Knowing the Presidents: William Howard Taft

William Howard Taft

Twenty-Seventh President, 1909-1913


William Howard Taft was the natural successor to Theodore Roosevelt, with whom he had a very warm working relationship (one journalist wrote that T.A.F.T. stood for “Take Advice From Theodore.”) He ran his campaign on the idea that his opponent William Jennings Bryan, who had twice lost already, was not a real opponent.


William Howard Taft stumbled dramatically on two important occasions as President: his special congressional session to revise the tariff downward, and his dismissal of Theodore Roosevelt’s friend, Chief Forester of the United States Gifford Pinchot, which tore the Republican Party apart and drove an inseparable wedge between Taft and Roosevelt.

Major Acts:

The Mann-Elkins Act regulated railroads and set rates.

The Payne-Aldrich Tariff alienated progressives.

In foreign policy, William Howard Taft pursued “Dollar Diplomacy” in Latin America and Asia, encouraging American bankers and industry to invest in those regions, which he expected would in turn lead to the establishment of stable governments.


An indecisive leader, William Howard Taft was an ineffective president, especially when compared to the impressive administrations of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.

However, Taft’s concern with the legal limits of his office has been regarded recently with greater respect in light of the growing potential for abuse of presidential power.