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William Howard Taft

William Howard Taft

William Howard Taft was born on December 5, 1857, in Cincinnati, Ohio, the son of a prominent attorney who had served in the Grant cabinet and later as American minister to Russia and Austria-Hungary.William Howard Taft graduated from Yale University in 1878, and earned a law degree from the Cincinnati Law School two years later. He worked briefly for the Internal Revenue Service before opening a law practice in 1883.William Howard Taft married Helen Herron in 1886. She had promised herself early in life that she would some day be First Lady.In 1887, Taft was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Ohio superior court and was elected to that position the following year. In 1890, the Tafts moved to Washington, where he became solicitor general in the Benjamin Harrison administration. During these years, Taft became a friend and lunch partner of Theodore Roosevelt, who was then a civil service commissioner. Circuit Court in 1892, and served until becoming a law professor and dean in Cincinnati.During the McKinley administration, Taft headed the Philippines Commission, studying ways to implement civilian government in the recently acquired islands. He was initially reluctant to make such a drastic change in lifestyle, but was persuaded by his wife.William Howard Taft was generally successful with this endeavor, winning the trust of many of the natives by sympathetic consideration of their plight. He worked to provide educational opportunities and negotiated with the Vatican for the sale of church lands to be put back into farming.Taft clashed with the American military commander, General Arthur MacArthur (father of Douglas MacArthur) over harsh treatment of the Filipinos. Taft expressed much of the paternalism common to his age by advising against rapid self-government for his "little brown brothers." The Philippines would not receive its independence until 1946.Roosevelt persuaded Taft to head the War Department in 1904, a position for which he had no particular background or training. This successful stint involved Taft acting as supervisor of the Panama Canal construction and chief go-between in the strained relationship with the Japanese.Roosevelt engineered the Republican nomination for William Howard Taft in 1908, but not without some sniping from critics. Some wag suggested that TAFT stood for "take advice from Theodore." The Republican ticket won a convincing victory over the Democratic candidate, William Jennings Bryan.Taft`s domestic policy featured active pursuit of trust-busting and strengthening the Interstate Commerce Commission. However, he lost the support of the Republican Party`s progressive wing because of a botched performance on the tariff and an unfortunate conservation controversy. His exercise of "Dollar Diplomacy" in dealings in Latin America and the Far East provoked mistrust, but he managed to settle several nagging problems with Canada.In 1912, William Howard Taft chose to seek another term as president and had the support of the Republican Party political machinery. However, he was challenged by a frustrated Roosevelt who had been offended by the prosecution of "good trusts," the slackening of trust-busting against "bad trusts," the sacking of Gifford Pinchot and dithering on the tariff issue. Roosevelt`s Bull Moose Party siphoned-off enough support from the incumbent to assure the victory of Democrat Woodrow Wilson.Bitterly disappointed, Taft found solace following the presidency in his true love, the law. He was appointed to the law faculty at Yale, but continued some political involvement by campaigning for Charles Evans Hughes in 1916. During American involvement in World War I, William Howard Taft served on the National War Labor Board and later supported Wilson`s quest for the League of Nations.In what he regarded as the highlight of his public life, William Howard Taft received an appointment as Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court in 1921. Most of his rulings bore a conservative stamp, notably the case of Bailey v. Drexel Furniture Co., which struck down a federal law taxing products created by child labor. However in Adkins v. Children`s Hospital in 1923, he ruled in favor of Minimum Wage legislation, one of the products of the Progressive Era which he is often felt to have opposed.

William Howard Taft retired from the Court in February 1930, on account of declining health. He died a month later. As a man of moderate views and a judicial temperament, he was an unlikely successor to the intemperate Roosevelt; it would have taken a far different personality to withstand such a comparison. Taft could have been regarded as a progressive leader in another time, but such was not his lot. He died on March 8, 1930.

William Howard Taft: An Intimate History

This book deals with the impact of Taft&aposs numerous inner conflicts and his decision-making ability--and, in particular, on his frequent failure to make decisions at all. Here is the evolution of Taft&aposs conflicts and extraordinary dependencies, which began in childhood, were exacerbated by certain kinds of success--all of which were peculiarly illuminated by fluctuations in This book deals with the impact of Taft's numerous inner conflicts and his decision-making ability--and, in particular, on his frequent failure to make decisions at all. Here is the evolution of Taft's conflicts and extraordinary dependencies, which began in childhood, were exacerbated by certain kinds of success--all of which were peculiarly illuminated by fluctuations in his weight.

We also see his marriage to Helen Herron Taft, a woman whose influence was powerful--and that is perhaps the most significant key to our understanding of Taft's career. We see for the first time how the reluctant Taft was pushed into office by his indomitable wife. Here, too, is an analysis of his unique personal relationship with Theodore Roosevelt, a tragicomic affair that, when it broke up, left Taft demoralized. Perhaps far more than most men who have achieved great public office, Taft was a product and a victim of his ties to those he loved. . more

The nation’s fattest president loved steaks for breakfast. Then he went on a diet.

One of the most entertaining White House memoirs in history was written not by a president but by a maid.

Her name was Elizabeth Jaffray.

From 1909 to 1926, Jaffray was the chief housekeeper for four presidents — William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge — and in a book titled “Secrets of the White House,” Jaffray chronicled their personal triumphs, foibles and domestic lives.

The meatiest of her stories were about her meatiest boss — Taft, a man so profoundly rotund that after sending a telegram to the secretary of war about a horseback ride, the secretary replied, “Referring to your telegram . . . how is the horse?”

As housekeeper, in addition to cleaning up after presidents, Jaffray was also responsible for their food — not just what they ate for themselves, but what they served to guests. Doing their grocery shopping gave Jaffray tremendous insight into presidential tastes and appetites.

At one end of the spectrum was Coolidge, her last boss.

Coolidge was a cheapskate who complained that the hams he was served were too large. He could eat just one slice. Also, according to the book “Real Life at the White House” by John and Claire Whitcomb, his breakfast consisted of a bit of wheat. How he survived on that caloric intake is one of history’s great mysteries.

At the other end: Taft, who occupied the White House from 1909 to 1913. The nation’s 27th president — who later became chief justice of the United States and an inspiration to a nation of yo-yo dieters — was Jaffray’s hungriest boss.

For him, Jaffray bought “butter by the tub, potatoes by the barrel, fruit and green vegetables by the crate,” she wrote.

Oh, and meat. A lot of meat.

Taft ate steak for breakfast.

“He wanted a thick, juicy twelve-ounce steak nearly every morning,” Jaffray wrote.

“President Taft liked every sort of food with the single exception of eggs,” Jaffray wrote. “He really had few preferences but just naturally liked food — and lots of it.”

The president scarfed down his steak breakfast every day at precisely 8:30 a.m. following a doctor prescribed workout in his bedroom with a personal trainer — a collision of routines that first lady Helen Taft found rather funny, according to Jaffray.

(For the record, the famous story of Taft getting stuck in a White House bathtub? That’s untrue.)

So let’s return to his eating habits. If you think Taft was just ahead of his time — going low-carb before the Atkins diet craze — you will be disappointed to learn that in addition to the steak, Jaffray reports Taft’s breakfasts included “several pieces of toast,” and his “vast quantity of coffee” were supplemented with large helpings of cream and sugar.

Under Jaffray’s watch, Taft got bigger and bigger.

In a diary entry from 1911, the housekeeper notes Taft’s weight — 332 pounds — and that he was going on a diet, apparently at the advice of his doctor. Taft told her, “Things are in a sad state of affairs when a man can’t even call his gizzard his own.”

Taft, who died in 1930 from heart disease, was deflated, but only metaphorically.

A year later, Jaffray wrote this in her diary: “The president looks as if he actually weighs 400 pounds."

Eventually, Taft ordered a reduction in steak sizes.

Instead of 12 ounces, he was served six.

“But somehow,” Jaffray wrote, “he really didn’t take off any great amount of weight while he was president.”

Contributions Made By William Taft

William Howard Taft was the 27th president of the United States. Later, he became the 10th Chief Justice of the United States. When Taft became the president, he was adamant on continuing the program started by Roosevelt. His main aim was to create a framework that would allow the reforms to take place without any problems.

During his presidency, Taft focused more on administration rather than legislation. He had no problems signing laws, irrespective of what his personal feeling were towards the legislation. However, even after all this, the Taft administration was instrumental in getting number of reform legislations approved by the Congress.

The first thing that he did on becoming the president was to call a special session of the Congress to change the tariff law. He wanted to reduce the tariff rates, and he succeeded in this.

Another legislation that was passed by the Congress was the Mann Elkins Act of 1910. This legislation gave power to the Interstate Commerce Commission to stop the increase in railroad rate, and to set a fixed rate. The legislation also enhanced the jurisdiction of the Interstate Commerce Commission to include telephones, telegraphs and radio.

Taft was also responsible for placing 35,000 postmasters and 20,000 skilled workers in the US Navy under civil service protection. He was also responsible for dividing the Department of Commerce and Labor into two cabinet departments. In addition, Taft vetoed the proposal to allow Arizona and New Mexico into the Union. This was because both the states had a judge recall clause in their Constitution. Once the states removed the clause, Taft supported statehood for both Arizona and New Mexico.

Taft pushed vigorously to get the Congress to approve the Sixteenth Amendment that dealt with income tax. However, he did not show the same enthusiasm when it came to the Seventeenth Amendment, the direct election of Senators.

Another one of William Taft's contributions was ensuring that those guilty of antitrust violations were prosecuted. In fact, during Taft's tenure around 99 trust prosecution occurred and this was more than what occurred during Roosevelt's presidency.

The Organic Act was a law that William Taft, 27th president of the United States, did not want to sign, but he still signed it in 1913. This act divided the Department of Commerce and Labor into two separate departments, namely the Department of Labor and the Department of Commerce. More..

Taft family

The first known ancestor of the Taft family is Richard Robert Taft, who died in County Louth, Ireland in 1700, which is also where his son, Robert Taft Sr., was born circa 1640. Robert Taft Sr. would be the first Taft to migrate to what is now the United States. He married his wife Sarah Simpson, who was born in January 1640 in England, in 1668 in Braintree, Massachusetts. Robert Taft Sr. began a homestead in what is today Uxbridge and then Mendon, circa 1680, and which was where he and his wife died in 1725 and 1726 respectively. His son, Robert Taft Jr., was a member of the founding Board of Selectmen for the new town of Uxbridge in 1727.

A branch of the Massachusetts Taft family descended from Daniel Taft Sr., son of Robert Taft Sr., born at Braintree, 1677–1761, died at Mendon. Daniel, a justice of the peace in Mendon, had a son Josiah Taft, later of Uxbridge, [2] who died in 1756. This branch of the Taft family claims America's first woman voter, Lydia Taft, and five generations of Massachusetts legislators and public servants beginning with Lydia's husband, Josiah Taft. [3]

The Tafts were very prominently represented as soldiers in the Revolutionary War, mostly in the New England states. Peter Rawson Taft I was born in Uxbridge in 1785 and moved to Townshend, Vermont circa 1800. He became a Vermont state legislator. He died in Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Ohio. His son, Alphonso Taft, was born in Townshend, Vermont, and attended Yale University, where he founded the Skull and Bones society. He later was Secretary of War and Attorney General of the United States and the father of President William Howard Taft. [4] Elmshade in Massachusetts was the site of Taft family reunions such as in 1874. [5]

The American Taft family began with Robert Taft Sr. who immigrated to Braintree, Massachusetts circa, 1675. There was early settlement at Mendon, Massachusetts circa 1669 and again in 1680 at what was later Uxbridge, after the King Philip's War ended. [6] Robert's homestead was in western Mendon, in what later became Uxbridge, and his son was on the founding board of selectmen. In 1734, Benjamin Taft started an iron forge, in Uxbridge, where some of the earliest beginnings of America's industrial revolution began. Robert Sr.'s son, Daniel, a justice of the peace in Mendon had a son Josiah Taft, later of Uxbridge, [6] who died in 1756. Josiah's widow became "America's first woman voter", Lydia Chapin Taft, when she voted in three Uxbridge town meetings. [3] President George Washington visited Samuel Taft's Tavern in Uxbridge in 1789 on his "inaugural tour" of New England. [7] President William Howard Taft's grandfather, Peter Rawson Taft I, was born in Uxbridge in 1785. [8] The Hon. Bezaleel Taft Sr., Lydia's son, left a legacy of five generations or more of public service, including at least three generations in the state legislature of Tafts in Massachusetts. [9] [10] [11] [12] Ezra Taft Benson, Sr, a famous Mormon pioneer, lived here between 1817–1835, and married his first wife Pamela, of Northbridge, in 1832. [13] This family eventually became an American political dynasty.

