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The Boss

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

Clinton W. Gilbert summed up the new governor thus: 'A. Harry Moore is Hague pure and simple, a creature of the master of Jersey City ... a baby-kissing, handshaking, clever-talking product of the Hague machine.' (Newark Evening News, October 21, 1925.) But in his inaugural address Moore announced that he sought no `further political preferment,' and before long there were newspaper accounts of disagreements between the old friends. It was reported that the Mayor was indignant both at what his friends called Moore's `presumption' in suggesting the appointment of Arthur Potterton to the commissionership left vacant by the governor, and at his failure to listen to advice on state appointments. It was said that the governor would be `disciplined'; at any rate, John J. Beggans, a friend and follower of the Mayor, was appointed.

One Friday in January, a few days after the inauguration of the new governor, Mayor Hague went back to Florida; on Monday the blow fell. The Jersey City playground system, which had been Moore's pride and joy, was `virtually brought to a standstill,' as the newspapers said, by the sudden dismissal of fourteen employees and the transfer of twenty-five others. Among those dismissed was aa playground instructor, Miss Florence Mason, who was a close personal friend of Mrs. Moore. A few days later sixteen additional employees were suspended or dismissed, and others transferred. Commissioner John Saul, who ordered the dismissals and transfers, said that they were made purely for reasons of economy. Mayor Hague, in Florida, could not be reached for comment, but it was announced that he did not intend to return as soon as he had originally expected. The dismissals continued. The governor appointed some of the people to places in the state government, and `declined to comment' on the matter, even though he was meanwhile breaking the record for the number of speeches made by a New Jersey governor.

At length the Mayor returned, and all was quiet. Late in May Commissioner Saul had all his powers stripped from him by resolutions of the other commissioners. The economy-minded commissioner was deprived of the $5000 city-owned automobile he had had assigned to him, and his city-paid chauffeur was taken away. A resolution calling for a recall election was passed. He resigned, and Potterton was immediately appointed in his place. Before he left Jersey City, Mr. Saul said that he had been in politics and in the city employ for a score of years, but `it is evident that I am no longer in accord with my fellow commissioners.' Neither the governor nor Mayor Hague ever made any complete explanation, and the matter remains one of the many mysteries of Jersey City politics. It may be that it was just a private dispute between Moore and Saul; or, perhaps, Moore had to be taught who governed the state. At any rate, the dismissed employees were gradually taken back or their transfers rescinded.

The friendship was apparently soon restored, and Mayor Hague and Governor Moore were shortly going to ball games together. By midsummer they were appearing together on various platforms to denounce what the governor called `a dastardly plot against the integrity of the constitution' of New Jersey. The Republicans had passed through two successive legislatures, as required by the state constitution, an amendment to provide biennial sessions of the legislature and four-year term for the governor, which would have coincided with presidential elections. With a three-year term the Republicans had noticed that Republican governors got elected when the commuters came out to vote in presidential ears; but when governors were to be elected in other years, Democrats were getting elected – too regularly and too frequently. To improve their odds they proposed this `trick poitical amendment,' this `vicious piece of political legislation,' as the governor called it in a speech in Newark. The voters saw the threatening danger to the state and at the special election in September defeated the amendment 200,716 to 135,288. In Hudson County the vote was 100,002 to 28,036, a result that is almost miraculous. An organization that can produce 103,000 votes for governor when all the pressure is turned on and then 100,000 votes in a special election a year later surpasses comparison, almost belief. It is no wonder that Senator Walter E. Edge, a Republican leader, congratulated the Mayor of Jersey City.

After the little rift, if it was a rift, in relations between Hague and Moore, they got along very well. How Hague managed affairs with the Republican governors who followed Moore's first term properly belongs in another chapter.


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