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The Boss

By David Dayton McKean
This Web version, edited by GET NJ, COPYRIGHT 2003

In 1925 Clinton W. Gilbert thought that Frank Hague had possibilities of becoming a leader of the urban proletariat. No prophecy could have gone wider of the mark. As the years have passed, and Hague has become a wealthy man, living in luxury, he has become more and more reactionary. His dislike of all whom he calls Reds – which includes the members of the American Civil Liberties Union – has grown to the point where his ideas upon left-wing movements are so extreme that he would favor the establishment of concentration camps for citizens with radical opinions.

It is fundamental to an understanding of his views that he identifies all parties of the left:

Q. In your opinion would you say that the I.W.W. is the same as communism?
A. Yes, yes, that is communism under another name.

Q. In your opinion would you say socialists are the same as communists?
A. Yes, sir. (Transcript, pp. 1255 and 1257.)

This interpretation simplified matters so much that to define all of them he had only to define a communist:
A. Well, my interpretation, Counselor, of a communist is a man who is subject to Russia, a radical who is opposed to the American principles and American institutions, whose sole purpose is to overthrow our government, whose sole purpose is against all types of religion, all types of government, only the Soviet government in Russia.

Q. So that unless these factors are together in a particular person's belief you would not say that he was a communist?
A. Well, I wouldn't say that. I would have to see just what his contacts is, and who his associates are, and how he performs. I generally – I will judge him as I find him . (Ibid., p. 1050.)

Criticism of the Constitution cannot be permitted from these people, or from others who are dissatisfied; and they have no rights that anyone else is bound to respect:
Q. Now, Mayor, you don't mean that all people who want to make important, fundamental changes in American life and in the American Constitution are undesirable; you don't mean that, do you?
A. It depends entirely what is their attitude. I don't feel that any group of men who desires to change our forms of government in various cities and states - it depends entirely on how they approach that question. If they approach it with a red flag I am opposed to it.

Q. What if they approach it peacefully, with any flag?
A. Well, you can't approach anything peacefully, Counselor, if you are opposed to the American form of government and to the overthrowing of it.

Q. That's right. Now, let's assume that a man approaches peacefully a fundamental change in the United States Constitution, a change that you might disagree with – he would be an undesirable?
A. Are you referring to any particular section of the Constitution or the entire Constitution?

Q. The entire Constitution.
A. Well, I have failed to find anyone who desires to do that other than a radical, undesirable man, a person who is

Q. In other words – A. (continuing) – who apparently is dissatisfied with the American form of government.

Q. So if a man wants to have an entire new constitution written for the United States, the whole instrument revamped, and even though he goes at it peacefully, do you think that is objectionable, not Americanism, and should be denied?
A. Well, Counselor, I would like to have what you term `peacefully' – I would like to have that interpreted –

Q. Yes.
A. (continuing) – I don't consider peaceful approach to a question with a dynamite bomb in one hand and a red flag in the other.

Q. Now, let's assume a man has a flag of any kind in his hand and does nothing but talk and never commits what the courts call an overt act. Does he have a right in Jersey City under that definition of peaceful – no overt act?
A. Counselor –

Q. – to urge the complete rewriting of the Constitution of the United States? Hasn't he got that right?
A. Certainly, they have a right to urge complete –

Q. Rewriting of the Constitution?
A. (continuing) – rewriting of the Constitution, but it depends, Counselor, who these people are. If they were highclass citizens, and they met in peaceful, orderly manner, why, certainly they have perfect rights; but if prior to that they were advocating the overthrow of the government, they were dissatisfied with everything that America offered to them, why, of course, I don't assume they have any rights.

Q. You don't? All right. (Transcript, pp. 1366-1367. Some interruptions by the Mayor's counsel have been omitted.)

It may be inferred from this testimony that communists – in the Mayor's broad use of the term – have no rights in Jersey City; but it is unfortunate that he did not have an opportunity to explain the qualifications necessary for admission into the select group of high-class citizens who have perfect rights, even the right to discuss the redrafting of the Constitution. To judge from the history of his organization, it would seem that had the Supreme Court not interfered, no groups likely to discuss fundamental changes in the Constitution would have been permitted to assemble in Jersey City. It may be inferred also that the Mayor regards the American form of government and American institutions as virtually perfect, beyond criticism except for minor details. His organization, indeed, is not equipped to fight for fundamental principles; it does its best at the sham battles it stages with the captive Republican machine.

The problem of what should be done with persons who adhere to political faiths different from those dominant in the United States was brought to the Mayor's attention in the C.I.O. trial, and he had a solution for it:

Q. Do you believe that persons who believe in the doctrines of Stalin, Hitler, and Mussolini should go back to those countries?
A. I believe that anyone who comes here and is discovered displeased with the methods of our country and our government, and feel that it is necessary for them to set as objectors to the form of government that we enjoy here and find that this country is apparently not pleasing to them. they should be driven back, not go back, driven back.

Q. Driven back?
A. Yes, sir. (Transcript, p. 1089.)

The persons eligible for deportation because they are `displeased with the methods' or object to the form of the government apparently include naturalized citizens as well as aliens; at least the Mayor never made any distinction. His reading of history has not been extensive, and it is per- haps too much to expect that he might have taken into account the contributions to American life made by such displeased immigrants as Carl Schurz. This attitude of the Mayor's, however, is in line with his general opposition to permitting non-residents of Hudson County to criticize his regime; he only extended the concept to take in the entire United States.

But there are many native-born citizens who are, on occasion, displeased with some methods used by governments in the United States; Mayor Hague was entirely consistent in his view of what ought to be done with them:

Q. Suppose they were born in this country, should they be driven back, then? A. Well, I think we ought to establish a camp in Alaska there and house them there away from the American people, if they don't believe in our form of government and are opposed to every move of our form of government. I think there should be a remedy for that. (Ibid.)
No statement of the Mayor's ever revealed more completely his ideas upon democracy. Clearly, he does not trust his fellow citizens; he does not believe that, without danger to themselves, they could listen to persons who wished to change our form of government: the agitators should, in his estimation, be put where the susceptible American public could not hear them. In taking such a position he assumes that some person or persons could be found who, perhaps like himself, would have such discerning judgment of what the American people ought to think, that they could select for deportation those citizens whose ideas and words were dangerous to the remainder of the population. His proposed method for dealing with dissenters, moreover - to send them to concentration camps - is a method that has been used, but never by a government that regarded itself as democratic. For a political heir of Thomas Jefferson, Frank Hague is an extraordinary Democrat. In view of these political ideas of his it is not surprising that he was praised in the newspapers of Rome and Berlin.

In spite of his compromise with the C.I.O., which he regarded as a communistic organization, the Mayor has not changed his views on what ought to be done with radicals; he wants them `smashed.' In a speech at an Americanization Day demonstration in Jersey City April 28, 1940, he said `This is one of the real American cities of the nation. "America first" is the byword of Jersey City. We said, "This is America; the communists must be smashed."' He did not say anything about smashing fascists.


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