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The Boss

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

Some of the public employees must do a certain amount of work, or the machinery of the city and county governments would come to a standstill. Political work, however, is more important. Mayor Hague explained to Joseph Alsop, Jr., how the political work is organized:

He was talking in the dining-room of one of the local hotels. He took the squares on the tablecloth to illustrate precincts and wards, tracing them out with his finger, and he explained the feudal system of American politics, whereby the precinct captain is governed by a ward lieutenant, the lieutenant by a ward leader, and each ward leader by the boss.

`Suppose a good job comes along,' he said. `Well, there's one ward that ought to get something; so I ask the leader to submit names. He gives me three names, and the third man on the leader's list is a good man, clean living, belongs to lodges, with a minor position, say $2500 a year. Well, he's developed such great efficiency that I think he's good. He's got the kind of leadership that we want to encourage. So I tell the ward leader, "He's the man." That's the way to keep your machine going. Always deliver when a man delivers for you.' (New York Herald Tribune, June 6, 1936.)

The men and women in this hierarchy do all the favors that Tammany and every other machine has traditionally performed, and, in return, they are themselves on the public payroll. They give out Christmas baskets, represent their people in attempts to get on relief or on W.P.A., often get jobs for them in private employment, stand between them and the police in cases of minor law violation, provide social centers in the ward, district, and racial clubs, and render a thousand-and-one other little services every day in the year. This is real work, twenty-four hours a day. The Hague organization is not unique in performing it; but the number of people engaged in proportion to the population, and the efficiency with which it is done, make the Jersey City accomplishment notable. When a person moves to Jersey City his furniture van is often not unloaded before the block or district leader calls to see if there is anything he can do. Has there been any trouble about getting the water turned on? He will see to it at once. Has the telephone company been slow in connecting the telephone? He will get that done immediately – and he does. Has the post-office been notified to deliver mail? He will be glad to do so – and the mail comes on the next delivery. Is there anything else? Be sure to let him know if there is. And may he call some evening in the near future to get better acquainted and to discuss introducing the newcomers in the neighborhood, at clubs, in churches? All this service produces spectacular results on the first Tuesday after the first Monday every November.


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