President #27

15 02 2008

William Howard Taft was our twenty-seventh President. Since I’m truly short on time, I’m simply going to reference/quote Wikipedia on his entry. There are many interesting facts about him, but I’m only going to post a few.

The following are selections directly copied from Wikipedia. I make no effort to claim them as mine, so therefore, no plagurism. Click on the word Wikipedia to go directly to the entry. (So Hah! Mrs. Wells, there’s my reference!)

President William Howard Taft

William Howard Taft (September 15, 1857March 8, 1930) was an American politician, 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, in Ohio.

Taft served as the Solicitor General of the United States, a federal judge, Governor-General of the Philippines, and Secretary of War before being nominated for President in the 1908 Republican National Convention with the backing of his predecessor and close friend Theodore Roosevelt.

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 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 people 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 Chief Justice. As President and Chief Justice he helped make the federal courts, especially the Supreme Court, much more powerful in shaping national policy.

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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.[12] 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). He remains the only person to have led both the Executive and Judicial branches of the United States government. He considered his time as Chief Justice to be the highest point of his career: he allegedly once remarked, “I don’t remember that I ever was President.”

Taft as Chief Justice Taft is seated in the middle, rightfully so as Chief Justice.

In 1922, Taft traveled to England to study the procedural structure of the English courts and learn how they disposed of such a large number of cases in such an expeditious manner. 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 by writ of certiorari, thereby empowering the Supreme Court to give preference to cases of national importance and allowing 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, bringing the District of Columbia and the territories within the federal system, uniting the courts 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.

In 1929, Taft successfully argued for the construction of the Supreme Court Building, reasoning that the court needed to distance itself from Congress as a separate branch of government. Until then, the Court had heard cases in the old Senate Chamber of the Capitol; the justices had no chambers and their conferences were held in a room in the basement. Taft, however, did not live to see the building’s completion in 1935.

So, I hope you enjoyed today’s directly copied entry. To read more on Taft’s politics, personal life, and general information, go to the Wikipedia site, or go to your local library!

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