White House - Our Twenty-seventh President
( Originally Published 1908 )
WILLIAM HOWARD TAFT will be welcomed at the White House on the fourth of March, 1909, as the twenty-seventh President of the United States. The nation will hail him as the one man who has received more of "specialized" training for his high office than any other Chief Executive in our history. All his life Mr. Taft has practically been preparing for the Presidency, though only a few years ago his supreme ambition was to attain a seat on the bench of the United States Supreme Court. All his life he has been a patriot, an ideal citizen, a politician, a statesman. For the last eight years he has "specialized" as arbitrator in the affairs of nations, as peacemaker in our relations with our overseas possessions, and as organizer of the great projects which this nation has undertaken in the administration of President Roosevelt.
In 1901 Mr. Taft first emerged from comparative obscurity, as a circuit judge, to become President of the Philippine Commission. How he was called to that post by President McKinley is an old story, yet one that will bear repetition here as showing the character of man who is now our President elect. Mr. Taft did not want to go to the Philippines; he wanted to work his way up to the Supreme Court. But President McKinley one day said to him :
"We need you in the Philippines. You will have to resign your circuit judgeship, and you may never have another chance of going on the Supreme Bench ; but we need you."
"All right," came Mr. Taft's answer, modestly but resolutely ; "I'll go !"
The story of the magnificent achievements of Mr. Taft in the Philippines is wellknown to American readers. It is known that out of chaos he brought order, and when his task in the islands drew to a close, peace reigned where formerly turmoil had held sway.
Then, in 1904, came the call from President Roosevelt to Mr. Taft to take the post of Secretary of War. For four years his duties as a member of President Roosevelt's Cabinet have been most arduous, a constant strain both physical and mental. During his term as Secretary of War he became known as "the nation's traveling man." He traversed the earth in the discharge of his duties of peacemaker or organizer or diplomat. He journeyed to the Philippines to open the Filipino Congress. He continued on a world girdling trip and was received with highest honors by the crowned heads of all the countries through which he passed. He went to Cuba when Revolution reared its head in that isle, and there he established peace and goodwill. He superintended the work of building the Panama Canal, showing, in that work, in particular, his masterly abilities as an organizer. Thus in a hundred ways he prepared himself for the office of President of the United States.
Taft Not a Stranger at the White House
His experiences as a Cabinet officer have been such that when he enters the White House he will be no stranger there. Every room in the mansion is known to him as well as it is known to the man whom he will succeed. All the forms and ceremonies, and all the hard and harassing work and anxiety of being a President, is known to him through intimate association with Mr. Roosevelt, and through almost daily visits at the White House.
Mr. Taft will be the third Secretary of War in our history to become President of the United States. James Monroe once held the Cabinet post in question ; and Grant was Secretary of War under President Johnson.
Moreover, Mr. Taft, in going from the Cabinet to the White
House, will follow in the footsteps of six illustrious predecessors. Six other Presidents came from the Cabinet namely, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Van Buren and Buchanan, all of which were Secretaries of State, Mr. Monroe having held the portfolio of State as well as that of War, before ascending to the Presidency.
Once more, Mr. Taft comes from a family distinguished not only as jurists, but also as statesmen. His father before him held the same post as William Howard Taft held at the time of his nomination to be President. His father, Alphonso Taft, was Secretary of War under President Grant, and was, besides, a diplomat of remarkable ability, qualities with which he seems to have endowed the son who is to be our twenty-seventh President.
Mr. Taft's Career
William Howard Taft will enter the White House as one of the youngest of our Presidents. His age is fifty-one years the same age as Tyler and Arthur, one year older than Polk, one year younger than Lincoln, three years older than Cleveland, and eight older than was Mr. Roosevelt at the time he took the oath of President all the ages referred to being those of the various Presidents named at the time they entered the White House.
Mr. Taft makes the fifth President to come from Ohio, (his home city being Cincinnati), following from that State four great Presidents in the persons of William Henry Harrison, Hayes, Garfield and McKinley.
Mr. Taft will be the nineteenth of our lawyer-Presidents, eighteen of that profession having preceded him in the White House.
To sum up his career—William Howard Taft was born in Cincinnati, Hamilton County, Ohio, September 15, 1857; was graduated in 1874 from Woodward High School; graduated from Yale University in 1878; graduated in law from Cincinnati College in 188o, in which year he was admitted to bar of Supreme Court of Ohio; appointed assistant prosecuting attorney in 1881; resigned in 1882 to become collector of internal revenue, first district, Ohio, under President Arthur; resigned collectorship in 1883 to enter practice of law ; in 1887 was appointed by Governor Foraker judge of the Superior Court of Cincinnati; resigned in 1890 to become Solicitor-General of the United States under appointment of President Harrison; resigned in 1892 to become United States Circuit Judge for sixth judicial circuit; in 1896 became professor and dean of law department of University of Cincinnati; resigned in 1900 circuit judgeship and deanship to become, by appointment of President McKinley, president of the United States Philippine Commission; in 1901, by appointment of President McKinley, became first civil governor of the Philippine Islands ; was appointed Secretary of War by President Roosevelt, February 1, 1904.
