The Political Machine Ii: A Case History “i Am The Law”


As for Hague, he shuttled between Florida and his Park Avenue apartment, an outcast from the state he had once ruled. With the encouragement of the Kenny regime, job holders banded together and filed suit to recover the estimated $15,000,000 paid by threeper-centers over the decades. Hague had to stay out of New Jersey to avoid an always-waiting subpoena in this litigation, which never came to trial.

In some ways, his exile from Jersey City hurt Hague more than his loss of power. He had often said, “In the Horseshoe I was born, in the Horseshoe I will die.” He had apparently envisioned a serene old age, surrounded by another generation of loyal Democrats to whom he could be the paterfamilias he never was in his years of action. A glimpse of this sense of loss comes from an old City Haller whom Hague used to call in the middle of the night during those last years. “Billy,” he would say, “I can’t sleep.” He would then express anguished concern over a family whose father or brother he had ruined or maimed in earlier years. “Go down now and ask them if they’re all right, if they want anything.”

“My wife used to think I was crazy,” says the storyteller, “but I’d get up, put on my clothes, and go down and see them, and tell them why I was there. Not once did any one of them ever ask for help. Sometimes they slammed the door in my face. Other times they’d just say, “We don’t want anything from him.” ”

On January 1, 1956—the annual holiday on which he used to hold regal court in City Hall—Frank Hague died at his Park Avenue apartment of complications of pneumonia and arthritis. Only then did he return to Jersey City. At Lawrence Quinn’s funeral home he lay in state for two days. Then eight professional pallbearers- hefted the seven-hundred-pound hammered-copper casket and carried it out to a solemn high funeral mass at Saint Aedan’s Church. There was only a small crowd in the street. One elderly woman stood holding an American flag and a crudely lettered sign: “God have mercy on his sinful, greedy soul.”

A reporter asked a funeral-home aide why there were so few flowers. A true citizen of Jersey City, the aide shrugged. “When the Big Boy goes,” he said, “it means he can no longer do anything for anybody.”