BECK index

US Presidents

Summary & Evaluation 1865-1913

by Sanderson Beck

Andrew Johnson 1865-69
Ulysses S. Grant 1869-77
Rutherford Hayes 1877-81
James Garfield 1881
Chester Arthur 1881-85
Grover Cleveland 1885-89
Benjamin Harrison 1889-93
Grover Cleveland 1893-97
William McKinley 1897-1901
Theodore Roosevelt 1901-09
William Howard Taft 1909-13

Links to the chapters on each President follow these summaries and evaluations.

Andrew Johnson 1865-69

      Like Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson was from a poor family and was self-educated by reading and political discussions. He learned to be a tailor as an apprentice, and in Tennessee he became a successful tailor and then a politician. He was an alderman for eight years before being elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives and then to the Tennessee Senate. He was elected to the US Congress in 1843. That year he bought two slaves, and one of them had three children. He and his wife had five children, and they treated the slaves as servants and family. He freed all his slaves in August 1863. Johnson was a Democrat and served in the US House of Representatives for ten years. Then he was Governor of Tennessee from 1853 until October 1857 when he became a US Senator. He opposed secession and became a strong Unionist. In 1861 Johnson was the only US Senator from a seceded state. He advised Lincoln and served on the Joint Committee on the Conduct of War. In February 1862 President Lincoln appointed Johnson a Brigadier General and Military Governor of Tennessee. He resided in Nashville and had to defend the capital from Confederate attacks.
      In 1864 Lincoln’s supporters persuaded delegates to nominate the Democrat Andrew Johnson for Vice President for the Republicans that were renamed the National Union Party. Johnson had become an abolitionist, and he campaigned in the border states and the West. The Lincoln-Johnson ticket was easily elected with 55% of the votes and 212 electoral votes to 21 for the Democrat McClellan. Johnson had malaria for two weeks before the Inauguration on 4 March 1865, and on that day he drank whiskey and gave a drunken speech to the Congress before Lincoln’s outdoor address. Lincoln admitted Johnson’s “bad slip” and said he was not a drunkard. In a public speech on April 2 Johnson said, “traitors must be punished and impoverished.” Following Lincoln’s death on April 14 Andrew Johnson was sworn in as President, but he did not make an inaugural address.
      President Johnson agreed with General Grant on the terms he had made with General Robert E. Lee, and the final terms General Sherman negotiated with the Confederate General Joseph Johnston on April 18 were revised accordingly. Johnson accepted Lincoln’s cabinet, and Senator Charles Sumner urged the President to provide justice and the right to vote for blacks. Johnson offered a reward of $100,000 for the arrest of Confederate President Jefferson Davis, and in May he was captured and imprisoned for two years. On May 8 Johnson and his cabinet recognized the governments of Virginia, Tennessee, Louisiana, and Arkansas. War Secretary Stanton appointed General Oliver Otis Howard as the Commissioner of the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands that would provide 40-acre lots. Johnson began pardoning and restoring land to former Confederates. The Freedmen Bureau had about 900 agents helping people move and find paying jobs. On May 17 Johnson removed General Nathaniel Banks from Louisiana, and he supported the policies of the former slave-owning Gov. James M. Wells. By November the Union Army of one million men would be reduced to 183,000, and a standing force of only 25,000 would be established by the end of 1866.
      On 29 May 1865 President Johnson granted amnesty and pardons to restore all property rights except for slavery for rebels who would pledge loyalty to the Union and accept emancipation. Johnson changed Lincoln’s policy in order to exclude those with property worth more than $20,000, but they could apply to the President for individual pardons. In the next year Johnson would pardon most of the rebels. War Secretary Edwin Stanton criticized Johnson for not proposing Negro suffrage in North Carolina. The cabinet approved Johnson’s proclamation for Texas, Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, and Florida by July, and in August state conventions began meeting in those states and in Mississippi and North Carolina. Ratification of the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution abolished slavery on December 18. Johnson appointed governors for six states, and he changed eligibility from not having aided the Confederacy to promising loyalty to the United States. The last slaves were liberated in Galveston, Texas on June 19. He ordered the naval blockade of the South ended on June 23.
      In early August blacks at a convention in Virginia made this appeal:

We warn you in time that our only safety is
in keeping them under Governors of the military persuasion
until you have so amended the Federal Constitution
that it will prohibit the States from making any distinction
between citizens on account of race or color.
In one word, the only salvation for us
besides the power of the Government,
is in the possession of the ballot.
Give us this, and we will protect ourselves.1

      Johnson began taking land that had been given to former slaves and gave it back to its former owners. In August he advised Mississippi’s Gov. Sharkey to extend voting to blacks with property who were literate. Johnson believed blacks would vote for their previous masters instead of poor whites. He agreed to withdraw black soldiers from the South, but generals sent many to garrison duty. Whites leaving the Union Army could purchase their guns; but in Louisiana black veterans could not. Black codes in the South punished them for vagrancy. General Carl Schurz reported on ex-slaves injured and killed by whites. State conventions to implement Johnson’s Reconstruction plan began in Mississippi on August 14. Johnson advised Gov. Sharkey to let blacks owning property vote.
      On September 6 at Pennsylvania’s Republican convention Thaddeus Stevens proposed granting 40 acres to each freedman. He advised changing the whole fabric of Southern society. The American Missionary Association in September founded in Atlanta the first black college in the South. On September 30 the Cincinnati Enquirer quoted Johnson as saying, “This country is for white men, and by God, as long as I am President, it shall be governed by white men.”2
      President Johnson in October required oath-takers to cancel Confederate debts. In fall elections Georgia elected the former Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens to the US Senate. Johnson agreed to remove black troops from the South. He told Negro soldiers, “This is your country as well as anybody else’s country. This country is founded upon the principle of equality.”3 On December 1 Johnson restored the writ of habeas corpus that Lincoln had suspended during the war. The next day the radical Thaddeus Stevens proposed this plan:

1. To claim the whole question of Reconstruction
as the exclusive business of Congress.
2. To regard the steps taken by the President
as only provisional.
3. Each House to postpone consideration
of the admission of members from Southern states.
4. And that a Joint Committee of Fifteen be appointed to
inquire into the condition of the former Confederate states.4

When Congress met on December 4, every Confederate state except Texas had fulfilled Johnson’s requirements for re-admission to the US. All their newly elected Congressmen were Democrats, and the Republicans refused to seat them. Thaddeus Stevens became chairman of a Joint House-Senate Committee on Reconstruction with 12 Republicans and 3 Democrats. Five sub-committees studied conditions in the South listening to 145 witnesses. They learned that without southern representatives in Congress most freedmen would be not much better off than slaves.
      The historian George Bancroft helped Johnson write his First Annual Message which on December 4 read,

All parties in the late terrible conflict
must work together in harmony….
Good faith requires the security of the freedmen
in their liberty and their property, their right to labor,
and their right to claim the just return of their labor.5

That month the ratified 13th Amendment abolishing slavery went into effect. Johnson believed that extending the right to vote was up to the states, and he hoped that freedmen would earn it by “patience and manly virtues.” General Grant returned from the South with a report that southerners had “accepted the situation.” Johnson avoided seeing Carl Schurz, but Sumner had the Schurz report read to the Senate. Schurz recommended Negro voting and that no state should be readmitted without that. Grant asked his commanders to send in reports on the violence in the South. On December 24 at Pulaski, Tennessee six former Confederate officers founded the secret Ku Klux Klan.
      In January 1866 the southern states began passing discriminatory Black Codes that legalized punishing Negroes for minor offenses. The US Senate’s Judiciary Committee chairman, Lyman Trumbull of Illinois, proposed a Civil Rights Bill to apply laws equally to all US citizens except Indian nations. The US Congress approved more aid for freed blacks, though whites got more of it than refugees. The 13th Amendment had made “punishment for crime” an exception to the ban on slavery. General Grant ordered the US Army to protect colored people equally from the Black Codes. Senator Sumner gave a long oration on “The Equal Rights of All” on February 6. The next day Frederick Douglass and other blacks asked President Johnson to give them the ballot. On the 19th he vetoed the Freedmen and Refugee Relief Bureau bill, and the Senate failed to get two-thirds to reverse that. Secretary of State Seward persuaded France’s Napoleon III to cease military operations in Mexico. Johnson gave a speech on Washington’s birthday, and a mass meeting in New York supported the President.
      Johnson vetoed the Civil Rights bill in March because 11 of the 36 states had not been represented and because he questioned whether colored persons should be made citizens. He objected to how civil rights might be enforced. On April 9 the US Congress over-rode the President’s veto. Congress did not confirm Johnson’s nominee for the US Supreme Court, and in July they reduced the number of justices from nine to seven on the next vacancy.
      On May 1 a riot in Memphis killed at least 46 blacks and two whites. Five black women were raped, and hundreds of black schools, churches, and other buildings were burned. President Johnson and Attorney General Speed refused to intervene. In Texas 500 white men were indicted for murdering blacks in 1865 and 1866, but not one was convicted. The South had little funding for public education. On May 3 Congress passed a law that no one could vote who had fought against the United States unless he swore that he approved the defeat of the Confederacy.
      On June 8 the US Congress approved the 14th Amendment which made citizens of all persons born or naturalized in the United States and banned anyone from offices in the US who had engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the US Constitution or given aid or comfort to its enemies. It also states,

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge
the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States;
nor shall any State deprive any person
of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law;
nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction
the equal protection of the laws.

