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The Boss

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

Barred from the Democratic Convention in 1916, he ousts the man who barred him. Election to the national committee, 1920; vice-chairman, 1924. The great friendship with Smith and the battles of 1924 and 1928. The `Stop Roosevelt' movement and the unhappy statement in Chicago. Repentance. Later relations with Roosevelt and Farley. Senators. Murphy entertained until he leaves as `unfinished business' the investigation of Jersey City by the Department of Justice. New Deal money saves Jersey City from collapse.

His achievements and designs have always kept the minds of his people in suspense and admiration and occupied with the issue of them.... A Prince ought, above all things, always to endeavor in every action to gain for himself the reputation of being a great and remarkable man.

THE CAREER OF MAYOR HAGUE has been a succession of crises. He has survived them all; but the great depression which deposed the Republican bosses in Chicago and Philadelphia would have ended his career too had he not fortunately been a leader of the party that came into power in 1932 on the landslide that resulted from the depression. It vas perhaps not so much fortune as shrewd judgment and oresight, however, that placed him in such a position in his own party that it dared not do to him what it did to his contemporary bosses, Tom Pendergast and Huey Long. It is one thing to overthrow a state leader; it is another to attack the vice-chairman of the National Committee.

In 1916, when Frank Hague was commissioner of public safety and busy making over the city police department along his own lines, he took time out to attend the Democratic national convention at St. Louis, at which Woodrow Wilson was renominated. He was not a delegate, and therefore James R. Nugent of Newark, then the Democratic boss of New Jersey, refused to allow Commissioner Hague on the floor. This refusal on the part of Nugent annoyed Hague; he determined not only to settle the score with the Newark boss. but he also decided that the next time he went to a national convention it would be as a member of the National Com- mittee.

Edward I. Edwards defeated Nugent for governor in 1919, and Hague became the Democratic leader in New Jersey. Robert S. Hudspeth, the New Jersey member of the National Committee, a Nugent man, was induced to retire before he was defeated, and the man who could not get into the convention of 1916 took his place. He was the leader of the New Jersey delegation to the convention of 1920, which nominated James M. Cox of Ohio for President and Franklin D. Roosevelt of New York for Vice-President. The organization did what it could for them, but the Harding-Coolidge tide was too strong; they carried New Jersey three to one. and even Hudson County almost two to one. The election of 1920, however, came before the organization was perfected: no later Democratic candidate for President lost Hudson County.

The next four years saw the ripening of the great friend- ship between Frank Hague and Alfred E. Smith. There was much to bring the two men together. Both were born poor: both were Irish Catholics; both liked baseball games and prizefights. The common problems of the New York City metropolitan area in the building of tubes and tunnels and in the regulation of river navigation associated the two men politically, in addition to their common membership in the Democratic Party and their connections with two urban political machines. Hague and Smith became firm personal as well as political friends; they and their families visited each other and traveled on the same boats. If Smith, who tried to rise above his Tammany origins, thought that his friend's organization across the river carried matters pretty far, he never said so in public.

Mayor Hague led the New Jersey delegation to the Democratic Convention in New York in 1924. After a complimentary vote for Governor Silzer, he joined his forces with Smith's in the `Stop McAdoo' movement, and he held New Jersey for Smith until the deadlock was obviously unbreakable. After John `V. Davis was nominated, Hague supported him loyally and introduced him at New Jersey meetings. That year he became vice-chairman of the Democratic National Committee, a position he has retained ever since.


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