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The Boss

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

The revelations of wealth by the Case Committee. Income-tax investigations and settlements. Millionaire style of life.

The manner in which we live and that in which we ought to live are so wide apart that he who neglects what is done for what ought to be done may destroy rather than save himself. Hence it is necessary for a Prince to know how to do wrong and to make use of his knowledge or not, according to necessity.

BACK IN 1925 Clinton W. Gilbert, in one of the articles he wrote about Mayor Hague, observed that he had `made money out of politics.' The Mayor never denied, and could not very well deny, the wealth, for he has lived in millionaire style for years; he has always insisted, however, that no one has ever proved that he has made a dishonest dollar. Indeed, no one ever has proved much about his wealth because the Mayor has been most unco-operative with questioners. When he was before the Case Committee in 1929, Mr. Russell Watson, their counsel, reviewed for the Mayor some of the testimony of his lawyer and friend John Milton, and then asked him some questions based upon it:

Q. Up to that time [19l11 you had no other gainful occupation than the offices you outlined at the beginning of the testimony?
A. Only my brain and ability to see things.

Q. Did Mr. Milton purchase for your account the remainder of the land on which Duncan Hall [Apartment House] stands and pay for it $51,000?
A. I decline to answer.

Q. Did you reimburse him in cash for the $51,000?
A. I decline to answer.

Q. If you reimbursed him to the extent of $51,000 in cash, why did you handle the business in that way?
A. I decline to answer.

Q. Was there any reason for making a cash payment, the payment not being made by check?
A. I decline to answer.

Q. Why didn't you draw a check on your National City Bank account for these two items of $12,000 and $51,000 to reimburse Mr. Milton?
A. I decline to answer.

Q. Why did you use a dummy in these transactions?
A. I decline to answer. (Transcript, pp. 1443-1444.)

The purpose of the questioning, as the committee reported to the legislature, was `to ascertain whether Frank Hague ... profited personally' from a series of practices they had uncovered in Jersey City and Hudson County. Milton testified that he had purchased various properties for Hague, who reimbursed him in cash. The committee wanted to find the source of the cash and the reason for the use of it, but they got nowhere with the Mayor:
Q. June 16, 1923, you bought another piece of property at Deal, didn't you?
A. I decline to answer.

Q. You took title in the name of John J. McMahon as dummy, didn't you?
A. I decline to answer.

Q. Now, the amount of money you paid at that time was $30,000 and the amount of money Mr. Milton paid was $30,000. He testified he paid the purchase price by check, and that you reimbursed him in cash.
A. I decline to answer.

Q. Was there any reason why in a business transaction between you and Mr. Milton you should not give him a check?
A. I decline to answer. (Transcript, p. 1449.)


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