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The Boss

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

The Hague organization was recognized in March, 1933, the same month that Franklin D. Roosevelt was inaugurated, as the official state organization through which federal patronage matters would have to be cleared. Since that time all the appointments to federal courts and agencies in the state have been in the hands of the Jersey City politicians. The vast amount of patronage has provided them almost unlimited opportunities to reward the faithful. It has also given them complete control over city and county Democratic organizations. If Washington had refused to deal with Hague its refusal might not have destroyed his organization, but it would have crippled it and confined it to Jersey City.

The burden of debt and taxes, as is explained in detail elsewhere, is so great in Jersey City that without federal assistance the city would have been bankrupt long ago. Mayor Hague said as much in a speech he made in Jersey City on November 1, 1936: `To property owners who think taxes are high I say this: If it weren't for Roosevelt I don't know what would have happened to your property.' In the same speech he gave an estimate of the amount of relief funds Jersey City has obtained: `You want to know what the President has done for Jersey City. We have had $500,000 a month to give food to our hungry and work for our idle.'

Oddly enough, the Mayor's estimate of the amount of money that Jersey City has obtained from Washington seems to be as good as any that can be obtained, because most of the statistics of federal emergency spending are reported, not by cities and counties, but by administrative districts, and many of the projects overlap political boundaries. The figures on the now-forgotten F.E.R.A. and C.W.A. were not published in such form as even to permit a good guess at how much went to Jersey City and to Hudson County. Only P.W.A. statistics are complete:

Hudson County
County figures include those for Jersey City.
Year Grants Loans
1933 $1,760,343 $4,069,400
1935 3,831,136 2,430,000
1936 216,401 ........
1938 4,033,515 1,063,000
Total $9,841,395 $7,562,400

Jersey City
Year Grants Loans
1933 $936,900 $2,266,10
1935 2,045,454 ........
1936 ........ ........
1938 2,698,085 1,063,000
Total $5,680,439 $3,329,100

The W.P.A. has spent from July, 1935, through December, 1939, $47,003,759 of federal funds in Hudson County. Its figures for municipalities are, for administrative reasons, unobtainable. Comparing the W.P.A. total in Hudson County with the amounts that it has spent in other counties of the state, and considering the nature of the population in various counties, it seems that the administration has been only slightly more generous with Hudson. (Figures obtained from the P.W.A. and the W.P.A. regional offices.)

In addition to this help, which totals for grants and loans, $64,407,554, Hudson County and Jersey City have received millions from other agencies, such as the R.F.C. and the F.D.I.C., which figures are unobtainable.

It would be unfair to conclude that had Frank Hague decided to take a walk with Al Smith in 1932, his domain would not have received all of this money. But it is a fair inference that because of his recantation his men have had the spending of it. Had someone else had all this money to disburse, the Hague organization might well have gone the way of the Vares'.


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