  • Robert Taft Sr. (c. 1640–1725) The famous Taft family in America developed its roots in Mendon and Uxbridge. Robert Taft, Sr came to America from Braintree. The original American Taft homestead was in western Mendon, which later became Uxbridge, and was built by Robert Taft Sr., the first immigrant, in 1681. [6] Robert Taft Sr. had built an earlier home in 1669, but it was abandoned due to King Philip's War. Robert Taft Sr.'s descendants are a large politically active family with descendants who are prominent in Ohio, but live throughout the U.S.
  • Robert Taft Jr. was born in 1674 to Robert Sr., and Sarah Taft at Braintree. He grew up in the western part of Mendon in what later became Uxbridge. He became a founding member of the Uxbridge Board of Selectmen in 1727. [14] Robert Taft Jr. may have been the first American Taft to hold political office. His descendants included a Governor of Rhode Island, Royal Chapin Taft, a United States Senator from Ohio, Kingsley Arter Taft, and a U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Ezra Taft Benson II, among others.
  • Lydia Chapin Taft Noteworthy among early Uxbridge residents was Lydia Chapin Taft, a Mendon native by birth, who voted in three official Uxbridge town meetings, beginning in 1756. [3] She was the widow of Robert Taft Sr.'s grandson, Josiah Taft, who had served in the Colonial Legislature. Josiah was the son of Daniel Taft of Mendon. Taft was America's First Woman Voter. [3] This is recognized by the Massachusetts legislature. Her first historic vote, a first in Women's suffrage, was in favor of appropriating funds for the regiments engaged in the French and Indian War.
  • Hon. Bezaleel Taft Sr., Lydia's son, held the rank of captain in the American Revolution, and answered the Battle of Lexington and Concord Alarm [11] on April 18, 1775, while Lydia looked on. He went on to become a prominent Massachusetts legislator, and State Senator. [9] At least 12 soldiers with the surname of Taft served in the Revolutionary War from the town of Uxbridge. Many more Tafts from throughout the former colonies also served in the War of Independence.
  • Hon. Bezaleel Taft Jr., the son, followed a legislative career in the Massachusetts General Court, the state Senate, and the State Executive Council. [9] - Bezaleel Taft Jr. and five generations of influential Tafts lived in a historic home known as Elmshade which was a gathering place for Taft family reunions, and which is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Young William Howard Taft and his father, Alphonso Taft, Secretary of War and founder of Skull and Bones at Yale, visited this home on a number of occasions.
  • George Spring Taft, Bezaleel Jr.'s son, was the county prosecutor, and Secretary to U.S. Senator, George Hoar. [9] George Spring Taft also lived at Elmshade.
  • The tradition of public service continued for at least five generations in this Massachusetts branch of the Taft family. The "Life of Alphonso Taft by Lewis Alexander Leonard", on Google Books, is a particularly rich source of the history of the Taft family origins in Massachusetts. [4]
  • Other local Tafts Other local Tafts in political service in the Massachusetts legislature included Arthur M. Taft, Arthur Robert Taft, and Zadok Arnold Taft. Royal Chapin Taft, originally from Northbridge, became the Governor of Rhode Island. The number of Tafts in public service across America was extraordinary including New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, Ohio, Michigan, Utah, and other states.
  • First President's visit Samuel Taft was an American Revolutionary War soldier, father of 22, an Uxbridge farmer and tavern keeper. President George Washington stayed at the Samuel Taft Tavern in November 1789, during the founding father's inaugural trip through New England. [7]

President William Howard Taft's grandfather, Peter Rawson Taft I, was born in Uxbridge in 1785 and grew up there. His father Aaron moved to Townshend, Vermont, because of the difficult economy, when he was fifteen. The story is told that Peter Rawson walked a cow all the way from Uxbridge to Townshend, a distance of well over 100 miles. The "Aaron Taft house" is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Peter Rawson Taft I became a Vermont legislator and eventually died in Hamilton County, Cincinnati, Ohio. [8] [15] Peter Rawson Taft's son, Alphonso Taft, founded Skull and Bones at Yale, served as U.S. Secretary of War, and his son William Howard became the U.S. President. The ancestry of U.S. presidents traces to Uxbridge and Mendon more than once, including both presidents bearing the last name Bush. [16] President Taft, a champion for world peace and the only president to also serve as Chief Justice of the United States, returned to Uxbridge for family reunions. [4] [9] [17] He remarked as he stepped off the train there on April 3, 1905, "Uxbridge. I think I have more relatives here than in any town in America." [9] Young William Howard Taft had made other trips to Uxbridge, and Bezaleel Taft, Jr.'s home, "Elmshade", in his earlier years. It was at "Elmshade" that young William Howard Taft likely heard his father, Alphonso Taft, proudly deliver an oratory on the Taft family history and the family's roots in Uxbridge, and Mendon, circa 1874. [4] [9] President Taft stayed at the Samuel Taft tavern when he visited Uxbridge, as did George Washington 120 years earlier. [9] [17] The New York Times recorded President Taft's visits to his ancestral homes in Mendon and Uxbridge during his Presidency. [17] William Howard Taft, as a young boy, spent a number of summers in the Blackstone Valley in Millbury, Massachusetts, and even attended schools for at least a term in that nearby town.

Ezra T. Benson (to distinguish him from his famous great-grandson, Ezra Taft Benson), a Mendon and Uxbridge native, is famous as a key early apostle of the Mormon religion. His own autobiography states that he lived in Uxbridge between 1817–1835, or about 17 years, after his mother, Chloe Taft and father, John Benson, moved to a farm there. [18] Young Ezra married Pamela Andrus, of Northbridge, on January 1, 1832, at Uxbridge. He had moved in with his family in an Uxbridge center Hotel in 1827. He and Pamela lived here in the 1830s, had children, and had a child who died, which is recorded in the Uxbridge Vital Records. [19] He later managed and owned the hotel in Uxbridge Center before investing in a cotton mill at Holland, Massachusetts. He moved to Holland Mass in 1835. [18] He later moved to Illinois, and became a Mormon apostle. Ezra joined the LDS Church at Quincy, Illinois in 1840, entered plural marriages, marrying seven more wives after Pamela. He was called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles by Brigham Young in 1846, a high post within the LDS Church. He had eight wives and 32 children. [13] He was a Missionary to the Sandwich Islands, also known as Hawaii. He served as a Representative to the Utah Territorial Assembly. He died in Ogden, Utah, in 1869.

Benjamin Taft started the first iron forge in the Ironstone section of Uxbridge in 1734 [9] There was good quality "bog iron ore" here. Caleb Handy added a triphammer, and scythes and guns were manufactured here before 1800. The Taft family continued to be instrumental in the early industrialization of the Blackstone Valley including mills built by a 4th generation descendant of Robert Taft I, the son of Deborah Taft, Daniel Day in 1810, and his son in law, Luke Taft (1825) and Luke's son, Moses Taft in (1852). [9] These woolen mills, some of the first to use power looms, and satinets, ran 24/7 during the Civil War producing cloth for U.S. military uniforms. [9] The 1814 Rivulet Mill Complex was established at North Uxbridge by Chandler Taft. In 1855, 2.5 million yards of cloth was produced in the mills of Uxbridge. [20] Uxbridge is the center of the Blackstone Valley, the earliest industrialized region in the United States. It is part of the John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor. Samuel Slater, who built his mill in (1790), at Pawtucket, Rhode Island, on the Blackstone River, was credited by President Andrew Jackson as the father of America's industrial revolution.

In 1864, Judge Henry Chapin, a three-term Worcester Mayor and Chief Judge, quoted a well known Uxbridge story as follows: A stranger came to town, met a new person and said, "Hello Mr. Taft". Mr. Taft said, "How did you know my name?" The stranger replied, "I presumed that you were a Taft, just like the other 12 Tafts I have just met!". [21] This story was repeated in a poem form by Mayor Chapin, at a famous Taft family reunion here, [ where? ] recorded in the Life of Alphonso Taft. [4]

A Look At The Assassination Attempt Against William Taft

William Howard Taft wasn't exactly the most skilled politician. Most historians rank him in the middle in terms of effectiveness, but he is the only person to have been President of the United States and Chief Justice of the United States — the 27th and the 10th, respectively. Taft was just a single-term president and was so unpopular, he came in third with just 23 percent of the vote in his reelection campaign in 1912.

But that didn't mean people didn't want him dead. In October 1911, a 52-year-old Minnesota man by the name of Julius Bergerson began bragging that he had an assassination plot in place for Taft's upcoming visit, but was arrested and declared insane on the morning of the president's arrival before he took any action, The New York Times reported at the time. When Taft visited Norwich, Connecticut, in July 1909 to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the founding of the city, one woman scared off a man with a pistol who was rapidly approaching the president, but the Secret Service was never able to catch up with him. And, in October 1909, 27-year-old Arthur Wright traveled all the way from Lowell, Massachusetts, to Portland, Oregon, to take a shot at Taft during a parade to honor the president before a uniformed police officer tackled Wright as he made his way through the crowd, the Oregon Daily Journal reported at the time.

Chief Justice, Not President, Was William Howard Taft’s Dream Job

William Howard Taft never really wanted to be president. Politics was his wife’s ambition for him, not his own. Before he was Secretary of War or governor of the Philippines, Taft, an intellectual son and grandson of judges, spent eight blissful years as a federal appeals court judge. “I love judges, and I love courts,” President Taft said in a speech in 1911. “They are my ideals that typify on earth what we shall meet hereafter in heaven under a just God.” When Taft promoted associate Supreme Court justice Edward D. White of Louisiana to chief justice in 1910, he confessed his envy to his attorney general. “There is nothing I would have loved more than being chief justice of the United States,” he said.

Years after his humiliating third-place defeat in the 1912 presidential election, Taft finally got his dream job. In June 1921, President Warren Harding nominated Taft, age 63, to lead the Supreme Court. Taft served nine years as chief justice after his four years as president—the only person to hold both jobs. “He loathed being president,” Justice Felix Frankfurter once observed, “and being chief justice was all happiness for him.”

Americans remember presidents better than they remember chief justices, but Taft was a better judge than executive, and his judicial leadership arguably left a more lasting mark on the nation. Today, as conservatives hope the next Supreme Court appointments give them the power to remake American law and liberals look to it to check the excesses they expect from the president-elect, both live in a judicial world Taft created.

Taft was a reluctant president, accepting the 1908 Republican nomination only after his wife, Nellie, and sitting President Theodore Roosevelt persuaded him to run as his chosen successor. Roosevelt felt certain that Taft, his friend and confidant, would continue his progressive reforms. Instead, once President, Taft aligned himself with Republican conservatives and businessmen, appointed few progressives, raised tariffs instead of lowering them, and fired Roosevelt’s friend Gifford Pinchot, the nation’s chief forester and a leading conservationist. Enraged, Roosevelt ran against Taft as a third-party candidate in 1912.

Taft, never comfortable as a politician, gave almost no campaign speeches after his re-nomination, golfed frequently, and resigned himself to defeat. He finished third in the presidential election, behind winner Woodrow Wilson and Roosevelt, winning less than 25 percent of the popular vote and only eight electoral votes. Taft called his defeat “not only a landslide but a tidal wave and holocaust all rolled into one general cataclysm.”

Relieved and happy to be free of the presidency’s burdens, Taft spent the next eight years as a professor of constitutional law at Yale, gave speeches across the country, served on the National War Labor Board during World War I, and assisted Wilson with his failed campaign to convince the United States to join the League of Nations. “Being a dead politician, I have become a statesman,” he quipped.

As chief justice, Taft rejoiced in his reversal of fortune. On the bench, wrote journalist William Allen White, he resembled “one of the high gods of the world, a smiling Buddha, placid, wise, gentle, sweet.” To manage his declining health and reduce his famous girth, Taft walked three miles to work at the Supreme Court’s chamber in the U.S. Capitol building. Soon he was down to 260 pounds, a near-low for him. He rarely looked back at his years as a politician, except to bid them good riddance. “The strain, the worry, the craving for mere opportunity to sleep without interruption, the flabbiness of one’s vocal cords,” he recalled in a sympathetic October 1924 letter to John Davis, the Democratic candidate for president, “the necessity for always being in a good humor, and the obligation to smile when one would like to swear all come back to me.”

As chief justice, Taft expanded federal power more than he did during his cautious term in the White House. Taft the president had embraced a narrow view of his own powers, hesitating to act if the law or Constitution didn't give him explicit permission. But in the most important and lasting opinion he wrote as chief justice, in Myers vs. U.S., he upheld the president’s power to dismiss federal officials without the Senate’s approval. And legal challenges to his presidential legacy were rare: Only once did he recuse himself over a conflict, when a murderer whose death sentence he commuted sued for freedom.

