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Appointments and Disappointments

December 29, 2016

His parents had hoped for a girl.  Just before he ran for President, his mother had already endorsed someone else and never changed her mind.  Years after his death he was posthumously kicked out of an elite club because they discovered something wrong with his application.  Although these three statements are true, when strung together without qualification, they construct a false narrative regarding our 27th President.

His parents had indeed wanted a girl, but after he was born, William Howard Taft became the favored child.  He and Elihu Root served together in Theodore Roosevelt’s cabinet.  Shortly before she died Taft’s mother expressed her hope that Root would become President.  Her son was elected to that office eleven months after her death.  She had discouraged Taft from seeking the office, but she obviously did not have a chance to change her mind during the actual campaign.  Fifty-five years after his own death Taft was removed from the Mayflower Society.  His application was based on an honest mistake.[1]  Rules are rules, and Taft, the President with the judicial mind, would have accepted this disappointment with equanimity.

Forty-four different men have become President of the United States.[2]  Their average tenure has been a little over five years.  On the other hand, there have been only 17 different Chief Justices.  Their average tenure has been greater than 13 years.  William Howard Taft served four years as President and received only 23% of the popular vote in his bid for re-election.  Historians usually rate his Presidency as “average.”  He was later appointed Chief Justice, and he served in this office for eight and one-half years.  Here he made a lasting impression.


[2] Donald Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President on January 20, 2017, but since Grover Cleveland was both the 22nd and 24th President, Trump will be only the 44th person to hold the office.


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