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The William Howard Taft Presidency (American Presidency Series) Hardcover – October 20, 2009

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Product Details

  • Series: American Presidency Series
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas; 1 edition (October 20, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0700616748
  • ISBN-13: 978-0700616749
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #555,964 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"The first volume that scholars who want to learn more about Taft will consult for years to come." --Journal of American History

From the Back Cover

"This is the best informed and most judicious study yet published about the Taft presidency. Gould has poured into this short book the product of his impressive research and extensive reflection about the politics of the progressive period, Taft's uncomfortable role therein, and not the least Taft's controversial relationship with Theodore Roosevelt."--John Morton Blum, author of The Republican Roosevelt and The Progressive Presidents

"Gould effectively and evenhandedly examines the sweet as well as the sour of this presidency, balancing Taft's intelligence, integrity, and efficiency on one side with a surprising impulsiveness and lack of intimate, reliable political advice on the other."--John Milton Cooper, author of Pivotal Decades: The United States 1900-1920

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Customer Reviews

It seems thorough without getting bogged down in too much detail.
R. Henn
This book gives us great not-before-seen insight into his administration, with good short character studies of Taft's personal secretaries.
Dr. Watson
I read all the Biographies of the Presidents by way of the Presidential series.
Frank Anderson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

32 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Brian J. Willis on November 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Not much has been written about William Howard Taft's Presidency, especially in its own right. When one thinks of the turn of the century, attention turns naturally to the energetic, trust-busting, roustabout populism of that denizen of Mount Rushmore, Theodore Roosevelt, or to the crucial years of Woodrow Wilson and his stewardship during the First World War. Considering the critical leadership (and high historical appreciation) of those two Presidents, it becomes very easy to gloss over or misunderstand Taft's own years in the White House, especially since he is lost in the middle of two seminal two-term Presidents.

This is not to say that Taft was a spectacularly effective, or even critically important, President. There is a reason that he has been consigned to the metaphorical dust heap of history. What Gould finally addresses, evenhandedly, are the inner workings and struggles of Taft in an office he was never truly suited to inhabit. Here, one gets a sense of looking over Taft's shoulder as he attempts to shun the image of Roosevelt's iconic grappling of presidential power. Let's face it: just as John Adams, Harry Truman, and Lyndon Johnson were unfairly crushed in popular opinion by the shadow of their predecessors, so Taft could never hope to succeed following TR. Gould covers that crucial point and also elaborates on a number of critical mistakes that Taft made that hurt his cause.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Steven A. Peterson TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 5, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There are not a large number of high quality biographies of William Howard Taft. This book, part of "The American Presidency" series, does a fine job outlining Taft the President and Taft the person. The series itself has a specific mission (Page vii): ". . .to present scholars and the general reading public with interesting, well-researched assessments of the various presidential administrations." The author, Lewis Gould, begins by noting the bad luck of Taft, in an historical sense, of being President between two dynamic and well-known presidents--Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.

This book spends only a modest amount of time examining Taft before he became president. There is some background on his role in the Philippines and as Secretary of War under Roosevelt. Then, the story of his nomination, with the sense that he was a natural heir to Teddy Roosevelt. Soon, it would be obvious that that was not the case--and a rift developed that ended up dooming Taft's desire for a second term.

Once Taft became president, he had a number of challenges--on both the domestic and international stages. He ended up widening rifts in the Republican Party between progressives and conservatives, over issues such as the Payne-Aldrich Tariff bill. Taft was surely not a terrible politician, but it was not a skill that came easily to him. As the book points out, as in the case of the tariff, he sometimes had a tin ear to people's views on matters. Sometimes, if he was not careful, he would commit gaffes in his speeches or off-hand comments that undermined him politically.

He began to create a gulf between himself and Roosevelt over his views on conservation and his choosing sides against one of TR's holdovers in the Taft Administration (Gifford Pinchot).
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By R. Henn on April 23, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
More than a year ago I decided to read a biography of every president. I live in Chicago, so our public library system gives me access to a wide variety of biographies to choose from. Taft is one of those presidents who hasn't been written about a great deal. With the Roosevelts, Washingtons and Lincolns one is faced with the challenge of choosing the best biography available, while for the Van Burens and Garfields it's a challenge to find even one decent biography. Taft definitely falls into the latter category. This biography is the one I decided to read and it turned out to be a respectable choice. It seems thorough without getting bogged down in too much detail. I gave it four stars, not five, because it does seem a bit tedious to read, at least in places. It resembles a textbook at times in that regard. Some biographers make their subject come alive and you feel like you're reading an exciting novel. You won't find that here. On the other hand, if you want a reasonably concise account of Taft, this would be a good choice.

With regard to Taft himself, I think you'll find him one of those figures who is well-known, but about whom you probably know very little. His presidency came between two well-known and successful presidencies, TR and Wilson, and makes for interesting reading. The election of 1912 is quite fascinating as it featured the third-party candidacy of Teddy Roosevelt. Also, the drama of the personal relationship between TR and Taft, and its eventual deterioration, is very poignant. At least there's a happy ending inasmuch as Taft ended up becoming the only former president elected to the supreme court, which was apparently the position for which he was best suited, and which he had wanted all along.
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