That doesn't mean his time as chief justice didn't tie in to his presidency, though. The Taft court extended the conservative legacy he’d developed as president. Taft usually voted to uphold limitations on government’s power to regulate businesses, most famously when he struck down a punitive tax on companies that used child labor. There were exceptions: he voted to uphold an Oregon law that created a ten-hour maximum work day for women, and he dissented from a decision that struck down a minimum wage for female workers. A longtime foe of labor unions, Taft wrote a decision in Truax v. Corrigan that gave judges broad latitude to issue injunctions to stop labor disputes.

Taft had opposed Prohibition before it passed in 1919 during the Wilson Administration, thinking it’d be difficult to enforce. However, as chief justice he consistently approved strict enforcement of anti-liquor laws, even when it put him at odds with his wife. On the a 1922 trip to London, Helen Taft and the U.S. ambassador to England drank beer, while the chief justice and the ambassador’s wife stuck to crackers, cheese and fruit.

Taft’s support for the nation’s dry laws led to perhaps his most controversial civil-liberties decision. In 1928, Taft delivered the court’s opinion in Olmstead v. U.S., a 5-4 decision that allowed warrantless wiretaps of phone conversations to be used against defendants. The decision caused a national uproar – The Outlook, a leading magazine of the time, called it “the Dred Scott decision of Prohibition” -- but Taft dismissed its critics in a letter to a friend. “If they think we are going to be frightened in our effort to stand by the law and give the public a chance to punish criminals, they are mistaken, even though we are condemned for lack of high ideals,” he wrote.

Progressives found the Taft court frustrating, its hostility to social-reform legislation tragic. “Since 1920 the Court has invalidated more legislation than in fifty years preceding,” complained Felix Frankfurter, the Harvard professor and future Supreme Court justice, in 1930. Decades later, Justice Antonin Scalia praised Taft’s chief justiceship, even though many of his decision “ran counter to the ultimate sweep of history.” Olmstead, for instance, was overturned in 1967, and Taft’s rulings for business and against regulation and unions were overruled within years of his death. “Taft,” Scalia wrote, “had a quite accurate ‘vision of things to come,’ did not like them, and did his best, with consummate skill but ultimate lack of success, to alter the outcome.”

Still, Taft left a more enduring judicial legacy: He permanently increased the Supreme Court’s power and prestige. When he joined the Court, its docket was mired in a backlog up to five years deep. Lobbying as no chief justice had before, Taft convinced Congress to pass the Judges' Bill of 1925, which gave the Supreme Court greater control over its docket. It took away almost all automatic rights of appeal to the court, which allowed the justices to focus on important constitutional questions. Taft also convinced Congress to fund the construction of a Supreme Court building, so the justices could move out of the dreary Old Senate Chamber and their even drearier conference room in the Capitol’s basement. Though Taft didn’t live to see it open in 1935, the grand building reflects its independence from the other branches of government.

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor called Taft a “great Chief Justice…who deserves almost as much credit as [John] Marshall for the Court’s modern-day role but who does not often receive the recognition.” She noted that 84 percent of the Taft court’s opinions were unanimous–a reflection of his attempts to craft opinions that kept the nine justices together. “Most dissents,” Taft said, “are a form of egotism. They don’t do any good, and only weaken the prestige of the court.”

By one estimate, Taft prevented about 200 dissenting votes through various forms of persuasion, both carrots and sticks. In nine years, Taft himself wrote 249 opinions for the court, dissented only about 20 times, and wrote only four written dissents. He would be frustrated to see how many dissenting opinions from his era, especially by liberal justices Louis Brandeis and Oliver Wendell Holmes, are celebrated in history. But his goal in pushing for unanimity, notes O’Connor, was to build up the court’s authority as an “expounder of national principle” – the role it still plays today.

About Erick Trickey

Erick Trickey is a writer in Boston, covering politics, history, cities, arts, and science. He has written for POLITICO Magazine, Next City, the Boston Globe, Boston Magazine, and Cleveland Magazine

William Howard Taft Conflicts During Presidency

William Howard Taft, the 27th president of the United States, was born on September 15, 1857. Besides being the president, he, later on, became the 10th Chief Justice of the United States.

When Taft came into office, he was enthusiastic about pursuing the reforms started by Theodore Roosevelt. However, as the president, he made two major mistakes that led to conflicts.

His first mistake was to hold a special session of the Congress to reduce the tariff. This move was not welcomed by many in the Republican Party, and they wanted Taft to stop the tariff reform. However, two politicians who were representing the interests of big businesses, Senator Nelson Aldrich of Rhode Island and Representative Sereno E. Payne of New York, managed to push the tariff reform through. However, the tariff reduction was not very substantial. Although Taft had threatened to veto the bill if the tariff reduction was not sufficient, he still signed it into an act. The moment Taft signed the bill, he managed to alienate the progressive members of the Congress who felt that the tariffs were still too high even after the reduction.

Taft's next mistake was dismissing Chief Forester of the United States, Gifford Pinchot, who was also a friend of Theodore Roosevelt. This occurred because Taft appointed Richard Ballinger as to head the Department of Interior. Ballinger was of the opinion that Roosevelt had incorrectly closed large tracts of federal and public land for conservation when they could be used for development. This prompted Ballinger to open some tracts of land, including the land in Alaska that was rich in coal. This led to Pinchot launching a public attack on Ballinger, which was construed as an indirect attack on Taft. This left Taft with no alternative other than to fire Pinchot. As a result of this dismissal, the Republican Party was divided into those who opposed the dismissal and those who were in favor. This also led to a rift between Taft and Theodore Roosevelt.

William Howard Taft, the 27th president of the United States, had a lot of accomplishments to his credit. However, when it came to William Howard Taft's leadership style, it could be said that he did not have the passion for the position. Also, he was forced to operate in the shadows of his predecessor, Theodore Roosevelt, who was known to be forceful, energetic and a natural leader. More..

Early Life:

  • William Howard Taft was born on September 15, 1857, in Cincinnati, Ohio. He was the son of Alphonso Taft and Louisa Maria Torrey. Young William attended Woodrow High School until 1874. He was a graduate of Yale College in 1878. While studying law at Cincinnati Law School, he worked as a courthouse reporter. He graduated law in 1880 and that same year was admitted to the bar.
  • In 1881, he was appointed as an Assistant Prosecutor of Hamilton County, Ohio. A year later, he became the local Collector for the Internal Revenue Service
  • On June 19, 1886, William married Helen Herron with whom he had three children.
  • In 1887, he was appointed as a judge of the Cincinnati Superior Court. Three years later, President Benjamin Harrison appointed him as the Solicitor General to the United States. By 1892, he became a judge of the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Alongside, he was a professor of law and Dean of the University of Cincinnati Law School from 1896 until 1900.
  • By 1901, he was appointed by President William McKinley as the Governor General of the Philippines. As a Governor General, he negotiated with Pope Leo XIII for the purchase of 390,000 acres of church property worth $7.5 million. Taft’s arrival in the Philippines was after the Spanish colonization.
  • In 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt, appointed him as the Secretary of War. Specifically, Pres. Roosevelt wanted him to oversee development in the Philippines as well as the construction of the Panama Canal. Two years later, he became the provisional governor of Cuba after the treaty was signed by the United States and Spain.
  • During the 1908 election, Taft was nominated by the Republican Party as their presidential candidate. He won the election with 51.6% of the popular votes and the majority of the electoral votes.


William Howard Taft was born September 15, 1857, in Cincinnati, Ohio, to Alphonso Taft and Louise Torrey. [2] The Taft family was not wealthy, living in a modest home in the suburb of Mount Auburn. Alphonso served as a judge, an ambassador, and as War Secretary and Attorney General under President Ulysses S. Grant. [3]

William Taft was not seen as brilliant as a child, but was a hard worker his demanding parents pushed him and his four brothers toward success, tolerating nothing less. He attended Woodward High School in Cincinnati. At Yale College, which he entered in 1874, the heavyset, jovial Taft was popular and an intramural heavyweight wrestling champion. One classmate said he succeeded through hard work rather than by being the smartest, and had integrity. [4] [5] He was elected a member of Skull and Bones, the Yale secret society co-founded by his father, one of three future presidents (with George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush) to be a member. [6] In 1878, Taft graduated second in his class of 121. [7] He attended Cincinnati Law School, [8] and graduated with a Bachelor of Laws in 1880. While in law school, he worked on The Cincinnati Commercial newspaper, [7] edited by Murat Halstead. Taft was assigned to cover the local courts, and also spent time reading law in his father's office both activities gave him practical knowledge of the law that was not taught in class. Shortly before graduating from law school, Taft went to Columbus to take the bar examination and easily passed. [9]

Ohio lawyer and judge

After admission to the Ohio bar, Taft devoted himself to his job at the Commercial full-time. Halstead was willing to take him on permanently at an increased salary if he would give up the law, but Taft declined. In October 1880, Taft was appointed assistant prosecutor for Hamilton County (where Cincinnati is located), and took office the following January. Taft served for a year as assistant prosecutor, trying his share of routine cases. [10] He resigned in January 1882 after President Chester A. Arthur appointed him Collector of Internal Revenue for Ohio's First District, an area centered on Cincinnati. [11] Taft refused to dismiss competent employees who were politically out of favor, and resigned effective in March 1883, writing to Arthur that he wished to begin private practice in Cincinnati. [12] In 1884, Taft campaigned for the Republican candidate for president, Maine Senator James G. Blaine, who lost to New York Governor Grover Cleveland. [13]

In 1887, Taft, then aged 29, was appointed to a vacancy on the Superior Court of Cincinnati by Governor Joseph B. Foraker. The appointment was good for just over a year, after which he would have to face the voters, and in April 1888, he sought election for the first of three times in his lifetime, the other two being for the presidency. He was elected to a full five-year term. Some two dozen of Taft's opinions as a state judge survive, the most significant being Moores & Co. v. Bricklayers' Union No. 1 [b] (1889) if only because it was used against him when he ran for president in 1908. The case involved bricklayers who refused to work for any firm that dealt with a company called Parker Brothers, with which they were in dispute. Taft ruled that the union's action amounted to a secondary boycott, which was illegal. [14]

It is not clear when Taft met Helen Herron (often called Nellie), but it was no later than 1880, when she mentioned in her diary receiving an invitation to a party from him. By 1884, they were meeting regularly, and in 1885, after an initial rejection, she agreed to marry him. The wedding took place at the Herron home on June 19, 1886. William Taft remained devoted to his wife throughout their almost 44 years of marriage. Nellie Taft pushed her husband much as his parents had, and she could be very frank with her criticisms. [15] [16] The couple had three children, of whom the eldest, Robert, became a U.S. senator. [2]

Solicitor General

There was a seat vacant on the U.S. Supreme Court in 1889, and Governor Foraker suggested President Harrison appoint Taft to fill it. Taft was 32 and his professional goal was always a seat on the Supreme Court. He actively sought the appointment, writing to Foraker to urge the governor to press his case, while stating to others it was unlikely he would get it. Instead, in 1890, Harrison appointed him Solicitor General of the United States. When Taft arrived in Washington in February 1890, the office had been vacant for two months, with the work piling up. He worked to eliminate the backlog, while simultaneously educating himself on federal law and procedure he had not needed as an Ohio state judge. [17]

New York Senator William M. Evarts, a former Secretary of State, had been a classmate of Alphonso Taft at Yale. [c] Evarts called to see his friend's son as soon as Taft took office, and William and Nellie Taft were launched into Washington society. Nellie Taft was ambitious for herself and her husband, and was annoyed when the people he socialized with most were mainly Supreme Court justices, rather than the arbiters of Washington society such as Theodore Roosevelt, John Hay, Henry Cabot Lodge and their wives. [18]

In 1891, Taft introduced a new policy: confession of error, by which the U.S. government would concede a case in the Supreme Court that it had won in the court below but that the solicitor general thought it should have lost. At Taft's request, the Supreme Court reversed a murder conviction that Taft said had been based on inadmissible evidence. The policy continues to this day. [19]

Although Taft was successful as Solicitor General, winning 15 of the 18 cases he argued before the Supreme Court, [2] he was glad when in March 1891, the United States Congress created a new judgeship for each of the United States Courts of Appeal and Harrison appointed him to the Sixth Circuit, based in Cincinnati. In March 1892, Taft resigned as Solicitor General to resume his judicial career. [20]

