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Before 1949: Thirty Years War on Hagueism
Part Four

By J. Owen Grundy
This Web version, edited by GET NJ, COPYRIGHT 2003

About the same time, another figure emerged -- the most physically fearless intrepid foe that Hague ever had. His name was James Burkitt. At first there were simply Letters to the Editor in The Jersey Journal, signed "A Jeffersonian Democrat." They contained facts and figures, comparing Jersey City with other municipalities in the same catefory throughout America. Each letter demonstrated that Jersey City was the highest taxed, the highest assessed, with the largest payroll, the least park acreage, the least cultural facilities, etc, etc. in the nation. Next appeared a series of ads: "Watch This Space," and eventually a big ad announcing that the "Jeffersonian Democrat" would come into the open at a non-partisan town meeting in Lincoln High School auditorium. On the appointed night, Burkitt appeared, with blackboard and pointer, showing the statistics. "My gun is loaded with facts," he cried in his deep Southern accent.

After this, Burkitt took to the street corners, where his meetings drew literally thousands. They grew even larger when Hague refused his permits, had Chief Harry W. Walsh physically yank the tall, raw-boned Southerner from the outdoor platforms, and march him off to jail. The crowds would follow, chanting: "We Want Burkitt."

James Burkitt spoke from the Court House steps, and was pulled into the darkened Temple of Justice by Hague's county police. The crowd that gathered around the nearby County Jail that night grew with each hour. They yelled and screamed for Burkitt's release. When the bold crusader was finally released, he was blood spattered from head to foot. August Ziegener, his voluntary attorney, said Burkitt would file a law suit for damages. At Pershing Field, when Burkitt spoke, every square foot was taken up by the largest throng that ever assembled to hear one man in the history of Jersey City.

An Anti-Hague fusion ticket was unveiled. The five candidates were James F. Murray, Sr., James P. Meehan, and John Morris, all Democrats, and Joshua Ringle and John V, Hartung, Republicans. They had the backing of Burkitt, F.L.G., the real Republicans, many anti-Hague Democrats, and most importantly The Jersey Journal. This was the famous 1929 campaign. In many ways, this was a much harder fought campaign than the one twenty years later. It called forth the active support of all decent citizens against the most powerful and ruthless political machine in the United States. Hague, then 53 years old, was at the height of his faculties, physically and mentally, and at the zenith of his power.

Both sides readied for an all-out assault. Anti-Hague street corner rallies drew big crowds, and were always good for excitement. Hague hecklers and passing motorists with their car horns honking at full blast were regular occurrences. In Downtown Jersey City's Little Italy, while Felix Tumulty, an orator par excellence, was spell-binding a big audience, lighted Roman candles, were thrown down upon him from a roof top. On another occasion, while Burkitt was speaking, from the tail end of an ice wagon, someone hitched a horse to the shaft, beat the nag, and off went the wagon down the street, with the hapless Burkitt holding on to the sides, for fear of his life. Hague hoodlums threw rotten eggs, as a regular practice, causing Burkitt to have a huge wooden egg erected on a flat-bottom truck. Across the big egg was printed: "BEAT MAYOR EGG." For whose pains "Jeff," as he was popularly called, had the tires of his car slashed, repeatedly was arrested for some trifling offence daily, and beaten up more times than can be counted. But the tough former shipyard riveter could hold his own, in any brawl and remained undeterred.

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