Collier's New Encyclopedia (1921)/Taft, William Howard

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Collier's New Encyclopedia
Taft, William Howard

TAFT, WILLIAM HOWARD, 27th President of the United States; born in Cincinnati, O., Sept. 15, 1857; was graduated at Yale College in 1878, at the Law School of Cincinnati College in 1880; and was admitted to the bar in 1881. He was collector of internal revenue in the 1st District of Ohio in 1882; practiced law in 1883–1887; was judge of the Superior Court of Ohio in 1887–1890, and Professor of Law at the University of Cincinnati in 1896–1900. In the latter year he was made president of the United States Philippine Commission, and on June 5, 1901, was appointed the first civil governor of the Philippine Islands. In August, 1903, President Roosevelt nominated Governor Taft to be secretary of war to succeed Secretary Root, when the latter should resign in January, 1904. The selection was frankly made in order that he might continue to direct the administration of Philippine affairs, although residing in the United States. This constituted a recognition of his work in the Philippines.

He at once took up a new line of service for the department—the pacification of trouble in various lands where the United States had the right to attempt adjustments. From 1900 to 1907 he traveled fully 100,000 miles and spent 360 days at sea in his diplomatic missionary work. In 1906 he was sent to Cuba by the President to reconcile the warring factions, and for a short time served as provisional governor of that island. Early in 1907 he visited Cuba, Porto Rico, and Panama, investigating disturbed conditions; then going to the Philippine Islands, where, on October 16, he opened the first Philippine Assembly at Manila. Continuing his journey around the world, Mr. Taft was welcomed in several Asiatic and European capitals with most cordial expressions of friendship for America. His visit to Japan especially helped to cement the bonds of amity and good-will, which short-sighted agitators, particularly on the Pacific Coast, had been striving for several years to strain, if not to break. In St. Petersburg Mr. Taft delivered a noteworthy address on the subject of universal peace. On his return he was frequently mentioned as the “logical” candidate of the Republicans for the Presidency in 1908, and was indorsed for that office by many Republican State conventions. He was nominated in June, and, resigning the war portfolio at once, made a vigorous personal campaign. In November he was elected, receiving a popular vote of 7,811,143, as against 6,328,601 for William J. Bryan, the Democratic candidate. The vote in the Electoral College was: Taft, 321; Bryan, 162. In January, 1909, at the request of President Roosevelt, Mr. Taft made a visit of inspection to the Panama Canal with a party of engineers. Immediately after his inauguration, March 4, 1909, he convened Congress in extraordinary session to revise the tariff, and the bill enacted became effective on August 5. In the autumn of 1909 President Taft made an extensive tour of the country, in the course of which he met President Diaz of Mexico at the boundary line near El Paso, Texas. In 1910 he secured from a none-too-friendly Congress the enactment of much beneficial legislation, including laws authorizing postal-savings banks, requiring publicity for campaign funds, creating a Bureau of Mines and Mining, and several important measures dealing with railroads, conservation, reclamation, the tariff, and the Lighthouse Service. During 1911 he was particularly active in his efforts to secure arbitration treaties with England, and trade reciprocity with Canada. The treaty with England was duly signed by Secretary Knox and Ambassador Bryce on August 3d. The proposed reciprocity treaty with Canada was deferred for action by the Canadian Parliament. Among other beneficial acts passed during his administration were the establishment of the Parcels Post, Children's Bureau (1912); direct election of senators. Since 1912 Mr. Taft has filled the chair of Kent Professor of Law at Yale. He has been active in all movements to establish international peace. During the World War he was joint-chairman of the National Labor Conference Board. He took oath as Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court on July 11, 1921.

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Source: “Taft, William Howard,” Collier's New Encyclopedia, IX (New York: P.F. Collier & Son Company, 1921), pp. 229–230.