Federal judge

Taft's federal judgeship was a lifetime appointment, and one from which promotion to the Supreme Court might come. Taft's older half-brother Charles, successful in business, supplemented Taft's government salary, allowing William and Nellie Taft and their family to live in comfort. Taft's duties involved hearing trials in the circuit, which included Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky, and Tennessee, and participating with Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan, the circuit justice, and judges of the Sixth Circuit in hearing appeals. Taft spent these years, from 1892 to 1900, in personal and professional contentment. [21]

According to historian Louis L. Gould, "while Taft shared the fears about social unrest that dominated the middle classes during the 1890s, he was not as conservative as his critics believed. He supported the right of labor to organize and strike, and he ruled against employers in several negligence cases." [2] Among these was Voight v. Baltimore & Ohio Southwestern Railway Co. [d] Taft's decision for a worker injured in a railway accident violated the contemporary doctrine of liberty of contract, and he was reversed by the Supreme Court. [e] On the other hand, Taft's opinion in United States v. Addyston Pipe and Steel Co. [f] was upheld unanimously by the high court. [g] Taft's opinion, in which he held that a pipe manufacturers' association had violated the Sherman Antitrust Act, [22] was described by Henry Pringle, his biographer, as having "definitely and specifically revived" that legislation. [23]

In 1896, Taft became dean and Professor of Property at his alma mater, the Cincinnati Law School, a post that required him to prepare and give two hour-long lectures each week. [24] He was devoted to his law school, and was deeply committed to legal education, introducing the case method to the curriculum. [25] As a federal judge, Taft could not involve himself with politics, but followed it closely, remaining a Republican supporter. He watched with some disbelief as the campaign of Ohio Governor William McKinley developed in 1894 and 1895, writing "I cannot find anybody in Washington who wants him". [25] By March 1896, Taft realized that McKinley would likely be nominated, and was lukewarm in his support. He landed solidly in McKinley's camp after former Nebraska representative William Jennings Bryan in July stampeded the 1896 Democratic National Convention with his Cross of Gold speech. Bryan, both in that address and in his campaign, strongly advocated free silver, a policy that Taft saw as economic radicalism. Taft feared that people would hoard gold in anticipation of a Bryan victory, but he could do nothing but worry. McKinley was elected when a place on the Supreme Court opened in 1898, the only one under McKinley, the president named Joseph McKenna. [26]

From the 1890s until his death, Taft played a major role in the international legal community. He was active in many organizations, was a leader in the worldwide arbitration movement, and taught international law at the Yale Law School. [27] One of the reasons for his bitter break with Roosevelt in 1910–12 was Roosevelt's insistence that arbitration was naïve and that only war could decide major international disputes. [28]

Philippine years

In January 1900, Taft was called to Washington to meet with McKinley. Taft hoped a Supreme Court appointment was in the works, but instead McKinley wanted to place Taft on the commission to organize a civilian government in the Philippines. The appointment would require Taft's resignation from the bench the president assured him that if he fulfilled this task, McKinley would appoint him to the next vacancy on the high court. Taft accepted on condition he was made head of the commission, with responsibility for success or failure McKinley agreed, and Taft sailed for the islands in April 1900. [29]

The American takeover meant the Philippine Revolution bled into the Philippine–American War, as Filipinos fought for their independence, but U.S. forces, led by military governor General Arthur MacArthur Jr. [h] had the upper hand by 1900. MacArthur felt the commission was a nuisance, and their mission a quixotic attempt to impose self-government on a people unready for it. The general was forced to co-operate with Taft, as McKinley had given the commission control over the islands' military budget. [30] The commission took executive power in the Philippines on September 1, 1900 on July 4, 1901, Taft became civilian governor. MacArthur, until then the military governor, was relieved by General Adna Chaffee, who was designated only as commander of American forces. [31]

Taft sought to make the Filipinos partners in a venture that would lead to their self-government he saw independence as something decades off. Many Americans in the Philippines viewed the locals as racial inferiors, but Taft wrote soon before his arrival, "we propose to banish this idea from their minds". [32] Taft did not impose racial segregation at official events, and treated the Filipinos as social equals. [33] Nellie Taft recalled that "neither politics nor race should influence our hospitality in any way". [34]

McKinley was assassinated in September 1901, and was succeeded by Theodore Roosevelt. Taft and Roosevelt had first become friends around 1890 while Taft was Solicitor General and Roosevelt a member of the Civil Service Commission. Taft had, after McKinley's election, urged the appointment of Roosevelt as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and watched as Roosevelt became a war hero, Governor of New York, and Vice President of the United States. They met again when Taft went to Washington in January 1902 to recuperate after two operations caused by an infection. [35] There, Taft testified before the Senate Committee on the Philippines. Taft wanted Filipino farmers to have a stake in the new government through land ownership, but much of the arable land was held by Catholic religious orders of mostly Spanish priests, which were often resented by the Filipinos. Roosevelt had Taft go to Rome to negotiate with Pope Leo XIII, to purchase the lands and to arrange the withdrawal of the Spanish priests, with Americans replacing them and training locals as clergy. Taft did not succeed in resolving these issues on his visit to Rome, but an agreement on both points was made in 1903. [36]

In late 1902, Taft had heard from Roosevelt that a seat on the Supreme Court would soon fall vacant on the resignation of Justice George Shiras, and Roosevelt desired that Taft fill it. Although this was Taft's professional goal, he refused as he felt his work as governor was not yet done. [37] The following year, Roosevelt asked Taft to become Secretary of War. As the War Department administered the Philippines, Taft would remain responsible for the islands, and Elihu Root, the incumbent, was willing to postpone his departure until 1904, allowing Taft time to wrap up his work in Manila. After consulting with his family, Taft agreed, and sailed for the United States in December 1903. [38]

Secretary of War

When Taft took office as Secretary of War in January 1904, he was not called upon to spend much time administering the army, which the president was content to do himself—Roosevelt wanted Taft as a troubleshooter in difficult situations, as a legal adviser, and to be able to give campaign speeches as he sought election in his own right. Taft strongly defended Roosevelt's record in his addresses, and wrote of the president's successful but strenuous efforts to gain election, "I would not run for president if you guaranteed the office. It is awful to be afraid of one's shadow." [39] [40]

Between 1905 and 1907, Taft came to terms with the likelihood he would be the next Republican nominee for president, though he did not plan to actively campaign for it. When Justice Henry B. Brown resigned in 1905, Taft would not accept the seat although Roosevelt offered it, a position Taft held to when another seat opened in 1906. [41] Edith Roosevelt, the First Lady, disliked the growing closeness between the two men, feeling that they were too much alike and that the president did not gain much from the advice of someone who rarely contradicted him. [42]

Alternatively, Taft wanted to be chief justice, and kept a close eye on the health of the aging incumbent, Melville Fuller, who turned 75 in 1908. Taft believed Fuller likely to live many years. Roosevelt had indicated he was likely to appoint Taft if the opportunity came to fill the court's center seat, but some considered Attorney General Philander Knox a better candidate. In any event, Fuller remained chief justice throughout Roosevelt's presidency. [i] [43]

Through the 1903 separation of Panama from Colombia and the Hay-Bunau-Varilla Treaty, the United States had secured rights to build a canal in the Isthmus of Panama. Legislation authorizing construction did not specify which government department would be responsible, and Roosevelt designated the Department of War. Taft journeyed to Panama in 1904, viewing the canal site and meeting with Panamanian officials. The Isthmian Canal Commission had trouble keeping a chief engineer, and when in February 1907 John F. Stevens submitted his resignation, Taft recommended an army engineer, George W. Goethals. Under Goethals, the project moved ahead smoothly. [44]

Another colony lost by Spain in 1898 was Cuba, but as freedom for Cuba had been a major purpose of the war, it was not annexed by the U.S., but was, after a period of occupation, given independence in 1902. Election fraud and corruption followed, as did factional conflict. In September 1906, President Tomás Estrada Palma asked for U.S. intervention. Taft traveled to Cuba with a small American force, and on September 29, 1906, under the terms of the Cuban–American Treaty of Relations of 1903, declared himself Provisional Governor of Cuba, a post he held for two weeks before being succeeded by Charles Edward Magoon. In his time in Cuba, Taft worked to persuade Cubans that the U.S. intended stability, not occupation. [45]

Taft remained involved in Philippine affairs. During Roosevelt's election campaign in 1904, he urged that Philippine agricultural products be admitted to the U.S. without duty. This caused growers of U.S. sugar and tobacco to complain to Roosevelt, who remonstrated with his Secretary of War. Taft expressed unwillingness to change his position, and threatened to resign [46] Roosevelt hastily dropped the matter. [47] Taft returned to the islands in 1905, leading a delegation of congressmen, and again in 1907, to open the first Philippine Assembly. [48]

On both of his Philippine trips as Secretary of War, Taft went to Japan, and met with officials there. [49] The meeting in July 1905 came a month before the Portsmouth Peace Conference, which would end the Russo-Japanese War with the Treaty of Portsmouth. Taft met with Japanese Prime Minister Katsura Tarō. After that meeting, the two signed a memorandum. It contained nothing new but instead reaffirmed official positions: Japan had no intention to invade the Philippines, and the U.S. that it did not object to Japanese control of Korea. [50] There were U.S. concerns about the number of Japanese laborers coming to the American West Coast, and during Taft's second visit, in September 1907, Tadasu Hayashi, the foreign minister, informally agreed to issue fewer passports to them. [51]

Gaining the nomination

Roosevelt had served almost three and a half years of McKinley's term. On the night of his own election in 1904, Roosevelt publicly declared he would not run for reelection in 1908, a pledge he quickly regretted. But he felt bound by his word. Roosevelt believed Taft was his logical successor, although the War Secretary was initially reluctant to run. [52] Roosevelt used his control of the party machinery to aid his heir apparent. [52] On pain of loss of their jobs, political appointees were required to support Taft or remain silent. [53]

A number of Republican politicians, such as Treasury Secretary George Cortelyou, tested the waters for a run but chose to stay out. New York Governor Charles Evans Hughes ran, but when he made a major policy speech, Roosevelt the same day sent a special message to Congress warning in strong terms against corporate corruption. The resulting coverage of the presidential message relegated Hughes to the back pages. [54] Roosevelt reluctantly deterred repeated attempts to draft him for another term. [55]

Assistant Postmaster General Frank H. Hitchcock resigned from his office in February 1908 to lead the Taft effort. [56] In April, Taft made a speaking tour, traveling as far west as Omaha before being recalled to go to Panama and straighten out a contested election. At the 1908 Republican National Convention in Chicago in June, there was no serious opposition to him, and he gained a first-ballot victory. Yet Taft did not have things his own way: he had hoped his running mate would be a midwestern progressive like Iowa Senator Jonathan Dolliver, but instead the convention named Congressman James S. Sherman of New York, a conservative. Taft resigned as Secretary of War on June 30 to devote himself full-time to the campaign. [57] [58]

General election campaign

Taft's opponent in the general election was Bryan, the Democratic nominee for the third time in four presidential elections. As many of Roosevelt's reforms stemmed from proposals by Bryan, the Democrat argued that he was the true heir to Roosevelt's mantle. Corporate contributions to federal political campaigns had been outlawed by the 1907 Tillman Act, and Bryan proposed that contributions by officers and directors of corporations be similarly banned, or at least disclosed when made. Taft was only willing to see the contributions disclosed after the election, and tried to ensure that officers and directors of corporations litigating with the government were not among his contributors. [59]

Taft began the campaign on the wrong foot, fueling the arguments of those who said he was not his own man by traveling to Roosevelt's home at Sagamore Hill for advice on his acceptance speech, saying that he needed "the President's judgment and criticism". [60] Taft supported most of Roosevelt's policies. He argued that labor had a right to organize, but not boycott, and that corporations and the wealthy must also obey the law. Bryan wanted the railroads to be owned by the government, but Taft preferred that they remain in the private sector, with their maximum rates set by the Interstate Commerce Commission, subject to judicial review. Taft attributed blame for the recent recession, the Panic of 1907, to stock speculation and other abuses, and felt some reform of the currency (the U.S. was on the gold standard) was needed to allow flexibility in the government's response to poor economic times, that specific legislation on trusts was needed to supplement the Sherman Antitrust Act, and that the constitution should be amended to allow for an income tax, thus overruling decisions of the Supreme Court striking such a tax down. Roosevelt's expansive use of executive power had been controversial Taft proposed to continue his policies, but place them on more solid legal underpinnings through the passage of legislation. [61]

Taft upset some progressives by choosing Hitchcock as Chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC), placing him in charge of the presidential campaign. Hitchcock was quick to bring in men closely allied with big business. [62] Taft took an August vacation in Hot Springs, Virginia, where he irritated political advisors by spending more time on golf than strategy. After seeing a newspaper photo of Taft taking a large swing at a golf ball, Roosevelt warned him against candid shots. [63]

