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Boss Hague
King Hanky-Panky of Jersey

Part 12

By Jack Alexander

Originally appeared in The Saturday Evening Post on October 26, 1940
Edited by GET NJ, COPYRIGHT 2002

“I Am the Law”

Because he was an incorrigible boy and might conceivably have been sent to reform school by mistake, Hague has always had a fear that other Jersey City youths might be similarly railroaded. To prevent this, he set up a Bureau of Special Service and instituted what he calls a “save-the-boy” program. The bureau is staffed with a corps of psychiatrists whose job is to iron out the kinks in the mentality of truants. As result, the juvenile delinquency rate is low.

“Who the hell are truant officers to say that a boy ought to be sent to reform school?” Hague asks angrily when the subject comes up. “Frank Hague was a problem child. Suppose those guys had sent him to an institution. He’d have learned how to be really bad and he might have come out Frank Hague, the public enemy, instead of Frank Hague, the first citizen of his city and the leading citizen of New Jersey.” The “I am the law” attitude, which has been widely attributed to Hague, was first expressed during a juvenile-delinquency hearing in which he intervened a few years ago. The head psychiatrist had recommended the incarceration of two lads. When Hague, who had studied the case, promised to find jobs for the boys, the psychiatrist protested that they were below the legal working age.

“Listen,” said Hague, “I’m the law in this case,” and ordered the boys released in his custody. In most other matters Hague also acts as if he were the law.

Hague is a Catholic of Irish immigrant parentage and regularly attends Sunday mass at St. Aedan’s, his parish church, to which he once gave a $50,000 altar. He has never used tobacco, liquor or coffee, and he has a puritanical streak and, strong character being what it is, the streak shows in the city too. Jersey City has no panhandlers, night clubs or houses of prostitution. Them are saloons, but women are not allowed to darken their door. Yet, since Hague likes gambling, the numbers racket flourishes and Jersey City is notorious as the biggest clearinghouse for handbook bets in the country. The town has a low crime rate, but not so low as Hague would like to have the world believe. Five years ago the Department of Justice quit listing Jersey City’s statistics in its Uniform Crime Reports. This is done only when the figures are suspected of having been rigged.

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