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Boss Hague
King Hanky-Panky of Jersey

Part 13

By Jack Alexander

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

A Jersey City banker once complained to a city official about the high cost of government, citing especially the money spent on the police.

“You have to admit, though,” the official countered, “that the cops do a fine Job of keeping the criminals and thieves out.”

“Yes,” said the banker, “but after your tax collectors have been around, there is nothing left to steal.”

Hague’s cops are the backbone of his dictatorial rule. Recalcitrant businessmen or property owners can be disciplined by a boost in tax assessment or the sudden discovery of fire-law violation on their premises, but the police an indispensable in dealing with the political opposition or with outsiders. On election day the cops come in handy for tossing Republican watchers around. They often arrest them and keep them in jail until the polls are closed and the count has been made.

A few years ago, when the CIO was trying to get a foothold In Jersey City, Hague’s cope, inflamed by his cries that Moscow was trying to invade the town, “deported” union organizers by hustling them to the train station. They ruthlessly broke up public meetings and did much indiscriminate slugging. For minor offenses like sassing cops men were held in jail without bail for month. Last year the Supreme Court of the United States set Hague down for suppressing the civil liberties of union organizers and since then the CIO has been permitted to come in. Hague even details his policemen to protect the CIO picket lines now. But for the most part, civil liberties are still compromised in Jersey City.

A heavy cloud of espionage hangs over the town. Policemen stop automobiles which they consider suspicious looking, force the occupants to get out and then search under mats and in luggage compartments. A driver with New York license plates may he forced to go to a station house and prove, through some Jersey City friend, that he has legitimate business in town. Plainclothes men hang around gathering places like busy newsstands and restaurants and keep their ears cocked for some belittling reference to the mayor. One hears stories about cops breaking into homes without search warrants, but it is impossible to check the reports, as the people are afraid to talk. The cops are everywhere and citizens are afraid to discuss the mayor or his administration, except in whispers. Many Jersey Cityans will not talk politics over the telephone, for, fear that their wires are being tapped.

Cops are used to report on the “worthiness” of families on the relief rolls. Once a year, both the cops and the firemen canvass merchants and businessmen for contributions to Mayor Hague’s private charity fund. The implied threat of harassment In the way of parking tickets and fire violations is not overlooked by those being solicited, and they kick in readily. At a certain time each year the uniformed men also shake tin receptacles under the noses of office workers on the commuting trains which run between Jersey City and New York. As in the case of the money collected on Rice Pudding Day, no accounting is given of how the charity fund is spent. However, it probably goes for actual relief, as Jersey City’s drafts upon direct Federal relief frauds have beep relatively low. The poor, of course, get the idea that they are being supported out of the mayor’s pocket.

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