Tennessee ratified it and was re-admitted into the Union on July 24, but full ratification took two more years.
      President Johnson signed the Southern Homestead Act on June 21 that gave blacks and loyal whites first access until 1867. Johnson had issued 12,652 pardons by June, and on July 4 he proclaimed another general amnesty. That month he accepted a friendly treaty with the Cherokees signed by Chief John Ross. On July 30 a convention of Radical Republicans at New Orleans to reform the Black Codes followed by a parade with black veterans became a riot that killed 34 blacks and injured about 150 people. General Sheridan wired Grant that it was murder by the Mayor and the police.
      In September during a speaking tour Johnson was heckled in Cleveland, and he responded angrily. He said the Congress was illegal, and he opposed the 14th Amendment. Grant left the tour in disgust, and he ordered surplus weapons removed from five southern arsenals and sent to New York.
      In the fall elections Republicans increased their majorities in the US Congress to 173 of the 226 seats in the House of Representatives and to 43 of the 52 in the US Senate. Ten southern legislatures had rejected the 14th Amendment by January 1867. Johnson in his Second Annual Message on December 3 urged Congress to admit the “loyal members from the now unrepresented states.”
      On 7 January 1867 the Congress enfranchised blacks in the District of Columbia by over-riding President Johnson’s veto. They also extended suffrage to all men in the territories. Also on the 7th James Ashley of Ohio presented in the House of Representatives a resolution to impeach Johnson for usurping power, violating law, and acting corruptly in various ways. The House Judiciary Committee held secret hearings, and in June they approved impeachment articles.
      The President tried to stop Nebraska from becoming a state, but the Congress over-rode his veto on March 1. Howard University became the first black college chartered by Congress. Secretary of State William Seward negotiated a treaty with Russia to purchase Alaska for $7.2 million, and the US Senate approved it on April 9.
      On March 2 the Congress had overridden Johnson’s veto of the Military Reconstruction Act. Congress passed a law that required the approval of the Army General (Grant) for issuing a President’s order. Johnson signed it because it was in a bill funding the military. Three weeks later Congress again overcame the veto to pass the Second Military Reconstruction Act that authorized military commanders to remove or suspend anyone holding an office in “rebel states” and to appoint their replacements. The removals could be reviewed by the General of the Army but not by the President. Ten former Confederate states were formed into five military districts under the generals Schofield, Sickles, Pope, Ord, and Sheridan. In 1867 many blacks joined secret Union Leagues for protection against the KKK. The KKK and other vigilantes targeted white Unionists who were called “scalawags,” Republicans from the North called “carpetbaggers,” and politically active blacks. General Grant ordered his commanders to disregard orders from President Johnson to remove officials. The Third Reconstruction Act authorizing military governors to dismiss officials and to determine voter eligibility was passed over the veto on July 19. General Sheridan removed officials in New Orleans who were complicit in the massacre of blacks. By then the US Army had 28,000 soldiers in the South including 8,700 in Texas.
      On August 1 Johnson asked Grant to remove Sheridan and replace Stanton as Secretary of War. When Grant refused, Johnson fired Stanton and transferred Sheridan to Kansas. Johnson also removed General Daniel Sickles from the Carolinas district. On August 30 the Missouri Democrat urged the removal of Johnson. In the fall elections Democrats made gains in the North and Midwest. On December 7 the House defeated the impeachment resolution 57-108. During 1867 more than 700,000 blacks had become registered voters in the South, and in his Third Annual Message on December 3 Johnson warned that barbaric blacks voting could lead to tyranny. Johnson replaced generals Pope and Ord in military districts.
      The Reconstruction Acts called for ten state constitutional conventions, and eight met between 5 November 1867 (Alabama) and 20 January 1868 (Florida). Every constitution guaranteed equal civil and political rights for blacks, and most banned whipping, voice voting, and imprisonment for debt.
      The US Army had conflicts with the Indians in the West especially along the Bozeman Trail. President Johnson in February approved a commission to find a peaceful way to end the war with Red Cloud, and General Sherman was told to be patient. On March 2 Grant ordered Sherman to prepare for abandoning the forts Phil Kearny, Reno, and Fetterman. Grant explained to Stanton that this area was more important to the Indians than to the whites. On July 20 Johnson signed the Henderson bill for a peace commission to negotiate with the Plains Indians. On 23 November 1868 the Commission of Indian Affairs issued a 380-page report. Indians were to be restricted to districts and were encouraged to work in agriculture and manufacturing. At Washita River on November 27 Custer’s 7th Cavalry slaughtered about a hundred men and 75 women and children while they lost 21 soldiers killed with 13 wounded.
      On 13 January 1868 the US Senate had refused to agree to Johnson’s removal of Stanton as Secretary of War, and they voted 36-6 to restore his office. When Grant left the War Department to let Stanton return to his office, President Johnson felt betrayed. On February 21 President Johnson dismissed Stanton and replaced him with Adjutant General Lorenzo Thomas. The Senate voted 35-6 that the President did not have the power to replace the Secretary of War. On February 24 the House of Representatives voted 126-47 to impeach President Johnson, and there would be 13 articles mostly on removing Stanton. Chief Justice Chase presided in the Senate over the trial of Andrew Johnson that began on March 5. The President’s team and the senators opposing him raised money to pay lawyers and bribe the senators voting. The Republicans failed to convict Johnson by one vote, and the trial ended on May 26.
      Congress had passed the Fourth Reconstruction Act on March 11 requiring new state constitutions to be ratified by a majority of registered voters in order to be readmitted into the US. In June the Congress over-rode vetoes to readmit Arkansas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
      Republicans in May nominated Ulysses S. Grant for President with House Speaker Schuyler Colfax of Indiana for Vice President. Grant accepted and said his message was “Let us have peace.” The Republican Party platform supported black voting, public safety, and justice.
      In late July the Wyoming Territory was established, and a treaty allowed unlimited immigration from China. Johnson got 65 votes at the Democratic National Convention in New York City in early July, but they nominated recent Gov. Horatio Seymour of New York with Rep. Francis Preston Blair Jr. of Missouri for Vice President. Their platform opposed the Reconstruction Acts as “unconstitutional, revolutionary, and void,” and they aimed to abolish the Freedman’s Bureau.
      The House Committee on Elections reported that in the fall elections 1,081 blacks and white Unionists were killed in Louisiana and more than 600 in Kentucky. Nathan Bedford Forrest claimed that the Ku Klux Klan had a half million men in the South. Grant won the popular vote by 5.4% and got 214 electoral votes to 80 for Seymour.
      The Senate refused to listen to the reading of Johnson’s 4th Annual Message on December 9. Johnson included progressive ideas such as electing the President and Vice President by the most votes of the people instead of by the electoral college and of US Senators instead of by the state legislatures. He also suggested a limit on the terms of federal judges including the Supreme Court.
      In January 1875 Democrats in the Tennessee legislature elected Andrew Johnson to the US Senate. He served from March 4 until his death after a stroke on July 31.

      Abraham Lincoln, realizing he might not survive past the Civil War, chose Andrew Johnson to be his successor because he had become a strong unionist and an abolitionist. Yet Johnson’s presidency would be complicated his being a Democrat and a southerner. For several months the Congress was not in session, and he could impose his ideas on the Reconstruction plan Lincoln had advocated. Johnson granted a general amnesty and hoped to heal the wounds of a bitter war. When the US Congress met in December 1865, the Republicans refused to accept representatives and senators from the former Confederate states, and they maintained their dominance throughout most of Johnson’s term. They passed four Reconstruction Acts over Johnson’s vetoes, and the military under General Grant was able to enforce efforts to aid former slaves in the South. Johnson said he believed in equal rights, and he was also concerned about the southern whites who had been disempowered. He considered the Congress not only unfair but even illegal because they refused to include the eleven former Confederate states until late in his presidency. During his term the national debt was reduced by about $92 million. The 14th Amendment added greater equality to the Constitution even as many southerners tried to resist. After the impeachment by the House of Representatives the Senate failed to convict Johnson. His having removed a cabinet official, who had been appointed by Lincoln, was later exonerated by the US Supreme Court in Myers v. United States in 1926. I rank Andrew Johnson #31.

