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The Boss

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

In the days of Frank Hague's youth no election was peaceful. The yellowed pages of the local papers tell of disputes that varied from fisticuffs to riots. Even guns were occasionally used, though clubs and half-bricks appear to have been most common. The year that Frank was thirteen, 1889, there was a particularly brazen election in Hudson County. A senatorial committee, followed by a grand jury, discovered that more than ten thousand fraudulent votes had been cast. It was shown by legal evidence that a miracle had happened in Hudson County that November: the graves had opened and the dead had risen – to vote. Perhaps the boy noted it; at any rate the same miracle has happened since.

The boy might have heard about the trial of sixty-seven district election officers that followed the investigation. Those were the days before the adoption of the Australian ballot, and it was shown that these men had been able to throw out of commission the stamping device on the ballot boxes and thereby to stuff the boxes with ballots previously marked. Only one of the sixty-seven was acquitted, but the whole lot were pardoned, and the political powers found jobs for them all. Violations of the election laws have always been regarded in Jersey City not as heinous offenses but as part of the game of politics; crimes, perhaps, but not mala in se.


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