William H. Taft was the 27th President of the United States.
Born: 1857 in Ohio.
Graduated from Yale.
Practiced law in Cincinnati.
Appointed a Federal circuit judge at just 34 yrs old.
Served as chief civil administrator in the Phillipines and Secretary of War.
Served as President from 1909 to 1913.
Died in 1930.
William H. Taft Biography:
William Howard Taft (September 15, 1857 - March 8, 1930) was the twenty-seventh President of the United States, the tenth Chief Justice of the United States, a leader of the progressive conservative wing of the Republican Party in the early 20th century, a pioneer in international arbitration and staunch advocate of world peace verging on pacifism, and scion of a leading political family, the Tafts of Ohio. Taft served as the United States Solicitor General, a federal appellate judge, Governor-General of the Philippines, and Secretary of War before being nominated for President at the 1908 Republican National Convention with the backing of his predecessor and close friend Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt, however, would later launch his own campaign against Taft in 1912 as a candidate of the Progressive Party. As the election featured two "Republican" candidates, the vote was split between them, allowing the Democrat Woodrow Wilson to win the presidency from the incumbent Taft in 1912. His presidency was characterized by trust-busting, strengthening the Interstate Commerce Commission, expanding the civil service, establishing a better postal system, and promoting world peace. Roosevelt broke with Taft in 1911, charging that Taft was too reactionary. Taft and the conservatives were alarmed at Roosevelt's attacks on the judiciary, and took control of the party machinery. Taft defeated Roosevelt for the Republican nomination in a bruising battle in 1912 that forced Roosevelt out of the GOP and left Taft's associates in charge for decades. William Howard Taft remains the only U.S. President to finish third in a bid for reelection to a second consecutive term. During World War I, he helped set national labor policy that reduced strikes and generated union support for the national cause. In 1921, he became the Chief Justice of the United States. As the President and the Chief Justice he helped make the federal courts, especially the Supreme Court, much more powerful in shaping national policy. To date, he is the only former President to serve on the Supreme Court. Weighing over 300 pounds, Taft was physically the heaviest American president ever elected. Taft was also the last American president to have facial hair.
Taft was born on September 15, 1857, in Cincinnati, Ohio, the third of five children. His mother, Louisa Torrey, was a graduate of Mount Holyoke College. His father, Alphonso Taft, came to Cincinnati in 1839 to open a law practice. Alphonso Taft was a prominent Republican and served as Secretary of War under President Ulysses S. Grant. Taft was brought up in the Unitarian church and remained a faithful Unitarian his entire life. At age 18, he met his future wife, Helen Herron, in Cincinnati; she and Taft courted while he was away at college. He enjoyed spending time with his aunt, Meredith Johnson, who required a wheelchair and crutches to get around. The William Howard Taft National Historic Site is the Taft boyhood home. The house in which he was born has been restored to its original appearance.
In 1874, Taft attended Woodward High School. Like most of his family, he attended Yale College in New Haven, Connecticut. At Yale, he was a member of the Linonian Society, a literary and debate society; Skull and Bones, the secret society co-founded by his father in 1832; the Beta chapter of the Psi Upsilon fraternity, and was made an honorary member of the Acacia Fraternity. Later in life he was also inducted into the Omicron-Omicron chapter of the secret society of Theta Nu Epsilon, after delivering the commencement address to the class of 1910 at Ohio Northern University. He was given the nickname "Big Lub" because of his size, but his college friends knew him by the nickname "Old Bill". In 1878, Taft graduated from Yale, ranking second in his class out of 121. After college, he attended Cincinnati Law School, graduating with a Bachelor of Laws in 1880. While in law school, he worked on the area newspaper The Cincinnati Commercial.
After admission to the Ohio bar, Taft was appointed Assistant Prosecutor of Hamilton County, Ohio, based in Cincinnati. In 1882, he was appointed local Collector of Internal Revenue. Taft married his longtime sweetheart, Helen Herron, in Cincinnati in 1886. In 1887, he was appointed as a judge of the Ohio Superior Court. In 1890, President Benjamin Harrison appointed him Solicitor General of the United States. Harrison appointed him to the newly created United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in 1892, a post that he held until 1900. It was then that he met Theodore Roosevelt for the first time. In about 1893, Taft decided in favor of one or more patents for processing aluminium belonging to the Pittsburg Reduction Company, today known as Alcoa, who settled with the other party in 1903 and became for a short while the only aluminium producer in the U.S. In addition to his judgeship, between 1896 and 1900 Taft also served as the first dean and a professor of constitutional law at the University of Cincinnati. Eventually, he became the chief judge of the Sixth Circuit. One of Taft's most famous opinions was in Addyston Pipe and Steel Company v. United States (1898).