US Reconstruction & Johnson 1865-66
US Reconstruction & Johnson 1867-68

Ulysses S. Grant 1869-77

      General Ulysses S. Grant was the greatest Union hero in the Civil War and was called “Unconditional Surrender” Grant. After the war he received many gifts of houses and cash. In 1868 the Republicans easily elected him President of the United States. The message of his campaign was “Let us have peace.” In February 1869 the United States Congress approved the 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution that promised to protect the right of citizens to vote regardless of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” This became law in December 1869 after it was ratified by three-quarters of the states. The Republican Congress required the seceded states to ratify the 14th Amendment guaranteeing “equal protection of the law” before they would allow their elected representatives to be seated in the Congress. In his inaugural address Grant promised that he would work for “security of person, property, and free religious and political opinion in every part of the country, without regard to local prejudice.” At the conclusion he said, “I ask the prayers of the nation to Almighty God in behalf of this consummation.”6
      President Grant appointed several of his Civil War colleagues, and their scandals would tarnish his administration. Hamilton Fish of New York was an able Secretary of State. Grant regretted expelling Jews from Paducah, Kentucky in 1862, and as President he attempted to lift blacks and Jews to “equality with the most enlightened.” During his first six months he decreased the national debt by $50 million. In April he signed a bill requiring Virginia, Mississippi, and Texas to ratify the 15th Amendment before they could be readmitted to the Union. He hired as Commissioner of Indian Affairs his friend, the Tonawanda Seneca Brigadier General Ely S. Parker, who had been his adjutant during the Civil War, and they recruited Quakers to develop a peace policy toward the Plains Indians. Granted wanted to treat them as individuals instead of as tribes, and the public supported that. The US Government continued to provide land and money for railroads, and the Transcontinental Railroad was completed in May 1869. That month Grant put federal workers on the 8-hour day with no loss in pay. He blocked the Congress from reducing the budget that aided freed persons. Grant sent Orville Babcock to negotiate with the Dominican Republic, and he prohibited filibustering in Cuba and elsewhere. The Freedmen’s Bureau was aiding ex-slaves and poor whites, and thousands of teachers helped 247,333 students by 1870. Education became a Bureau in the Interior Department.
      Wall Street financiers Jay Gould and Jim Fisk controlled the Erie Railway, and they tried to corner the gold market by using Grant’s brother-in-law Abel Corbin and by bribing the Assistant Treasurer Daniel Butterfield. By September 24 Gould and Fisk had over $100 million in gold calls. The price of gold had gone over $160, and then it fell to $132. Grant fired Butterfield. Stocks went down 20% in a week as stock brokers became bankrupt. Grain prices fell drastically causing a depression for farmers. Henry Adams exposed “The New York Gold Conspiracy,” and he urged Grant to reform the Civil Service. Grant in December suggested putting Indians on large reservations to protect them. He proposed a moderate tariff to protect business and a 3% income tax for three years.
      In January 1870 Grant appointed a commission on Santo Domingo. The AME minister Hiram Revels of Mississippi became the first black US Senator in February, and by that month the 15th Amendment had been ratified by 30 of the 37 states. During Grant’s administration 16 African-Americans would serve in the US Congress, and about 600 would be elected as state legislators. Senator Charles Sumner opposed the annexation of Santo Domingo in March, and the US Senate rejected the treaty. Republicans in the South sent Grant letters complaining about Ku Klux Klan (KKK) violence with impunity, and in May the US Congress began passing Enforcement Acts based on the 14th and 15th amendments to quell the political violence in the South. Grant in June replaced Attorney General Hoar with Amos Akerman of Georgia, and the Congress established the Department of Justice and the Solicitor General to argue for the US Government at the US Supreme Court. The KKK and other white terrorists attacked Republicans, causing their defeats in 1870 elections in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas. That year Grant used the army to enforce voting only in Kentucky. In October he and Akerman ordered the US Marshal in New York to hire 5,000 special deputies and make available 1,200 soldiers and 250 marines to supervise the voting, and a few people were arrested. All the former Confederate states had been readmitted into Congress by December.
      Grant’s policy was neutral during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, and he suspended all US Government sales of weapons. In February 1871 he sent troops to stop the violence in South Carolina. In March he appointed the Civil Service Commission. He also nominated five commissioners to help resolve issues with the British, and in May they signed a treaty that created an arbitration tribunal chosen by Grant, British Queen Victoria, King Victor Emmanuel II of Italy, Emperor Pedro II of Brazil, and Swiss Confederation President Karl Schenk. The Senate approved the treaty that was ratified in June, and arbitration solved various disputes. In Mississippi 640 people were indicted under the Enforcement Acts, but none were convicted. On May 3 Grant ordered troops to support Federal officials in the South. Akerman in September went to South Carolina, and Grant sent the 7th Cavalry in October. He suspended habeas corpus in some counties so that Akerman could keep in jail terrorists who threatened his witnesses. Federal grand juries indicted 3,384 KKK, and about 600 persons were convicted. Most were fined or got short jail sentences. Akerman blocked land grants to railroad magnates, and some Republicans began turning against Grant. After the KKK refused to surrender weapons in South Carolina, Grant suspended habeas corpus in nine counties in October. On December 11 he promulgated the rules devised by the new Civil Service Commission.
      President Grant appointed Senator George H. Williams of Oregon as the Attorney General, and in 1872 they convicted 456 people of terrorizing voters in the South and even more in 1873. The US Congress set all federal elections on Tuesday between November 2 and 8. This completed the sun’s grand trine aspects in the water signs between that day, July 4, and inaugurations on March 4. Grant in March 1872 created the first national park at Yellowstone in the Wyoming Territory. He still wanted to use his political power-brokers for hiring government officials despite efforts to use the Civil Service Commission.
      In May the Congress passed the Amnesty Act. Grant removed restrictions against secessionists, but he still excepted 500 top Confederate officers. Someone burned the home of Frederick Douglass in Rochester, and in July he moved to Washington DC. He campaigned for Grant and published U. S. Grant and the Colored People. The Freedmen’s Bureau ended in June, and the Freedmen’s Bank deposits were liquidated over the next two years affecting thousands of blacks.
      In May 1872 the less radical Liberal Republican Party started by Senator Carl Schurz of Missouri held a convention and nominated the New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley for President with Missouri’s Gov. Benjamin Brown for Vice President. In June the Republican Party nominated Grant for re-election with the radical Senator Henry Wilson of Massachusetts as his running mate. In July at Baltimore the Democrats also nominated Greeley and Brown. The banker Jay Cooke donated $50,000 to the Republican National Committee and to Grant’s campaign which raised $200,000. Grant, like most previous Presidents, did not campaign.
      On September 4 the New York Sun exposed the Crédit Mobilier scandal in which the Union Pacific Railroad used that dummy corporation and a contractor to make more money building railroads. They made about 47% profit on the government funding with more than $20 million going to Crédit Mobilier’s directors. They sold stock at discount prices to Congressmen. Congress began investigating Crédit Mobilier after the election in December. Grant got 55.6% of all votes and won 29 of 35 states with 286 electoral votes. Republicans gained 61 seats in the US House of Representatives to give them a 199-84 advantage, and they still held 54 seats in the US Senate over 19 Democrats who had their worst election of the 19th century. In Grant’s first term railroad building helped capital goods increase by 21%. In the previous decade the US Congress gave industrialists more than $700 million and 200 million acres of public land.
      The US Congress doubled the President’s salary from $25,000 to $50,000. Grant needed it because he owed $25,000. On 5 March 1873 Congress increased their own pay from $5,000 to $7,500 with a $5,000 bonus for the previous two years. This was so unpopular that of the 102 congressmen who voted for the backpay only 12 were re-elected in 1874. Grant refused to favor votes for women, though he claimed he appointed 5,000 women to work in US Post Offices. In his second inaugural address he reviewed progress by telegraph and steam. He believed that lower taxes created prosperity. He noted that four million slaves had become citizens while admitting that getting civil rights was still a problem. He hoped that education and civilization would help “aborigines” and that someday “armies and navies will be no longer required.”
      A dispute over who won the election for governor in Louisiana led to both men attempting to govern. About 5,000 in a white militia defended the Democrat John McEnery, and on March 5 Grant ordered out the militia that included blacks. On April 13 the whites shot dead about 40 black prisoners. Almost as many were killed in the battle while only three whites died. A federal grand jury indicted 98 men and tried nine. White Leaguers in August murdered six Republican officials and ten black witnesses in Louisiana. Grant ordered troops sent, and the Democrat Lt. Governor D. B. Penn called out his militia to drive out Republican officers. After Grant sent 5,000 more troops, the insurgents left. In January 1874 Grant made General Sheridan the commander of Louisiana. He learned that since the Civil War whites had killed over 2,000 blacks, and practically no one was punished.
      Grant and the Civil Service Board made new rules in August 1873. By then about 800,000 farmers were in over 10,000 Grange chapters. An economic crisis in Europe affected American investors, and railroad debts increased. The Panic of 1873 reached the United States in September. Grant had Treasury Secretary Richardson buy $10 million in bonds, and they reissued up to $26 million in paper money. Businesses were going under, and the US Senate began investigating. By the end of the year 25 railroads defaulted on their debts, and 71 more would in 1874. The United States had 5,183 bankruptcies in 1873. Secretary of State Fish helped resolve a conflict with Spain involving ships at sea, and Grant replaced the ambassador Daniel Sickles in Spain with Caleb Cushing in January 1874. From 1865 to 1873 less than 10% of spending on Federal public works projects went to the 11 former Confederate states and Kentucky. In the next three years wages went down 25%.
      Deposits in the Freedmen’s Savings Bank fell from $55 million in 1873 to $3.3 million in 1874. Frederick Douglass was made its president in March 1874. Grant’s daughter Nellie in May had her wedding at the White House and received gifts worth about $60,000. By 1874 Mississippi had 55 blacks in its House of Representatives and 9 state senators. That year in Mississippi about 200 Negroes were killed, and thousands were wounded. The armed White League and White Line militia in Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, and South Carolina followed that bad example. In the 1874 elections the Democrats gained 94 seats in the US House of Representatives giving them a 181-107 advantage. They added 9 more seats in the US Senate, but Republicans still held a 42-28 majority. Grant urged education by public schools. In his 6th Annual Message on December 7 he asked people to “Treat the negro as a citizen and a voter.”
      President Grant believed that the gold and silver standards would make the currency stable, and in January 1875 he signed the Resumption Act which resumed silver minting. He tried to balance the economic desires of the farmers and eastern businesses. He signed the Civil Rights Act on March 1 to provide “equal enjoyment of the accommodations.” The Act was not usually enforced, and the US Supreme court declared it unconstitutional in 1883.
      In May the St. Louis Democrat exposed the scandal of frauds on the whiskey tax. Grant had Treasury Secretary Bristow order raids in St. Louis, Chicago, and Milwaukee that led to over 350 indictments. Grant could not believe that his private secretary Orville Babcock gained $160,000, and he appointed generals who acquitted him. Grant dismissed Babcock and made his own two sons his private secretaries. The wife of Attorney General George Williams had accepted a bribe of $30,000, and Grant replaced Williams with Edwards Pierrepont who had prosecuted the Tweed Ring in New York. Pierrepont persuaded Grant to leave Mississippi alone, and in the November election the Democrats used cheating on vote counting instead of violence to regain control of the state government. Grant in his 7th Annual Message advised taxing equally property owned by churches and corporations in order to maintain free public schools.
      Although President Grant wanted a policy that brought about peace with Indians, General Philip Sheridan was in charge of the campaign to protect settlers against Indians. General Custer also acted aggressively. Money promised to Indians in treaties was often delayed or inadequate. Grant in 1869 appointed ten philanthropists to an independent commission that persuaded Congress to authorize $5 million to maintain the tribes with $2 million for the President to preserve peace. Senator Carl Schurz arranged for $350,000 to provide for the Utes. After the Navaho Wars had ended in 1868, they were sent to the Bosque Redondo Reservation where in the next five years their nation of 10,000 decreased by 2,000 while their sheep diminished from 200,000 to 940.
      Grant met with Chief Red Cloud, Spotted Tail, and other Lakota leaders in June 1870. Red Cloud negotiated with Interior Secretary Cox, and in July the chief made an eloquent speech in New York. In December the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole in the Indian Territory approved a constitution with a bill of rights for self-government. When the US Government insisted on final authority over their legislation, the Five Civilized Tribes rejected that. Many raids and battles were fought between native tribes and the US Army and settlers.
      In March 1872 Grant had instructed General Schofield that Indian hostilities should be avoided. In October the Indian Commissioner Oliver Howard negotiated a peace treaty with Cochise that separated the Chiricahua from the Mescalero Apaches. Many Plains Indians were upset that white hunters were killing more than four times as many buffalo as the native tribes did. In December 1874 President Grant asked Congress to extend homestead laws to Indians. In March 1875 he approved a plan by generals Sherman and Sheridan to banish war chiefs and leading warriors from the southern Plains, and 74 were taken to Florida and imprisoned for three years.
      Grant in November 1875 tried to transform his peace policy by allowing the Lakota to stay in the Black Hills. The US military ordered the Sioux to report to their reservation by 31 January 1876. Grant learned that a corrupt Indian Ring included Interior Secretary Delano, and his brother Orvil Grant. War Secretary Belknap was also involved and resigned; he was impeached but was not convicted by the Senate. General Custer in June led 263 cavalry and attacked about 2,500 Sioux near the Little Bighorn River, and all the soldiers were killed. Grant in August asked Congress for 2,500 cavalry men, and in September 1,200 soldiers defeated 700 Sioux led by Crazy Horse. Grant in his 7th Annual Message blamed the avarice of white men seeking gold in the Black Hills. By 1876 in addition to the Indian Territory there were Indian reservations in Texas, Minnesota, Colorado, and Oregon and in the territories of New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Washington.
      In United States v. Cruikshank the US Supreme Court decided on 27 March 1876 that the 14th Amendment does not apply to private persons but only to states. On that day in United States v. Reese they also ruled that the 15th Amendment did not protect the right to vote; it only prohibited excluding voters based on race. President Grant in April vetoed a bill that would have cut his salary. During his two terms he vetoed 93 bills, and only four were overridden.
      Because of corruption and other issues Grant continued to change his cabinet. Navy Secretary Robeson was suspected of receiving many gifts, but he was exonerated and remained in his office. Grant in May 1876 attended in Philadelphia the Centennial Exposition that displayed American progress. Blacks were represented only by the statue of a freed slave. Grant declined to run for a third term even though his wife wanted him to continue as President. In June at a convention in Cincinnati the Republican Party nominated Ohio’s Governor Rutherford B. Hayes for President with New York Rep. William A. Wheeler for Vice President. The Democrats met in St. Louis and nominated New York’s Governor Samuel J. Tilden with Indiana’s Governor Thomas A. Hendricks for Vice President. The election on November 7 was so close and contested that the US Congress in December organized a bipartisan electoral commission that included five Supreme Court justices to resolve the crisis. Grant in his last message to Congress reviewed the accomplishments of his administration while admitting he had made errors.