Roosevelt, frustrated by his own relative inaction, showered Taft with advice, fearing that the electorate would not appreciate Taft's qualities, and that Bryan would win. Roosevelt's supporters spread rumors that the president was in effect running Taft's campaign. This annoyed Nellie Taft, who never trusted the Roosevelts. [64] Nevertheless, Roosevelt supported the Republican nominee with such enthusiasm that humorists suggested "TAFT" stood for "Take advice from Theodore". [65]

Bryan urged a system of bank guarantees, so that depositors could be repaid if banks failed, but Taft opposed this, offering a postal savings system instead. [59] The issue of prohibition of alcohol entered the campaign when in mid-September, Carrie Nation called on Taft and demanded to know his views. Taft and Roosevelt had agreed the party platform would take no position on the matter, and Nation left indignant, to allege that Taft was irreligious and against temperance. Taft, at Roosevelt's advice, ignored the issue. [66]

In the end, Taft won by a comfortable margin. Taft defeated Bryan by 321 electoral votes to 162 however, he garnered just 51.6 percent of the popular vote. [67] Nellie Taft said regarding the campaign, "There was nothing to criticize, except his not knowing or caring about the way the game of politics is played." [68] Longtime White House usher Ike Hoover recalled that Taft came often to see Roosevelt during the campaign, but seldom between the election and Inauguration Day, March 4, 1909. [69]

Inauguration and appointments

Taft was sworn in as president on March 4, 1909. Due to a winter storm that coated Washington with ice, Taft was inaugurated within the Senate Chamber rather than outside the Capitol as is customary. The new president stated in his inaugural address that he had been honored to have been "one of the advisers of my distinguished predecessor" and to have had a part "in the reforms he has initiated. I should be untrue to myself, to my promises, and to the declarations of the party platform on which I was elected if I did not make the maintenance and enforcement of those reforms a most important feature of my administration". [70] He pledged to make those reforms long-lasting, ensuring that honest businessmen did not suffer uncertainty through change of policy. He spoke of the need for reduction of the 1897 Dingley Tariff, for antitrust reform, and for continued advancement of the Philippines toward full self-government. [71] Roosevelt left office with regret that his tenure in the position he enjoyed so much was over and, to keep out of Taft's way, arranged for a year-long hunting trip to Africa. [72]

Soon after the Republican convention, Taft and Roosevelt had discussed which cabinet officers would stay on. Taft kept only Agriculture Secretary James Wilson and Postmaster General George von Lengerke Meyer (who was shifted to the Navy Department). Others appointed to the Taft cabinet included Philander Knox, who had served under McKinley and Roosevelt as Attorney General, as the new Secretary of State, and Franklin MacVeagh as Treasury Secretary. [73] [74]

Taft did not enjoy the easy relationship with the press that Roosevelt had, choosing not to offer himself for interviews or photo opportunities as often as his predecessor had. [75] His administration marked a change in style from the charismatic leadership of Roosevelt to Taft's quieter passion for the rule of law. [76]

First Lady's illness

Early in Taft's term, in May 1909, his wife Nellie had a severe stroke that left her paralysed in one arm and one leg and deprived her of the power of speech. Taft spent several hours each day looking after her and teaching her to speak again, which took a year. [77]

Foreign policy

Organization and principles

Taft made it a priority to restructure the State Department, noting, "it is organized on the basis of the needs of the government in 1800 instead of 1900." [78] The Department was for the first time organized into geographical divisions, including desks for the Far East, Latin America and Western Europe. [79] The department's first in-service training program was established, and appointees spent a month in Washington before going to their posts. [80] Taft and Secretary of State Knox had a strong relationship, and the president listened to his counsel on matters foreign and domestic. According to historian Paolo E. Coletta, Knox was not a good diplomat, and had poor relations with the Senate, press, and many foreign leaders, especially those from Latin America. [81]

There was broad agreement between Taft and Knox on major foreign policy goals the U.S. would not interfere in European affairs, and would use force if necessary to enforce the Monroe Doctrine in the Americas. The defense of the Panama Canal, which was under construction throughout Taft's term (it opened in 1914), guided United States foreign policy in the Caribbean and Central America. Previous administrations had made efforts to promote American business interests overseas, but Taft went a step further and used the web of American diplomats and consuls abroad to further trade. Such ties, Taft hoped, would promote world peace. [81] Taft pushed for arbitration treaties with Great Britain and France, but the Senate was not willing to yield to arbitrators its constitutional prerogative to approve treaties. [82]

Tariffs and reciprocity

At the time of Taft's presidency, protectionism through the use of tariffs was a fundamental position of the Republican Party. [83] The Dingley Tariff had been enacted to protect American industry from foreign competition. The 1908 party platform had supported unspecified revisions to the Dingley Act, and Taft interpreted this to mean reductions. Taft called a special session of Congress to convene on March 15, 1909 to deal with the tariff question. [84]

Sereno E. Payne, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, had held hearings in late 1908, and sponsored the resulting draft legislation. On balance, the bill reduced tariffs slightly, but when it passed the House in April 1909 and reached the Senate, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Rhode Island Senator Nelson W. Aldrich, attached many amendments raising rates. This outraged progressives such as Wisconsin's Robert M. La Follette, who urged Taft to say that the bill was not in accord with the party platform. Taft refused, angering them. [85] Taft insisted that most imports from the Philippines be free of duty, and according to Anderson, showed effective leadership on a subject he was knowledgeable on and cared about. [86]

When opponents sought to modify the tariff bill to allow for an income tax, Taft opposed it on the ground that the Supreme Court would likely strike it down as unconstitutional, as it had before. Instead, they proposed a constitutional amendment, which passed both houses in early July, was sent to the states, and by 1913 was ratified as the Sixteenth Amendment. In the conference committee, Taft won some victories, such as limiting the tax on lumber. The conference report passed both houses, and Taft signed it on August 6, 1909. The Payne-Aldrich tariff was immediately controversial. According to Coletta, "Taft had lost the initiative, and the wounds inflicted in the acrid tariff debate never healed". [87]

In Taft's annual message sent to Congress in December 1910, he urged a free trade accord with Canada. Britain at that time still handled Canada's foreign relations, and Taft found the British and Canadian governments willing. Many in Canada opposed an accord, fearing the U.S. would dump it when convenient as it had the 1854 Elgin-Marcy Treaty in 1866, and farm and fisheries interests in the United States were also opposed. After January 1911 talks with Canadian officials, Taft had the agreement, which was not a treaty, introduced into Congress and it passed in late July. The Parliament of Canada, led by Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier, had deadlocked over the issue. Canadians turned Laurier out of office in the September 1911 election and Robert Borden became the new prime minister. No cross-border agreement was concluded, and the debate deepened divisions in the Republican Party. [88] [89]

Latin America

Taft and his Secretary of State, Philander Knox, instituted a policy of Dollar Diplomacy towards Latin America, believing U.S. investment would benefit all involved, while diminishing European influence in regions where the Monroe Doctrine applied. The policy was unpopular among Latin American states that did not wish to become financial protectorates of the United States, as well as in the U.S. Senate, many of whose members believed the U.S. should not interfere abroad. [90] No foreign affairs controversy tested Taft's policy more than the collapse of the Mexican regime and subsequent turmoil of the Mexican Revolution. [91]

When Taft entered office, Mexico was increasingly restless under the grip of longtime dictator Porfirio Díaz. Many Mexicans backed his opponent, Francisco Madero. [92] There were a number of incidents in which Mexican rebels crossed the U.S. border to obtain horses and weapons Taft sought to prevent this by ordering the US Army to the border areas for maneuvers. Taft told his military aide, Archibald Butt, that "I am going to sit on the lid and it will take a great deal to pry me off". [93] He showed his support for Díaz by meeting with him at El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, the first meeting between a U.S. and a Mexican president and also the first time an American president visited Mexico. [94] The day of the summit, Frederick Russell Burnham and a Texas Ranger captured and disarmed an assassin holding a palm pistol only a few feet from the two presidents. [94] Before the election in Mexico, Díaz jailed opposition candidate Madero, whose supporters took up arms. This resulted in both the ousting of Díaz and a revolution that would continue for another ten years. In the U.S.'s Arizona Territory, two citizens were killed and almost a dozen injured, some as a result of gunfire across the border. Taft was against an aggressive response and so instructed the territorial governor. [91]

Nicaragua's president, José Santos Zelaya, wanted to revoke commercial concessions granted to American companies, [j] and American diplomats quietly favored rebel forces under Juan Estrada. [95] Nicaragua was in debt to foreign powers, and the U.S. was unwilling that an alternate canal route fall into the hands of Europeans. Zelaya's elected successor, José Madriz, could not put down the rebellion as U.S. forces interfered, and in August 1910, the Estrada forces took Managua, the capital. The U.S. compelled Nicaragua to accept a loan, and sent officials to ensure it was repaid from government revenues. The country remained unstable, and after another coup in 1911 and more disturbances in 1912, Taft sent troops to begin the United States occupation of Nicaragua, which lasted until 1933. [96] [97]

Treaties among Panama, Colombia, and the United States to resolve disputes arising from the Panamanian Revolution of 1903 had been signed by the lame-duck Roosevelt administration in early 1909, and were approved by the Senate and also ratified by Panama. Colombia, however, declined to ratify the treaties, and after the 1912 elections, Knox offered $10 million to the Colombians (later raised to $25 million). The Colombians felt the amount inadequate, and requested arbitration the matter was not settled under the Taft administration. [98]

East Asia

Due to his years in the Philippines, Taft was keenly interested as president in East Asian affairs. [99] Taft considered relations with Europe relatively unimportant, but because of the potential for trade and investment, Taft ranked the post of minister to China as most important in the Foreign Service. Knox did not agree, and declined a suggestion that he go to Peking to view the facts on the ground. Taft considered Roosevelt's minister there, William W. Rockhill, as uninterested in the China trade, and replaced him with William J. Calhoun, whom McKinley and Roosevelt had sent on several foreign missions. Knox did not listen to Calhoun on policy, and there were often conflicts. [100] Taft and Knox tried unsuccessfully to extend John Hay's Open Door Policy to Manchuria. [101]

In 1898, an American company had gained a concession for a railroad between Hankow and Szechuan, but the Chinese revoked the agreement in 1904 after the company (which was indemnified for the revocation) breached the agreement by selling a majority stake outside the United States. The Chinese imperial government got the money for the indemnity from the British Hong Kong government, on condition British subjects would be favored if foreign capital was needed to build the railroad line, and in 1909, a British-led consortium began negotiations. [102] This came to Knox's attention in May of that year, and he demanded that U.S. banks be allowed to participate. Taft appealed personally to the Prince Regent, Zaifeng, Prince Chun, and was successful in gaining U.S. participation, though agreements were not signed until May 1911. [103] However, the Chinese decree authorizing the agreement also required the nationalization of local railroad companies in the affected provinces. Inadequate compensation was paid to the shareholders, and these grievances were among those which touched off the Chinese Revolution of 1911. [104] [105]

After the revolution broke out, the revolt's leaders chose Sun Yat-sen as provisional president of what became the Republic of China, overthrowing the Manchu dynasty, Taft was reluctant to recognize the new government, although American public opinion was in favor of it. The U.S. House of Representatives in February 1912 passed a resolution supporting a Chinese republic, but Taft and Knox felt recognition should come as a concerted action by Western powers. Taft in his final annual message to Congress in December 1912 indicated that he was moving towards recognition once the republic was fully established, but by then he had been defeated for reelection and he did not follow through. [106] Taft continued the policy against immigration from China and Japan as under Roosevelt. A revised treaty of friendship and navigation entered into by the U.S. and Japan in 1911 granted broad reciprocal rights to Japanese people in America and Americans in Japan, but were premised on the continuation of the Gentlemen's Agreement. There was objection on the West Coast when the treaty was submitted to the Senate, but Taft informed politicians that there was no change in immigration policy. [107]


Taft was opposed to the traditional practice of rewarding wealthy supporters with key ambassadorial posts, preferring that diplomats not live in a lavish lifestyle and selecting men who, as Taft put it, would recognize an American when they saw one. High on his list for dismissal was the ambassador to France, Henry White, whom Taft knew and disliked from his visits to Europe. White's ousting caused other career State Department employees to fear that their jobs might be lost to politics. Taft also wanted to replace the Roosevelt-appointed ambassador in London, Whitelaw Reid, but Reid, owner of the New-York Tribune, had backed Taft during the campaign, and both William and Nellie Taft enjoyed his gossipy reports. Reid remained in place until his 1912 death. [108]

