ABOUT THE WHITE HOUSE * PRESIDENTS
about_presidents_georgewashington 1. George Washington
about_presidents_johnadams 2. John Adams
about_presidents_thomasjefferson 3. Thomas Jefferson
about_presidents_jamesmadison 4. James Madison
about_presidents_jamesmonroe 5. James Monroe
about_presidents_johnquincyadams 6. John Quincy Adams
about_presidents_andrewjackson 7. Andrew Jackson
about_presidents_martinvanburen 8. Martin Van Buren
about_presidents_williamhenryharrison 9. William Henry Harrison
about_presidents_johntyler 10. John Tyler
about_presidents_jamespolk 11. James K. Polk
about_presidents_zacharytaylor 12. Zachary Taylor
about_presidents_millardfillmore 13. Millard Fillmore
about_presidents_franklinpierce 14. Franklin Pierce
about_presidents_jamesbuchanan 15. James Buchanan
about_presidents_abrahamlincoln 16. Abraham Lincoln
about_presidents_andrewjohnson 17. Andrew Johnson
about_presidents_ulyssessgrant 18. Ulysses S. Grant
about_presidents_rutherfordbhayes 19. Rutherford B. Hayes
about_presidents_jamesgarfield 20. James Garfield
about_presidents_chesterarthur 21. Chester A. Arthur
about_presidents_grovercleveland 22. Grover Cleveland
about_presidents_benjaminharrison 23. Benjamin Harrison
about_presidents_grovercleveland 24. Grover Cleveland
about_presidents_williammckinley 25. William McKinley
about_presidents_theodoreroosevelt 26. Theodore Roosevelt
about_presidents_williamhowardtaft 27. William Howard Taft
about_presidents_woodrowwilson 28. Woodrow Wilson
about_presidents_warrenharding 29. Warren G. Harding
about_presidents_calvincoolidge 30. Calvin Coolidge
about_presidents_herberthoover 31. Herbert Hoover
about_presidents_franklindroosevelt 32. Franklin D. Roosevelt
about_presidents_harrystruman 33. Harry S. Truman
about_presidents_dwightdeisenhower 34. Dwight D. Eisenhower
about_presidents_johnfkennedy 35. John F. Kennedy
about_presidents_lyndonjohnson 36. Lyndon B. Johnson
about_presidents_richardnixon 37. Richard M. Nixon
about_presidents_geraldford 38. Gerald R. Ford
about_presidents_jimmycarter 39. James Carter
about_presidents_ronaldreagan 40. Ronald Reagan
about_presidents_georgehwbush 41. George H. W. Bush
about_presidents_williamjclinton 42. William J. Clinton
about_presidents_georgewbush 43. George W. Bush
administration_president_obama 44. Barack Obama
[[[Image:27wt_header_sm.jpg|450px|Photo]] of William Howard Taft ]
27. WILLIAM HOWARD TAFT 1909-1913
Distinguished jurist, effective administrator, but poor politician, William Howard Taft spent four uncomfortable years in the White House. Large, jovial, conscientious, he was caught in the intense battles between Progressives and conservatives, and got scant credit for the achievements of his administration.
Born in 1857, the son of a distinguished judge, he graduated from Yale, and returned to Cincinnati to study and practice law. He rose in politics through Republican judiciary appointments, through his own competence and availability, and because, as he once wrote facetiously, he always had his "plate the right side up when offices were falling."
But Taft much preferred law to politics. He was appointed a Federal circuit judge at 34. He aspired to be a member of the Supreme Court, but his wife, Helen Herron Taft, held other ambitions for him.
His route to the White House was via administrative posts. President McKinley sent him to the Philippines in 1900 as chief civil administrator. Sympathetic toward the Filipinos, he improved the economy, built roads and schools, and gave the people at least some participation in government.
President Roosevelt made him Secretary of War, and by 1907 had decided that Taft should be his successor. The Republican Convention nominated him the next year.
Taft disliked the campaign--"one of the most uncomfortable four months of my life." But he pledged his loyalty to the Roosevelt program, popular in the West, while his brother Charles reassured eastern Republicans. William Jennings Bryan, running on the Democratic ticket for a third time, complained that he was having to oppose two candidates, a western progressive Taft and an eastern conservative Taft.
Progressives were pleased with Taft's election. "Roosevelt has cut enough hay," they said; "Taft is the man to put it into the barn." Conservatives were delighted to be rid of Roosevelt--the "mad messiah."
Taft recognized that his techniques would differ from those of his predecessor. Unlike Roosevelt, Taft did not believe in the stretching of Presidential powers. He once commented that Roosevelt "ought more often to have admitted the legal way of reaching the same ends."
Taft alienated many liberal Republicans who later formed the Progressive Party, by defending the Payne-Aldrich Act which unexpectedly continued high tariff rates. A trade agreement with Canada, which Taft pushed through Congress, would have pleased eastern advocates of a low tariff, but the Canadians rejected it. He further antagonized Progressives by upholding his Secretary of the Interior, accused of failing to carry out Roosevelt's conservation policies.
In the angry Progressive onslaught against him, little attention was paid to the fact that his administration initiated 80 antitrust suits and that Congress submitted to the states amendments for a Federal income tax and the direct election of Senators. A postal savings system was established, and the Interstate Commerce Commission was directed to set railroad rates.
In 1912, when the Republicans renominated Taft, Roosevelt bolted the party to lead the Progressives, thus guaranteeing the election of Woodrow Wilson.
Taft, free of the Presidency, served as Professor of Law at Yale until President Harding made him Chief Justice of the United States, a position he held until just before his death in 1930. To Taft, the appointment was his greatest honor; he wrote: "I don't remember that I ever was President."
MD5: daa298d03b85f4ef2e26768c98c265e2 Original URL: http://whitehouse.gov/about/presidents/williamhowardtaft/