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Distinguished jurist effective administrator but poor politician William Howard Taft spent four uncomfortable years in the White House Large jovial conscientious he was caught in the intense battles between Progressives and conservatives and got scant credit for the achievements of his administration Born in 1857 the son of a distinguished judge he was graduated from Yale and returned to Cincinnati to study and practice law He rose in politics through Republican judiciary appointments through his own competence and availability and because as he once wrote facetiously he always had his plate the right side up when offices were falling But Taft much preferred law to politics He was appointed a Federal circuit judge at 34 He aspired to be a member of the Supreme Court but his wife Helen Herron Taft held other ambitions for him His route to the White House was via administrative posts President McKinley sent him to the Philippines in 1900 as chief civil administrator Sympathetic toward the Filipinos he improved the economy built roads and schools and gave the people at least some participation in government President Roosevelt made him Secretary of War and by 1907 had decided that Taft should be his successor The Republican Convention nominated him the next year Taft disliked the campaign--one of the most uncomfortable four months of my life But he pledged his loyalty to the Roosevelt program popular in the West while his brother Charles reassured eastern Republicans William Jennings Bryan running on the Democratic ticket for a third time complained that he was having to oppose two candidates a western progressive Taft and an eastern conservative Taft Progressives were pleased with Tafts election Roosevelt has cut enough hay they said Taft is the man to put it into the barn Conservatives were delighted to be rid of Roosevelt--the mad messiah Taft recognized that his techniques would differ from those of his predecessor Unlike Roosevelt Taft
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