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The Early Career of Mayor Frank Hague

Chapter 4 - Hague’s Career at its Nadir
Part 3

By Mark S. Foster

Copyright 1967

Web version, edited by GET NJ.
Copyright 2002

Neither of these charges seemed to indicate that Hague was living up to his campaign promises. Hague angrily defended himself. He pointed out that his department had been given a yearly budget of $128,845. He stated that to do the job well, he would need the exact sum of $182,070.6 His constant critic, the Jersey Journal, was not sympathetic.

The condition of the streets in many parts of Jersey City is frightful, while Hague has been laying men off on the ridiculous plea that their labor was not needed., or on the equally absurd pretense that the appropriation would not hold out. Both of these excuses are imaginary. If the Walsh Act had not been defeated by fraud, Hague or whoever was in charge of the streets would not now be laying off men and permitting filth to pile up on the pavement, nor would he by trying to shunt the blame on the Board of Finance. He would be afraid of the recall and would keep the streets clean.7

While Hague busied himself with street cleaning problems, Woodrow Wilson busied himself with the task of rounding up pledges from delegates to the Democratic National Convention to be held in June. The Governor had his problems. Even tough he was a native of Virginia and expected some delegate support from the South, Oscar Underwood of Alabama was also in the race. He could be expected to draw away some of Wilson's support. Worse yet, the popular Speaker of the House, Champ Clark of Missouri, seemed to have a good led in the number of delegates committed to him on the first ballot.8 Wilson would need most of the delegates from the northeastern and middle western states in order to win the nomination. Realizing the necessity of putting his own house in order, Wilson began to work in his home state. As a result, early in 1912 Wilson was endorsed by Jersey City Democrats, Hague was on of the few important Democrats who opposed him. When asked why he voted in the negative, Hague replied: "I ain't against Wilson. I'm just not ready to endorse him."9

Hague had been watching Wilson's actions closely for two years. Of particular interest to Hague was the power struggle between Wilson and Smith. In addition to winning the gubernatorial chair in 1910, the Democrats had won a majority of the seats in the state legislature for the first time in many years. Since the state legislature still chose United States Senators, the office was sure to be awarded to a Democrat. James Smith, having master minded Wilson's election, thought he had the inside track.

Progressive Democrats in New Jersey had other ideas. Although the legislators were not bound by the results of the primary, voters were given a chance to express their preference for any candidate. Though only a small percentage of registered voters bothered to cast a ballot, they chose James Martine. The latter was a solid three to one choice over Smith, winning the primary by roughly 45,000 votes to Smith's 15,000.10 Smith and his friends were quick to point out that only a fraction of registered Democrats had voted, and therefore the primary result should not strongly influence the assembly. Progressives argued that failure to give Martine his "rightfully won" seat would violate the trust of the people.11

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