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Boss Hague
King Hanky-Panky of Jersey

Part 3

By Jack Alexander

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

For the first time in years the Democratic candidate for governor is not a hand-picked vicar of Frank Hague’s. He is Charles Edison, a son of Thomas Edison, the inventor, and a plodding but capable executive. Edison was built up for the gubernatorial nomination by the President through an appointment as Secretary of the Navy, from which post he has resigned to conduct his present campaign. Edison is not beholden to Hague and he has been at pains to say so publicly and to Hague’s face, a rare bit of defiance for a Democratic aspirant to high office in New Jersey.

In delivering his slap at the boss, Edison selected for his setting the biggest political rally ever staged in Jersey. This was an outdoor fiesta of the faithful whom Hague assembled by lordly fiat at Sea Girt last August. Like the mayor of the Munchkin City in the county of the Land of Ox, Hague can, at any time clap his hands and cause peasants and functionaries to spring out of the round and welcome distinguished visitors to his domain. He clapped his hands this time and between 150,000 and 175,000 Democrats flocked to Sea Girt by bus, train and automobile. It was Hague’s all-time masterpiece of showmanship, greater in numbers and impressiveness than the Sea Girt cheer session he staged for Smith in 1928 and for Roosevelt in 1932.

Hague’s gloomy face, which always looks like that of a man who has just been slapped, was more solemn than usual as he got up to harangue the throng. One reason for this was that President Roosevelt, who had been invited to attend, had sent his regrets. The crowd, which had expected to see the President, apparently concluded that his absence was intended as a slice of cold shoulder for Hague. Roosevelt had been touring military establishments in the East and, since part of the National Guard was encamped at Sea Girt, he could easily have found an excuse for joining. At any rate, Hague’s usual eloquence failed to arouse the customary enthusiasm among his followers. They handclapped dutifully.

When Edison walked to the center of the platform, Hague looked moodily out to sea.

Edison was brief, but what he said stung. At one point, he stated bluntly, “It is my happy privilege to stand here today and tell you that if you elect me, you will have elected a governor who has made no promises of preferment to any man or group.” As if to eliminate all doubt as to where he stood, he added, “I want to make this perfectly clear -- you can be sure that I’ll never be a yes man except to my conscience.”

Hague did not flick a facial muscle, he kept staring out over the Atlantic, his face a lugubrious mask.

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