Mr. Taft's Qualifications for the Presidency
United States Senator Burton names Mr. Taft's qualifications for the post of President thus:
"He has the rare union of a judicial temperament with a remarkable. gift for administrative management. His capacity for work is something enormous. He brings to the Presidency a practical experience surpassed by that of no one of his predecessors. The people have an assured hope for the secure development and progress of the country, and rest safe in the reliance that a Chief Executive is at the helm who, in peace or in war, will guide the destinies of the nation with a strong hand and a gentle heart."
To which, an editorial writer of the New York Evening Post, adds :
"He knows the office of President from the inside. He has lived `behind the scenes' at the White House. He knows the staggering press of anxiety, cares, disappointments and tribulations that are the daily lot of the chief magistrate. He knows the deep and heavy responsibilities of the office, and how difficult it is for an occupant of the White House to live up to his ideals and ambitions.
"No one in Washington who has had a close range view of Mr. Taft at work and under trying circumstances doubts that he will make one of the ablest of our Presidents. He is a big man in every sense. His body is big, and his brain, and his heart, and his sympathies are proportioned to match his physical bulk. He summed up his conscientiousness and his spirit toward work in a phrase in a letter to John F. Wallace (former Chief Engineer of the Panama Canal) :
"In my view, a duty is an entirety, and is not fulfilled until it is entirely fulfilled'."
At the same time an editorial writer of the New York Tribune speaks of Mr. Taft's unconscious training for the Presidency as follows :
"The political experience of Mr. Taft has been extraordinarily complete and varied. He has served with distinction as State and Federal judge, held one of the most important posts in the Department of Justice, been Secretary of War and Acting Secretary of State, has governed the Philippines, been temporary Governor of Cuba, and has supervised affairs in the Isthmian Canal strip. He is an administrator, negotiator and pacificator, who has proved his tact and skill in many difficult fields, and his all-around competency as a public man equals, if it does not exceed, that of such earlier noted exemplars of versatility in statesmanship as Albert Gallatin, James Madison and John Quincy Adams."
How Mr. Taft Trained to be Chief Executive
One of the best summaries of the facts relating to Mr. Taft's training for the Presidency is given in the Review of Reviews by Walter Wellman, who writes :
"It has become axiomatic at Washington that whenever trouble occurs anywhere in the world beyond the power of the ordinary agencies to deal with, Taft is the man who must be sent to straighten it out. Not only did he bring order out of chaos in the Philippines, but he averted civil war and anarchy in Cuba, settled the difficult problem of the friars' lands by a visit to the Vatican, started the vast activity at Panama, in effective fashion, and then went back again to adjust a threatened struggle between two jarring States. Though the Secretary of Peace, he carried on the War Department with a strong grip upon its details, helped reorganize the army and create a general staff, and incidentally found time to make a tour of the world and to travel all over the country as a fast-rising favorite for the Presidency. It is not surprising, in view of his achievements, his record as a getter of results, as a doer, that President Roosevelt should say of him :
"`Taft is the biggest going concern in the country'.
"He keeps going all the time. He works from eight in the morning until midnight. He not only works hard, but plays hard, laughs hard, sleeps hard, eats hard and sometimes hits hard when roused.
"The Presidency is without much doubt just what President Roosevelt has called it, `the hardest job on earth'. To achieve success in it much more than intellectual equipment is required. Indeed, it may be doubted if a genius of the first rank could, under present conditions, make a success of it at all. Given a fairly strong mind and will, which pertain without question to any man who reaches the White House, beyond that success of failure is largely a matter of temperament. Chief of the temperamental qualities is tact, patience, good humor in the last analysis the ability to work well and smoothly with men, to avoid friction, to attract loyalty, to get the best possible out of subordinates and out of the coordinate branch, the Congress. The Presidency is now so big a post, its duties are so complex, they ramify so extensively and intimately to all the activities of the Government and of the people, that the human-nature side of the occupant of the high chair is of far greater importance than the intellectual side. President McKinley was a good example : Not intellectually great, but well balanced, a good judge of men, wonderfully clever in extracting from men the best they had, whether of thought or work, he became known as an adroit, smooth, eminently successful managing director of the Government. Mr. Roosevelt, more intellectual and original, more courageous, more the reformer, with a broader grasp of things and a far greater desire to initiate and complete, a leader, not an opportunist, gets on fairly well with men, too, most men.
"Not only has Taft had the training that fits him to be President; he has the temperament. It would be difficult to imagine a temperament better adapted than his to this difficult task. He is a happy half way McKinley and Roosevelt, with most of the strength and few of the weaknesses of both. He has the training of the lawyer, of the judge, the administrator, the diplomat. He knows the American people, he knows the Government, he knows the affairs of the world. He has an almost unprecedented power of handling affairs and men. Serenity abides with him, and patience, and justice, and strength, and firmness. He may never fire the hearts of the people as Roosevelt has ; he may never be looked upon by all as a paragon of unpicturesque goodness, as was McKinley. But if Taft becomes President he will get results. He will be master without carrying a whip. He will always strive, as we see he has always striven, to use infinite pains to get at all the facts, to clarify them, to form slow but sure judgments, and then to stand by them. At the White House, if Taft presides, there will be a great calm, great patience of listening and investigation, great energy of work, great good humor, great peace."
