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The Early Career of Mayor Frank Hague

Chapter 2 - Hague’s Alliance With Wittpenn
Part 7

By Mark S. Foster

Copyright 1967

Web version, edited by GET NJ.
Copyright 2002

Hague and Sheehy set up two rival organizations in the ward. The fight for dominance then began in earnest. Both men realized that in order to win a following, a politician had to be able to reward loyal followers with political appointments, contracts or the like. Hague clearly had the inside track on city patronage, since he was very close to the mayor. In addition, he directly controlled a number of jobs. At the same time however, Sheehy was in a position to place his ward two followers into county jobs since he had Davis’s support. The next move was up to Davis, who decided party harmony was more important than petty politics. A national election loomed on the horizon. In his dreams, Davis envisioned a united Democratic party sweeping to power in the city, state and nation. Davis knew that an unhappy Frank Hague would be able to destroy party unity. Therefore, he decided to try to win Hague’s support, even at Sheehy’s expense. Both Hague and Sheehy were trying to win a job in the county Bathhouse for one of their followers. Davis chose Hague’s man. The Jersey Journal summed up Sheehy’s failure to stand up for his rights: “Hague Worked While Sheehy Slept.”24

If Hague gained the advantage here, Sheehy soon proved he could be a crafty opponent. In the fight for control of the Tammany Club, Sheehy skillfully turned the tables on Hague. The annual election of club officers was scheduled for July second. The Jersey Journal headline declared: “Hague-Sheehy Battle on Tonight.” The prophesy proved quite accurate. This time, however, Sheehy’s men arrived early, declared a quorum and elected their slate of officers. Hague fount out about it, organized his squad of supporters, and charged the meeting room. Just as Sheehy had been previously, Hague was too late! Amid crashing chairs and angry shouts, “the Hague’s” chased “the Sheehy’s” from the room and proceeded to elect their slate of officers.25 Nevertheless, Sheehy had the best of it. In an unguarded moment, Hague had unthinkingly surrendered the dues and roll book to the secretary of the club, John Sullivan, a Sheehy supporter. Though Hague and Sheehy each charged the other with importing hired thugs from New York on Tammany Club’s election night, the fact remained that Sheehy had both the money and the original charter of the Tammany Club. Hague, in an obvious attempt to ridicule Sheehy, set up a competing club named the Tamanee Club!

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