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Boss Hague
King Hanky-Panky of Jersey

Part 2

By Jack Alexander

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

In a generation which has come to rate the old-style political boss with the dodo, Frank Hague flourishes as a very lively anachronism. Most of his counterparts have fallen before reform movements, the bullets of assassins or Federal indictments. Reform is bound hand and foot in Jersey City, and Hague rides with a bodyguard in a bulletproof automobile. When Franklin Roosevelt was governor of New York he laid down the principle that an official who spent more than he earned was morally obligated to make public explanation. He used this principle as a lever to pry Mayor James J. Walker out of City Hall in New York City. Since Franklin Roosevelt has been in the White house the Federal Government has had ample opportunity to force an explanation from Frank Hague, in one way or another. For some officially unexplained reason, the pressure has never been applied. Jersey City and Hudson County, of which it is the seat, have been favored with much patronage and a total of $65,000,000 in Federal grants, plus millions in alphabetical-agency loans, since the New Deal began. At the 1932 Democratic Convention Hague opposed Roosevelt as the weakest possible nominee and was a leader in the Al Smith death watch. However, he was quick to make peace with the new Administration and he was an early Third Termer. In 1937, Hague clinched his job as mayor for the sixth successive time by a vote of 110,743 to 6798 in a demonstration of unanimity that would have pleased a European dictator. Scorned in the American press, he has been praised by the controlled German and Italian press.

The November Picture

BUT there are signs that his long rule is approaching its end. Whichever way the November election goes, Hague’s position will be an anxious one. A victory for the Republican national ticket will almost certainly result in a quick disgorging of Federal agents’ reports from various Washington pigeonholes and a cleanup drive that would send Hague scuttling back to private life. Even if the Democrats win, Hague will have plenty to worry about. Although the New Deal, in another demonstration of its curious dualism, has allowed Hanky-Panky to go his way blandly, Democrats do not love Hague for his personal charm. No one knows better than he that if the party thought it could carry Jersey this time without his aid, it would slit his throat in the approved political style, now. There is more than a bare possibility that the Democratic Party is planning to do just that after the election is over. Whichever way the voting goes, brighter days seem to be in store for Hague-ridden Jersey.


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