Mr. Taft's Hard Labor and His Hard Working Secretary
William Howard Taft, as the whole nation well knows, is a tremendous, indefatigable worker. His work seems never to cease, summer or winter. Despite his great weight, he covers the ground with surprising elasticity, and altogether his avoirdupois has been no bar to his activities.
Mr. Taft's Man-Friday, his hardest worked Right Hand, as it were, is Mr. Fred W. Carpenter, who for eight years has labored as Mr. Taft's confidential secretary in all affairs private as well as public. Mr. Carpenter was first brought to Mr. Taft's notice when, from Manila, the then President of the Philippine Commission cabled home asking a friend to recommend some young man who could perform the duties of private secretary. The cable brought back the answer that the best man for the post was Fred W. Carpenter, then a clerk in a law office in San Francisco. Mr. Carpenter was accordingly requested to proceed at once to Manila,and ever since he has acted as Mr. Taft's Man-Friday, "undemonstratively, uncommunicatively."
As Secretary of War, Mr. Taft was besieged and beset daily and nightly by no end of callers. And "curiously enough," remarked the New York Evening Post, "despite his staggering load of work, Taft is the most patient of men with bores." In consequence, they followed him in flocks and lay siege at the inner portals of his office.
"The trouble with me," Mr. Taft said one day, "is that I like to talk too much. People come in here to see me who haven't got any business, and sometimes they are cranks, but nearly always I get interested in them, and the first thing I know they have eaten up all my day."
At School and in College
Mr. Taft is a Yale man having been graduated from that university in 1878, two years before Mr. Roosevelt was graduated from Harvard. Mr. Taft is our one and only President to come from Yale. It may be added here that Mr. Roosevelt was one of three Presidents from Harvard, his predecessors from that university being John Adams and John Quincy Adams. It may be added further that nine of our Presidents did not go to any college, these nine being Washington, Jackson, Van Buren, Taylor, Fillmore, Lincoln, Johnson, Cleveland and McKinley. Mr. Taft was graduated second in a class of 120, and was class orator and salutatorian.
Before entering Yale young Taft was graduated from the
Woodward High School, of Cincinnati. One of his teachers there was Professor Peabody, who says of his now distinguished pupil :
"He led a class of eleven boys. And let me tell you that it was no mean honor to lead that particular class, for it contained some of the brightest boys it has ever been my privilege to teach. He seemed to realize, as most boys do not, that work is work and play is play, and that there's a time for each.
"His father, Judge Alphonso Taft, was a trustee of the school ; the only trustee, by the way, who ever paid it any personal visits. Alphonso came around every two or three weeks and would follow an entire recitation ; especially to see, I suppose, how his own boys were doing.
"I guess Will Taft found out early that it really paid to work when there war work to be done. He told me later that when he went to Yale he was so well prepared that he had to loaf along the first year, waiting for the rest to catch up.
"From that time to this he has always been ahead of his work. He has never been one of the men who are harassed and pushed by their duties. As a boy he got ahead of his work, and he has kept ahead of it ever since."
Regarding his days at Yale, Mr. Taft incidentally tells how it was that the "boys" there first began calling him "Bill," the name by which the people, today, like to speak of him. Says Mr. Taft:
"I first got the name at Yale. Before I went there I had been `Willie' in my home and among my Cincinnati boyhood friends. But when I got through school I was called Will at home.
"My younger brother, Harry, however, never called me Willie after a happening one day at college. We roomed together on the top floor of Farnam Hall ; our room was just over the middle entrance. Harry was a freshman, I a junior. He had gone out and forgotten to take with him a book he wanted. He came back to the entrance and, looking up on the outside, yelled, `O Willie' ! Well, in a second there was a head out of every one of the four hundred windows, and it seemed as though every one yelled at once. At any rate, there was one long chorus of `O Willie' ! That cured Harry, he has called me `Bill' ever since, and so have all my friends."
Mrs. Taft, Thirty-third "First Lady"
Mrs. William Howard Taft will enter the White House as the thirty-third "First Lady" of the land. Her daughter, Helen, moreover, will be one more White House debutante, succeeding Nellie Grant and Alice Roosevelt in that respect.
Mrs. Taft will come to the White House by no means as a stranger there. For within that mansion she had many delightful experiences in her younger life when Rutherford B. Hayes was President. From various newspaper despatches relating to Mrs. Taft's experiences in the White House, we learn that "her introduction to the White House goes back to her early childhood, when she spent a great deal of time there with President and Mrs. Hayes, who were devoted to her. As a member of `Mrs. Roosevelt's cabinet' she has been at the White House a great deal, and it will feel far from strange to her when she goes there as a President's wife. She will be an admirable hostess, and as she is not only a lover of music but a musician herself, the entertainments at the White House will probably continue to be characterized by the musical turn which Mrs. Roosevelt has given them."
