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The Boss

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

Jersey City 'is a mirror in which other cities may see what they may become.' It shows how far a political machine may go to dominate the whole life of an American community, how totalitarian methods of rule are not incompatible with party politics, life in a police state, the relative costs of government under machine rule and democracy. The machine itself is so nearly perfect that other machines may be measured against it.

All the states and governments by which men are or ever have been ruled have been and are either republics or princedoms.... Of republics I shall not now speak; ... [but] I shall treat exclusively of princedoms, and ... shall proceed to examine how such states are to be governed and maintained.

'JERSEY CITY HAS ACQUIRED,' said Norman Thomas, `a symbolic significance. Other cities may be actually or potentially as bad as Jersey City. But various factors, including the political prominence of Mayor Hague, have combined to give Jersey City a national importance. It is a mirror in which other cities may see what they may become.' The purpose of this book is not to view with alarm, as the headline writers have done, any `Hudson County Hitler,' but rather to explain how this political leader and his associates came to dominate their community, and to describe how their machine operates. What has been done in Jersey City may conceivably be done in any similar American municipality. Frank Hague has no patent on his methods.

It has often been said that the age of the great American bosses has passed, that Tammany Hall has been seriously weakened, the Vare machine has been broken up; Thompson is deposed, Long assassinated, and Pendergast jailed. It is argued that, with the coming of the New Deal, there has been a reawakening of civic consciousness in America which will not permit the machine to flourish. It is alleged that the overwhelming opposition of the American people to the undemocratic regimes that have grown up in Europe since 1919, plus the pro-democratic propaganda that has flourished in the United States in those years, has insured the citizens of this country of democratic government at home.


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