William Howard Taft
Who he was: William Howard Taft served as the 27th President of the United States, during the years 1909 to 1913. After World War I Taft was appointed by President Warren Harding to Chief Justice of the US, where he served from 1921 to 1930, the only person to have held both positions.
In 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt had appointed Taft, his close ally, to Secretary of War in order to promote him as his handpicked presidential successor. In this way the widespread support for Teddy Roosevelt helped propel Taft to the presidency in the 1908 campaign.
To some degree Taft continued the imperialist foreign policy of Roosevelt through his "Dollar Diplomacy" in Latin America and Asia, buying and supporting corrupt leaders who would advance American political, international and economic interests. In time, however, Taft's differences with Roosevelt began to grow. He showed both decisiveness and restraint regarding a revolution in Mexico but to former Roosevelt interests and supporters, he appeared blind to the political considerations at home.
Taft began to alienate many of his former constituencies and elite supporters with his trust-busting aimed at powerful, wealthy elites, the major reason he was defeated in his attempt to secure a second term as president. Along with Wilson, Taft will be forever hated and despised by productive American citizens for passage of the 16th Amendment that allowed Congress to levy an income tax without apportioning it based on Census results among the states. Second, the Federal Reserve Act was enacted under President Wilson on December 23, 1913, creating the hated Federal Reserve System and granting it the legal authority to issue Federal Reserve Notes.
Background: William Howard Taft was born near Cincinnati, Ohio on September 15, 1857 to Louisa Torrey and Alphonso Taft, an attorney and powerful Republican who had been Secretary of War and Attorney General during the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant.
William Taft attended Cincinnati's Woodward High School, then Yale College where he was a member of the debate Linonian Society, intramural heavyweight wrestling champ and member of the secretive Skull and Bones society and graduated in 1878, second in a class of 121. Taft received a Bachelor of Laws from Cincinnati Law School in 1880, following his years at Yale.
Following college Taft became an assistant prosecutor in Ohio, collector of Internal Revenue, judge of the Ohio Superior Court and solicitor general of the US under President Benjamin Harrison.
William Taft was the University of Cincinnati's first dean and professor of constitutional law from 1896 to 1900 and was later appointed by President William McKinley chairman of a commission to develop civilian government in the Philippines, which Spain had ceded to the US as part of the Treaty of Paris following the Spanish-American War. Taft then served as the first civilian Governor-General of the Philippines from 1901 to 1903, negotiating with Rome to purchase Philippine land from the Church and convincing the US Congress to appropriate the needed funds.
From 1904 to 1908 Taft served as President Roosevelt's Secretary of War and at one point was made Acting Secretary of State. Taft's duties remained focused on the Philippines and added oversight of the early development of the Panama Canal. In spite of Taft's request to be appointed Chief Justice, Roosevelt, and much of Taft's family including his wife, pushed for a presidential candidacy. In 1908, Taft handily defeated three-time candidate William Jennings Bryan and became President of the United States.
Following his presidency Taft was appointed as Chancellor Kent Professor of Law and Legal History at Yale Law School, where he became an honorary member of the Acacia Fraternity, then president of the American Bar Association, and penned a series of books on American legal philosophy. Taft founded the League to Enforce Peace after the beginning of World War I and was co-chairman of the National War Labor Board. Finally in June 1921 Taft was nominated to the position of Chief Justice of the United States, his longtime dream, writing the Court's opinion in 256 cases during his tenure.
Due to his ill health, William Howard Taft retired on February 3, 1930. Only five weeks later Taft died unexpectedly, on March 8, 1930, and was the first president buried at Arlington National Cemetery following a state funeral.
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