WILLIAM HOWARD TAFT
|William H. Taft - "Good Times," Cleveland : Allied Printing Trades Council, circa 1908|
In William Howard Taft the Republican National Convention has nominated for the Presidency a man exceptionally equipped, not only by nature and training, but by experience and achievement, to perform the delicate and arduous duties of the greatest office in the gift of any people. For nearly thirty years he has given himself with single-minded devotion to the public service. He has displayed throughout a broad grasp of affairs, a literally dauntless courage, an unshakable integrity, a quick and all embracing sympathy, a deep and abiding sense of justice, a marvelous insight into human nature, a sure and unwavering judgment, executive ability of the highest order, and a limitless capacity for hard work. In all the years of its history, the Republican party has never selected as its leader in a National Campaign a man so tried beforehand, and so amply proved equal to the task.
A FAMILY OF JURISTS.
Mr. Taft comes of a family distinguished in the law and the public service. The first American Tafts came of the English yeomanry, transplanted across the Atlantic by the great upheaval for conscience's sake which peopled New England with its sturdy stock. In this country they turned to the study and practice of the law. Peter Taft was both a maker and an interpreter of laws, having served as a member of the Vermont legislature, and afterwards as a judge. Alphonso Taft, son of Peter, was graduated from Yale College, and then went out to the Western Reserve to practice law. He settled in Cincinnati, and it was at Mt. Auburn, a suburb of that city, on September 15, 1857, that his son, William Howard Taft, first became a presidential possibility.
The boys grew up in an atmosphere of earnest regard for public duty too little known in these days of the colossal and engrossing material development of the country. His father earned distinction in the service of city and state and nation, going from the Superior bench, to which he had been elected unanimously, to the place in Grant's cabinet now held by the son, then, as Attorney General, to the Department of Justice, and finally into the diplomatic service, as minister first to Austria and then to Russia. His mother, who was Miss Louise M. Torrey, also came of that staunch New England stock with whom conscience is the arbiter of action and duty performed the goal of service.
His Mother's Influence.
It was her express command that sent him away from her last fall when both knew that she was entering upon the last stage of her life. He had promised the Filipinos that he would go to Manila and in person formally open their Assembly. It was to be their first concrete experience in self-government, and he, more than any other man, had made it possible. If he should not keep his promise there was danger that the suspicious Filipinos would impute his failure to sinister motives, to indifference or altered purpose, with result vastly unfortunate to them and to us. Mr. Taft saw all that very clearly, yet in view of his mother's health he would have remained at home. But she forbade. She said his duty lay to the people he had started on the path to liberty, and although it involved what each thought to be the final parting she commanded him to go. He went and before he could return his mother had passed away.
Much was to be expected of a boy of such parentage, and young Taft fulfilled the expectation. He began by growing big physically. He has a tremendous frame. The cartoonists have made a false presentment of him familiar to the country by drawing him always as a mountain of flesh. But if they had gone to the same extreme of leanness, and still honestly portrayed his frame they would have represented a man above the average weight.
Of course he went to Yale. His father had been the first alumnus elected to the corporation, and when young Taft had completed his preparatory course at the public schools of Cincinnati he went to New Haven for his college training. He was a big, rollicking, good natured boy, who liked play but still got fun out of work. He did enough in athletics to keep his 225 pounds of muscle in good condition, but gave most of his time to his studies. When the class of '78 was graduated Taft was its salutatorian, having finished second among 120. He was also elected class orator by the class. He was then not quite 21.
He went back to Cincinnati and began the study of law in his father's office, at the same time doing court reporting for the newspaper owned by his half-brother, Charles P. Taft. His salary at first was $6 a week. He did his work so well, however, that Murat Halstead, editor of the Cincinnati Commercial Gazette, employed him to work for that paper, at the increased salary of $25 a week.
While he was doing this he was keeping up his studies, taking the course at the Cincinnati Law School, from which he was graduated in 1880, dividing first honors with another student, and being admitted to the bar soon afterward.
