TAFT, WILLIAM HOWARD

“I don’t like to have my mouth shut, I don’t like to be thought lacking in moral courage”

Item #20378


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TAFT, WILLIAM HOWARD - “I don’t like to have my mouth shut, I don’t like to be thought lacking in moral courage”
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TAFT, WILLIAM HOWARD - “I don’t like to have my mouth shut, I don’t like to be thought lacking in moral courage”

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TAFT, WILLIAM HOWARD.(1857-1930). Twenty-seventh president of the United States and Supreme Court justice.TLS. (“Wm. H. Taft”). 1p. 4to. Washington, D.C., December 28, 1923. On Supreme Court stationery. To magazine publisher EDWARD BOK (1863-1930).

 

I have your letter of December 26th. I should like very much to lend aid in every way possible to the cause of the plan, but the matter is of such a political nature now that I think I must ask you not to make the publication. I am the head of a Court with eight other members, and everything that is said against me they feel recoils on them, and they deprecate much my being made the target for political discussion or of personal abuse, of which I have had to undergo some notable instances during the last year. For that reason, as I feel that my first duty is to the Court, loyalty to it requires me to ask you not to make the publication. The plan is bound to be made the occasion for a sharp attack, and the sharper the attack, the better so far as you are concerned and for the publicity that it will give; but in a sharp attack, personalities are sure to play a part, and I am sorry to say that the Chief Justice of the United States is a shining mark for such personalities. I am convinced that when you think it over, you will see the wisdom of my decision. I don’t like to have my mouth shut, I don’t like to be thought lacking in moral courage, but when I came upon this Court I had to give up a freedom of expression that I used to cultivate in the eight years of my unofficial life between 1913 and 1921. I wish for your plan the greatest success. I am delighted that you found Mr. Root in better condition and that he signed the report, with full approval of it…”

 

After serving two terms in the White House, President Roosevelt refused to seek another and, instead, pushed the Republicans to nominate his friend, Secretary of War William Howard Taft. On November 3, 1908, Taft handily defeated his Democratic challenger William Jennings Bryan. Although Taft continued to pursue much of the legislative agenda initiated by Roosevelt, he was not as popular and only served a single term. In fact, in 1912, he was disavowed by Roosevelt who founded the Progressive Party to oppose him, creating a major schism in the Republican Party.

 

Following Taft’s 1913 defeat, he accepted an appointment at Yale Law School and became president of the American Bar Association, the “unofficial life” he speaks of in our letter. President Harding appointed him Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1921 making Taft the only U.S. president ever to accept a Supreme Court appointment. For the next nine years he headed a largely conservative and pro-business court that included Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Louis Brandeis, Harlan F. Stone, and George Sutherland.

 

Our letter mentions American lawyer, senator, secretary of war, and secretary of state Elihu Root (1845-1937). Root had been Taft’s predecessor as secretary of war, serving in that post under William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. In addition to his public service, he was a private attorney who represented high-profile clients like Andrew Carnegie. In fact, Root was the chairman and president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, for which Root was awarded the 1912 Nobel Peace Prize.

 

For 30 years, Bok edited the Ladies Home Journal, published by his father-in-law Cyrus Curtis. Under Bok’s leadership the periodical became the leading magazine of its day. A pioneer in introducing the best in contemporary fiction and prose to a wider public, Bok published stories by Mark Twain, Bret Harte, and Rudyard Kipling, as well as articles by several American presidents. With his wife, Mary Curtis, the founder of Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music, Bok was a noted philanthropist who won a Pulitzer Prize for his 1920 The Americanization of Edward Bok.

 

Our letter concerns Taft’s support of Bok’s effort to establish an American peace prize, which he did in 1924 with his American Peace Award. The prize awarded $100,000 to “the best practicable plan by which the United States may co-operate with other nations for the achievement and preservation of world peace.” The 1924 recipient was Charles Herbert Levermore, a peace activist and secretary of the World Court League.

 

Folded with one holograph correction, and in excellent condition.


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