Another despatch states that Miss Helen Herron, who became Mrs. William Howard Taft, and whom Mr. Taft calls "the politician of the family," was the daughter of former United States District-Attorney John W. Herron, who was the law partner of President Rutherford B. Hayes. In her early girlhood Mrs. Taft spent a great deal of time at the White House as the guest of the Hayes family, "but it is doubtful if she ever thought that her meeting with young Bill Taft, whose father, Alphonso Taft, had been Secretary of War and Minister to Russia, would in all probability bring her back to rule over it as its mistress."
"She spent the greater part of each year at the White House, although she was little more than a toddler at the time. Her keenest delight was in the impromptu suppers which always followed State receptions at the White House. These were served in the private apartments of the President and were strikingly home like. The little visitor was never permitted even a peep below stairs, but she became thoroughly at home in the Executive Mansion, and few years have passed since that Mrs. Taft has not been more or less in the White House."
Mrs. Taft herself has said : "Nothing in my life reaches the climax of human bliss I felt when, as a girl of sixteen, I was entertained at the White House."
Mrs. Taft as Wife and Mother
It was an old-fashioned love match, that of Miss Helen Herron, of Cincinnati, and William Howard Taft. Each took the other when neither knew that the things in store for them were for the better of today. And until she world girdled with him on his official trip, Mrs. Taft never really comprehended just how big a man her husband was big in achievement as well as avoirdupois.
One newspaper despatch quotes Mr. Taft's father as saying : "Mediocrity will never do for Bill Taft."
The same despatch then goes on to state that "Bill" proved his father's words by falling in love with Miss Helen Herron. The Taft and Herron families had known each other always. Young Taft went to Yale at the age of seventeen. "At that time his future wife was a little girl in short skirts, to whom he had never paid the slightest attention. Returning to Cincinnati at twenty-one, after graduating second in a class of 120, young Taft went to work as a Court reporter of a local newspaper at six dollars a week. Miss Helen Herron was then seventeen. She was a studious young girl, with a great love of books and a passion for music. While young Taft was studying law out of the hours given to newspaper reporting she was attending the Cincinnati University, and after a year's course began teaching in a private school. She was even then a believer in the higher education of women. She married Mr. Taft when she was twenty-five and he twenty-nine, but the marriage was the culmination of an understanding which had existed for some years. They were waiting simply for young Taft's income in the practice of law to equal $100 a month."
One newspaper reporter said to Mrs. Taft: "How do you keep so young how do you manage it ?"
"Well," answered Mrs. Taft, "I suppose it is because I am a very contented and happy woman. I should be, too, for I have three lovely children and a husband so good and kind, and so companionable. He is devoted to all of us, and, really, I couldn't conjure up a single thing to make me discontented. I believe that contentment does away with wrinkles."
The same reporter then asked Mrs. Taft the following question: "Do you believe in a business life for a woman?" To which the reply came :
"Not if a woman wants to have happiness and fulfil her greatest usefulness in this world. A happy marriage is the most complete and useful life for any woman. To be the mother of sweet, healthy children is a heritage that is greater than being than being the mistress of the White House. The devotion of my husband, the love of my children, are dearer to me than any other thing in life.
"As the wife of Mr. Taft, as President, I would interest myself in anything that vitally affected him, or in which he was absorbed. I do not believe in a woman meddling in politics or in asserting herself along those lines, but I think any woman can discuss with her husband topics of national interest and, in many instances, she might give her opinion of questions with which, through study and contact, she has become familiar.
"The situation in the Philippines, while I lived there was most interesting, and I became familiar with every phase of it. It meant more than politics. The questions involved real statesmanship. Mr. Taft always held his conferences at our home, and, naturally, I heard these matters discussed more freely than one would in Washington. It was politics `over the tea cups', as it were, in the Philippines."
Some Characteristics of Mrs. Taft
Mrs. Abbey Baker, of Washington, gives the following review of the characteristics possessed by the lady who, for the next four years, will act as the hostess of the nation :
"Mrs. Taft is a cultured, womanly woman, and as a mistress of the White House, will make a worthy successor of Mrs. Roosevelt. She is a delightful hostess in her own home, and has a happy grace of manner in meeting strangers which goes far toward making a woman popular in public life. She is not a club-woman, and belongs to but few organizations of any kind. Her greatest pleasure and recreation is music. In her girlhood she was a brilliant pianist, and although she does not keep up her music as she did then, she is a skilled player yet. She was one of the most promising graduates of the Cincinnati College of Music, in the days when the Cincinnati institution vied with the Boston Conservatory. She was first president and one of the organizers of the Cincinnati Orchestra Association. Until she came to Washington to live, she cared but little for society life. She has always hailed with delight the time of year when she could go with her family to Murray Bay for the summer, where they could live far more simply than is possible at the Capital.