Taft was a supporter of settling international disputes by arbitration, and he negotiated treaties with Great Britain and with France providing that differences be arbitrated. These were signed in August 1911. Neither Taft nor Knox (a former senator) consulted with members of the Senate during the negotiating process. By then many Republicans were opposed to Taft and the president felt that lobbying too hard for the treaties might cause their defeat. He made some speeches supporting the treaties in October, but the Senate added amendments Taft could not accept, killing the agreements. [109]

Although no general arbitration treaty was entered into, Taft's administration settled several disputes with Great Britain by peaceful means, often involving arbitration. These included a settlement of the boundary between Maine and New Brunswick, a long-running dispute over seal hunting in the Bering Sea that also involved Japan, and a similar disagreement regarding fishing off Newfoundland. The sealing convention remained in force until abrogated by Japan in 1940. [110]

Domestic policies and politics


Taft continued and expanded Roosevelt's efforts to break up business combinations through lawsuits brought under the Sherman Antitrust Act, bringing 70 cases in four years (Roosevelt had brought 40 in seven years). Suits brought against the Standard Oil Company and the American Tobacco Company, initiated under Roosevelt, were decided in favor of the government by the Supreme Court in 1911. [111] In June 1911, the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives began hearings into United States Steel (U.S. Steel). That company had been expanded under Roosevelt, who had supported its acquisition of the Tennessee Coal, Iron, and Railroad Company as a means of preventing the deepening of the Panic of 1907, a decision the former president defended when testifying at the hearings. Taft, as Secretary of War, had praised the acquisitions. [112] Historian Louis L. Gould suggested that Roosevelt was likely deceived into believing that U.S. Steel did not want to purchase the Tennessee company, but it was in fact a bargain. For Roosevelt, questioning the matter went to his personal honesty. [113]

In October 1911, Taft's Justice Department brought suit against U.S. Steel, demanding that over a hundred of its subsidiaries be granted corporate independence, and naming as defendants many prominent business executives and financiers. The pleadings in the case had not been reviewed by Taft, and alleged that Roosevelt "had fostered monopoly, and had been duped by clever industrialists". [112] Roosevelt was offended by the references to him and his administration in the pleadings, and felt that Taft could not evade command responsibility by saying he did not know of them. [114]

Taft sent a special message to Congress on the need for a revamped antitrust statute when it convened its regular session in December 1911, but it took no action. Another antitrust case that had political repercussions for Taft was that brought against the International Harvester Company, the large manufacturer of farm equipment, in early 1912. As Roosevelt's administration had investigated International Harvester, but had taken no action (a decision Taft had supported), the suit became caught up in Roosevelt's challenge for the Republican presidential nomination. Supporters of Taft alleged that Roosevelt had acted improperly the former president blasted Taft for waiting three and a half years, and until he was under challenge, to reverse a decision he had supported. [115]

Ballinger–Pinchot affair

Roosevelt was an ardent conservationist, assisted in this by like-minded appointees, including Interior Secretary James R. Garfield [k] and Chief Forester Gifford Pinchot. Taft agreed with the need for conservation, but felt it should be accomplished by legislation rather than executive order. He did not retain Garfield, an Ohioan, as secretary, choosing instead a westerner, former Seattle mayor Richard A. Ballinger. Roosevelt was surprised at the replacement, believing that Taft had promised to keep Garfield, and this change was one of the events that caused Roosevelt to realize that Taft would choose different policies. [116]

Roosevelt had withdrawn much land from the public domain, including some in Alaska thought rich in coal. In 1902, Clarence Cunningham, an Idaho entrepreneur, had found coal deposits in Alaska, and made mining claims, and the government investigated their legality. This dragged on for the remainder of the Roosevelt administration, including during the year (1907–1908) when Ballinger served as head of the General Land Office. [117] A special agent for the Land Office, Louis Glavis, investigated the Cunningham claims, and when Secretary Ballinger in 1909 approved them, Glavis broke governmental protocol by going outside the Interior Department to seek help from Pinchot. [118]

In September 1909, Glavis made his allegations public in a magazine article, disclosing that Ballinger had acted as an attorney for Cunningham between his two periods of government service. This violated conflict of interest rules forbidding a former government official from advocacy on a matter he had been responsible for. [119] On September 13, 1909 Taft dismissed Glavis from government service, relying on a report from Attorney General George W. Wickersham dated two days previously. [120] Pinchot was determined to dramatize the issue by forcing his own dismissal, which Taft tried to avoid, fearing that it might cause a break with Roosevelt (still overseas). Taft asked Elihu Root (by then a senator) to look into the matter, and Root urged the firing of Pinchot. [119]

Taft had ordered government officials not to comment on the fracas. [121] In January 1910, Pinchot forced the issue by sending a letter to Iowa Senator Dolliver alleging that but for the actions of the Forestry Service, Taft would have approved a fraudulent claim on public lands. According to Pringle, this "was an utterly improper appeal from an executive subordinate to the legislative branch of the government and an unhappy president prepared to separate Pinchot from public office". [122] Pinchot was dismissed, much to his delight, and he sailed for Europe to lay his case before Roosevelt. [123] A congressional investigation followed, which cleared Ballinger by majority vote, but the administration was embarrassed when Glavis' attorney, Louis D. Brandeis, proved that the Wickersham report had been backdated, which Taft belatedly admitted. The Ballinger–Pinchot affair caused progressives and Roosevelt loyalists to feel that Taft had turned his back on Roosevelt's agenda. [124]

Civil rights

Taft announced in his inaugural address that he would not appoint African Americans to federal jobs, such as postmaster, where this would cause racial friction. This differed from Roosevelt, who would not remove or replace black officeholders with whom local whites would not deal. Termed Taft's "Southern Policy", this stance effectively invited white protests against black appointees. Taft followed through, removing most black office holders in the South, and made few appointments of African Americans in the North. [125]

At the time Taft was inaugurated, the way forward for African Americans was debated by their leaders. Booker T. Washington felt that most blacks should be trained for industrial work, with only a few seeking higher education W. E. B. DuBois took a more militant stand for equality. Taft tended towards Washington's approach. According to Coletta, Taft let the African-American "be 'kept in his place' . He thus failed to see or follow the humanitarian mission historically associated with the Republican party, with the result that Negroes both North and South began to drift toward the Democratic party." [126]

Taft, a Unitarian, was a leader in the early 20th century of the favorable reappraisal of Catholicism's historic role. It tended to neutralize anti-Catholic sentiments, especially in the Far West where Protestantism was a weak force. In 1904 Taft gave a speech at the University of Notre Dame. He praised the "enterprise, courage, and fidelity to duty that distinguished those heroes of Spain who braved the then frightful dangers of the deep to carry Christianity and European civilization into" the Philippines. In 1909 he praised Junípero Serra as an "apostle, legislator, [and] builder" who advanced "the beginning of civilization in California." [127]

A supporter of free immigration, Taft vetoed a bill passed by Congress and supported by labor unions that would have restricted unskilled laborers by imposing a literacy test. [128]

Judicial appointments

Taft made six appointments to the Supreme Court only George Washington and Franklin D. Roosevelt have made more. [129] The death of Justice Rufus Peckham in October 1909 gave Taft his first opportunity. He chose an old friend and colleague from the Sixth Circuit, Horace H. Lurton of Georgia he had in vain urged Theodore Roosevelt to appoint Lurton to the high court. Attorney General Wickersham objected that Lurton, a former Confederate soldier and a Democrat, was aged 65. Taft named Lurton anyway on December 13, 1909, and the Senate confirmed him by voice vote a week later. Lurton is still the oldest person to be made an associate justice. [l] Lurie suggested that Taft, already beset by the tariff and conservation controversies, desired to perform an official act which gave him pleasure, especially since he thought Lurton deserved it. [130]

Justice David Josiah Brewer's death on March 28, 1910 gave Taft a second opportunity to fill a seat on the high court he chose New York Governor Charles Evans Hughes. Taft told Hughes that should the chief justiceship fall vacant during his term, Hughes would be his likely choice for the center seat. The Senate quickly confirmed Hughes, but then Chief Justice Fuller died on July 4, 1910. Taft took five months to replace Fuller, and when he did, it was with Justice Edward Douglass White, who became the first associate justice to be promoted to chief justice. [m] According to Lurie, Taft, who still had hopes of being chief justice, may have been more willing to appoint an older man than he (White) than a younger one (Hughes), who might outlive him, as indeed Hughes did. To fill White's seat as associate justice, Taft appointed Willis Van Devanter of Wyoming, a federal appeals judge. By the time Taft nominated White and Van Devanter in December 1910, he had another seat to fill due to William Henry Moody's retirement because of illness he named a Louisiana Democrat, Joseph R. Lamar, whom he had met while playing golf, and had subsequently learned had a good reputation as a judge. [131]

With the death of Justice Harlan in October 1911, Taft got to fill a sixth seat on the Supreme Court. After Secretary Knox declined appointment, Taft named Chancellor of New Jersey Mahlon Pitney, the last person appointed to the Supreme Court who did not attend law school. [132] Pitney had a stronger anti-labor record than Taft's other appointments, and was the only one to meet opposition, winning confirmation by a Senate vote of 50–26. [133]

Taft appointed 13 judges to the federal courts of appeal and 38 to the United States district courts. Taft also appointed judges to various specialized courts, including the first five appointees each to the United States Commerce Court and the United States Court of Customs Appeals. [134] The Commerce Court, created in 1910, stemmed from a Taft proposal for a specialized court to hear appeals from the Interstate Commerce Commission. There was considerable opposition to its establishment, which only grew when one of its judges, Robert W. Archbald, was in 1912 impeached for corruption and removed by the Senate the following January. Taft vetoed a bill to abolish the court, but the respite was short-lived as Woodrow Wilson signed similar legislation in October 1913. [135]

1912 presidential campaign and election

Moving apart from Roosevelt

During Roosevelt's fifteen months beyond the Atlantic, from March 1909 to June 1910, neither man wrote much to the other. Taft biographer Lurie suggested that each expected the other to make the first move to re-establish their relationship on a new footing. Upon Roosevelt's triumphant return, Taft invited him to stay at the White House. The former president declined, and in private letters to friends expressed dissatisfaction at Taft's performance. Nevertheless, he wrote that he expected Taft to be renominated by the Republicans in 1912, and did not speak of himself as a candidate. [136]

Taft and Roosevelt met twice in 1910 the meetings, though outwardly cordial, did not display their former closeness. [137] Roosevelt gave a series of speeches in the West in the late summer and early fall of 1910. Roosevelt not only attacked the Supreme Court's 1905 decision in Lochner v. New York, [n] he accused the federal courts of undermining democracy, and called for them to be deprived of the power to rule legislation unconstitutional. This attack horrified Taft, who privately agreed that Lochner had been wrongly decided. Roosevelt called for "elimination of corporate expenditures for political purposes, physical valuation of railroad properties, regulation of industrial combinations, establishment of an export tariff commission, a graduated income tax" as well as "workmen's compensation laws, state and national legislation to regulate the [labor] of women and children, and complete publicity of campaign expenditure". [138] According to John Murphy in his journal article on the breach between the two presidents, "As Roosevelt began to move to the left, Taft veered to the right." [138]

During the 1910 midterm election campaign, Roosevelt involved himself in New York politics, while Taft with donations and influence tried to secure the election of the Republican gubernatorial candidate in Ohio, former lieutenant governor Warren G. Harding. The Republicans suffered losses in the 1910 elections as the Democrats took control of the House and slashed the Republican majority in the Senate. In New Jersey, Democrat Woodrow Wilson was elected governor, and Harding lost his race in Ohio. [137]

After the election, Roosevelt continued to promote progressive ideals, a New Nationalism, much to Taft's dismay. Roosevelt attacked his successor's administration, arguing that its guiding principles were not that of the party of Lincoln, but those of the Gilded Age. [139] The feud continued on and off through 1911, a year in which there were few elections of significance. Wisconsin Senator La Follette announced a presidential run as a Republican, and was backed by a convention of progressives. Roosevelt began to move into a position for a run in late 1911, writing that the tradition that presidents not run for a third term only applied to consecutive terms. [140]

Roosevelt was receiving many letters from supporters urging him to run, and Republican office-holders were organizing on his behalf. Balked on many policies by an unwilling Congress and courts in his full term in the White House, he saw manifestations of public support he believed would sweep him to the White House with a mandate for progressive policies that would brook no opposition. [141] In February, Roosevelt announced he would accept the Republican nomination if it was offered to him. Taft felt that if he lost in November, it would be a repudiation of the party, but if he lost renomination, it would be a rejection of himself. [142] He was reluctant to oppose Roosevelt, who helped make him president, but having become president, he was determined to be president, and that meant not standing aside to allow Roosevelt to gain another term. [143]