      Ulysses S. Grant was not a politician when he was elected President in 1868, but as the most successful Union General he knew how to lead and handle men. He was the only President between Andrew Jackson and Woodrow Wilson to be elected for two consecutive terms. He made peace his main policy, and he used the US Army to stop violence by ex-Confederates against black and Republican voters as well as Indian tribes that occasionally came into conflict with the railroads, miners, and settlers. He and the Republican radicals in Congress during the Reconstruction Era worked to help blacks to vote, get elected, and improve their lives with education. Grant believed in human equality and worked especially to help blacks, Jews, and Indians whom he treated as individuals by allowing them to use the Homestead Act. His administration enforced the right to vote in the South. When people he appointed or members of Congress became involved in financial scandals, he removed those from his administration. He had received several valuable gifts after the Civil War, and during his administration capitalism greatly increased in the United States which resulted in an economic depression in 1873 that lasted several years. During Grant’s eight years the national debt was reduced by about $383 million. I rank Ulysses S. Grant #8.

US Reconstruction & Grant 1869-72
Grant & United States Depression 1873-77

Rutherford Hayes 1877-81

      Rutherford B. Hayes was born in Ohio on 4 October 1822, and he became a lawyer. He and his wife opposed slavery, and he joined the US Army when the Civil War began. He was elected a captain, was wounded five times, and by the end of the war he was a brigadier general. He was elected to the US Congress in 1864 and was re-elected in 1866, but he resigned to campaign for governor. He won and served for four years until January 1872. He did not run for re-election and lost a race for the US House of Representatives. In 1875 Hayes was elected Governor of Ohio again, and he was very conscientious about using pardons. In June 1876 the Republican Party nominated him for President. The election was very close with the Democrat Tilden getting more total votes. Because of the suppression of black voters, three southern states were disputed, and the US Congress and US Supreme Court formed a bipartisan election commission to investigate and decide on contested electoral votes. They found voter intimidation in Louisiana and South Carolina and ruled that Hayes won those states. They also assigned Florida to Hayes and one electoral vote from Oregon that gave him a 185-184 win in the Electoral College. Democrats felt they were cheated, and they gained a majority in the House of Representatives and in southern legislatures. Hayes and Republicans agreed to withdraw US Army forces from former Confederate states, and that ended the military occupation of the Reconstruction Era.
      President Hayes was every conscientious about using pardons, and in his great inaugural address he considered the protection of all citizens with free rights most important. He believed the National Government has a moral obligation to establish the rights of all people, and he hoped that the southern states would have peaceful governments that are wise and honest. He said that prosperity and suffrage for all depends on universal education, and he urged more government support for free schools. He noted that both parties were supporting civil service reforms. He aimed to support the interests of all people and all regions of the country. He believed that the way to serve one’s party best is to serve the country best. He affirmed the value of not interfering in other nations, and he followed the peaceful policies of Grant and his protection of civil and voting rights for black citizens. He wanted to have good relations with all nations including all the Indians within the United States. He noted that for the first time resolving disputed electoral votes was by using a bipartisan tribunal that the American people could accept. He agreed with the public sentiment that all conflicts over the Presidency should be adjusted peacefully and according to law.
      Hayes aimed to restore the gold standard by 1879, and that was the last year of the depression which began in 1873. Hayes opposed patronage and would not let Congressmen make appointments. He chose his own cabinet, listened to their advice, and made his own decisions. His first problem was the conflict in Louisiana between a Democratic and a Republican governor who both claimed they won the election. He sent a commission that he financed. On 22 March 1877 Hayes withdrew military support from the Republican Gov. Chamberlain. Hayes gave Federal jobs to 48 blacks who had been in the Louisiana legislature. The US Congress funded public works in Louisiana instead of the military. In April he ordered Federal troops to leave South Carolina. His Secretary of State William Evarts established new ministries in Colombia, Bolivia, and Romania. Hayes maintained the reduced military at about 25,000 men. He sent the army to stop bands from Mexico that were invading to steal cattle, and he declined to recognize Mexico’s President Porfirio Díaz until March 1878. Hayes vetoed bills that had coercive riders.
      The great railroad strike of 1877 was caused by rich railroad executives reducing the minimal pay of workers, and it spread widely. Governors asked President Hayes for troops, and he sent them to keep the peace. The strike affected two-thirds of the 75,000 miles of railways. More than 50,000 Chinese were laid off in the West. Hayes went on a good-will tour of Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, and Virginia. He nominated John M. Harlan to the US Supreme Court, and he became an outstanding justice especially on civil rights. Hayes appointed black diplomats to Haiti and Liberia, and he made Frederick Douglass the US Marshal of the District of Columbia.
      President Grant and Hayes sent General Oliver Otis Howard to deal with the Nez Perce and Chief Joseph who eventually decided to stop fighting. By April 1877 some Sioux and many Cheyenne had asked for peace and surrendered. The Congress made much land with gold in the Black Hills available to homesteaders and private investors. Hayes recognized the broken promises made to Indians, and he offered agricultural tools and schools. In April 1879 he ordered a very large reservation for tribes in the Washington Territory. In 1880 Hayes appointed a special commission to study the Ponca case and make recommendations, and he accepted their choices in February 1881. Congress then appropriated $165,000 to indemnify the Ponca. In January the United States made a treaty with Samoan tribal chiefs that allowed the US Navy to use the port of Pago Pago.
      The only time a Hayes veto was overridden was on the Bland-Allison Silver bill to coin silver dollars. He was concerned that it would cause inflation. In June 1878 he signed the Posse Comitatus Act that prohibited using the US Army in elections. In November he arbitrated a border dispute between Paraguay and Argentina, and he ruled that Paraguay could keep its Chaco territory. Hayes in his annual messages to Congress reported how they were reducing the federal debt. Yet 10,500 US businesses failed in 1878. In February 1879 he approved a bill allowing women to practice law before the US Supreme Court. In March he vetoed the Chinese Exclusion Act that would have severely limited their immigration. Hayes vetoed a bill that would have prohibited the Federal government from providing marshals for peacekeeping in elections. He continued Grant’s policy of protecting elections, though the Democrats blocked the $600,000 needed to pay the marshals. Hayes supported the Civil Service Commission to remove the corruption in appointments. To stop the hazing of blacks at the West Point Military Academy in August 1880 Hayes replaced General Schofield with General Oliver Otis Howard who had much experience working with black Americans. Hayes and his family went on a western trip as far as California, Oregon, and the large reservation in the Washington Territory. In November the United States made two commercial treaties with China. In his last Annual Message to Congress he asked for support to investigate voting rights violations, to fund public education, and to provide $25,000 to develop competitive examinations for civil service.