"On the day before the nomination at Chicago a slight, graceful woman flitted into the War Department and passed swiftly up to the rooms of the Secretary. In his inner office a long distance telephone wire made direct connections with the Convention Hall at Chicago. All day long she sat in the inner office, as much interested as the big Secretary, who, amidst all the excitement, only left the work at his desk occasionally to listen to `the latest'. Early Thursday morning she came again, and if she was weary, or a bit heart sick over the suspense, there was nothing in her bright face to betray it to the eyes of her watchful husband. But when the word came over that long wire, late in the afternoon, `Taft is the standard bearer of his party', it was the slight, graceful little woman who was the first to congratulate her husband upon his nomination."
And to Mrs. Baker's account, a newspaper despatch, written when Mrs. Taft was living in Washington, adds a number of facts, the principal of which are these :
"Mrs. Taft's most conspicuous trait is genuine womanliness, with absolutely no affectation. Her manner is frank, direct, and she has a refreshing sense of humor. One imagines, and without doubt truthfully, that Mrs. Taft and the Secretary have much `fun' between themselves in conversation, without audience or entertainers.
"When Mrs. Taft speaks of the achievements of her husband, which she rarely does unless she knows well the one with whom she is talking, she discusses them in a manner which suggests that these things are only the natural consequences of the Secretary's ability.
"Since she came to Washington, Mrs. Taft has become conspicuous for the readiness with which she disposes of affairs which directly concern her. In her own home she is much the same as any other American woman would be. If she happens to be near the telephone and the bell rings, she answers it herself.
"She has an old-fashioned custom, and a delightful one, of accompanying her visitors to the front door when they are calling informally, and in many other little ways she demonstrates that the routine of official and social duties has in no way changed her feminine tendencies nor her ideas of life within her own home circle.
"Mrs. Taft has no fad. She says fads take time and do not accord well with social and official duties. But she has many fancies, all of which are of a practical nature, and she indulges them faithfully. One of these is music. Mrs. Taft, before coming to Washington, was one of the conspicuous figures in musical affairs in Cincinnati. She was president of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and was affiliated with many of the most prominent musical organizations in that city."
Elder Son of the Tafts
Mr. and Mrs. Taft have three children—two boys and a girl. Their elder son, Robert Alphonso, is a sophomore at Yale. Their younger son, Charlie, is the schoolboy who accompanied his father on his famous trip around the world. Their daughter, Miss Helen, is a student at Bryn Mawr College, near Philadelphia.
In referring to these children, Hallie Erminie Rives, the novelist, says :
"They are lucky children whose parents live as close to them in feeling as do Mr. and Mrs. Taft for their children."
The story is told by Miss Rives of how one day in Havana a friend met the War Secretary walking up the street with a jubilant face and a pink cablegram in his hand.
"You look very happy, Mr. Secretary," said the friend. "The work of the Commission seems to please you."
"Commission nothing," exclaimed Mr. Taft, slapping the cablegram: "That boy of mine at Yale has taken two first prizes."
The prizes referred to by Miss Rives in the above paragraph, were alluded to in the news at the time young Robert won them, as follows :
"Robert Alphonso Taft, eldest son of the Secretary, was a double prize winner this year in the freshman class at Yale, dividing one of the Barge prizes for mathematics and taking a first grade Berkley premium of a book fund for excellence in Latin composition."
In a sketch of this elder son of the President-elect, it is stated, by Mrs. Abbey Baker, that he just could not stay in New Haven while the Republican Convention was in session at Chicago last week, so he "cut an ex." to make the train which brought him to the Western city in time to see the opening of the great show.
When young Robert becomes too much absorbed with the good times of college life, Mrs. Baker tells us, the big Secretary tells him about one time when he was in college 'way back in the seventies. He was a splendid young fellow physically, weighing over two hundred pounds, and his chums were determined to run him for athletics. He liked it, but when his lesson reports came back to his worthy sire, who had held two Cabinet positions under Grant, he told his son in no uncertain tones that he was not in college to make an athlete. He told it to him so convincingly that William Taft dropped excessive athletics and came out second in a class of one hundred and twenty at his graduation.
The Younger Son
"Like his distinguished father," writes Mrs. Baker, "Charlie Taft, son of the Secretary of War, thoroughly enjoys life and goes on the principle that good friends are worth making in any walk of life. Charlie has a sunny disposition and is always ready with a smile. Young Taft and Quentin Roosevelt are great chums, and, like the son of the President, Charlie goes off to school in the morning with his books slung over his shoulder, ready to shoot marbles with the first fellow that comes along. Charlie has many stories to tell of his world trip with his distinguished father, and he has seen many unique things which escaped the eyes of his elders."
After his father's nomination to be President, young Charlie was asked by a reporter if he would like to be a President's son?
"Yes, indeed ; the Roosevelt boys have a fine time at the White House. Pop will win and we will occupy the White House. But I am awfully sorry for Quentin Roosevelt. I do not want him to leave his present home. But he can visit me often and we will have jolly times together."