In 1900, President William McKinley appointed Taft as the chairman of a commission to organize a civilian government in the Philippines, which had been ceded to the United States by Spain following the Spanish - American War and the 1898 Treaty of Paris. Although Taft initially had been opposed to the annexation of the islands and told McKinley that his real ambition was to become a justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, he reluctantly accepted the appointment when McKinley suggested that he would be "the better judge for this experience." From 1901 to 1903, Taft served as the first civilian Governor-General of the Philippines, a position in which he was very popular among both Americans and Filipinos. In 1902, Taft visited Rome to negotiate with Pope Leo XIII for the purchase of lands in the Philippines owned by the Roman Catholic Church. Taft then persuaded Congress to appropriate $7,239,000 to purchase the lands, which he sold to Filipinos on easy terms. In 1903, President Roosevelt offered Taft the seat on the Supreme Court to which he had for so long aspired, but he reluctantly declined when native Filipino groups begged him to remain in Manila as Governor-General.
In 1904, Roosevelt appointed Taft as Secretary of War. Roosevelt made the basic policy decisions regarding military affairs, using Taft as a well-traveled spokesman who campaigned for Roosevelt's reelection in 1904. Taft met with the Emperor of Japan, who alerted him of the probability of war with Russia. In 1905, Taft met with Japanese Prime Minister Katsura Taro. In this meeting, the two signed a secret diplomatic memorandum now called the Taft-Katsura Agreement. In 1906, Roosevelt sent troops to restore order in Cuba during the revolt led by General Enrique Loynaz del Castillo, and Taft temporarily became the Civil Governor of Cuba, personally negotiating with Castillo for a peaceful end to the revolt. In 1907, Taft helped supervise the beginning of construction on the Panama Canal. Taft had repeatedly told Roosevelt he wanted to be Chief Justice, not President (and not an associate justice), but there was no vacancy and Roosevelt had other plans. He gave Taft more responsibilities in addition to the Philippines and the Panama Canal. For a while, Taft was Acting Secretary of State. When Roosevelt was away, Taft in effect was the Acting President.
Taft fought for the prosecution of trusts (eventually issuing 80 lawsuits), further strengthened the Interstate Commerce Commission, established a postal savings bank and a parcel post system, and expanded the civil service. He supported the 16th Amendment, which allowed for a federal income tax, and the 17th Amendment, mandating the direct election of senators by the people, replacing the previous system whereby they were selected by state legislatures. 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 the previous president.
Taft considered himself a "progressive" because of his deep belief in "The Law" as the scientific device that should be used by judges to solve society's problems. Taft proved a less adroit politician than Roosevelt and seemed to lack the energy and personal magnetism of his mentor, not to mention the publicity devices, the dedicated supporters, and the broad base of public support that made Roosevelt so formidable. When Roosevelt realized that lowering the tariff would risk severe tensions inside the Republican Party, pitting producers (manufacturers and farmers) against department stores and consumers, he stopped talking about the issue. Taft ignored the risks and tackled the tariff boldly, on the one hand encouraging reformers to fight for lower rates, then cutting deals with conservative leaders that kept overall rates high. The resulting Payne-Aldrich Tariff Act of 1909 was too high for most reformers, but instead of blaming this on Senator Nelson W. Aldrich and big business, Taft took credit, calling it the best bill to come from the Republican Party. Again, he had managed to alienate all sides. Unlike Roosevelt, Taft never attacked business or businessmen in his rhetoric. However, he was attentive to the law, so he launched 80 antitrust suits, including one against the country's largest corporation, U.S. Steel, for an acquisition that Roosevelt personally had approved. As a result, Taft lost the support of antitrust reformers (who disliked his conservative rhetoric), of big business (which disliked his actions), and of Roosevelt, who felt humiliated by his protégé. Progressives within the Republican party began agitating against Taft. Senator Robert LaFollette of Wisconsin created the National Progressive Republican League to replace Taft at the national level; his campaign crashed after a disastrous speech. Most of LaFollette's supporters went over to Roosevelt, leaving LaFollette embittered and alone. More trouble came when Taft fired Gifford Pinchot, a leading conservationist and close ally of Roosevelt. Pinchot alleged that Taft's Secretary of Interior Richard Achilles Ballinger was in league with big timber interests. Conservationists sided with Pinchot, and Taft alienated yet another vocal constituency.
