William Howard Taft
1857 - 1930
Republican Presidentby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
Even though Theodore Roosevelt decided to stop his presidency after the second term, he did however hand pick his successor to run for president: William Howard Taft. Taft, although with no desire to become president, succumbed to the pleadings of both his wife and Roosevelt, and accepted the nomination for the Republican Party. His only real goal though was to become a Supreme Court justice. After election, he had the job of trying to appease both the progressives and the conservatives.
Inadvertently starting off on the wrong foot, Taft immediately began work on the tariff, a topic that Roosevelt knew to be too controversial to deal with in his presidency. Taft successfully wrote a new bill to pass, lowering the tariff by a fair degree, yet after the business supporting Senate was done with the new bill, it had virtually no effect on the tariff whatsoever. This failure pushed the president further away from both the progressives and Roosevelt. Taft defended himself saying that this bill was the best the Republican Party could hope to achieve.
The next unsuccessful confrontation Taft had was with Roosevelt’s old chief forester, Gifford Pinchot. Pinchot was the chief forester in Roosevelt’s presidency, and kept the position through some of Taft’s presidency, until a dispute was started between Pinchot and Taft’s secretary of the interior, Richard A. Ballinger. The argument arose when Pinchot accused Ballinger of wanting or allowing a piece of land in Alaska to be bought up and controlled by coal mining companies, thus destroying the land and loosing a piece of land that was protected, to the miners. After an investigation, Taft proclaimed that Ballinger was innocent, and ordered Pinchot to cease his accusations and attacks on Ballinger. However, when Pinchot stubbornly refused and continued his slandering, Taft had him removed from office. Even though just in his decision, this lessened his popularity and lowered some individual’s opinion of him.
Taft also made several major reforms, and followed after Roosevelt’s trend of “trust busting” by breaking up several large monopolies that had developed recently. A major problem arose however when Taft began to favor and rely more and more on the conservative Republican party. Even though he was pro-reformation and supported the progressive wing to begin with, he eventually grew away from that wing and relied solely on the conservatives. True to form, Taft angered and upset even more people with his choosing “sides”. This conflict even grew to the extent that Taft stopped inviting or having any progressives to any social occasion held at the White House.
William Howard Taft finished his presidency with a fight with his old friend and former president Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt tried to fix the situation by running against Taft in the next presidential election, and if successful, would be the only president to ever hold two terms in office, and then return later. However, success was not easy when the only party that could oppose the Democrats, the Republicans, were now split between Taft and Roosevelt. Thus the Democratic nominee for president, Woodrow Wilson, won the election easily with 82% of the electoral votes.