Miss Helen Taft, New "Daughter of the White House"
Miss Helen Taft as already stated, is a student at Bryn Mawr, where, in 1908, she won a scholarship. Writing of this, Mrs. Abbey Baker tells us that on the morning the Chicago Convention met a letter was placed in Secretary Taft's hands. When he read it he smiled, and his smile is most contagious.
"It must be some more good news from Chicago," said a discerning friend. But it was not. The letter told him that his daughter Helen, who was graduated from the Baldwin School a week or two ago, had won the Pennsylvania scholarship for the best entrance examination to Bryn Mawr College. Incidentally, that scholarship carried three hundred dollars; and while that of itself was an item for the Tafts are not people of wealth it was not that which made the Secretary smile. "Miss Helen is the apple of her father's eye, and it delights him beyond measure that she inherits his love for books, and is developing into a student. She is a fine, wholesome, unaffected girl with her father's deep expressive eyes and fair complexion, while from her mother she inherits her crown of soft brown hair."
From a sketch of Miss Taft in Human Life, we glean the following facts relating to the young lady who will figure prominently in the White House social life during the Taft Administration :
"Like Miss Roosevelt, she is of the strenuous order of young woman, being a devotee of tennis and golf, but unlike her, she has evinced no interest in society and shrinks from the public with maidenly modesty. Miss Taft is, mentally, the counter part of her mother and her namesake. She has just turned eighteen and her days are largely spent over books. She is, in fact, rather a `bookish' young lady, deeply interested in history and literature. With a mother and grandfather of scholarly attainments, it would be hardly possible for her to be otherwise, although she is no less an out-of-doors girl. At the Taft summer home at Murray Bay, Canada, Miss Helen is the daily opponent of her father or her brother in tennis bouts, and can hold her own before the net with skill and agility. Brought up in the very essence of refined American home life, the daughter of the Secretary of War is a `finished' and exceedingly polished and well poised young lady. She is tall and lithe and fair, with regular features, pleasing but strong, and perhaps a little determined. Miss Taft is not an idealist, or a dreamer; her ambition is to know things worth while and keep herself informed upon the affairs of the day. In this way she has become a companion to her father. Miss Taft, before going to Bryn Mawr, was educated at the National Cathedral School at Washington, D. C."
The Home Life of the Tafts
The home life of Mr. and Mrs. Taft is depicted with many interesting facts by Mrs. Abbey Baker, from her first-hand knowledge of this distinguished family, beginning with this little story:
"A flaxen-headed, sturdy limbed little lad scurried through the reading room of the Library of Congress on the Saturday before the Chicago Convention, and grabbed the skirts of a slight, graceful woman, whose arms were filled with books, and who seemed to be hurrying to avoid recognition. Her large dark eyes smiled down at the boy as he tucked his hand confidingly under her elbow, and as they pushed out the handsome bronze doors of the great granite building he said gleefully :
"There, mother ! we've found the very books we want, and we'll have a jolly Saturday reading 'em, won't we ?"
"Who are they?" asked one of a group of sight-seers who were taking in the beauties of the building, and who were evidently strangers in Washington.
"That, madam," said the keeper of the umbrella stand with swelling importance over his familiarity with those in the seats of the mighty, "that is Mrs. William Howard Taft and her little boy the wife and son of the Secretary of War."
"Well, I hope that she is as nice a mother as she looks to be," ejaculated the stranger, hurrying to the doors to have another peep at the rapidly retreating figures.
"Mrs. Taft is devotedly fond of her big husband," continues Mrs. Baker, "and of her trio of interesting children, and does not believe that anything in the world should be as important to her as their well-being and happiness."
When Secretary Taft, then senior United States Circuit Judge of the Sixth Circuit, decided that he must go to the Philippines to help his "little brown brothers" (as he calls the Filipinos) establish a civil government, Mrs. Taft immediately decided that she and the children should go too. Her father, Mr. John W. Herron, of Cincinnati, tried to persuade her not to go, picturing to her the baneful climate and the hardships to be encountered. "And you'll only be in your husband's way," he wound up.
"But you know, really," said Mrs. Taft, in speaking of it three years afterward when the family took up their residence in Washington, "we weren't in his way at all. The children were an actual help, and our family life was an object lesson the natives needed."
The eldest son, Robert Alphonso, at that time a lad of twelve, was placed in one of the public schools which Governor Taft had established all over the islands, and which have proven such wonderful agencies in bringing about reformation in the archipelago. Little Helen Herron Taft, then a wee lassie of nine, was put in a school in Manila, while Charles Phelps, the baby of the family, had kindergarten lessons at home. When Robert Taft returned to this country he found that he had not lost a single day in his studies and entered his classes exactly as he would have done if he had carried on his work in the schools of Washington or Cincinnati.