Primaries and convention

As Roosevelt became more radical in his progressivism, Taft was hardened in his resolve to achieve re-nomination, as he was convinced that the progressives threatened the very foundation of the government. [144] One blow to Taft was the loss of Archibald Butt, one of the last links between the previous and present presidents, as Butt had formerly served Roosevelt. Ambivalent between his loyalties, Butt went to Europe on vacation he died in the sinking of the RMS Titanic. [145]

Roosevelt dominated the primaries, winning 278 of the 362 delegates to the Republican National Convention in Chicago decided in that manner. Taft had control of the party machinery, and it came as no surprise that he gained the bulk of the delegates decided at district or state conventions. [146] Taft did not have a majority, but was likely to have one once southern delegations committed to him. Roosevelt challenged the election of these delegates, but the RNC overruled most objections. Roosevelt's sole remaining chance was with a friendly convention chairman, who might make rulings on the seating of delegates that favored his side. Taft followed custom and remained in Washington, but Roosevelt went to Chicago to run his campaign [147] and told his supporters in a speech, "we stand at Armageddon, and we battle for the Lord". [148] [149]

Taft had won over Root, who agreed to run for temporary chairman of the convention, and the delegates elected Root over Roosevelt's candidate. [148] The Roosevelt forces moved to substitute the delegates they supported for the ones they argued should not be seated. Root made a crucial ruling, that although the contested delegates could not vote on their own seating, they could vote on the other contested delegates, a ruling that assured Taft's nomination, as the motion offered by the Roosevelt forces failed, 567–507. [150] As it became clear Roosevelt would bolt the party if not nominated, some Republicans sought a compromise candidate to avert electoral disaster they failed. [151] Taft's name was placed in nomination by Warren Harding, whose attempts to praise Taft and unify the party were met with angry interruptions from progressives. [152] Taft was nominated on the first ballot, though most Roosevelt delegates refused to vote. [150]

Campaign and defeat

Alleging Taft had stolen the nomination, Roosevelt and his followers formed the Progressive Party. [o] [153] Taft knew he would lose, but concluded that through Roosevelt's loss at Chicago the party had been preserved as "the defender of conservative government and conservative institutions." [154] He made his doomed run to preserve conservative control of the Republican Party. [155] Governor Woodrow Wilson was the Democratic nominee. Seeing Roosevelt as the greater electoral threat, Wilson spent little time attacking Taft, arguing that Roosevelt had been lukewarm in opposing the trusts during his presidency, and that Wilson was the true reformer. [156] Taft contrasted what he called his "progressive conservatism" with Roosevelt's Progressive democracy, which to Taft represented "the establishment of a benevolent despotism." [157]

Reverting to the pre-1888 custom that presidents seeking reelection did not campaign, Taft spoke publicly only once, making his nomination acceptance speech on August 1. [158] He had difficulty in financing the campaign, as many industrialists had concluded he could not win, and would support Wilson to block Roosevelt. The president issued a confident statement in September after the Republicans narrowly won Vermont's state elections in a three-way fight, but had no illusions he would win his race. [159] He had hoped to send his cabinet officers out on the campaign trail, but found them reluctant to go. Senator Root agreed to give a single speech for him. [160]

Vice President Sherman had been renominated at Chicago seriously ill during the campaign, he died six days before the election, [p] and was replaced on the ticket by the president of Columbia University, Nicholas Murray Butler. But few electors chose Taft and Butler, who won only Utah and Vermont, for a total of eight electoral votes. [q] Roosevelt won 88, and Wilson 435. Wilson won with a plurality—not a majority—of the popular vote. Taft finished with just under 3.5 million, over 600,000 less than the former president. [161] Taft was not on the ballot in California, due to the actions of local Progressives, nor in South Dakota. [162]

With no pension or other compensation to expect from the government after leaving the White House, Taft contemplated a return to the practice of law, from which he had long been absent. Given that Taft had appointed many federal judges, including a majority of the Supreme Court, this would raise questions of conflict of interest at every federal court appearance and he was saved from this by an offer for him to become Kent Professor of Law and Legal History at Yale Law School. He accepted, and after a month's vacation in Georgia, arrived in New Haven on April 1, 1913 to a rapturous reception. As it was too late in the semester for him to give an academic course, he instead prepared eight lectures on "Questions of Modern Government", which he delivered in May. [163] He earned money with paid speeches and with articles for magazines, and would end his eight years out of office having increased his savings. [164] While at Yale, he wrote the treatise, Our Chief Magistrate and His Powers (1916). [165]

Taft had been made president of the Lincoln Memorial Commission while still in office when Democrats proposed removing him for one of their party, he quipped that unlike losing the presidency, such a removal would hurt. The architect, Henry Bacon, wanted to use Colorado-Yule marble, while southern Democrats urged using Georgia marble. Taft lobbied for the western stone, and the matter was submitted to the Commission of Fine Arts, which supported Taft and Bacon. The project went forward Taft would dedicate the Lincoln Memorial as chief justice in 1922. [166] In 1913, Taft was elected to a one-year term as president of the American Bar Association (ABA), a trade group of lawyers. He removed opponents, such as Louis Brandeis and University of Pennsylvania Law School dean William Draper Lewis (a supporter of the Progressive Party) from committees. [167]

Taft maintained a cordial relationship with Wilson. The former president privately criticized his successor on a number of issues, but made his views known publicly only on Philippine policy. Taft was appalled when, after Justice Lamar's death in January 1916, Wilson nominated Brandeis, whom the former president had never forgiven for his role in the Ballinger–Pinchot affair. When hearings led to nothing discreditable about Brandeis, Taft intervened with a letter signed by himself and other former ABA presidents, stating that Brandeis was not fit to serve on the Supreme Court. Nevertheless, the Democratic-controlled Senate confirmed Brandeis. [168] Taft and Roosevelt remained embittered they met only once in the first three years of the Wilson presidency, at a funeral at Yale. They spoke only for a moment, politely but formally. [169]

As president of the League to Enforce Peace, Taft hoped to prevent war through an international association of nations. With World War I raging in Europe, Taft sent Wilson a note of support for his foreign policy in 1915. [170] President Wilson accepted Taft's invitation to address the league, and spoke in May 1916 of a postwar international organization that could prevent a repetition. [171] Taft supported the effort to get Justice Hughes to resign from the bench and accept the Republican presidential nomination. Once this was done, Hughes tried to get Roosevelt and Taft to reconcile, as a united effort was needed to defeat Wilson. This occurred on October 3 in New York, but Roosevelt allowed only a handshake, and no words were exchanged. This was one of many difficulties for the Republicans in the campaign, and Wilson narrowly won reelection. [172]

In March 1917, Taft demonstrated public support for the war effort by joining the Connecticut State Guard, a state defense force organized to carry out the state duties of the Connecticut National Guard while the National Guard served on active duty. [173] When Wilson asked Congress to declare war on Germany in April 1917, Taft was an enthusiastic supporter he was chairman of the American Red Cross' executive committee, which occupied much of the former president's time. [174] In August 1917, Wilson conferred military titles on executives of the Red Cross as a way to provide them with additional authority to use in carrying out their wartime responsibilities, and Taft was appointed a major general. [175]

During the war, Taft took leave from Yale in order to serve as co-chairman of the National War Labor Board, tasked with assuring good relations between industry owners and their workers. [176] In February 1918, the new RNC chairman, Will H. Hays, approached Taft seeking his reconciliation with Roosevelt. At a dinner in the two men embraced, but the relationship did not progress Roosevelt died in January 1919. [177] Taft later wrote, "Had he died in a hostile state of mind toward me, I would have mourned the fact all my life. I loved him always and cherish his memory." [178]

When Wilson proposed establishment of a League of Nations, Taft expressed public support. He was the leader of his party's activist wing, and was opposed by a small group of senators who vigorously opposed the League. Taft's flip-flop on whether reservations to the Versailles Treaty were necessary angered both sides, causing some Republicans to call him a Wilson supporter and a traitor to his party. The Senate refused to ratify the Versailles pact. [179]


During the 1920 election campaign, Taft supported the Republican ticket, Harding (by then a senator) and Massachusetts Governor Calvin Coolidge they were elected. [180] Taft was among those asked to come to the president-elect's home in Marion, Ohio to advise him on appointments, and the two men conferred there on December 24, 1920. By Taft's later account, after some conversation, Harding casually asked if Taft would accept appointment to the Supreme Court if Taft would, Harding would appoint him. Taft had a condition for Harding—having served as president, and having appointed two of the present associate justices and opposed Brandeis, he could accept only the chief justice position. Harding made no response, and Taft in a thank-you note reiterated the condition and stated that Chief Justice White had often told him he was keeping the position for Taft until a Republican held the White House. In January 1921, Taft heard through intermediaries that Harding planned to appoint him, if given the chance. [181]

White by then was in failing health, but made no move to resign when Harding was sworn in on March 4, 1921. [182] Taft called on the chief justice on March 26, and found White ill, but still carrying on his work and not talking of retiring. [183] White did not retire, dying in office on May 19, 1921. Taft issued a tribute to the man he had appointed to the center seat, and waited and worried if he would be White's successor. Despite widespread speculation Taft would be the pick, Harding made no quick announcement. [184] Taft was lobbying for himself behind the scenes, especially with the Ohio politicians who formed Harding's inner circle. [185]

It later emerged that Harding had also promised former Utah senator George Sutherland a seat on the Supreme Court, and was waiting in the expectation that another place would become vacant. [r] [186] Harding was also considering a proposal by Justice William R. Day to crown his career by being chief justice for six months before retiring. Taft felt, when he learned of this plan, that a short-term appointment would not serve the office well, and that once confirmed by the Senate, the memory of Day would grow dim. After Harding rejected Day's plan, Attorney General Harry Daugherty, who supported Taft's candidacy, urged him to fill the vacancy, and he named Taft on June 30, 1921. [184] The Senate confirmed Taft the same day, 61–4, without any committee hearings and after a brief debate in executive session. Taft drew the objections of three progressive Republicans and one southern Democrat. [s] [187] When he was sworn in on July 11, he became the first and to date only person to serve both as president and chief justice. [2]

Taft Court membership timeline

McKinley appointment T. Roosevelt appointment Taft appointment Wilson appointment Harding appointment Coolidge appointment


Commerce Clause

The Supreme Court under Taft compiled a conservative record in Commerce Clause jurisprudence. This had the practical effect of making it difficult for the federal government to regulate industry, and the Taft Court also scuttled many state laws. The few liberals on the court—Brandeis, Holmes, and (from 1925) Harlan Fiske Stone—sometimes protested, believing orderly progress essential, but often joined in the majority opinion. [188]

The White Court had, in 1918, struck down an attempt by Congress to regulate child labor in Hammer v. Dagenhart. [t] [189] Congress thereafter attempted to end child labor by imposing a tax on certain corporations making use of it. That law was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1922 in Bailey v. Drexel Furniture Co., with Taft writing the court's opinion for an 8–1 majority. [u] He held that the tax was not intended to raise revenue, but rather was an attempt to regulate matters reserved to the states under the Tenth Amendment, [190] and that allowing such taxation would eliminate the power of the states. [2] One case in which Taft and his court upheld federal regulation was Stafford v. Wallace. Taft ruled for a 7–1 majority [v] that the processing of animals in stockyards was so closely tied to interstate commerce as to bring it within the ambit of Congress's power to regulate. [191]

A case in which the Taft Court struck down regulation that generated a dissent from the chief justice was Adkins v. Children's Hospital. [w] Congress had decreed a minimum wage for women in the District of Columbia. A 5–3 majority of the Supreme Court struck it down. Justice Sutherland wrote for the majority that the recently ratified Nineteenth Amendment, guaranteeing women the vote, meant that the sexes were equal when it came to bargaining power over working conditions Taft, in dissent, deemed this unrealistic. [192] Taft's dissent in Adkins was rare both because he authored few dissents, and because it was one of the few times he took an expansive view of the police power of the government. [193]

Powers of government

In 1922, Taft ruled for a unanimous court in Balzac v. Porto Rico. [x] One of the Insular Cases, Balzac involved a Puerto Rico newspaper publisher who was prosecuted for libel but denied a jury trial, a Sixth Amendment protection under the constitution. Taft held that as Puerto Rico was not a territory designated for statehood, only such constitutional protections as Congress decreed would apply to its residents. [194]

In 1926, Taft wrote for a 6–3 majority in Myers v. United States [y] that Congress could not require the president to get Senate approval before removing an appointee. Taft noted that there is no restriction of the president's power to remove officials in the constitution. Although Myers involved the removal of a postmaster, [195] Taft in his opinion found invalid the repealed Tenure of Office Act, for violation of which his presidential predecessor, Andrew Johnson, had been impeached, though acquitted by the Senate. [196] Taft valued Myers as his most important opinion. [197]