Taft actively pursued what he termed "Dollar Diplomacy" to further the economic development of less-developed nations of Latin America and Asia through American investment in their infrastructures. Throughout the early part of his presidency, he had difficulties with Nicaragua. When the United States shifted its interests to Panama for the purpose of building a canal, Nicaraguan President José Santos Zelaya negotiated with Germany and Japan in an unsuccessful effort to have a canal constructed in his country. The Zelaya administration had growing friction with the United States government, which started giving aid to his Conservative opponents in Nicaragua. In 1907, U.S. warships seized several of Nicaragua's seaports. In early December, United States Marines landed on Nicaragua's Caribbean Sea coast. On December 17, 1909, Zelaya resigned and left for exile in Mexico. The U.S.-sponsored conservative regime of Adolfo Díaz was installed in his place. Military invasions increased with marine landings in 1910 and 1912. The Marines stayed in Nicaragua through 1925. Given his judicial sensibilities, he believed that international arbitration was the best means to effectuate the end of war on Earth. As such, he championed several reciprocity and arbitration treaties. In 1910, he convinced congressional Democrats to support a reciprocity treaty with Canada, but the Liberal Canadian government of Sir Wilfrid Laurier that negotiated the treaty was turned out of office in 1911 and the treaty collapsed (a US-Canada reciprocity treaty would not come into effect until 1988). In 1910 and 1911, however, he secured the ratification of arbitration treaties that he had successfully negotiated with Britain and France and thereafter was known as one of the foremost advocates of world peace and arbitration.
To solve an impasse during the 1909 tariff debate, Taft proposed income taxes for corporations and a constitutional amendment to remove the apportionment requirement for taxes on incomes from property (taxes on dividends, interest, and rents), on June 16, 1909. His proposed tax on corporate net income was 1% on net profits over $5,000. It was designated an excise on the privilege of doing business as a corporation whose stockholders enjoyed the privilege of limited liability, and not a tax on incomes as such. In 1911, the Supreme Court, in Flint v. Stone Tracy Co., upheld the tax. Receipts grew from $21 million in the fiscal year 1910 to $34.8 million in 1912. In July 1909, a proposed amendment to remove the apportionment requirement was passed unanimously in the Senate and by a vote of 318 to 14 in the House. It was quickly ratified by the states, and on February 3, 1913, it became a part of the Constitution as the Sixteenth Amendment, as Taft was leaving office.
Despite his obvious achievements, progressives decried Taft's acceptance of the Payne-Aldrich Tariff Act, which lowered the tariff on the farm products of the western states, whose citizens desired lower rates on Eastern factory products. Taft opposed the entry of the state of Arizona into the Union because of its judicial features. Progressives grumbled that he worked too closely with conservative Senator Nelson W. Aldrich and Speaker of the House Joseph Gurney Cannon. By 1910, Taft's party was deeply divided between progressives and conservatives. On his return from Europe, Roosevelt broke with Taft in one of the most dramatic political feuds of the 20th century. To the surprise of observers who thought Roosevelt had unstoppable momentum, Taft outmaneuvered Roosevelt and Senator Robert M. La Follette, Sr., seized control of the GOP, and forced both out of the party. The main issue in 1911-12 was independence of the judiciary, which Roosevelt denounced. Most lawyers in the GOP supported Taft, including many of Roosevelt's key supporters like Elihu Root, Henry L. Stimson, and Roosevelt's own son-in-law, Nicholas Longworth. In lining up delegates for the 1912 nomination, Taft outmaneuvered Roosevelt, who had started much too late, and kept control of the Republican party. 1912 was the first year that some delegates were determined through primary elections. Primary elections were seen as a way to take power away from party bosses and put it in the hands of the people. Out of the 14 Republican primaries held, Roosevelt won 9, and Taft only won 3. Robert LaFollette won the other 2. Nevertheless, Taft had the delegates and won the nomination at the Republican nominating convention in Chicago.