The big Secretary and his wife won all hearts in the Philippines. Their open hospitality and keen interest in all that pertained to the betterment of the islands made them the beloved of high and low alike. Their Washington home is crowded with magnificent presents which the warm hearted Filipinos pressed upon them. The furnishings in their parlors, library and dining-room are interesting in the extreme. There are exquisite teakwood pieces, one of which is a carved cabinet that of itself would waken the envy of a connoisseur, the shelves of which are filled with rare curios. In the hall of the house are two fine Korean cabinets of mahogany, which were presented to Governor Taft by the Constabulary at Seoul. Upon the table in the library is a handsome case of inlaid wood, holding an elaborate embossed volume, bearing engraved sentiments of esteem from the native citizens of Manila. The great dining-table is made of wood grown on the island of Luzon, the sideboard and table are teak, and the walls of the hall are covered with rare Chinese embroideries. The entire home is filled with most interesting souvenirs.
To Mrs. Baker's account, Hallie Erminie Rives adds this quaint glimpse of the Taft's Washington home:
"Each child has been taught to keep a separate account and to husband it carefully. Most of all, in the bringing up of this family, has care been taken that the children's good impulses be not discouraged. Pass the Taft house on a sunshiny day when there is no school, notice the crimson roses clambering over the window (how pretty those roses are), you catch yourself saying aloud. As likely as not a chubby boy with fine eyes and dimples will drop out of a tree, which is his favorite library corner, and say, smilingly : (Aren't they? Don't you want one?) Then he will hand you the prettiest on the bush. This benevolent person will be Charlie Taft, younger son of the house, and for this largess he will receive no paternal or maternal frown. The impulse for friendliness and kindness, not the rosebush, is what counts."
The Taft's summer home, for years, has been at Murray Bay, Eastern Canada. That home is now furnished with every reasonable comfort, but it was not always so, as Mr. Taft has said, thus :
"I remember when we first came up here to Murray Bay, a whole cargo of Tafts—twenty-one of us, fifteen years ago. We had nothing but a cigar box of a house, with five or six rooms in it to hold us all. Maybe you think they didn't say things to me! I was the one who persuaded them all to try this resort, and in the usual happy family manner they told me what they thought of my judgment."
"I remember well those days," adds Mr. Taft's brother,
Charles P. Taft. Will was raising a family, and in the middle of the night of course the babies would cry. The partitions between the rooms were very thin the usual summer cottage partitions and so, in order not to disturb our sleep any more than was necessary, Will used to carry the babies out in the dim night air and walk up and down the board walk with them. I can still remember the sight he presented in his night dress. It was worth being waked out of my sleep to see."
The Tafts as Church Members
William Howard Taft is the second Unitarian to enter the White House as President of the United States, the first President of that denomination being Millard Fillmore. Of the other Presidents, eight were Episcopalians, two Congregationalists, two Dutch Reformed, four Presbyterians and five Methodists.
In The Christian Herald it is stated that while neither the War Secretary nor Mrs. Taft have regular membership in any church, they both are in thorough sympathy with church organizations, and have always helped in church support. The Secretary's parents were Unitarians, and when possible, he affiliates with that body. Mrs. Taft's family were Presbyterian, but since her marriage she has worshiped usually with the Episcopalians. She was always actively engaged in the philanthropic and civic organizations of Cincinnati. It was largely through her efforts that the Training School for Nurses was established, and for years she was a member of the Free Kindergarten Board. While in the Philippines, Mrs. Taft was a member of the Soldiers' and Sailors' League, which established the public library at Manila.
On this subject of the church-going of the Tafts, the press despatches state that Mr. Taft attends All Souls' Church, Washington, and that "Mrs. Taft and the other members of the family are regular attendants at St. John's Protestant Episcopal Church and will occupy the Presidential pew in that church" during the Taft Administration. It was in St John's Episcopal Church that Miss Helen Taft was confirmed, and in the class was Miss Ethel Roosevelt, daughter of the President, and both girls were students in the National Cathedral School.
Speaking of the way Mr. Taft spends Sunday at his sum-mer home at Murray Bay, Canada, one press despatch has it that on that day he discards his familiar suit of gray outing flannel and dons a staid blue serge, and goes to church. After the service he stands bareheaded in the little churchyard and holds a sort of impromptu reception, in which he shakes hands with all the neighbors. Sunday is his one day of rest.
Mr. Tart's Outdoor Recreations
Mr. Taft is an ardent lover of outdoor pastimes and sports, his favorite game being golf, though he is also fond of walking and riding, and occasionally plays tennis with his sons. In referring to his habit of living as much as possible outdoors, especially during his stay at his Canadian summer home, Mr. Taft himself has gone on record as saying:
"So invigorating is the air, you simply cannot loaf ; you just have to go out and take exercise. You feel that you must go out and bang the little white ball around. Then, when you have taken so much exercise, you sleep well at night, and when you sleep well, you are ready for another round the next day. Exercise is a great thing."