      Rutherford Hayes was in Congress and Governor of Ohio which prepared him for the presidency that he barely won. He kept his promise to serve for only one term. Even though Democrats had gained a majority in Congress, he managed to follow the liberal policies of the Republican President Grant to protect civil and voting rights. He also continued Grant’s peaceful Indian policy. Hayes had to work through the depression he inherited from the Grant years, and yet he managed to reduce the national debt by restraining the military and keeping the peace. He promoted education and civil service reforms. During his four years the national debt was reduced by about $136 million. I rank Rutherford Hayes right after Grant at #9.

United States & Hayes 1877-81

James Garfield 1881

      James Garfield was born on 19 November 1831 into a poor family. He liked to read and studied religion, learning Greek and Latin. He became a teacher and president of the Eclectic Institute in 1857. He studied law and became a lawyer. In January 1860 he was elected to the Ohio Senate. He was an abolitionist and organized the 42nd Ohio Infantry in 1861. He started as a colonel and became a brigadier general in 1862, the year he was elected to the House of Representatives. President Lincoln told him that he needed political influence more than another general, and in November Garfield was elected to the US House of Representatives. He was a radical Republican, and he became friends with James G. Blaine. Garfield was chairman of the Military Affairs Committee, the Banking Committee, and the Appropriations Committee 1871-75. He was on the Electoral Commission that made Hayes the President.
      In October 1880 Garfield was elected a US Senator, and in November he was elected President with Chester Arthur as Vice President. The US Senate was evenly balanced by Republicans and Democrats, but Arthur’s tie-breaking votes enabled the Republicans to be chairmen of all the 39 committees. Garfield had promised to make Levi Morton the Treasury Secretary. When the President changed his mind on this, Senator Conkling and other New Yorkers became very upset. Garfield chose his own cabinet officers and made Blaine the Secretary of State. He refused to select any Conkling men for his cabinet, but he appointed several to other positions. He insisted on nominating William Robertson as Collector of the Port of New York.
      Garfield in his inaugural address confirmed the liberation of masters and slaves, and he supported the voting rights of all men. Charles Guiteau had campaigned for Garfield, but the President and Blaine refused to appoint him as consul to Paris. Garfield rejected having guards in the White House. He believed that deferring to senatorial courtesy on important appointments was extremely corrupt, and he approved of civil service reforms. Readjusters treated Negroes well in Virginia, and Garfield appointed 200 Readjusters to offices in the Treasury, 1,700 in the Post Office, and 70 in federal courts.
      Democrats in April began using filibusters to block the Republicans on over 300 nominations. On May 4 Blaine persuaded Garfield to withdraw his five nominations of Stalwarts from New York. Conkling accused Garfield of corruption with the assistant postmaster general Tom Brady, a Garfield campaign advisor. Garfield removed Brady and asked the Senate to approve his nominees. He appointed Frederick Douglass the recorder of deeds in Washington DC, and he named other blacks as the minister to Haiti and the Treasury Registrar. When the Senate was refusing to confirm his nomination of Robertson, Garfield withdrew all of them except for Robertson. Vice President Arthur complained that Garfield had betrayed the Stalwart Republicans. The two US Senators Conkling and Pratt of New York resigned by May 18, the day the Senate confirmed Robertson. Blaine had his diplomats mediate a conflict between Chile and Peru, and they arbitrated the boundary dispute between Guatemala and Mexico.
      President Garfield completed his work at the end of the fiscal year on June 30. On July 2 Blaine accompanied Garfield to the train station to leave on a vacation, and Guiteau shot the President in the arm and the back. Guiteau was captured as doctors tried to help Garfield. Ignorant physicians allowed infections, and Garfield eventually died on September 19. This was a tragic event, similar to the assassination of Lincoln, who though he was a terrible war President, could have been compassionate and wise during Reconstruction. Garfield had little opportunity to put into practice his wisdom.

      James Garfield had less than four months to govern. The policies he put forth were like those of Grant and Hayes, and he probably would have been a good president. During his short presidency there was no change in the national debt. I rank Garfield as #25.

United States, Garfield & Arthur 1881-85

Chester Arthur 1881-85

            Chester Arthur was born on 5 October 1829 in Vermont. He taught school and became a lawyer in New York. He represented a black teacher who had been forcibly removed from a streetcar, and she won her case. He campaigned for the Republican Fremont for President in 1856. He opposed slavery and visited Kansas in 1857. Arthur during the Civil War was the chief engineer for the New York militia, and he organized supplies for soldiers. He became a brigadier general and Quartermaster General for 219,000 troops from New York.
      Arthur became a leader in New York’s Republican Party. In 1872 President Grant appointed him to the lucrative position of Collector of the Port of New York, and the patronage gave him an annual income of over $50,000. Arthur appointed members of the board, and he provided patronage favors for President Grant and for others. Arthur received $21,906 in a corrupt deal. When the US Congress enacted reforms in 1875, his salary was reduced to $12,000. During the 1876 campaign he collected assessments from the Custom House employees raising $72,000 to help fund Republican campaigns. He declined the consulship in Paris and refused to resign. In April 1877 Arthur testified to a Congressional commission, and that year New York Customs receipts were about $108 million. In 1878 President Hayes removed Arthur. In 1879 he became chairman of New York City’s Republican Central Committee and then of the state committee. In 1880 Republicans needed New York to win, and they nominated Arthur as the running mate for the “dark horse” candidate James Garfield. Arthur ran the New York campaign and raised more than $400,000 to pay campaign workers.
      Vice President Arthur cast tie-breaking votes to give the Republicans majorities and chairmen for all 39 committees in the US Senate. When President Garfield died of a bullet wound in September 1881, Vice President Arthur was inaugurated as President. He promised to fulfill the policies of Garfield, and he surprised many people by supporting the reforms that replaced patronage with civil service exams and appointments based on merit. Arthur refused to obey the power-broker Senator Conkling, and he told him that God had made him President. He maintained Garfield’s appointments, but three important reformers left the cabinet. The US Senate elected the former Chief Justice David Davis to be president pro tempore and made him next to ascend to the presidency if necessary. Republicans retained control of the Senate’s committees. Arthur needed to replace some cabinet officers.
      Secretary of State Blaine reprimanded the US ministers Hurlbut and Kilpatrick for getting involved in corruption in Chile and Peru. Blaine used diplomacy to help settle disputes in Latin America, and he planned a conference of representatives from Latin American nations. He included the Hawaiian Islands in the Monroe Doctrine. When Blaine resigned in December, Arthur accepted Grant’s advice to appoint Frederick Frelinghuysen. He ended the corruption in Peru and avoided getting into a war in the Pacific.
      In his First Annual Message to Congress on December 6 President Arthur commended the good relations with Britain and suggested revising the Clayton-Bulwer Treaty. He hoped to improve the National Board of Health in order to prevent infectious diseases. He noted that the US surplus for the previous fiscal year was over $100 million. To keep it from getting too large he advised repealing taxes except on tobacco, liquors, and license fees. He asked Congress to pass laws to prevent settlers’ incursions on Indian land. He suggested using revenues from selling public land to provide better education for freed slaves. He evaluated character as well as exams to select appointees. Congress did not support the Latin American conference, and Frelinghuysen announced it was canceled. Arthur held to a neutral policy in the conflict between Chile and Peru. He claimed that reducing postal frauds saved the government $2 million a year. He accepted Garfield’s policy of considering character in appointments, and he asked Congress to appropriate $25,000 for the Civil Service Commission.
      In 1882 the Arthur Administration attempted to reduce the corruption in the rural postal routes, and he claimed it saved the government $2 million a year. Yet it helped Democrats win in the fall elections. Efforts to prohibit polygamy were evaded by Mormons in Utah. The US House of Representatives refused to fund the civil service reform that Arthur requested. He vetoed a bill that would have barred Chinese immigration for 20 years, but he signed the Chinese Exclusion Act they passed that was for 10 years. He accepted Blaine’s advice to nominate William Chandler as Navy Secretary. Arthur made Senator Henry Teller of Colorado the Interior Secretary, and he set up a court with three Native American judges for settling tribal issues. Arthur sent troops to the Arizona Territory to stop cowboys from killing miners and rustling cattle.
      Before the fall elections he declared that no federal employee would be discharged for refusing to pay an assessment for a campaign contribution. He approved a tariff commission that heard from 604 witnesses. In May US Commodore Robert Shufeldt with Chinese assistance negotiated a commercial treaty with Korea. Arthur replaced only 16 officials in the Treasury Department. He vetoed new safety and health standards for steamships until technical errors were corrected. After his veto of an expensive Rivers and Harbors bill was overridden, many House members who voted for it were not re-elected.
      President Arthur did not campaign for candidates, and he had health problems. In the fall election Democrats gained 68 seats in the House of Representatives. He appointed protectionists to the Tariff Commission and no free traders. He advised simplifying duties especially for cotton, iron, and steel.
      On January 1883 Arthur signed a major reform bill that created a Civil Service Commission to investigate, stipulate rules, and supervise competitive exams for about 10,000 jobs. He appointed an impartial commission to inspect American meat-packing plants. When Postmaster General Howe died in March, Arthur appointed the independent federal judge Walter Q. Gresham of Indiana.
      Arthur kept his kidney disease secret, and he went on a tour with General Sheridan to Yellowstone Park in the summer, and they caught fish. He asked for more schools for Indians and for their protection by laws. After traveling on trains, stagecoaches, and horses, Arthur said he felt “invigorated.” When he returned, his doctor told him that Bright’s disease had swollen his legs. Arthur’s neutral policy toward Peru and Chile led to their peace agreement in October.
      In his Third Annual Message to Congress he advised that the US was wise not to compete with the naval arms race going on among powerful nations in Europe.
      In 1884 Arthur ordered federal marshals to stop the arms trafficking that was supplying Irish terrorists with bombs. Because of his health problems Arthur told supporters not to support his re-election, and he told them to reject $100,000 from a Chicago hotel owner. He refused to promise any patronage. When Republicans nominated Blaine for President, Arthur telegraphed his support; but he did not campaign.