That fall there occurred one of the most celebrated and characteristic incidents in his life. A man named Rose was then running a blackmailing paper in Cincinnati. He had the reputation of being a dangerous man. He had been a prize fighter, and was usually accompanied by a gang of roughs ready to assault any whom he wanted punished. Alphonso Taft had been the unsuccessful candidate for governor at that election, and Rose's paper slanderously assailed him. For once young Taft forgot his judicial temperament and legal training, and instead of setting the law on the blackmailer he marched down to his office and gave Rose a terrific thrashing.
Rose quit Cincinnati that night and his paper never appeared again. Young Taft had had his first spectacular fight, and it was in behalf of somebody else.
It is not the purpose of this sketch to attempt a detailed biography of Mr. Taft. It merely seeks by a discussion of a few of the more important events of his life to show what manner of man he is. They reveal him as a student of application and ability; a man with an abiding sense of justice, slow to wrath, but terrible in anger: courageous, aggressively honest and straightforward; readier to take up another's cause than his own. This is a foundation on which experience may build very largely, and that is what it has done for Taft.
THE CALL TO PUBLIC OFFICE.
He was hardly out of his boyhood when he was called to public office, and in most of the years since then he has devoted himself to the public service. First he was assistant prosecuting attorney of Hamilton County, under Miller Outcalt, now one of the leading lawyers of Ohio. In 1881 he became collector of internal revenue for the first Ohio district, and demonstrated the same ability in business that he had shown in the law. A year later he resigned that office and went back to the practice of law, with his father's old partner, H. P. Lloyd. In 1884 he became the junior counsel of a Bar Committee to constitute testament proceedings against T. C. Campbell, whose methods of practicing law had brought on the burning of the Hamilton County Court House in Cincinnati. Though technically unsuccessful, Mr. Taft made a good reputation from his conduct of this matter and Campbell was driven from Cincinnati. In 1885 he became assistant county solicitor. Two years later Governor Foraker appointed him Judge of the Superior Court, to succeed Judson Harmon, who had resigned to enter President Cleveland's cabinet.
In 1886 Judge Taft married Miss Helen Herron, daughter of Hon. John W. Herron, of Cincinnati. They have three children. Robert Alphonso, a student at Yale, Helen, a student at Bryn Mawr, and Charles Phelps, 2d, who attends the public schools in Washington.
HIS JUDICIAL CAREER BEGUN.
His appointment as Judge of the Superior Court was the beginning of the judicial career which was Taft's ambition, and for which he was so eminently fitted. He rnade such a record as a judge that at the close of his appointed term he was triumphantly elected for another term. But already he had attracted attention outside his state, and he had served but two years of the five for which he had been elected when President Harrison asked him to take the difficult post of Solicitor General of the United States. This was an office of the utmost importance, involving not only wide learning and tremendous application, but the power of clear and forceful presentation of argument. Two of the cases which he conducted as solicitor general involved questions of vital importance to the entire country. The first grew out of the seal fisheries controversy with Great Britain. Mr. Taft won against such eminent counsel as Joseph H. Choate who is widely recognized as a leader of the American bar. The other was a tariff case in which the law was attacked on the ground that Speaker Reed had counted a quorum when the bill passed the House. That, too, he won. It was during his term as solicitor general that Mr. Taft met Theodore Roosevelt, then civil service commissioner, and began the friendship which has continued and grown ever since and which has had such far-reaching influence upon the lives of both men.
ON FEDERAL BENCH.
Mr. Taft's record as solicitor general so clearly proved his fitness for the bench that after three years in Washington he was sent back to Ohio as judge of the Sixth Federal Circuit, a post generally recognized as a preliminary step to the Supreme Court, which was then the goal of his ambition.