Instead, Roosevelt was forced to create the Progressive Party (or "Bull Moose") ticket, splitting the Republican vote in the 1912 election. Woodrow Wilson, the Democrat, was elected. Taft won the mere eight electoral votes of Utah and Vermont, making it the single worst defeat in American history for an incumbent President seeking reelection. He achieved what he felt were his main goals as President, however: keeping permanent control of the party and keeping the courts sacrosanct until they were next threatened.
Upon leaving the White House in 1913, Taft was appointed the Chancellor Kent Professor of Law and Legal History at Yale Law School. Upon his appointment, the Yale Chapter of the Acacia Fraternity made him an honorary member. At the same time, Taft was elected president of the American Bar Association. He spent much of his time writing newspaper articles and books, most notably his series on American legal philosophy. He was a vigorous opponent of prohibition in the United States, predicting the undesirable situation that the Eighteenth Amendment and prohibition in general would create. He also continued to advocate world peace through international arbitration, urging nations to enter into arbitration treaties with each other and promoting the idea of a League of Nations even before the First World War began. When World War I did break out in Europe in 1914, however, Taft founded the League to Enforce Peace. He was a co-chairman of the powerful National War Labor Board between 1917 and 1918. Although he continually advocated peace, he strongly favored conscription once the United States entered the War, pleading publicly that the United States not fight a "finicky" war.
In 1921, when Chief Justice Edward Douglass White died, President Warren G. Harding nominated Taft to take his place, thereby fulfilling Taft's lifelong ambition to become Chief Justice of the United States. Very little opposition existed to the nomination, and the Senate approved him 60-4 in a secret session, but the roll call of the vote has never been made public. He readily took up the position, serving until 1930. As such, he became the only President to serve as Chief Justice, and thus is also the only former President to swear in subsequent Presidents, giving the oath of office to both Calvin Coolidge (in 1925) and Herbert Hoover (in 1929).
In 1922, Taft traveled to Great Britain to study the procedural structure of the English courts and learn how they dropped such a large number of cases quickly. During the trip, King George V and Queen Mary received Taft and his wife as state visitors. With what he had learned in England, Taft advocated passage of the Judiciary Act of 1925 (often called the "Judges Bill"), which shifted the Supreme Court's appellate jurisdiction to be exercisable principally on review upon litigants' petitioning to be granted an appeal. The Court then has the power to accept or deny an appeal. Thereby, the Supreme Court is empowered to give preference to cases of National importance, and it allows the Court to work more efficiently. In addition to giving the Court more control over its docket, the new legislation (and the Judicial Conference that Taft organized) gave the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice general supervisory power over the scattered and disorganized federal courts, and also bringing the courts of the District of Columbia and of the Territories within the Federal system, uniting the courts in actuality for the first time as an independent third branch of government (contrary to the British model) under the administrative supervision of the Chief Justice of the United States. Taft was also the first Justice to employ two full-time law clerks to assist him. In 1929, Taft successfully argued for the construction of the United States Supreme Court building, reasoning that the Supreme Court needed to distance itself from Congress as a separate branch of the government. Until then, the Court had heard cases in the old Senate Chamber of the Capitol building. The Justices had no private chambers, and their conferences were held in a room in the basement. However, Chief Justice Taft did not live to see the building's completion (1935).
Taft retired as Chief Justice on February 3, 1930, because of ill health. He was succeeded by Charles Evans Hughes, whom he had appointed to the Court while president. Taft died 5 weeks following his retirement on March 8, 1930. Three days later, on March 11, he became the first president to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. William Howard Taft is one of two presidents buried at Arlington National Cemetery. President Taft's enduring legacy has included many things being named after him. These include the courthouse of the Ohio Court of Appeals for the First District in Cincinnati, Ohio, streets in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Manila, a law school in Santa Ana, California, and high schools in San Antonio, Woodland Hills, Chicago, and The Bronx. After a fire burned much of the town of Moron, California, during the 1920s, it was renamed Taft, California, in his honor. According to legend (though probably apocryphal), the traditional seventh-inning stretch at baseball games is owed to Taft. The President was watching a game and, in the seventh inning, he got up to stretch. The crowd, out of respect for the President, also rose to its feet. Since then, people have stretched during the seventh inning of baseball games. Though typically attributed to legend, it is actually a fact that William Howard Taft once got stuck in the White House bath tub. It took six White House aides and a gallon of butter to dislodge the president's body from the tub. To this day, the White House is home to the largest bath tub in the United States of America.
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