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The Early Career of Mayor Frank Hague

Chapter 4 - Hague’s Career at its Nadir
Part 5

By Mark S. Foster

Copyright 1967

Web version, edited by GET NJ.
Copyright 2002

Although Wilson had been endorsed by the Jersey City Democrats at Wittpenn's insistence, the county Democratic organization had made no such move yet. One year after Davis' death, it was still an organization with no effective leader. But Hague was making a strong effort to gain control over the county organization. The Jersey Journal reviewed the situation in the county committee at the same time Hague's followers were proclaiming him the supreme ruler. As this source viewed the situation, Hague might well be able to cause Wilson real trouble.

Democratic politicians see nothing wrong with the recent moves made by Hague, other than his fight for power, and even his most cordial enemies admit he has made great strides in the past month. He is the first one who has dared to play the game by the old rules. It is not uncommon to see fifty men waiting around the corridors of City Hall for his arrival....15

In order to defeat any resolution of the county committee endorsing Wilson, Hague would need support all over the county. The Jersey Journal analyzed Hague's bid for county support as follows:

Hague has collected votes and allegiance in the first, second, third, fourth and fifth wards; the sixth ward is controlled by City Clerk John Morris for Witpenn ....In the seventh ward Hague has a following; the eighth wars, by Wittpenn's claim, is theirs ....The ninth ward is against Hague, but Hague looks to Jacky Lunch, who has a job with the Boulevard commission and has supposedly sworn allegiance to Hague to bring in as much of the eighth and ninth as possible. All North Hudson men are with Hague through an alliance with McMahon.16

Not only was Hague working hard against Wilson in Jersey City, but Smith was working equally hard against him in Essex County. Though Wilson had squelched Smith's bid for Senator, Smith was hardly a dead force in Essex County. Smith also had many friends in adjacent counties who owed him favors. As Smith and Hague viewed it, Wilson had not given men in their counties enough patronage.

Hague possibly had even greater incentive to defeat Wilson. If Smith worked against Wilson in order to avenge his earlier humiliation at Wilson's hands, Hague saw victory over Wilson and Wittpenn as means to gain control over Hudson County leadership. As he saw it, the struggle was between himself and Wittpenn, with the winner to be crowned the new leader of Hudson County. This thought was a heady wine for the new commissioner. By the end of April, Hague claimed he controlled enough votes in the county committee to stop any resolution endorsing Wilson. In early May, the committee brought the question to a vote. Just as Hague had predicted, the motion was defeated. Hague had met the President-to-be in an indirect confrontation and had won.


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