William Howard Taft: The Travails of a Progressive Conservative

Overview

In this new biographical study of the only American ever to have been both President and Chief Justice of the United States, Jonathan Lurie reassesses William Howard Taft's multiple careers, which culminated in Taft's election to the presidency in 1908 as the chosen successor to Theodore Roosevelt. By 1912, however, the relationship between Taft and Roosevelt had ruptured. Lurie reexamines the Taft-Roosevelt friendship and concludes that it rested on flimsy ground. He also places Taft in a progressive context, ...

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William Howard Taft: The Travails of a Progressive Conservative

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Overview

In this new biographical study of the only American ever to have been both President and Chief Justice of the United States, Jonathan Lurie reassesses William Howard Taft's multiple careers, which culminated in Taft's election to the presidency in 1908 as the chosen successor to Theodore Roosevelt. By 1912, however, the relationship between Taft and Roosevelt had ruptured. Lurie reexamines the Taft-Roosevelt friendship and concludes that it rested on flimsy ground. He also places Taft in a progressive context, taking Taft's own self-description as “a believer in progressive conservatism” as the starting point. At the end of his biography, Lurie concludes that this label is accurate when applied to Taft.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“This lucid, fascinating, and beautifully written account invites us to reconsider the place in history of William Howard Taft. Professor Lurie covers Taft’s career up to the point when he achieved his life's goal: the Supreme Court. The book is a superb achievement—a major study of an important and often misunderstood figure in American political and legal history.” —Lawrence M. Friedman, Stanford Law School

“This well-written and engaging account of Taft’s relationship with Theodore Roosevelt and his career up to 1921 (the first volume, of a planed two-volume study of Taft) constitutes a significant revision of the literature. Lurie demonstrates that Taft was, as he claimed to be, an important ‘progressive conservative’ who achieved and protected more ‘progressive’ measures than had Roosevelt, while simultaneously defending the Supreme Court’s role and authority. A tour de force.” —Peter Karsten, University of Pittsburgh

“In this pithy and engaging study of William Howard Taft’s political career, Jonathan Lurie argues convincingly that Taft was more progressive than previous historians have recognized and that Taft accurately characterized himself as a progressive conservative. Lurie demonstrates that Taft’s vision of a vigorous federal role in promoting the public interest inspired his progressive policies on tariff reform, conservation of natural resources, labor, federal administration, and antitrust enforcement. By explaining why Taft’s presidency was much more than a mere interlude between the progressive presidencies of Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson, Lurie’s superb book should kindle greater appreciation for Taft among historians and general readers alike.” —William G. Ross, Cumberland School of Law, Samford University

“For too many years, William Howard Taft’s one term as president has been dismissed, along with him, as a failure, overshadowed by the two men who came before and after him. Jonathan Lurie’s lucid re-examination of Taft’s presidency will give everyone pause for thought, and historians will have to take another look at the Taft White House in terms of Taft’s own description of himself as a ‘progressive conservative.’ A very well done book.” —Melvin I. Urofsky, Virginia Commonwealth University

"This insightful book by a significan scholar will certainly provide scholars of the US presidency with a very valuable source. Essential." -Choice

"Lurie has written extensively and authoritatively on legal, military, and constitutional subjects. With Taft he has chosen a biographee very suited to his own talents." -Walter Nugent, The Journal of American History

"...a fine work of scholarship." -Ryan P. Williams, Claremont Review of Books

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521514217
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 11/30/2011
  • Pages: 232
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Jonathan Lurie is a Professor of History Emeritus and Academic Integrity Officer at Rutgers University, where he has been a member of the history department since 1969. His books include The Chicago Board of Trade, Law and the Nation, Arming Military Justice, Pursuing Military Justice, The Slaughterhouse Cases (co-authored with Ronald Labbe), Military Justice in America and The Chase Court. His fields of interest comprise legal history, military justice, constitutional law and history and the eras of the Civil War and Reconstruction. The book on the Slaughterhouse cases received the Scribes award in 2003 as the best book written on law for that year. Lurie served as a Fulbright Lecturer at Uppsala University Law School in Sweden in 2005, was the Visiting Professor of Law at West Point from 1994 to 1995 and has lectured on several occasions at the United States Supreme Court.

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Table of Contents

Part I. To the Presidency: 1. The early years; 2. Judge, justice, and justices, 1887–1900; 3. Perambulations and preparation in the Philippines: Roosevelt and Taft; 4. The unwilling heir, 1904–8; Part II. The Presidency: 5. President Taft: tensions, turmoil, travel, and travail, 1909–10; 6. Justices and jockeying, 1910; 7. At the brink of the break, 1911; 8. The split, 1912; 9. Relief, rejuvenation, and renewal, 1913–21; 10. Epilogue.

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