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American Philosophical Society
Leon Abbett's New Jersey: The Emergence of the Modern Governor (Memoir 243)
Richard A. Hogarty
Following in the succession of his 25 predecessors, Leon Abbett twice served as governor of New Jersey in the late 19nth century. A lifelong Democrat, he was a dynamic and visionary party leader who guided the citizens of New Jersey into a new urban industrial age. While he was a machine politician and party boss, he was also a notable reformer. That was a formidable combination for his time. Grappling with a series of hot political issues and braving the passions and divisions spawned by the Civil War, Abbett was one of the ablest and most intriguing men ever to be governor. Several new ideas were transformed into public policy during his tenure. Both in style and strategy, Abbett represented a sharp break from his predecessors. He was a prime example of a governor who both in crisis and in ordinary times broadened gubernatorial authority. He became both a policy and party leader. In this context, he was an important forerunner to a type of governor that had not yet appeared on the American political stage.
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