      Chester Arthur had not been elected to any office prior to the election that made him Vice President. Because he had made so much money by patronage, his following the reforms of the previous three Republican presidents that included replacing patronage with civil service reforms surprised many people. His policies and decisions showed his concern for African Americans and native Indians. His foreign policy promoted peace. During the Garfield-Arthur years the national debt was reduced by about $205 million. I rank Chester Arthur #16.

United States, Garfield & Arthur 1881-85

Grover Cleveland 1885-89

      Grover Cleveland was born on 18 March 1837, and after his father’s death in 1853 he began supporting his family. He studied and became a lawyer in New York in 1859. During the Civil War he hired a substitute soldier so that he could continue helping his mother and sisters. He became a Democrat, and in 1862 he was elected ward supervisor. During the Civil War he supported the Union. He hired a Polish immigrant as a substitute soldier so that he could work and support his mother and two sisters. In 1863 he became an assistant district attorney. He lost a close race for district attorney in 1865. He worked as a defense lawyer. In 1870 he was elected Erie County sheriff and served for three years. Cleveland was elected Mayor of Buffalo in 1881. He had the board of health clean the sewage system with Niagara River water, and his reforms saved lives and the city much money.
      In 1882 Democrats nominated and elected Cleveland the Governor of New York, and he promised to help workers. He won easily, and Democrats increased their power. He continued to work long hours and vetoed corrupt legislation, and he implemented civil service reforms. He vetoed “pork barrel” spending, and he asked for laws to control the greed of large corporations and for higher taxes on the rich. He helped form the Bureau of Labor Statistics. He was criticized for pardoning people. He fought corruption with the help of the young Theodore Roosevelt in the New York Assembly. Cleveland challenged Tammany leaders and became known for his integrity.
      In July 1884 the Democratic convention nominated him for President. He promised economic development to help the working class. In a rough campaign he was accused of fathering a son, and he admitted to supporting the orphan boy. The Republican Blaine of Maine was suspected of corruption, and Cleveland won a close election. He chose experienced and capable men for his cabinet and listened to their views before making his decisions.
      Cleveland in his inaugural address explained his democratic views, reforms, and his foreign policy of neutrality and peace without any entangling alliances. He promised honest treatment of the Indians promoting education and citizenship. He warned settlers to stay off Indian land, and he opened US public land for settlers. Reforms would apply business principles to public affairs. He enforced the 1883 Civil Service Law that used examinations to help select better government employees. After the death of Vice President Hendricks in November 1885 the US Congress made the Secretary of State next in line to the Presidency after the Vice President.
      Democrats still controlled the House of Representatives, but he had to deal with a Republican majority in the Senate. Because of the previous 24 years by Republican governments 95% of the employees had been appointed by them. Cleveland replaced many with Democrats while he retained capable Republicans. He declined to appoint Democrats or his friends if they were not qualified. Cleveland refused to compete with Europeans for an imperialistic navy, though he modernized the US Navy that protected American coasts. His administration approved the Interstate Commerce Act that regulated railroads and established the Interstate Commerce Commission. He reduced taxes and tariffs diminishing the annual surplus to $70 million. In his first year he increased the gold reserve by $26 million.
      In March 1886 Cleveland asked for an end to the Tenure of Office Act repealed so that he could remove his appointees, and Congress repealed it in 1887.
      The United States in 1886 had 1,411 strikes involving 9,861 companies and about 500,000 employees. Workers wanted more pay and better working conditions. Cleveland asked for legislation to facilitate arbitration of labor disputes, and he proposed a Commission of Labor in April to help improve relations and settle conflicts between workers and capitalists. The US Congress approved voluntary arbitration and the Labor Commission. On May 1 about 100,000 trade unionists demonstrated and demanded the 8-hour day. When 1,500 people gathered at Haymarket Square in Chicago on May 4. As police were breaking up the meeting, a bomb killed eight police and injured about sixty. Then police killed four workers and wounded about 180. In May 1886 the US Supreme Court granted corporations equal rights. By July the Knights of Labor had 729,000 members in about 15,000 local assemblies, but they lost about 180,000 members in the next year. The Farmers Alliance had 3,000 local groups with 200,000 members by early 1887.
      President Cleveland was single, but in June 1886 he married young Frances Folsom in the White House. She held receptions and became popular. Cleveland was fiscally conservative and vetoed bills that would increase pensions for Union Civil War veterans. He approved the construction of five cruisers. Attorney General Garland refused to turn over documents to Congress, and the Senate censured him.
      He and his wife traveled to St. Louis, Madison, Memphis, and Atlanta. In October the US Supreme Court ruled that the US Government could regulate interstate commerce. Cleveland spoke at the dedication of the Statue of Liberty. In his Second Annual Message to Congress in December he asked for lower tariffs, but the Republicans in the US Senate blocked that. The US Navy captured three Canadian seal-fishing boats for illegally reducing the seal population.
      Cleveland recognized the rights of Indians and worked to improve their lives with protection and education. The Dawes Act in February 1887 authorized allotting tribal land in lots of 160 acres to families and 40 acres to individuals. He had his Interior Secretary Lamar investigate fraudulent land claims. The southern economy was improving as wealth increased much more than population. Geronimo gave up raiding in Arizona in September 1886 and spent two years in exile in Florida before rejoining his family in Alabama. There would be no more major Indian wars.
      Cleveland believed that many pensions for veterans were undeserved, and he vetoed those. In February 1887 he vetoed the Dependent Pension bill that newspapers considered a government swindle. The US began building a naval base at Pearl Harbor, Oahu, and Hawaii’s commercial treaty was renewed. The Hatch Act in March funded land-grant colleges and agricultural experiment stations. The Interstate Commerce Act in April established a commission to supervise regulations. The President and his wife went to the St. Louis fair in September and shook over 15,000 hands. Without lower tariffs the annual surplus increased to $103 million and raised prices. In the 1884 campaign both major parties had promised to lower tariffs. Cleveland in his Third Annual Message again pleaded for lower tariffs. He noted that over three-quarters of US exports were agricultural products.
      In 1888 Cleveland nominated the conservative Melville Fuller as Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court. In June the Democratic Convention at St. Louis by acclamation nominated Cleveland for re-election with Senator Allen Thurman of Ohio for Vice President.
      Republicans nominated the former Senator Benjamin Harrison of Indiana for President along with Levi Morton of New York. President Cleveland did not make campaign speeches, and Thurman was a weak campaigner. Harrison made many speeches at his home in Indianapolis. Republicans raised an unprecedented $4 million in New York, and Mark Hanna raised $100,000. Both major parties spent more money than in any previous election. The League of Republican Voters arranged meetings and rallies, distributed literature, and got people to vote. Money was used to buy votes, and some Pennsylvanians voted in New York for Harrison. Although Cleveland won 90,596 more votes out of about 11 million, Harrison by winning New York had more Electoral College votes.
      Cleveland in his annual message in December commended the work of the Agriculture Department, but he criticized the government for helping the wealthy get richer while the poor worked under oppression.

      Although he was a Democrat, President Cleveland actually promoted the progress of many Republican reforms such as civil service and a neutral foreign policy. Cleveland wanted to help the struggling working class that was being exploited by the capitalist corporations, and he opposed protectionist tariffs that raised prices. He avoided wars and tried to help the Indians. During Cleveland’s first term the national debt was reduced by about $245 million. I rank Grover Cleveland #10.

