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The Early Career of Mayor Frank Hague

Chapter 2 - Hague’s Alliance With Wittpenn
Part 12

By Mark S. Foster

Copyright 1967

Web version, edited by GET NJ.
Copyright 2002

Events soon proved that the rapprochement had be temporary and strictly for convenience. After his reappointment as custodian, Hague was free to work in areas of primary importance to his personal advancement, doing favors for the right people. Specifically, he continued to beat Sheehy to the punch in placing his followers in lucrative positions. When a Sheehy man was fired as school janitor for failing to keep the school clean, a Hague man got the job. Sheehy charged that it had been all “politics.”39 To second warders, though, results were what counted. In another instance, James Connell, a Hague follower, lost his job in the street cleaning department when Hague split with the Democratic machine. However, Hague made sure he was taken care of. At Hague’s request, Wittpenn appointed him to a position on the Board of Education at the then adequate salary of $1,200 per year.

It seemed to many that as James Kelleher commented, “Frank Hague can teach certain parties in the Horseshoe more about practical politics than they had ever thought possible.”40 Nor did Hague remain in the fold for the fall municipal election. Early in the spring, he announced that he would run his own slate of freeholders and alderman against Davis’s and Sheehy’s slates.

In the fall of 1910, Wittpenn decided to seek the gubernatorial nomination. This decision was to have a long-range effect on Hague that he scarcely could have anticipated. In a statement endorsed by the Tammanee Club, Hague endorsed his mentor’s candidacy: “He is an upright, honest, God-fearing man, and if he once makes a promise he will do everything possible to carry it out.”41 Davis and Sheehy, on the other hand, supported Woodrow Wilson, then president of Princeton University, for governor. This development was significant for two reasons. Wittpenn’s loss to Wilson in the bid for nomination started a series of political reversals which ended in a complete split between himself and Hague. Secondly, Hague’s support of Wittpenn cost him the lasting enmity of Wilson. First as Governor and then as President of the United States, Wilson proved to be a powerful opponent who nearly ended Hague’s political career.


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