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The political boss who is convinced that his own righteousness places him above the law

Dictator – American Style

Part 4

Condensed from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 20, 1938
By Marquis W. Childs, Author of "Sweden - The Middle Way"

Originally appeared in The Reader's Digest of August 1938
Edited by GET NJ, COPYRIGHT 2004

More About Frank Hague

Hudson County Politics

Never failing to re-elect himself to office, Hague's success, as he says, attracted money and clever men who wanted to make money. One of these was Theodore M. Brandle, labor "czar" of the building trades unions in Jersey City for many years. The rule was that you paid Brandle or you were very likely to have a strike on your hands. Hague's police saw to it that no strikebreakers got into town. The Federal Government caught up with Brandle and collected more than $90,000 in income taxes he had neglected to declare. When, a little later, the Government caught up with Hague on tax charges, Brandle handed over $6o,ooo as a loan to compromise the case.

But open warfare developed between these two friends when Brandle tried to stop work on the Pulaski Skyway (the great overhead highway into New York City) because iron works contracts had been let to non-union contractors. This time Hague's police protected the strikebreakers. On the desolate Jersey flats there was bitter fighting, and finally a non-union man was killed. Hague's police arrested 30 men and charged most of them with manslaughter. That was the end of Brandle.

In defending his regime, Hague always comes back to the service he has given his people. "I've been in office for 28 years," he says. "You can't fool the people that long."

The number of individuals going in and out of the Jersey City Medical Center - patients plus relations and friends - is almost equal to the entire population of the city. And a large part of the service is free. "Have your baby on Frank Hague." Of course they are grateful.

But this form of government by benevolence is expensive. The government of Jersey City cost last year $27,262,870, as compared with the cost of government in Kansas City for the same year of $6,732,317. And Kansas.City is more than half again as large. Jersey City's indebtedness is 40 percent greater than Kansas City's.

The more Hague talks, the more plain is his disregard for the law. One of his stories is how he shifted the tax burden from small home owners to corporations doing business in the city. He called in Standard Oil and said: "Your assessment from now on is $13,000,000." They said they would fight it in the courts. "All right," said Hague, "then it's $26,000,ooo." So Standard Oil came to terms.

No one before the CIO had seriously challenged Hague's rule. Over and over his police have violated fundamental constitutional guaranties of free speech, free assembly and free press. A city ordinance forbids the distribution of printed matter in any fashion whatsoever without a permit. Another ordinance forbids any assembly anywhere without a permit. Obviously, only "right" people can get a permit. Hague courts, the highest in the state, have upheld these laws.

Hague regards the nationwide prominence, which his recent conflict with the CIO and Civil Liberties Union have given him, with the air of a small boy who has been unjustly put upon. Why did they have to come over to Jersey when everything is going along all right? "They," the leaders of the CIO and Civil Liberties Union, are "outsiders," they don't belong in Jersey.

Although he is vice-chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Hague has no national ambitions. All he wants is to be left alone in the domain he has carved out for himself.


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