It was during his seven years on the federal bench that Mr. Taft's qualities as a judge became known throughout the country. He was called upon then to decide some of the most important cases that have ever been tried in the federal courts, in the conduct of which he established an enviable reputation for learning, courage and fairness— three essential attributes of a great jurist. His power of application and his ability to turnoff enormous masses of work received ample demonstration during this time. It was in this period of his service that he rendered the labor decisions which have made him famous as an upright and fearless judge. In his treatment of both labor and capital he showed that here was a judge who knew no distinction of parties when they appeared as litigants before him. He voiced the law as he knew it and the right as he saw it, no matter ^here the blow fell or whom it struck. If sometimes the decisions went against what organized labor at that time believed to be its cause, it must not be forgotten that no clearer or broader statement of the true rights of labor has ever been made than in some of his judicial utterances. Lawyers conducting litigation in other courts on behalf of labor unions have often cited these decisions of Judge Taft in support of their contentions. Neither should it be forgotten that one of the most important and far reaching of all his judgments was that against the Addyston Pipe Company, in which for the first time the Sherman anti-trust law was made a living, vital force for the curbing and punishment of monopoly. When this case reached the Supreme Court, Mr. Taft received the distinguished and unusual honor of having his decision quoted in full and handed down as part of the opinions of the high court which sustained him at every point.
PIONEERING THE ROOSEVELT POLICY.
The Addyston Pipe decision marked the beginning of the struggle for federal control of interstate corporations which in the later years has come to be known as the "Roosevelt policy." Mr. Taft in an address to the American Bar Association at Detroit, in the summer of 1895, had enunciated the principle on which President Roosevelt has made his great fight for the suppression of monopoly and the abolition of special privilege. Thus Mr. Taft pioneered the way for the "Roosevelt policy."
BLAZING THE PHILIPPINE TRAIL.
Since the settlement of the reconstruction question no more delicate or fateful problem has confronted American statesmanship than that of the Philippines. The sudden pitching of over-sea territory into our possession as a result of the war with Spain, created a situation not only unexpected but entirely without precedent. There was no guide for our statesmen. The path had to be hewed out new from the beginning. There was no crystalization of opinion among the American people as to what should be done with the Philippines. A considerable element was vigorously opposed to retaining them, but the vast majority demanded the maintenance of American sovereignty there. Among these, at first, the desire was undoubtedly due to the glamour of aggrandizement. The possibility of wealth somewhere beyond the skyline always catches the imagination, ana there can be no question that the great mass of the people moved, without serious thought of the consequences, toward American exploitation of the islands.
But even at that early day there were a few—a very few—among the leaders of American thought and action, who saw clearly the responsibility thrust upon the country by the adventitious possession of the Philippines, and determined to meet it fully, no matter what clamor cf opposition might arise. Among these President McKinley was one. Mr. Taft was another. Mr. Taft had been opposed to taking the islands. He was opposed to retaining them. More than all he opposed their exploitation for American benefit. He believed that the Philippines belonged to the Filipinos, and should be developed in the interest of their own people.
SHOULDERING THE "WHITE MAN'S BURDEN."
He saw the possibility of lifting a feeble, ignorant people into the light of liberty and setting them upon the path to intelligent, efficient self-government. That possibility reconciled him to the continuance of American authority over the islands, for none saw more clearly than he the chaos certain to result from immediate independence for the Filipinos, with its inevitable and speedy end in complete and hopeless subjection to some other power. Therefore when President McKinley asked him to go to Manila and undertake the difficult and thankless task of starting the Filipinos upon their true course, he sacrificed the judicial career which was his life's ambition and shouldered the "White Man's Burden." It was in March, 1900, that he received his appointment as chairman of the Philippine Commission.
Not many Americans have ever comprehended thoroughly the size of Mr. Taft's undertaking, or the full meaning of his achievement. Through a bungle in our first dealings with Aguinaldo and the Filipinos the entire native population of the islands had come to believe, with some reason, that the Americans were their enemies and had betrayed them. Mr. Taft arrived in Manila to find a people subdued by force of arms, but unanimously hostile, sullen and suspicious. They were still struggling, with the bitterness of despair, against the power in which they all saw only the hand of the oppressor.
