Muddy River Press

Political Places of Boston:

A Guide for Europeans

Political Places of Boston is a story of American politics. Political issues can have city, state, national and international significance. Political leaders, especially those seeking elective office, also reflect the many nationalities and ethnicities that comprise the American people. This page selectively highlights various European influences and topics within the book.

Boston is one of country's largest Irish-American cities. Irish-Americans have dominated the political scene from Irish-born Mayor of Boston Hugh O'Brien (who served 1885-1888) through the present. While Irish-Americans in the book are too numerous to list, the best known include James Michael Curley, the Kennedy family, and Tip O'Neill. And the issue of Irish independence has seldom stayed in the background. This has continued into the resolution of Northern Ireland.

Many observers have noted the recent prominence of Italian-American politicians. By late 2004, the Speaker of the House, the President of the Senate, and the Mayor of Boston were all Italian-Americans from Boston. Italian-Americans rose in Massachusetts politics beginning in the 1960's with Governor John A. Volpe. This was quite a turnabout from the time of Sacco & Vanzetti, Italian immigrants whose anarchist politics engendered racial hostility.

Americans of French descent mentioned in the book include:

French visitors will also enjoy the Beaux Arts architecture of political landmarks such as Old City Hall or the old Suffolk Court House in Pemberton Square.

The contentious relations of the British and French during the Colonial period were reflected even in Boston. Boston Common was a mustering ground for soldiers in 1745 during the War of Austrian Succession (which was called locally and somewhat inaccurately as the third "French and Indian War" or "King George's War").

Boston was formerly known for its neighborhoods with Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. Together with earlier German Jews they became another important political ethnic bloc. The G&G Delicatessen became a local and even national campaign stop from the 1930's through the 1960's.  Even James Michael Curley might break out into Yiddish during a speech here. Julius Ansel, a Curley ally who was born in Russia, operated year round out of the G&G. And Louis D. Brandeis, although not originally from Boston, began and developed a legal career in Boston, which led him to become a Supreme Court Justice.

Greek-Americans are well represented by Michael Dukakis, a three-time governor who unsuccessfully ran for President as the Democratic nominee in 1988.

International relations have been prominent in Boston as well. Emily Greene Balch, an ardent internationalist, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1946. Her work on peace touched upon World War I, the League of Nations, the Spanish Civil War and Mediterranean issues. The Spanish Civil War and the subsequent war in Europe were much debated at The Ford Hall Forum at Old South Meeting House, another Freedom Trail site. Franklin D. Roosevelt (of Colonial Dutch descent) became President in 1940 in part by promising at Boston Garden that he would stay out of World War II. Of course, Dwight D. Eisenhower, an American of German descent, practically rides his final motorcade in Boston to Presidential victory following his service as General during the War.

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