William Howard Taft

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William Howard Taft (1857-09-15 - 1930-03-08) was the 27th President of the United States (1909 - 1913) and 10th Chief Justice of the United States (1921 - 1930). He also served as an associate judge on the Sixth Circuit, Governor-General of the Philippines, Secretary of War to Theodore Roosevelt and Solicitor General. Between 1914 and 1920 he was the Kent Professor of Law at Yale University.


  • I am a Unitarian. I believe in God. I do not believe in the divinity of Christ, and there are many postulates of the orthodox creed to which I cannot subscribe.
    • Letter to Yale University (1899), quoted in Henry F. Pringle, William Howard Taft: The Life and Times, vol. 1, p. 45 (1939)
  • The welfare of the farmer is vital to that of the whole country.
    • The Farmer and the Republican Party, address in Hot Springs, Virginia (1908-08-05) [1]
  • If humor be the safety of our race, then it is due largely to the infusion into the American people of the Irish brain.
  • We are all imperfect. We can not expect perfect government.
    • Address at a banquet given by the Board of Trade and Chamber of Commerce of Washington, D.C., May 8, 1909.; found in Presidential Addresses and State Papers of William Howard Taft, vol. 1, chapter 7, p. 82 (1910)
  • I have come to the conclusion that the major part of the work of a President is to increase the gate receipts of expositions and fairs and bring tourists to town.
    • Letter of Archibald Butt to Clara F. Butt (1909-06-01); reprinted in The Intimate Letters of Archie Butt (Doubleday, Doran, & Co., 1930)
  • Next to the right of liberty, the right of property is the most important individual right guaranteed by the Constitution and the one which, united with that of personal liberty, has contributed more to the growth of civilization than any other institution established by the human race.
    • Popular Government: Its Essence, Its Permanence and Its Perils, chapter 3 (1913)
  • Socialism proposes no adequate substitute for the motive of enlightened selfishness that to-day is at the basis of all human labor and effort, enterprise and new activity.
    • Popular Government: Its Essence, Its Permanence and Its Perils, chapter 3 (1913)
  • The world is not going to be saved by legislation.
    • The President and His Powers, chapter 6 (1916)
  • We live in a stage of politics, where legislators seem to regard the passage of laws as much more important than the results of their enforcement.
    • The President and His Powers, chapter 6 (1916)
  • Substantial progress toward better things can rarely be taken with out developing new evils requiring new remedies.
    • Our Chief Magistrate and His Powers (Columbia University Press 1916), p. 61
  • Anti-Semitism is a noxious weed that should be cut out. It has no place in America.
    • Anti-Semitism in the United States, address to the Anti Defamation League in Chicago, Illinois (1920-12-23)
  • It is important, of course, that controversies be settled right, but there are many civil questions which arise between individuals in which it is not so important the controversy be settled one way or another as that it be settled. Of course a settlement of a controversy on a fundamentally wrong principle of law is greatly to be deplored, but there must of necessity be many rules governing the relations between members of the same society that are more important in that their establishment creates a known rule of action than that they proceed on one principle or another. Delay works always for the man with the longest purse.
    • "Adequate Machinery for Judicial Business," Journal of the American Bar Association, vol. 7, p. 454 (September 1921)


  • Failure to accord credit to anyone for what he may have done is a great weakness in any man.
  • The President cannot make clouds to rain and cannot make the corn to grow, he cannot make business good; although when these things occur, political parties do claim some credit for the good things that have happened in this way.
  • Don't worry over what the newspapers say. I don't. Why should anyone else? I told the truth to the newspaper correspondents - but when you tell the truth to them they are at sea.
  • Politics: when I am in it, it makes me sick.
  • The intoxication of power rapidly sobers off in the knowledge of its restrictions and under the prompt reminder of an ever-present and not always considerate press, as well as the kindly suggestions that not infrequently come from Congress.
  • Enthusiasm for a cause sometimes warps judgment.
  • I think I might as well give up being a candidate. There are so many people in the country who don't like me.
  • Presidents may go to the seashore or to the mountains. Cabinet officers may go about the country explaining how fortunate the country is in having such an administration, but the machinery at Washington continues to operate under the army of faithful non-commissioned officers, and the great mass of governmental business is uninterrupted.
  • The diplomacy of the present administration has sought to respond to modern ideas of commercial intercourse. This policy has been characterized as substituting dollars for bullets. It is one that appeals alike to idealistic humanitarian sentiments, to the dictates of sound policy and strategy, and to legitimate commercial aims.
  • I don’t remember that I ever was president.
    • Reportedly when asked about his preference between being President and being Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
  • The press sees itself to be the agents of heaven in establishing virtue.
  • I am in favor of helping the prosperity of all countries because, when we are all prosperous, the trade with each becomes more valuable to the other.
  • I'll be damned if I am not getting tired of this. It seems to be the profession of a President simply to hear other people talk.
  • One cannot always be sure of the truth of what one hears if he happens to be President of the United States.
  • I love judges, and I love courts. They are my ideals, that typify on earth what we shall meet hereafter in heaven under a just God.
  • No tendency is quite so strong in human nature as the desire to lay down rules of conduct for other people.
  • Presidents come and go, but the Supreme Court goes on forever.
  • Don't write so that you can be understood, write so that you can't be misunderstood.
  • There is nothing so despicable as a secret society that is based upon religious prejudice and that will attempt to defeat a man because of his religious beliefs. Such a society is like a cockroach -- it thrives in the dark. So do those who combine for such an end.
  • Some men are graduated from college cum laude, some are graduated summa cum laude, and some are graduated mirabile dictu.
  • The cheerful loser is a sort of winner.
  • The trouble with me is that I like to talk too much.
  • Dancing is the most effective form of negotiation.

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