OVERCOMING THE BARRIER BETWEEN EAST AND WEST.
Moreover, their leaders had been inoculated with the belief that between west and east there is an impassable barrier which will always prevent the Occidental from understanding and sympathizing with the Oriental. The experience of generations has confirmed them in that belief. The only government in their knowledge was tyranny. The only education in their history was deceit. The only tradition they possessed was hatred of oppression, made concrete for them by their experience with western domination.
That was what Mr. Taft had to face, and in three years he had overcome and changed it all. He did it by the persuasive power of the most winning personality the Filipinos had ever known. He met them on their own level. He lived with them, ate with them, drank with them, danced with them, and he showed them that here was an Occidental who could read and sympathize with the Oriental heart. He gave them a new conception of justice, and they saw with amazement that it was even-handed, respecting neither person nor condition, a great leveler, equalizing all before the law. They saw Mr. Taft understanding them better than they had understood themselves, comprehending their problems more wisely than their own leaders had done, and standing all the time like a rock solidly for their interests. They saw him opposed by almost all his countrymen in their islands, denounced and assailed with the utmost vehemence and venom by Americans simply because he steadfastly resisted American exploitation and persisted in his declaration that the Philippines should be for the Filipinos. They saw him laboring day and night in their behalf and facing death itself with cheerful resignation in order to carry on their cause. It was a revelation to them. It was something beyond their previous ken, outside of all their experience, their education and their tradition. It convinced them.
A REVELATION TO THE FILIPINOS.
Mr. Taft gave them concrete examples of disinterestedness and good faith, which they could not fail to comprehend. He gave them schools and the opportunity of education, one of the dearest wishes of the whole people. No man who was not in the Philippines in the early days of the American occupation will ever understand thoroughly with what pitiful eagerness the Filipino people desired to learn. Men, women and children, white haired grandfathers and grandmothers craved above everything the opportunity to go to school and receive instruction in the simplest rudiments. It is difficult to tell how deeply that eager desire touched Mr. Taft and how earnestly he responded to it.
But education was only a beginning. Mr. Taft gave the Filipinos the opportunity to own their own homes. It was another concrete example of simple justice. When they saw him negotiating for the Friar lands, securing for the Filipinos the right to buy those lands on easy terms, it went home to the dullest among them that he was working unselfishly in their behalf. And they saw his justice in their courts. For the first time in all their experience the poorest and humblest Filipino found himself able to secure an even-handed honest decision, without purchase and without influence.
Even that was not all. They saw Mr. Taft literally and faithfully keeping his promise and calling Filipinos to share in their own government, not merely in the subordinate and lowly places which they had been able to purchase from their old masters, but in the highest and most responsible posts. They saw men of their race called to membership in the commission, in the supreme court, • and in all the other branches of their government. And they believed the promise of even wider experience of self-government to come.
AN UNPARALLELED ACHIEVEMENT.
It was a practical demonstration of honesty and good faith such as the Philippines has never known. It was a showing of sympathy, justice and comprehension which could not be resisted. Conviction followed it inevitably. The whole people knew—because they saw—that the Philippines were to be maintained for the Filipinos, and they recognized their own unfitness for the full responsibilities of independent self-government, and cheerfully set themselves to the task of preparation.
