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The Presidency of William Howard Taft
(American Presidency Series)
by Paolo E. Coletta, Donald R. McCoy, Clifford S. Griffin
🔰 The Presidency of William Howard Taft – CLICK HERE 🔰
- Release date: December 31, 1973
- Author: Paolo E. Coletta, Donald R. McCoy, Clifford S. Griffin
- Format: hardcover, 306 pages
- Series: American Presidency Series
- ISBN: 9780700600960 (0700600965)
- Genres: history, presidents
- Characters: William Howard Taft
- Publisher: University Press of Kansas
- Language: english
About The Book
Theodore Roosevelt selected William Howard Taft to be his successor and gave him vital support during the presidential campaign of 1908. Taft was a conservative of upper-middle-class background with a long career on the bench, and he aspired to a judicial rather than a political career. Roosevelt nevertheless believed that Taft, a close personal friend, was the best man to continue his policies.
Taft agreed with many of Roosevelt’s objectives, but not with his interpretation of presidential authority. Taft viewed the president’s power as stemming from the constitution alone; he narrowly construed that power and denied that it involved the exercise of political leadership, or even initiative, with respect to legislation. As Taft saw it, his function as president was to establish a legal basis for the reforms undertaken by Roosevelt, not to enlarge the degree of federal intervention in the economic and social life of the nation. He was neither a renovator nor an innovator. Although Roosevelt expected him to expand executive power, Taft narrowed it. He sought the sound administration of government as a bulwark against the rising tide of social democracy.
Taft quickly earned the contempt of the progressives as one who had deserted their cause. During the first two years of his administration he battled with them over the Payne-Aldrich tariff and the conservation of natural resources. His compulsive upholding of the letter of the law resulted in the severing of his friendship with Roosevelt and the splitting of the Republican party.
Ironically, a greater number of progressive reforms were accomplished in Taft’s four years in office than in Roosevelt’s seven. Taft undertook the first tariff revision since 1897. He improved upon Roosevelt’s conservation work, made advances in railroad regulation, and launched an antitrust crusade with which Roosevelt’s paled in comparison. He successfully avoided American military involvement in various international disputes during his term. Among other achievements, his administration created the postal savings bank and parcel post systems, added two states to the Union and two amendments to the constitution, established a Department of Labor separate from Commerce, nearly completed the Panama Canal, regulated corporate campaign contributions, and strengthened the Pure Food and Drugs Act.
Despite the record, Taft is remembered as the champion of privilege, and he remains a symbol of “standpattism.” Perhaps the reason for this is that Taft did not know how to be a politician in the best sense of the word. He exercised little leadership over Congress. He did not know how to make effective use of the press to mold public opinion, and his administration had few enthusiastic friends. He was torn by indecision at critical times, and he permitted interdepartmental squabbles between his subordinates to balloon to astronomical proportions. He was never able to balance the advocates of reform against those of reaction during his administration.
Taft was a consistent, hones, and at times even courageous conservative. Unfortunately, in troubled times in which the people demanded change, Taft often saw the existing order as good. He insisted in moving right politically, while much of the country moved left. When viewed in the era of transition from Rooseveltian to Wilsonian progressivism, Taft is best remembered as a constitutional conservator.
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