United States & Cleveland 1885-89

Benjamin Harrison 1889-93

            Benjamin Harrison, grandson of the Whig President William Henry Harrison, studied politics and became a lawyer. He supported the Republican candidates Fremont in 1856 and Lincoln in 1860. He enlisted in 1862 and served as a colonel under General Sherman in Georgia. After the war he made money as a lawyer, and in 1871 President Grant asked him to defend military commissioners. In 1876 during the Whiskey Ring scandal Harrison defended an internal revenue officer. He lost a close race for Governor of Indiana, and in the fall he campaigned for Rutherford Hayes. The state legislature elected him to the US Senate in 1880. Democrats with gerrymandering in 1885 gained control of the legislature and defeated Harrison for re-election to the Senate. The Republican convention in June 1888 nominated Harrison for President over Senator John Sherman of Illinois. Although President Cleveland won the total popular vote, Harrison’s winning New York gave him a victory in the Electoral College. All the states Harrison won were north or west of the states that the Democrat Cleveland captured.
      President Benjamin Harrison made James Blaine Secretary of State, and he refused to appoint the New York boss Thomas Platt. He made his former law partner William H. H. Miller the Attorney General. His cabinet included the new Secretary of Agriculture Rusk, and none were from the South. In his first year Harrison spent most of his time on patronage making appointments. He enforced US jurisdiction in the Bering Sea, and the US Navy captured eight Canadian ships for having hunted fur-bearing animals. He appointed the conservative Judge David J. Brewer to the Supreme Court. Harrison opened about two million acres in the Indian Territory that 75,000 Indians had owned for a land rush by settlers, and the United States claimed jurisdiction of the Oklahoma Territory in May 1890.
      After the devastating Johnstown flood on 31 May 1889 Harrison went there and provided Federal assistance. He appointed a southern Democrat to the Civil Service Commission, and Theodore Roosevelt complained that his advice was ignored. Harrison and Blaine worked on resolving Samoan issues with the British and Germans, and the three nations created a protectorate over Samoa. Latin American diplomats came to a conference at Washington in October 1889. They agreed to negotiate reciprocity agreements and formed the International Bureau of the American Republics. Harrison sent Frederick Douglass as minister to Haiti. North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Washington became states in November, and they provided eight Republican Senators and five Representatives.
      In his long First Annual Message to Congress on December 3 President Harrison described his policies. He praised the efforts of black people in the South, and he asked for a strong law to protect the right of black Americans to vote in the South.
      In 1889 the United States opened to settlers 11 million acres of land that had belonged to the Sioux. In December police shot dead Chief Sitting Bull, and at Wounded Knee 500 US soldiers massacred many Lakota warriors, women, and children. That was the last major Indian battle, and the Sioux surrendered in January 1891. The 1890 US Census found that only 248,253 Native Americans had survived.
      Democrats in Congress had denied a quorum to block Republican issues in 1889, but in 1890 the Republicans overcame that with new rules. Harrison asked for a civil rights bill to protect the votes of black people in the South. Henry Cabot Lodge’s bill passed the House in July, but the Senate blocked it with a filibuster. The US Supreme Court was allowing racial segregation on railroads. Republicans passed bills to increase pensions and benefits to Union veterans and their families. President Harrison signed the Sherman Antitrust Act into law on July 2. He wanted to preserve the gold standard while westerners were asking for more silver coins. Harrison signed a compromise bill on July 14. The protectionist McKinley Tariff bill became law in October. Many Latin American nations agreed to reciprocity treaties on trade, and the US re-imposed tariffs on three that did not. Harrison and Blaine refused to accept reciprocity with Canada because Canadian agriculture would compete with American farmers. Also they did not want Canada to join the United States. Harrison and Blaine helped resolve a conflict in New Orleans involving Italians.
      In the 1890 elections Democrats campaigned against the Republicans’ “billion-dollar Congress,” and the Democrats gained a 238-86 advantage in the House of Representatives. Newly admitted western states enabled Republicans to maintain control of the Senate 47-39.
      In 1891 Republicans and Harrison resisted issuing more silver coins. He criticized the lynching of blacks that prevented them from voting, and Frederick Douglass praised Harrison’s effort to pass the elections bill. The Congress under Harrison passed a record 531 public laws. Forest reserves were established in Wyoming, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and California as well as in the territories of Arizona and New Mexico. In the spring Harrison and his wife traveled in the South and as far as the Pacific Coast on a five-week trip on which he gave 140 speeches that reporters wired to newspapers. Secretary of State Blaine collapsed on May 7, and Harrison supervised the State Department. New US meat inspections improved exports to Europe. On September 18 the US opened 900,000 acres of ceded lands in the Oklahoma Territory to settlers.
      Harrison paid for improvements to the White House that included electricity. After a brawl with US Navy men in Chile, Harrison prevented further violence by negotiating an indemnity from the Chilean government. He also negotiated a treaty with Britain to resolve conflicts over seal hunting. Reciprocal trade treaties helped increase imports and exports. The US Navy got 25 new ships under Harrison, and US Army desertions declined. He warned against the bad influence of gerrymandering election districts. Foreclosing many farm mortgages in Kansas stimulated the farmers’ alliance of whites and blacks. Harrison paid for improvements to the White House, and he had electricity installed. Several southern states passed racial segregation laws. New York City processed 430,884 immigrants in 1891.
      Lincoln’s birthday on February 12 became a national holiday in 1892. Harrison opened 3 million more acres in the Oklahoma Territory to settlers. The Republican convention in June nominated Harrison for re-election over Blaine and McKinley with the editor Whitelaw Reid for Vice President. Reid was criticized for opposing workers. Then the Democrats nominated Grover Cleveland again with Adlai Stevenson of Illinois for Vice President. Voters had the choice of two experienced Presidents. Cleveland wrote letters and opposed protective tariffs. Harrison ordered a quarantine of ships in New York to curtail cholera. He opposed Chinese immigration to gain votes in the West. Harrison was preoccupied with caring for his ill wife. When Cleveland learned of her illness in September, he announced that he would not campaign. Harrison defended the McKinley Tariff. The strike against the Carnegie Steel Company turned workers against Harrison. He sent Federal troops to a strike in Idaho, and 600 miners were imprisoned. Cleveland criticized “unjust governmental favoritism.” Harrison’s wife died on October 25. In the election Cleveland got 46% of the votes to Harrison’s 43% and won in the Electoral College 277-145. Republicans lost 10 seats and the majority in the Senate, and Democrats still controlled the House 218-124. Harrison in his last message to Congress reviewed his accomplishments.
      As the Americans in Hawaii were gaining greater dominance, in January 1893 the Hawaiians attempted to restore their control. The cabinet resigned, and Queen Liliʻuokalani proclaimed a new constitution which disenfranchised all white men except those married to native women. On January 16 the new US minister John Leavitt Stevens returned to Honolulu with Captain G. C. Wiltse and 162 marines to protect the US legation and consulate. The Americans proclaimed a government led by Sanford Ballard Dole, a son of missionaries. Stevens recognized that government, and on February 1 he proclaimed an American protectorate. When Dole and the commissioners reached Washington DC, the US Secretary of State Foster signed a treaty annexing Hawaii on February 14. Harrison sent it to the US Senate which did not have two-thirds of the votes for ratification. Harrison opposed the Queen’s restoration. On March 9 President Cleveland withdrew the treaty and canceled the annexation proposal.

      Benjamin Harrison continued the policies of the post-war Republicans, though he turned over much land that Indians had held to settlers. He could not get civil rights legislation passed, and Jim Crow laws and lynching continued. Congress passed the Sherman Antitrust Act, though there did not seem to be much enforcement yet. Harrison’s attempt to confirm the American takeover of Hawaii failed. During his four years the Harrison Administration reduced the national debt by about $73 million. I rank Benjamin Harrison #23.