That is the achievement of Mr. Taft in the Philippines. It has scarcely a parallel in history. What it cost him he paid without question or complaint. He had given up his judicial career when he went to Manila. But three times in the course of his service for the Filipinos the opportunity to re-enter it came to him, each time with an offer of a place on the supreme court which had been his life-long goal. Each time he refused it. Not even President Roosevelt understood the call to Mr. Taft from the Filipinos, and when he offered a supreme court justiceship to Mr. Taft he accompanied it with almost a command. But Mr. Taft declined. He saw clearly his duty lay to the people whom he had led to believe in him as the personification of American justice and good faith, and he made the President see it too. How the Filipinos felt was shown when on hearing of the danger that Mr. Taft might be called away from Manila, they flocked in thousands about his residence and begged him not to go. When ultimately he did leave the islands it was only to come home as Secretary of War, in which office he could continue his direction of Philippine affairs and make sure that there should be no deviation from the successful line of policy he had marked out.
Nearly four years have elapsed since the foregoing chapter on the life of William Howard Taft was written.
What it conveyed of prophecy has been fulfilled; what it spoke in eulogy has been vindicated. At the close of his first four-year term President Taft has met the expectations of his people; his sympathies have broadened, his experiences ripened. Malevolent attack at no time undermined his determination and courage to pursue the right; temptations to cater to hollow popular applause at the expense of the general welfare left him unmoved. Bravely, steadfastly and patiently he has performed the duties of his high office, ever seeking the light that pointed the path to progress and reform. And when the Republican National Convention of 1912, on June 22, gave him the renomination he had so well earned he again held aloft the banner of social and material betterment of all the people, which four years before was so wisely entrusted to his strong hands. And in those four years the progress, development and augmented prosperity of the American people constitutes the important chapter that is to be added to President Taft's biography, a chapter upon which are based his claims to greatness, now and in the future to be acknowledged by the people whom he has served so well.
In the wealth of altruistic achievement no record of American Presidents has ever exceeded that of President Taft, and that record, details of which are supplied in other chapters of this book, can be touched upon here only at its highest peaks. Upon that record the Republican party, going again before the American people, will ask a vote of confidence in the high-principled American statesman, whose courage, tenacity of purpose, integrity and smiling efficiency have made it possible.
If President Taft had done no more than to usher in an era of calm enforcement of the law, where rich malefactor stands on a level with the criminal poor, he would yet be acclaimed by historians as Taft, the Just. If he had done no more than to write the stamp of his disapproval on the Wool, Steel and Free List measures, to register his unyielding opposition to the recall-of-judges monstrosity—all in the face of warnings that the acts in question went to his very political life—he would yet be regarded as a man of unflinching courage, as a Doer of the Right as God had given him the light to see it. And the same calm courage marked his course in the battle he waged for the cause of peace, when he endeavored to place the United States in the vanguard of nations who are striving for a. solution of all international problems without a resort to the sword—endeavors in which he was thwarted by the opposition of Democrats and personal representatives of Theodore Roosevelt in the United States Senate.
Great as were these achievements, thus lightly touched upon, they constitute but a small part of the record as it is written. The highest court in the land has given to the people an interpretation of the Sherman law, under which the great corporations of the nation now stand ready to square their operations to the terms of the law. The President's recommendation that future revisions of the tariff be taken up schedule by schedule, following the report of a non-partisan tariff commission, which was at first decried, is now accepted by national leaders irrespective of their political affiliations. The Payne law has maintained the prosperity of the country, providing substantial revision downward, yet producing sufficient revenue, thanks to its many wise provisions, including the imposition of an excise tax on corporations, to turn a large Roosevelt deficit into an equally large Taft surplus.