The following year, the court decided McGrain v. Daugherty. [z] A congressional committee investigating possible complicity of former Attorney General Daugherty in the Teapot Dome scandal subpoenaed records from his brother, Mally, who refused to provide them, alleging Congress had no power to obtain documents from him. Van Devanter ruled for a unanimous court against him, finding that Congress had the authority to conduct investigations as an auxiliary to its legislative function. [198]

Individual and civil rights

In 1925, the Taft Court laid the groundwork for the incorporation of many of the guarantees of the Bill of Rights to be applied against the states through the Fourteenth Amendment. In Gitlow v. New York, [aa] the court by a 6–2 vote with Taft in the majority, upheld Gitlow's conviction on criminal anarchy charges for advocating the overthrow of the government his defense was freedom of speech. Justice Edward T. Sanford wrote the court's opinion, and both majority and minority (Holmes, joined by Brandeis) assumed that the First Amendment's Free Speech and Free Press clauses were protected against infringement by the states. [199]

Pierce v. Society of Sisters [ab] was a 1925 decision by the Taft Court striking down an Oregon law banning private schools. In a decision written by Justice James C. McReynolds, a unanimous court held that Oregon could regulate private schools, but could not eliminate them. The outcome supported the right of parents to control the education of their children, but also, since the lead plaintiff (the society) ran Catholic schools, struck a blow for religious freedom. [199]

United States v. Lanza [ac] was one of a series of cases involving Prohibition. Lanza committed acts allegedly in violation of both state and federal law, and was first convicted in Washington state court, then prosecuted in federal district court. He alleged the second prosecution in violation of the Double Jeopardy Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Taft, for a unanimous court, allowed the second prosecution, holding that the state and federal governments were dual sovereigns, each empowered to prosecute the conduct in question. [200]

In the 1927 case Lum v. Rice, [ad] Taft wrote for a unanimous Court that included liberals Holmes, Brandeis and Stone. The ruling held the exclusion on account of race of a child of Chinese ancestry from a whites-only public school did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. This allowed states to extend segregation in public schools to Chinese students. [201]

Administration and political influence

Taft exercised the power of his position to influence the decisions of his colleagues, urging unanimity and discouraging dissents. Alpheus Mason, in his article on Chief Justice Taft for the American Bar Association Journal, contrasted Taft's expansive view of the role of the chief justice with the narrow view of presidential power he took while in that office. [202] Taft saw nothing wrong with making his views on possible appointments to the court known to the White House, and was annoyed to be criticized in the press. He was initially a firm supporter of President Coolidge after Harding's death in 1923, but became disillusioned with Coolidge's appointments to office and to the bench he had similar misgivings about Coolidge's successor, Herbert Hoover. [203] Taft advised the Republican presidents in office while he was chief justice to avoid "offside" appointments like Brandeis and Holmes. [188] Nevertheless, by 1923, Taft was writing of his liking for Brandeis, whom he deemed a hard worker, and Holmes walked to work with him until age and infirmity required an automobile. [204]

Believing that the chief justice should be responsible for the federal courts, Taft felt that he should have an administrative staff to assist him, and the chief justice should be empowered to temporarily reassign judges. [205] He also believed the federal courts had been ill-run. Many of the lower courts had lengthy backlogs, as did the Supreme Court. [206] Immediately on taking office, Taft made it a priority to confer with Attorney General Daugherty as to new legislation, [207] and made his case before congressional hearings, in legal periodicals and in speeches across the country. [208] When Congress convened in December 1921, a bill was introduced for 24 new judges, to empower the chief justice to move judges temporarily to eliminate the delays, and to have him chair a body consisting of the senior appellate judge of each circuit. Congress objected to some aspects, requiring Taft to get the agreement of the senior judge of each involved circuit before assigning a judge, but it in September 1922 passed the bill, and the Judicial Conference of Senior Circuit Judges held its first meeting that December. [209]

The Supreme Court's docket was congested, swelled by war litigation and laws that allowed a party defeated in the circuit court of appeals to have the case decided by the Supreme Court if a constitutional question was involved. Taft believed an appeal should usually be settled by the circuit court, with only cases of major import decided by the justices. He and other Supreme Court members proposed legislation to make most of the court's docket discretionary, with a case getting full consideration by the justices only if they granted a writ of certiorari. To Taft's frustration, Congress took three years to consider the matter. Taft and other members of the court lobbied for the bill in Congress, and the Judges' Bill became law in February 1925. By late the following year, Taft was able to show that the backlog was shrinking. [210]

When Taft became chief justice, the court did not have its own building and met in the Capitol. Its offices were cluttered and overcrowded, but Fuller and White had been opposed to proposals to move the court to its own building. In 1925, Taft began a fight to get the court a building, and two years later Congress appropriated money to purchase the land, on the south side of the Capitol. Cass Gilbert had prepared plans for the building, and was hired by the government as architect. Taft had hoped to live to see the court move into the new building, but it did not do so until 1935, after Taft's death. [211]

Taft is remembered as the heaviest president he was 5 feet 11 inches (1.80 m) tall and his weight peaked at 335–340 pounds (152–154 kg) toward the end of his presidency, [212] although this later decreased, and by 1929 he weighed just 244 pounds (111 kg). By the time Taft became chief justice, his health was starting to decline, and he carefully planned a fitness regimen, walking 3 miles (4.8 km) from his home to the Capitol each day. When he walked home after work, he would usually go by way of Connecticut Avenue and use a particular crossing over Rock Creek. After his death, the crossing was named the Taft Bridge. [213]

Taft followed a weight loss program and hired the British doctor N. E. Yorke-Davies as a dietary advisor. The two men corresponded regularly for over twenty years, and Taft kept a daily record of his weight, food intake, and physical activity. [214]

At Hoover's inauguration on March 4, 1929, Taft recited part of the oath incorrectly, later writing, "my memory is not always accurate and one sometimes becomes a little uncertain", misquoting again in that letter, differently. [215] His health gradually declined over the near-decade of his chief justiceship. Worried that if he retired his replacement would be chosen by President Herbert Hoover, whom he considered too progressive, he wrote his brother Horace in 1929, "I am older and slower and less acute and more confused. However, as long as things continue as they are, and I am able to answer to my place, I must stay on the court in order to prevent the Bolsheviki from getting control". [216]

Taft insisted on going to Cincinnati to attend the funeral of his brother Charles, who died on December 31, 1929 the strain did not improve his own health. When the court reconvened on January 6, 1930, Taft had not returned to Washington, and two opinions were delivered by Van Devanter that Taft had drafted but had been unable to complete because of his illness. Taft went to Asheville, North Carolina, for a rest, but by the end of January, he could barely speak and was suffering from hallucinations. [217] Taft was afraid that Stone would be made chief justice he did not resign until he had secured assurances from Hoover that Hughes would be the choice. [ae] [218] Returning to Washington after his resignation on February 3, Taft had barely enough strength to sign a reply to a letter of tribute from the eight associate justices. He died at his home in Washington on March 8, 1930. [217]

Taft lay in state at the United States Capitol rotunda. [219] Three days following his death, on March 11, he became the first president and first member of the Supreme Court to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. [220] [221] James Earle Fraser sculpted his grave marker out of Stony Creek granite. [220]

Lurie argued that Taft did not receive the public credit for his policies that he should have. Few trusts had been broken up under Roosevelt (although the lawsuits received much publicity). Taft, more quietly than his predecessor, filed many more cases than did Roosevelt, and rejected his predecessor's contention that there was such a thing as a "good" trust. This lack of flair marred Taft's presidency according to Lurie, Taft "was boring—honest, likable, but boring". [222] Scott Bomboy for the National Constitution Center wrote that despite being "one of the most interesting, intellectual, and versatile presidents . a chief justice of the United States, a wrestler at Yale, a reformer, a peace activist, and a baseball fan . today, Taft is best remembered as the president who was so large that he got stuck in the White House bathtub," a story that is not true. [155] [223] Taft similarly remains known for another physical characteristic—as the last president with facial hair to date. [224]

Mason called Taft's years in the White House "undistinguished". [205] Coletta deemed Taft to have had a solid record of bills passed by Congress, but felt he could have accomplished more with political skill. [225] Anderson noted that Taft's prepresidential federal service was entirely in appointed posts, and that he had never run for an important executive or legislative position, which would have allowed him to develop the skills to manipulate public opinion, "the presidency is no place for on-the-job training". [165] According to Coletta, "in troubled times in which the people demanded progressive change, he saw the existing order as good." [226]

Inevitably linked with Roosevelt, Taft generally falls in the shadow of the flamboyant Rough Rider, who chose him to be president, and who took it away. [227] Yet, a portrait of Taft as a victim of betrayal by his best friend is incomplete: as Coletta put it, "Was he a poor politician because he was victimized or because he lacked the foresight and imagination to notice the storm brewing in the political sky until it broke and swamped him?" [228] Adept at using the levers of power in a way his successor could not, Roosevelt generally got what was politically possible out of a situation. Taft was generally slow to act, and when he did, his actions often generated enemies, as in the Ballinger–Pinchot affair. Roosevelt was able to secure positive coverage in the newspapers Taft had a judge's reticence in talking to reporters, and, with no comment from the White House, hostile journalists would supply the want with a quote from a Taft opponent. [229] And it was Roosevelt who engraved in public memory the image of Taft as a Buchanan-like figure, with a narrow view of the presidency which made him unwilling to act for the public good. Anderson pointed out that Roosevelt's Autobiography (which placed this view in enduring form) was published after both men had left the presidency (in 1913), was intended in part to justify Roosevelt's splitting of the Republican Party, and contains not a single positive reference to the man Roosevelt had admired and hand-picked as his successor. While Roosevelt was biased, [230] he was not alone: every major newspaper reporter of that time who left reminiscences of Taft's presidency was critical of him. [231] Taft replied to his predecessor's criticism with his constitutional treatise on the powers of the presidency. [230]

Taft was convinced he would be vindicated by history. After he left office, he was estimated to be about in the middle of U.S. presidents by greatness, and subsequent rankings by historians have by and large sustained that verdict. Coletta noted that this places Taft in good company, with James Madison, John Quincy Adams and McKinley. [232] Lurie catalogued progressive innovations that took place under Taft, and argued that historians have overlooked them because Taft was not an effective political writer or speaker. [233] According to Gould, "the clichés about Taft's weight, his maladroitness in the White House, and his conservatism of thought and doctrine have an element of truth, but they fail to do justice to a shrewd commentator on the political scene, a man of consummate ambition, and a resourceful practitioner of the internal politics of his party." [234] Anderson deemed Taft's success in becoming both president and chief justice "an astounding feat of inside judicial and Republican party politics, played out over years, the likes of which we are not likely to see again in American history". [185]

Taft has been rated among the greatest of the chief justices [235] later Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia noted that this was "not so much on the basis of his opinions, perhaps because many of them ran counter to the ultimate sweep of history". [236] A successor as chief justice, Earl Warren, concurred: "In Taft's case, the symbol, the tag, the label usually attached to him is 'conservative.' It is certainly not of itself a term of opprobrium even when bandied by the critics, but its use is too often confused with 'reactionary.' " [178] Most commentators agree that as chief justice, Taft's most significant contribution was his advocacy for reform of the high court, urging and ultimately gaining improvement in the court's procedures and facilities. [178] [189] [237] Mason cited enactment of the Judges' Bill of 1925 as Taft's major achievement on the court. [189] According to Anderson, Taft as chief justice "was as aggressive in the pursuit of his agenda in the judicial realm as Theodore Roosevelt was in the presidential". [238]

The house in Cincinnati where Taft was born and lived as a boy is now the William Howard Taft National Historic Site. [239] Taft was named one of the first Gold Medal Honorees of the National Institute of Social Sciences. [240] Taft's son Robert was a significant political figure, becoming Senate Majority Leader and three times a major contender for the Republican nomination for president. A conservative, each time he was defeated by a candidate backed by the more liberal Eastern Establishment wing of the party. [af] [241]

Lurie concluded his account of William Taft's career,

While the fabled cherry trees in Washington represent a suitable monument for Nellie Taft, there is no memorial to her husband, except perhaps the magnificent home for his Court—one for which he eagerly planned. But he died even before ground was broken for the structure. As he reacted to his overwhelming defeat for reelection in 1912, Taft had written that "I must wait for years if I would be vindicated by the people . I am content to wait." Perhaps he has waited long enough. [242]

Watch the video: William Howard Utah Jazz (January 2022).