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William Howard Taft

Presidency

Roosevelt chose Taft as his successor, and the Republican party named him as presidential candidate in the election of 1908, in which he defeated William Jennings Bryan. He was expected to continue Roosevelt's policies, and to a large extent he did. Trusts were vigorously prosecuted under the Sherman Antitrust Act; the Interstate Commerce Commission was strengthened by the Mann-Elkins Act (1910); and Taft's Latin American policy, known as "dollar diplomacy," was to an extent only an enlargement of Roosevelt's Panama policy and the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. The emphasis in all these policies had, however, changed. In Latin America, for instance, the accent was on protection of property and interests of Americans abroad rather than on national interest. Members of the Republican party who favored progressive policies were increasingly restive, and the Insurgents movement grew strong.

The administration made positive achievements in the inauguration of the postal savings bank (1910) and the parcel-post system (1912), and the creation of the Dept. of Labor (1911). Nevertheless, Taft was generally at odds with the progressive elements in his party: he failed to support the Insurgents' attempt to oust the dictatorial speaker of the House of Representatives, Joseph Cannon; he favored the Payne-Aldrich tariff, a high-tariff measure that was denounced by progressive Republicans; and he supported Richard Ballinger against Gifford Pinchot in the Ballinger-Pinchot controversy.

Meanwhile, Taft's relations with Roosevelt deteriorated, and the former President joined the opposition to Taft. In 1912, Roosevelt fought vigorously for the Republican presidential nomination. When he failed and Taft got the nomination, Roosevelt headed the Progressive party and ran in the election as the Progressive (popularly called the Bull Moose) candidate. The Republican vote was split, and the Democratic candidate, Woodrow Wilson, won.

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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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