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The Early Career of Mayor Frank Hague

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

By Mark S. Foster

Copyright 1967

Web version, edited by GET NJ.
Copyright 2002

Governor-elect Wilson clearly faced a dilemma. On the one hand, Smith and Davis had won the election for him by rolling up huge pluralities in their respective counties, and they expected their reward. If he crossed Smith now, his program of legislation would undoubtedly be in for tough sledding. On the other hand, Wilson had campaigned on a platform endorsing the popular election of U.S. Senators. Wilson sensed that to deny the progressives their "popularly nominated" candidate was a move which could damage his political career. Finally, he must have realized that Smith would oppose any type of a progressive program, and therefore he had little to lose by backing the popular choice, Martine. Therefore, Wilson endorsed Martine and asked Smith to withdraw. When Smith refused, the fight was on. Smith's refusal to withdraw caused Wilson to label him as a symbol of unmitigated evil. Wilson's anti-Smith statements were skillfully planned to please his progressive constituents.12

In the midst of the Smith-Wilson fight, Davis died. The ensuing disorganization of the Jersey City machine was Smith's death knell. Jersey City legislators, released from any commitments to Smith and impressed by Wilson's oratory in behalf of Martine, abandoned Smith at the last minute and climbed aboard the Martine bandwagon. Hague, no friend of Davis and anticipating Wilson's triumph, commented just three days before Davis died:

If Martine is not elected, it will be a slap in the face to everyone of the 48,000 Democrats who voted for him, and it will be a defeat for state Democratic interest for years to come.13

Shortly after Davis' death, Martine received the Senatorial appointment form the state legislature. As Wilson reminisced later, Smith's defeat was complete: "I pitied Smith in the last. He wept, they say, as he admitted himself utterly beaten."14

Hague obviously took notice of Wilson's annihilation of his occasional ally Smith. However, if Hague was impressed by Wilson's performance in realpolitik, he knew that in the spring of 1912, the shoe was on the other foot. Now Wilson was the presidential candidate, and it was Wilson who needed help. He even came personally to Jersey City to solicit the support of the delegates. Hague had had little success in getting jobs for his friends in state government under the Wilson administration. He decided that now was the time for a little realpolitik of his own.


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