No campaign in New Jersey caused so great an interest as the gubernatorial
campaign of 1910. The introduction of a Princeton professor into the
political melee in New Jersey had given a novel touch to what ordinarily
would have been a routine affair. The prologue to the great drama, the
various scenes of which were now to unfold before the voters of the state,
had been enacted at the Democratic Convention at Trenton under the
masterly direction of the members of the Democratic Old Guard of the
state. New Jersey had long been noted throughout the country as the
"Mother of Trusts", and the nesting place of Privilege. Through their
alliance and partnership with the political bosses of both parties the so-
called corporate interests had been for many years successful, against the
greatest pressure of public opinion, in blocking the passage of
Liberal-minded men in the state had for many years been carrying on an
agitation for the enactment into law of legislation that would make
possible the following great needs:
1. The passage of a Direct Primary Act.
2. The passage of an Employers' Liability Act.
3. The regulation of Public Utilities.
4. The passage of a Corrupt Practices Act.
These were matters within the scope of state legislation, and to these was
added an agitation for a fifth reform, which, of course, could be
accomplished only through an amendment to the Constitution of the United
States, the election of United States senators by vote of the people.
In the old days in New Jersey, now happily gone, the days when the
granting of special corporation charters was the vogue, a sort of
political suzerainty was set up by Railroad and Public Service interests.
Every election was, in its last analysis, a solemn referendum upon the
question as to which corporate interest should control legislation--
whether the Pennsylvania Railroad, whose master mind was the Republican
leader of the state, United States Senator Sewall, or the Public Service
interests, whose votaries and friends were Senator Smith of New Jersey,
and Milan Ross, Sr., of Middlesex County.
While these corporate interests fought among themselves over the matter of
a United States senatorship or the governorship of a state, they were at
one in their unrelenting, bitter, and highly organized opposition to the
passage of what in this day we call by the highly dignified name of Social
Welfare Legislation. The voices of those liberal-minded men and women of
the state, who, year after year, fought for this legislation, were like
voices crying in the wilderness. An illustration of corporate opposition
was the unrelenting attitude of the Special Interest group of the state to
the passage of the Employers' Liability Act. Every decent, progressive,
humane man in the state felt that the old, barbaric, Fellow-Servant
doctrine should be changed and that there should be substituted for it a
more humane, wholesome, modern doctrine. Nearly every state in the Union
had already recognized the injustice of the old rule, but the privileged
interests in New Jersey could not be moved in their bitter and implacable
opposition to it, and for over half a century they had succeeded in
preventing its enactment into law. Progressives or New Idea Republicans,
high in the councils of that party, had fought with their Democratic
brethren to pass this legislation, but always without result. At last
there came a revolt in the Republican party, brought about and led by
sturdy Republicans like Everett Colby of Essex, and William P. Martin of
the same county; George Record and Mark M. Fagan of my own county, Hudson.
Out of this split came the establishment in the ranks of the Republican
party itself of a faction which called itself the New Idea branch of the
Republican party. The campaign for humane legislation within the ranks of
the G.O.P. was at last begun in real fighting fashion. It was the
irrepressible conflict between the old and the new, between those who
believed human rights are superior to and take precedence over property
rights. The conflict could not be stayed; its leaders could not be
restrained. These men, Colby, Record, Martin, and Fagan, were the sowers
of the Progressive seed which Woodrow Wilson, by his genius for leadership
and constructive action along humane lines, was soon to harvest. His
candidacy, therefore, admirably fitted into the interesting situation.
When the convention that nominated Woodrow Wilson had adjourned, a
convention wholly dominated by reactionary bosses, it seemed as if
progress and every fine thing for which the Progressives had worked had
been put finally to sleep. Behind the selection of the Princetonian and
his candidacy lay the Old Guard who thought the Professor could be used as
a shield for their strategy. The Progressives, both Democratic and
Republican, had witnessed the scenes enacted at the Democratic Convention
at Trenton with breaking hearts. They were about to lose hope. They did
not know that the candidate had at the outset served notice on the Old
Guard that if he were nominated he must be a free man to do nobody's
bidding, to serve no interests except those of the people of the state;
but the Old Guard had not published this.
The Republican candidate, nominated at the time Woodrow Wilson was
selected, was a most pleasant, kindly, genial man from Passaic, Mr. Vivian
M. Lewis, who had just retired as banking commissioner for the state. By
clever plays to the Progressives he had, at least temporarily, brought
together the various progressive elements of the state. This movement
apparently was aided by the Democratic candidate's reluctance in the early
days of the campaign to speak out boldly against the domination of the
Democratic party by the bosses or the Old Guard.