There is too much in the record of President Taft's first term in office to permit anything more than an index of it to appear In a chapter devoted to his career. It includes government victories in the Standard Oil and Tobacco Trust cases; fearless enforcement of the Sherman Act; the abrogation of the passport treaty with Russia; the approaching completion of the Panama Canal, without hint of scandal; the admission of Arizona and New Mexico to Statehood; the exercise of rigid ecenomy in Government Departments, at no sacrifice of efficiency, with attendant reduction of estimates and appropriations, and the placing, for the first time in history, of the Postoffice Department on a self-supporting basis; the carrying on of military maneuvers along the Mexican border, that made for the greater safety of Americans on both sides of the borders and that preserved American neutrality. That record includes the reorganization of the army, providing for unprecedented mobility of troops, and for the maintenance and extension of the power of the Navy as an international agency for peace and a properly equipped guardian of American interests under the provisions of the Monroe Doctrine; the reorganization of the customs service, with its attendant elimination of corruption, exposure and punishment of frauds, and recovery of millions of dollars; the creation of a Bureau of Mines; the successful issue of workmen's compensation act litigation in the Supreme Court, leading system of river and harbor appropriation; the further advancement of the cause of employers' liability legislation; the negotiation and ratification of a treaty with Japan which changed troubled and tense relations into those of undisputed amity; the negotiation of treaties with Nicaragua and Honduras, making for permanent peace. Postal savings banks have been established and parcels post is on the way. Reciprocity with Canada, approved by the American Congress, was rejected by the Canadian electorate, who saw in it a greater advantage to the farmers of the United States than to the farmers of our neighbor to the North. Judicial appointments were taken out of politics and non-political methods were made successful in the taking of the Thirteenth Census. The Income Tax amendment has been sent to the States for ratification and approval. Conservation policies have been placed on a real working basis. The railroads of the country have been made agencies for the greatest good and were compelled to abandon the project to increase rates without submitting them to the Interstate Commerce Commission for approval. China was opened to American commerce and finance on terms of equality with the other powers of the world. A boiler inspection law was enacted, greater liberality was exercised toward veterans of the Civil War, the administration of law was reformed in important particulars, recommendations were submitted looking to a revision of the National Currency that will make panics impossible in the future. Bucket shop and get-rich-quick concerns were crushed out of existence, and White Slavery and Peonage have become, in a measure, problems of the past.
Pages on pages could yet be written, and leave the history of those four years of Taftian achievement incomplete. What is here presented serves not even as a complete index, but it will point the way to those who would seek further. It points the record upon which the party presents the claims of William Howard Taft to the American people in November.
THE BIRTH OF A NATION.
What is the result? The birth of a nation. The great, powerful American people, through the compelling agency of Mr. Taft, has paused ever so slightly in its triumphant onward march, to stoop down and lift up a feeble, ignorant and helpless people and set it on the broad highway to liberty. Vaguely, uncertainly, not comprehending clearly just what it was doing, not understanding always fully either the object or the means of accomplishment, but its heart right, and submitting confidently to the leadership of a man in wihom it trusted implicitly, this nation has assisted in a new birth of freedom for a lowly and oppressed people. To William Howard Taft belongs the lion's share of the credit. Not often is it given to one man to do such work for humanity. Seldom is such altruism as his displayed. Many other honors have come to him; many others will yet come. Among them all none will be of greater significance or of more lasting value than his work for the Filipinos.
SECRETARY OF WAR.
It is not important here to discuss in detail Mr. Taft's administration of the War Department sine* he succeeded Elihu Root as Secretary of War on February 1, 1904. He has been at the head of it during the years of its greatest range of activity. He is not merely Secretary of the Army, as almost all his predecessors were. He is Secretary of the Colonies. All matters of the utmost importance affecting every one of the over-sea possessions of the United States come under his direction. The affairs of the army alone have often proved sufficient to occupy the whole attention of an able secretary. Mr. Taft has had to handle not only those and the Philippine and Cuban business, but to direct the construction of the Panama Canal as well. And at not infrequent intervals he has been called on to participate in the direction of other weighty affairs of government. He has been the general adviser of President Roosevelt and has been called into consultation on every important matter which has required governmental action.
The administration of canal affairs has required in a high degree that quality described as executive ability. The building of a canal is a tremendous enterprise, calling constantly for the exercise of sound business judgment. In it Mr. Taft has displayed in ripened proportions the abilities he foreshadowed when solicitor general and collector of internal
BUILDING THE CANAL.
