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  Local News

How Hoboken became a city, Part I

Legislative skirmishes marked passage of charter

By:Christopher Zinsli
Reporter staff writer
03/27/2005
This week, Hoboken celebrates its 150th birthday. Its incorporation as a city in 1855 was a milestone in its transition from a swampy island to a vacation destination, to the close-knit community it has become today.

After Hoboken became a township on April 16, 1849, it was governed by a Township Committee of five elected officials. Roughly 3,000 people lived here at that time.

But over the next six years, the town's population more than doubled to 6,727. The rapid growth raised the need for more governance, and many felt that Hoboken needed to have a city charter and a new government to address policing, utility issues and sanitation.



In 1884, William H. Shaw wrote in his History of Essex and Hudson Counties that there is no city in the country aside from Hoboken "where so large a portion of its population takes a personal interest in the administration of municipal affairs."

True to form, the people of Hoboken seized the opportunity to effect change in their government in the early months of 1855, when the state legislature debated an act that would make Hoboken a city.

Introductory act

John M. Board, one of Hudson County's three assemblymen at the time, introduced "An act to incorporate the city of Hoboken" to New Jersey's House of Assembly in Trenton on Monday, Jan. 15, 1855.

The act contained a proposed charter for the City of Hoboken that would outline every aspect of the new government, from taxation regulations to governmental positions and duties.

The assent of the people of Hoboken was required before the act could take effect, so the charter called for a public vote on Mar. 29.

After a month in the Assembly's Committee on Municipal Corporations, the act was unanimously approved on the House floor on Feb. 16. It was immediately sent to the Senate for approval.

Less than two weeks later, on Feb. 27, the act emerged from the Senate's Committee on Municipal Corporations with a number of amendments. The amended act was approved by the Senate on Mar. 14 by a vote of 15-1.

Conflict over amendments

But there was dissention in the Assembly over the Senate's amendments. On Mar. 16, Board made a motion to insist that the Senate recede from some of their amendments.

The following Tuesday, Mar. 20, Sen. Moses B. Bramhall, Hudson County's representative in the Senate, made a motion to refuse to recede. The Senate took a vote and agreed to hold their ground.

With the two houses at odds over what form the charter should take, Board in the Assembly and Bramhall in the Senate each moved to form a Joint Committee of Conference in the hopes of ironing out the differences.

On Wednesday, Mar. 21, three members of the Assembly - Board, Samuel S. Cake of Camden County, and John S. Hoagland of Somerset County - met with two members of the Senate - Bramhall and John K. Roberts of Camden County.

Later that afternoon, according to Senate records, Bramhall returned to the Senate to report. The meeting was a failure.

Stand firm or give in?

Having failed to reach an agreement with the Assembly members, Bramhall once again recommended that the Senate hold firm on its amendments.

The following day, Board stood before the Assembly and moved to accept the amended version of the charter act. He had fought against the Senate amendments for as long as he could, but the deadline for the public to vote was drawing near.

On the afternoon of Thursday, Mar. 22, the Senate received word that their version of the bill would stand. A Senate vote the next day confirmed it, and an Assembly vote the following Monday, Mar. 26, made it official.

That Wednesday, Mar. 28, 1855, "An act to incorporate the city of Hoboken" was signed by New Jersey Gov. Rodman M. Price.

All that remained for the act to become law was the consent of the people of Hoboken.

Next week: passionate public debate paves the way for Hoboken's charter election.

Christopher Zinsli can be reached at gateway@hudsonreporter.com. To read past columns from this year-long series, visit www.hobokenreporter.com.


©The Hudson Reporter 2007

   


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