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The Boss

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

Early years in the sheriff's office. The case of his burglar friend, `Red' Dugan, and the first great crisis in Hague's political career. Election as Street and Water Commissioner. One ad- venture in reform: the city commission election of 1913. Making over the police department for political purposes. First election as mayor, 1917, gets the machine on its way. Lieutenants: Moore, Milton, Malone, Potterton, and others.

Whoever... judges it necessary to rid himself of enemies, to conciliate friends, to prevail by force or fraud, to make himself feared yet not hated by his subjects ... to crush those who can or ought to injure him, to introduce changes in the old order of things, to be at once severe and affable, magnanimous and liberal ... and dangerous to offend, can find no brighter example than in the actions of this Prince.

FRANK HAGUE WAS ELECTED CONSTABLE, but the details of the election are now so obscure as to defy unraveling. He received fees but no salary, and the duties of his office were not sufficient to prevent his continuing his study of Jersey City politics, to broaden his acquaintanceships, to do favors, to cultivate the political leaders. Two years of these activities, and he was sufficiently important for Sheriff William Heller to attach him to the sheriff's office as a deputy at twenty-five dollars a week.

He was able with his new job to hang around City Hall and to talk endlessly with the politicians there. Now and then he served a summons or took a convict to the state prison at Trenton. It is said that on these trips he always took his man to the old Trenton House for a final good meal, a drink, and a cigar before turning him over to the warden. As constable and as deputy sheriff he saw constantly before him concrete applications of that ancient adage of politics that he who controls the armed forces controls the state. He could see how even a partial control enables an ambitious man to reward or protect his friends and supporters, to thwart or punish his opponents and enemies. Rising from an environment dominated by constant fear – fear of unemployment disease, the police, hunger, death and purgatory – he determined to become one of the feared instead of one of the afraid. He made his way upward through the armed forces of his community.

In 1903 he married Jenny Warner, also from the Horseshoe, and they settled down in a house on Hamilton Square. Their first child was a daughter who died in infancy. Their second and only other child was a boy, Frank Hague, Junior, who lived to reach New Jersey's highest court.


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