When Mr. Taft became Secretary of War this country had just taken possession of the canal zone, under treaty with the republic of Panama, and of the old canal property, including the Panama railroad, by purchase from the French company. The work was all to do. The country expected the dirt to fly at once. The newspapers and periodicals were full of cartoons representing Uncle Sam in long boots with a spade on his shoulder, striding down to the isthmus to begin digging. But before there could be any excavation there was a tremendous task to meet. First of all the isthmus must be changed from a disease breeding pest-hole to a place where Americans could live and work in safety. The canal zone must be cleaned up, mosquitoes stamped out and the place made sweet and healthy. Habitations must be constructed for many thousands of workmen and their families. The cities of Panama and Colon, at the terminal of the canal, must be made thoroughly sanitary and supplied with water and sewers. An organization for the work of canal construction must be perfected and millions of dollars' worth of machinery and supplies must be purchased and transported to the isthmus.
All these things, however, were of a purely business character. It required only time and ability to handle them properly. But there was another matter to be taken care of before these could be undertaken, and it was of decidedly different nature. The Hay-Varilla treaty with Panama had secured to the United States all the rights necessary for complete control of the canal zone, and it became of the utmost importance to insure the maintenance of friendly relations with the people of the isthmus republic. It would certainly greatly increase the ordinary difficulties of building the canal if our people had to encounter the hostilities of the Panamanians.
Here was a problem largely similar to that met by Mr. Taft in the Philippines, and calling for the exercise of the same qualities of tact, sympathy, justice and patience which he had exhibited in the Far Blast.
It became his task to convince the Panamanian people and government that the United States had not gone to the isthmus to build a rival state instead of a canal. As head of the War Department, and the superior of the Canal Commission, he has conducted all affairs of the original treaty, and has succeeded in keeping our relations with the isthmus uniformly pleasant. Always, at least once a year, he has made a trip to the canal zone and examined affairs there with his own eyes. He but recently returned from the isthmus, the President having sent him there to settle a number of questions which required his personal consideration on the ground. Perhaps some conception of his responsibilities on the isthmus may be had from the fact that since the actual work of canal building began there has been spent on it upward of $80,000,000, and every dollar of that expenditure required and received his approval.
REAL SELF-GOVERNMENT FOR CUBA.
Aside from the Philippines and the Canal the greatest call that has been made upon Mr. Taft since he became Secretary of War came from Cuba. This was a case largely similar to the Philippine problem. The American people have so long imbibed the theory and practice of self government with their mothers' milk that they have developed a tendency to believe any people fitted for it who desire it. To us liberty is self government, but to many a people with neither experience nor tradition of anything but practical autocracy self-government is only license. So it was with the Cubans. When our intervention had freed that island from the Spanish yoke we deemed it sufficient insurance of successful government for the Cubans to require them to adopt a constitution before we turned the island over to them. We ignored the fact that Cuba had no experience of constitutions or understanding of their functions. So when Cuba had conformed to our requirement we sailed away from Havana and left her to work out her own salvation unaided and untaught.
The result of that folly was inevitable and not long delayed. The Cubans having adopted a constitution they had not the slightest idea of what to do with it. They proceeded to govern under the only system of which they had any knowledge. The proclamation of the President took the place of the old royal decree. He created by his fiat the departments of government which should have been established by law of Congress under authority of the Constitution. Freedom in the American sense was unknown in Cuba.
ORDER OUT OF CHAOS.
The experiment was aimed toward chaos and its expectation was quickly realized. In September, 1906, the United States had to intervene again, and the task fell on Mr. Taft. Fortunate it was both for the United States and Cuba that it was so. With his experience of the Filipino as a guide and the magnetism of his personality as a lever, Mr. Taft placated the warring factions and secured peaceable intervention. Then he devised and set up a provisional government which all the Cubans accepted.
