Usually if someone spends time campaigning and wins the election, we assume they want to hold office as president. However, there was at least one American president who wasn’t very excited about his new job. He wanted to be a judge. He served wholeheartedly during his presidential term, though his administration is often over-shadowed by his predecessor, Theodore Roosevelt. Meet our favorite president of the week: William Howard Taft, the 27th President of the United States (1909-1913).
Highlights of Taft’s Presidency
Having previously served as governor-general of American controlled Philippines, a judge, solicitor general of the United States, and secretary of war, Taft was well-prepared for the executive office. He was known for level-headed decision making.
During his presidency, Taft worked on trust-busting, civil service reform, organizing the Interstate Commerce Commission, and increasing the efficiency of the postal service. He worked on the 16th Amendment to the Constitution, which allowed income tax; the amendment was passed in 1913, a month before Taft left office.
On the international scene, Taft showed genuine kindness toward developing nations. This policy may have been influenced by his time in the Philippines as governor-general. Taft actively encouraged “Dollar Diplomacy” which guaranteed loans to foreign countries in Latin American and Asia.
William H. Taft’s Legacy
Taft is considered by most historians be an “over-all good” president, but he’s often overlooked since nothing earth shattering happened during his time in office.
He didn’t “tow the political party line” very well, often making decisions based on his sense of right and wrong, rather than the overall consensus. This attitude, coming in an era when the large political party system was being developed, caused more than a few loyal party members to raise eyebrows.
Before his presidency, Taft had served as a judge in a superior court and in a court of appeals. His sense of fairness and impartiality were well-suited to the judicial system.
Taft is best remembered for being the only man in American history to serve first as president and later as Chief Justice in the Supreme Court. He liked being a judge; that’s what he wanted to do; how he wanted to serve. As the 10th Chief Justice of the United States, Taft served for nine years (1921-1930).
William Howard Taft as Chief Justice
Inspirational Quotes by William H. Taft
“I love judges, and I love courts. They are my ideals, that typify on earth what we shall meet hereafter in heaven under a just God.” (William H. Taft, 1911)
“Next to the right of liberty, the right of property is the most important individual right guaranteed by the Constitution and the one which, united with that of personal liberty, has contributed more to the growth of civilization than any other institution established by the human race.” (William H. Taft, 1913)
“Socialism proposes no adequate substitute for the motive of enlightened selfishness that to-day is at the basis of all human labor and effort, enterprise and new activity.” (William H. Taft, 1913)
“The world is not going to be saved by legislation.” (William H. Taft, 1916)
“The President cannot make clouds to rain and cannot make the corn to grow, he cannot make business good; although when these things occur, political parties do claim some credit for the good things that have happened in this way.” (William H. Taft, 1916)
Why I Like William H. Taft
Taft was a man who understood the importance and power of the executive office. He served wisely during his presidency, but really wanted to do what he liked best: preside as judge over a court. I like that he gave his best effort in all the political positions he held, but he never lost sight of what was important to him and what he enjoyed doing.
Taft was a “quiet” president. He had a practical personality, good judgment, and temperate character. His life and leadership reminds me of the proverb “whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might…” (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
What I find most interesting about Taft is his willingness to stick to his opinion or goal. As previously mentioned, he didn’t always follow the political party policy if he believed a different course would be better for the country. And…he had that goal to serve in the Supreme Court.
Sometimes when you serve faithful, work hard, and believe in your goals, you get what you want…like William H. Taft: the only American to serve our country as president and chief justice.
P.S. Taft is buried in Arlington Cemetery. Have you seen his grave? What do you think about his determination to act/vote/judge according to the law and what he believed was right?
Check Gazette665’s Facebook page where I’ll be adding some additional facts about President Taft. (Will also be posting about presidents’ pets on Facebook throughout next week!)