In a press account of his outdoor pastimes at Murray Bay, we learn that Mr. Taft works, during the summer, from seven in the morning until eight or half-past, dictating to his secretary his opinions concerning the War Department stuff which came in by the night mail. Then he breakfasts ; after breakfast, rain or shine, he takes his golf clubs and goes to the links to put in a full morning. "Now, the Murray Bay links are laid out on the side of a thousand hills. There are eighteen holes, and these holes are got at by climbing mountains, jumping ditches, traveling along roads and other difficult processes. It takes a good three hours to get around them, and the Secretary gets around them with a score of ninety-five. He turns up bright and smiling as ever the Taft smile is just as good as so much sunshine eats a bit of lunch and goes at his secretary and his War Department again for all the afternoon. Late in the dusk of the evening he and the children play together around the tennis court or the lawn. It is a pleasant sight, for, as far as games are concerned, Taft is like Peter Pan, he has never grown up."
Some of Mr. Taft's Characteristics
Robert Lee Dunn, news-photographer, says of Mr. Taft that he owes more to the camera than perhaps any other statesman, "and is as pleased with good pictures of himself as is any other of the great men I have snapped." "I suppose I have upward of 1,000 plates of him. He has mastered the secret of the perfect pose. There is no worry in it for him, no dread that he will not look fit. He is always ready, always natural, and always happy, and thanks to these three conditions whatever he may have had of vanity has long since disappeared."
A well known magazine writer, Mr. Lincoln Steffens, cites the following as the most characteristic story ever told of the President-elect. The time of this occurrence was in the early manhood of Taft. "His father," says Mr. Steffens, "had been insulted in a newspaper, and the other sons, all the family, were indignant, excepting only `Bill'. He said nothing. He left the house that morning without any sign of anger, and the others, in their storm, wondered at his calm. But when Bill got downtown, he laid for and he licked the writer of that article ; `without anger', they say in Cincinnati."
Mr. Taft's Brother and Mother
Mr. Taft owes much to his brother, Charles P. Taft, owner and editor of the Cincinnati Times-Star. The President-elect is himself a comparatively poor man, and when it came time to secure his nomination, the matter of obtaining funds for the purpose became imperative. To the rescue came his brother, Charles Taft, with liberal checks representing the sinews of war.
But if Mr. Taft is devoted to his brother, what shall we say of his love for his mother, as cited in the following story? This story appeared in the New York Evening Post, and relates that one evening in Cuba, when all the correspondents, Cuban and American, had gone to Mr. Taft at the American legation to learn the result of the day's negotiations, there happened a simple little thing, unconsciously done, that left a deep impression. All of the men crowded into the small room where Mr. Taft sat looking out of one of the long French windows that opened towards the sea. He looked tired and drawn. When the crowd of writing-men had arranged themselves in a rough semi-circle in front of his desk, Mr. Taft beckoned to the representative of a Boston paper, on the outer edge of the crowd, to come around and sit beside him.
"I am anxious that this young man should hear everything," he said in explanation of his partiality. "He writes for the only paper that my mother reads, and I like her to know what I am doing down here."
There was "something fine in the unconsciousness and simplicity of the man's speech and altitude of mind."
The Vice-President-Elect and Mrs. Sherman
The "running-mate" of William Howard Taft on the Republican ticket for President and Vice-President is James Schoolcraft Sherman. On the day Mr. Taft enters the White House, Mr. Sherman will go to Washington as the Vice-President of the United States and assume the duties of President of the United States Senate.
James Schoolcraft Sherman, thus, in the fifty-third year of his life, will become the second in power in the Government of the country. He is a lawyer, but has always been active in politics. In 1884 he was Mayor of his home town, where he was born, and where he still lives Utica, New York. His constituency sent him to Congress, and for fourteen years he performed his duties in the House of Representatives. He was graduated from Yale.
Speaking of Mr. Sherman's training and qualifications for the high post to which he has been elected, the New York Evening Mail says, editorially :
"His experience in public life, covering many terms in Congress, has been as steady and extended as that of Mr. Taft with this difference, that it was gained on the legislative rather than on the judicial and administrative sides. Mr. Sherman brings to the Vice-Presidency a wholly exceptional experience in public affairs, of a highly qualifying kind. He has been a growing figure, and where he is best known among his associates in Congress the appraisal of his abilities is largest and most generous. He is a man of force and judgment, with a good record, and a sense of responsibility and an instinct for affairs on which the House of Representatives has more and more relied."
Mr. Sherman's wife is quite as prepared as is her husband to take up her official duties in Washington. She is better known in Utica, her home town, however, as a philanthropist than as a society queen. When the Spanish-American War broke out, she became President of the Woman's War Relief Society of New York. She has long been an officer of St. Luke's Hospital, of New York, and is an active worker for that great institution. Also she is one of the organizers of the Congressional Club, of Washington, which includes in its membership the ladies of the families of Senators as well as of Representatives. While her husband sat in Congress, she entertained frequently and became a social favorite in Washington. Before her marriage, she was Miss Carrie Babcock, of Utica, daughter of a prominent jurist. Married now for eighteen years, her wedded life has ever been, as she says, "filled with strivings to attain the ideals of all that the relations of husband and wife should be."