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William Howard Taft

William Howard Taft

William Howard Taft (1857–1930)

William Howard Taft felt determined to follow in the footsteps of Theodore Roosevelt, particularly with regard to implementing domestic reform, but Taft—an indecisive leader—was largely unsuccessful in meeting this goal. When he presented his tariff reform package, Congress put forth more than eight hundred amendments that made it almost impossible to pass, and he did nothing to object. He did, however, achieve one significant reform legislation, the Mann-Elkins Act of 1910, which regulated destructive competition and unfair trade practices. Also, ninety-nine trust prosecutions were conducted while he was in office. Nevertheless, when Taft was halfway through his presidency, he had become heavily influenced by conservative businessmen who criticized the effects of trust-busting on the national economy. In the end, he reversed his position on tariff reform and therefore alienated progressives who viewed high tariffs as the worst offending characteristic of trusts.

Artist: William Valentine Schevill (1864–1951)
Oil on artist board, c. 1910

Gift of William E. Schevill