
- Irish radio presenter suspended after anti-Isra
- Sarah Palin is saving Christmas
- Virginia governor slammed by doctor over...
- Nelson Mandela was against IRA decommissioning.