Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Taft, Alphonso

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TAFT, Alphonso, jurist, b. in Townshend, Vt., 5 Nov., 1810. He was graduated at Yale in 1833, was tutor there in 1835-'7, studied law, was admitted to the bar in 1838, and after 1840 practised in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he won reputation in his profession. He was early a member of the city council, and also for many years of the Union board of high-schools. He was a delegate to the Republican national convention in 1856, and in the same year a candidate for congress, but was defeated by George H. Pendleton. He was judge of the superior court of Cincinnati from 1866 till 1872, when he resigned, to associate himself in practice with two of his sons. In 1875 he was a candidate for the Republican nomination for the governorship, but a dissenting opinion that he had delivered on the question of the Bible in the public schools was the cause of much opposition to him. The opinion that defeated his nomination was unanimously affirmed by the supreme court of Ohio, and is now the law of the state. He became secretary of war, on 8 March, 1876, on the resignation of Gen. William W. Belknap, and on 22 May following was transferred to the attorney-generalship, serving till the close of President Grant's administration. Judge Taft was appointed U. S. minister to Austria, 26 April, 1882, and in 1884 was transferred to Russia, where he served until 1 Aug., 1885. He has been a trustee of the University of Cincinnati since its foundation, and in 1872-'82 served on the corporation of Yale, which gave him the degree of LL. D. in 1867.