It was the intention then to maintain the government only long enough to give the Cubans a fair election at which they might select their own government by full and free expression of their own will. But almost immediately the provisional government discovered the fundamental mistake made by the earlier American administration. It "found that the Cubans had been attempting to administer a government which never had been organized and existed only by virtue of the President's will. Patiently the provisional government set to work, under the direction of Mr. Taft, to provide the organization under the fundamental law which the Cubans had never known was the essential of successful self-government. The work is now nearing completion, and when next the Americans quit Havana it will be after turning over to the Cubans a government machine properly established and fully equipped, whose operation they have been taught to understand and control. Thus, to two peoples has Mr. Taft been called upon to give instruction in practical self-government.
The character of Mr. Taft is the resultant of strongly contrasting forces. He is a man who laughs and fights. From his boyhood good nature and good humor have been the traits which always received notice first. But all the time he has been capable of a splendid wrath, which now and then has blazed out, under righteous provocation, to the utter consternation and.undoing of its object. Because he is always ready to laugh, and has a great roar of enjoyment to signify his appreciation of the humorous, men who have not observed him closely have often failed to understand that he is just as ready to fight, with energy and determination, for any cause that has won his support. But it is almost always some other man's cause which enlists him. His battles have been in other interests than his own. First of all he is an altruist, and then a fighter.
A COMBATIVE ALTRUIST.
This combative altruism is Mr. Taft's most distinguished characteristic. As Secretary of War he has earned the world-wide sobriquet of "Secretary of Peace." He has fought some hard battles, but they were with bloodless weapons, and the results were victories for peace. The greater the degree of altruism the keener was his zeal, the harder and more persistent his battle. The greatest struggle of his career, in which he disregarded utterly his settled ambition, and cheerfully faced a continuing serious menace to life itself, was on behalf of the weakest and most helpless object in whose cause he was ever enlisted—the Filipino people. That was the purest and loftiest altruism.
But although this is the dominant trait of Mr. Taft, he is well known for other qualities. His judicial temperament, founded upon a deep seated, comprehensive and ever alert sense of right and wrong; his courage, proved by repeated and strenuous tests; his calm, imperturbable judgment, and his all embracing sympathy are characteristics that have been often and widely noted. They are his by right of inheritance from generations of broad-minded, upright men and women. The development of his country has extended the range of his opportunity and given greater scope to his activities than was enjoyed by Alphonso Taft, his father, or Peter Rawson Taft, his grandfather, but in character and intellect he is their true descendant.
The American people know Mr. Taft as a man of pervasive good humor, always ready with a hearty laugh, and quick to see fun in any situation. His other side has not often appeared, but he is capable of tremendous wrath. Nothing arouses it more quickly than unfaithfulness to a trust or an exhibition of deceit. Injustice in any form stirs him to the bottom instantly. He has a broad, keen, quick, all-embracing sympathy, always ready to respond to any call. His sense of justice is wonderfully quick-springing and alert. And he has a genuine fondness for work, which enables him to derive real pleasure from his task. These qualifications are the endowment of an unusually gifted man. The people know, because they have seen, his ability to turn off an enormous amount of work. They have seen him prove an exceptional executive ability. They have seen him manifest an equipment for the Presidency such as no other man has shown before his election to that office. In experience, training and ability, Mr. Taft has amply proved his fitness for the chief magistracy of the nation.
By: Stanley Yavneh Klos
The First United American Republic
Continental Congress of the United Colonies Presidents
Sept. 5, 1774 to July 1, 1776
The Second United American Republic
Continental Congress of the United States Presidents
July 2, 1776 to February 28, 1781
Commander-in-Chief United Colonies & States of America
George Washington: June 15, 1775 - December 23, 1783
The Third United American Republic
Presidents of the United States in Congress Assembled
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March 1, 1781
July 6, 1781
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July 10, 1781
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November 5, 1781
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November 2, 1783
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November 30, 1784
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June 5, 1786
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January 21, 1789
The Fourth United American Republic
Presidents of the United States of America
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