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The Early Career of Mayor Frank Hague

Chapter 2 - Hague’s Alliance With Wittpenn
Part 9

By Mark S. Foster

Copyright 1967

Web version, edited by GET NJ.
Copyright 2002

If Hague’s influence had slipped in 1908, it showed few if any, signs of increasing in the following year. Perhaps it is more significant that he was able to “hold his own,” considering the steady opposition which he faced. If Hague was a fighter, so indeed were Sheehy and Davis.

In later years, observers of Jersey City politics unanimously agreed that Hague developed an incredibly strong monolithic party organization in Hudson County.30 Few challenged his authority, and those that did were immediately destroyed politically or economically. He must have learned his lesson by observing the shambles his party was in at the end of 1908, largely as a result of the feud between Davis and himself. As Hagues’s later actions testified, he realized even then that Davis’s primary mistake was allowing him to continue as an active political opponent.

The lengthy stalemate in the struggle between Sheehy and Hague for ward leadership showed few signs of breaking in 1909. Both men continued trying to land jobs for their supporters. Hague, however, proved to be more adept at keeping abreast of public opinion and fighting “the people’s” fights. In one instance, second warders were pressuring City Hall for a new viaduct on Thirteenth Street. Traffic was heavily congested and children’s lives were in danger. City Hall was willing to go along but only at the cost of a special assessment against second ward residents. As City Hall figured it, since second warders would benefit, they should pay the cost. Second warders howled in protest. Poor to begin with, they had long complained that they did not receive their just share of fire and police protection or paved streets. Hague, sensing an opportunity to make political capital, urged his followers not to pay any special assessments, telling them that it was illegal and could not be enforced. The Jersey Journal indirectly sided with Hague by arguing in favor of a more liberal treatment for second warders.31 Once again, Hague had sided with the “little people: against the big and seemingly impersonal Street and Water board.

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