United States & Harrison 1889-93

Grover Cleveland 1893-97

      In 1889 Grover Cleveland’s wife expected to return to the White House in four years. Cleveland criticized President Harrison on silver and for his high tariffs, but he praised his judicial appointments. In January 1891 Cleveland spoke about the principles of true democracy as “equal and exact justice to all men” and “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations.” He urged interest in public affairs as a duty of citizenship, and he believed that George Washington’s virtue and honesty were still relevant. Democrats nominated Cleveland again for President with Adlai E. Stevenson of Illinois, for vice president. This time they won New York and enough other states to defeat President Harrison. Cleveland chose new cabinet officers. His closest advisor was Secretary of War Daniel Lamont. In his inaugural address he aimed to have better relations with Indians, and he promised to reform tariffs and make taxes more just.
      President Cleveland began his second term by reversing the recent US takeover of the Hawaiian Islands. Democrats had control of both houses in Congress for the first time since 1858, but in 1893 they had to deal with a financial panic and another depression. In the previous four years the US gold reserves had fallen from $196,689,514 to $103,500,000, and the trend was continuing. Panic hit the New York Stock Exchange on May 5, and banks began closing down. A quarter of the nation’s railroads failed, and farmers suffered. Cleveland secretly had an operation to remove a cancer from his mouth. As 194 railroads declared bankruptcy, 642 banks failed. Cleveland summoned the Congress in August to repeal the Sherman Silver Act which they finally did on October 23. By then about 16,000 businesses were bankrupt. Cherokees had sold six million acres of land in Oklahoma and Kansas in 1891, but Congress did not ratify the treaty until 3 March 1893. The largest land rush for over 100,000 settlers was held in the Cherokee Outlet in northwest Oklahoma on September 16. In December the American Federation of Labor (AFL) held their annual convention. They estimated that over three million Americans were unemployed, and they demanded an 8-hour day.
      In January 1894 Cleveland granted amnesty to Mormons who would observe the 1882 polygamy law. In February the US Congress by repealing the Enforcement Act of 1871 returned control over elections to the states. Congress in June made Labor Day a national holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. Cleveland recognized Hawaii that had declared itself a republic on July 4. After much effort the more moderate Wilson Tariff Bill was finally passed in August. As prices continued to fall, farmers’ debts increased.
      During the widespread Pullman Railroad strike in 1894 Illinois, New Mexico, Colorado, and California asked for federal troops. Cleveland authorized a force and told them to make sure that mail was delivered. There were riots in Chicago, and Gov. Altgeld mobilized 3,000 state militia and later 3,000 more in addition to 3,000 police officers, 500 sheriff deputies, and several thousand deputy marshals. Wealthy railroad magnate George Pullman refused to negotiate with workers. The American Railway Union leader Eugene Debs proposed a general strike, and the Chief US Marshal Arnold had him arrested for conspiracy to interfere with interstate commerce. The general strike began on July 11, and some people were killed in Illinois and California. The next day the Knights of Labor committee and US Senator James H. Kyle urged President Cleveland to invoke the Arbitration Act of 1888 to settle the disputes. He promised to appoint a commission to investigate after the disorders ended. On July 26 Cleveland named the Labor Commissioner Carrol D. Wright to head the investigation, and they listened to more than 200 witnesses.
      In February 1894 the US Congress repealed the act that had allowed Federal control over state elections. The Congress established Labor Day on the first Monday of September. Congress and Cleveland agreed on the Wilson Tariff that lowered tariffs and added a small income tax to neutralize the loss of revenue. The US Carey Act funded irrigating desert land in Idaho and Wyoming to help settlers.
      In the fall elections Republicans gained 110 seats giving them a 253-93 advantage in the House of Representatives. Democrats in the Senate had one more seat than the Republicans, and there were four Populists and one Silverite. The Democratic Party was weakened, and the depression continued. By November 14 the US gold reserve was down to $61 million. Cleveland wanted to maintain the gold standard that most nations used, and he vetoed a bill to coin more silver dollars. The United States made a commercial treaty with Japan. In his Annual Message to Congress in December 1894 Cleveland explained how the US was cooperating with Britain and Germany to govern the Samoan Islands. Cleveland wanted to withdraw, but the US Congress refused to cooperate with that.
      Panic in January 1895 caused withdrawing gold from the US Treasury, and the gold reserve went down to $45 million by January 31. The financier J. P. Morgan helped Cleveland sell gold bonds, and Morgan made about $6 million while the US gold reserve increased back up to over $107 million. Congress refused to recognize “gold” bonds. The US Supreme Court decided that only a state could correct the American Sugar Refining Company’s monopoly. A new sugar tariff damaged the Cuban economy and provoked another insurrection. Some newspapers urged US intervention to help rebels in Cuba to overthrow Spanish rule; but Cleveland was strongly opposed to war, and on June 12 he announced neutrality and asked citizens not to aid insurgents.
      President Cleveland spoke to 50,000 people at the Cotton States International Exposition in Atlanta, and he warned that Silverite Democrats might help Republicans regain dominance again. The rising black leader Booker T. Washington sent Cleveland a copy of his speech in Atlanta, and Cleveland commended his work in education. While some leaders called for US intervention to stop British aggression against Venezuela according to the Monroe Doctrine, Cleveland advised resolving the dispute by arbitration.
      The British objected to the US intervening in their dispute with Venezuela based on the Monroe Doctrine which was not international law. The British did not consider the Monroe Doctrine valid under international law. Cleveland persuaded the US Congress to fund a commission, and this was eventually successful.
      The US Army Corps of Engineers helped make the Ohio River navigable for commerce.
      Cleveland’s long Message to Congress in December 1895 reported on several foreign policy issues including the successful US arbitration of a border dispute between Argentina and Brazil, of US claims against Chile, and American diplomacy helping prevent a war between China and Japan. He also warned against the dangers of monopolistic trusts. President Cleveland refused to send a warship to Cuba.
      He warned Congress that the US gold reserve was only $79 million, and he asked for support for public credit. The Federal gold reserve fell to $44.5 million before another bond issue of $100 million increased the Federal gold reserve to over $128 million as Morgan gained over $33 million. Cleveland opposed a free coinage bill, and he warned Democrats that a soft-money policy would enable Republicans to control the future which they did in Congress and the Presidency after his term until 1910.
      Utah adopted a constitution that gave the vote to women, and it became a state in January 1896.
      Cleveland and Secretary of State Olney in April urged Spain and Cubans to settle their conflicts peacefully. In May the US Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson decided 7-1 that racial segregation was allowed if the separate facilities for blacks were equal to those for whites. Justice Harlan wrote an eloquent dissent.
      In July the oratory of William Jennings Bryan on the issue of silver or gold persuaded Democrats to nominate him for President. The Republicans nominated Ohio’s Gov. William McKinley, and they raised $16 million to help win the election. Cleveland in his last message to Congress once again advised against intervening in the Cuban rebellion against Spain.

      Grover Cleveland was the only Democrat to serve two terms between Andrew Jackson and Woodrow Wilson. Although he had a Democratic Congress for two years, his second administration faced a financial panic and a depression that he attempted to relieve by rebuilding the federal gold reserves even though it made the millionaire J. P. Morgan richer. Some Democrats were distracted by the silver issue, and they would not regain the presidency until 1913. Cleveland avoided getting into a war against Spain over Cuba, but his successor McKinley reversed that. Southern states were given more independence, and that was not good for African Americans. Cleveland attempted to help Indians, and he encouraged the educational work of Booker T. Washington. During Cleveland’s second term the national debt was increased by about $272 million which was about $27 million more than he had decreased it in his first term. I rank Grover Cleveland #10.

US Depression & Cleveland 1893-97

William McKinley 1897-1901

            William McKinley was born on 29 January 1843 in Ohio into a large family who were Methodists and abolitionists. He joined the Union Army as a private in June 1861, and he rose to the rank of major by October 1864. He studied law and passed the Ohio bar exam in March 1867. That year he campaigned for the Republican Rutherford B. Hayes who was elected Governor of Ohio, and in 1868 he worked for Grant’s election as President. In 1869 McKinley was elected the prosecuting attorney for a county. He prevented saloons from selling to college students, and he was not re-elected. In 1876 he defended 22 striking coal miners who were acquitted, and in October he was elected to Congress from Canton, Ohio. He was re-elected in 1878 and in 1880 when he joined the Ways and Means Committee. Democrats barely defeated him in 1882, but he won the next three elections.
      McKinley became an expert on protective tariffs, and he became the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee in 1889. He supported constitutional rights of black citizens. In 1890 Democrats gerrymandered McKinley’s district and defeated him by only 302 votes. In 1891 he ran for Governor of Ohio and was elected. Republicans in the Ohio legislature passed his programs in the next two years. At the Republican National Convention in 1892 McKinley received 182 votes as President Benjamin Harrison was nominated again. Gov. McKinley loaned money to a friend, and his own friends helped him pay off the debt of $130,000 in 1893, the year he was re-elected governor. In April 1894 he sent 3,000 militia to stop violence during a strike by 200,000 coal miners in Ohio. That fall he gave 371 speeches to help Republicans gain seats in the US House of Representatives. In October he sent the National Guard to protect a black man from a mob, and he signed an anti-lynching law.
      The successful businessman Mark Hanna advised McKinley to tour the South, and that helped him get the Republican nomination for President in 1896. He refused to make promises to the corrupt Thomas Platt of New York, and he adopted the slogan “The People Against the Bosses.” At the Republican National Convention in June the platform advocated a free Cuba and opposed the “unlimited coinage of silver,” accepting the McKinley gold plank instead. He won the nomination on the first ballot. McKinley chose Garret Hobart of New Jersey for Vice President and Hanna as the new Chairman of the Republican National Committee. Democrats advocated silver coinage and nominated William Jennings Bryan of Nebraska. Hanna raised much money in New York, and young Charles Dawes in Chicago sent out millions of articles. Their campaign spent twice as much as Harrison’s had in 1892. While Bryan made 570 speeches in 29 states, McKinley stayed home at Canton and made speeches from his porch for numerous visitors. He got 51% of the votes and won the Electoral College 271-176. McKinley selected his cabinet, and on 3 March 1897 he told President Cleveland that he agreed with him on the gold standard. McKinley said he would work to avoid an imminent war with Spain. He made Theodore Roosevelt the Assistant Navy Secretary, and he appointed prominent blacks recommended by Booker T. Washington.
      In his inaugural address on March 4 McKinley discussed how to remedy the depression of the previous four years, and he promised to protect equal rights, free speech and schools, and to oppose trusts that control trade. He said he would continue civil service reforms. He promised to follow Washington’s policy of non-interference in foreign affairs. McKinley listened to his cabinet and made his own decisions. He made many speeches in the next three years. Because the elderly Secretary of State John Sherman was faulty, the President relied on the Assistant Secretary William Day. McKinley in April appointed a commission to fix the ratio of gold to silver, and Congress passed a protectionist tariff bill in July.
      McKinley wanted to annex the Hawaiian Islands, and he sent three warships there in April. On May 17 he sent a message to Congress about 700 destitute American citizens in Cuba, and they approved $50,000 to relieve them. The US Senate voted for neutrality over McKinley’s allies. On June 2 the Assistant Navy Secretary Theodore Roosevelt advocated a strong navy in a speech at the Naval War College. Sherman and Hawaiian diplomats signed a treaty, and Japan agreed to arbitration on indemnity claims in July. The US Congress would approve annexing Hawaii on 4 July 1898. McKinley believed it would be easy to free Cuba by a war. In his First Annual Message to Congress in December 1897 the President supported neutrality toward the Cuban conflict.
      In January 1898 US Navy Secretary Long began retaining sailors even if enlistments had ended. The US Minister Woodford in Spain tried to resolve the Cuban conflict, but Spain replied that the US had no right to intervene in Cuba. McKinley ordered the battleship Maine sent to Havana, and on February 15 it was sunk by an explosion. Americans said it was an external attack, but Spain’s investigation believed it was an internal explosion which was probably correct. Two popular newspapers in New York called for war. McKinley sent his Attorney General Griggs to South Carolina to support the prosecution of 13 men who burned a black postmaster’s house, but the jury acquitted them. While Long was away, Roosevelt ordered Commodore Dewey in Hong Kong to prepare for “offensive operations in the Philippine Islands.” In early March the McKinley administration persuaded the Congress to appropriate $50 million for the Navy and the Army.
      On March 22 Woodford warned Spain to make an agreement with Cuban rebels in a few days, or the crisis would be given to the US Congress. Day advised Woodford that McKinley could mediate the Cuban conflict if they made an armistice until October. McKinley sent an ultimatum to Spain, and he delayed his announcement from April 6 to the 11th so that Americans could leave Cuba. In that message to Congress he gave four reasons for intervening in Cuba. On the 13th Republicans in the House defeated a resolution to recognize the independence of Cuba. On April 19 the House voted 311-6 for McKinley’s intervention to end the war, and the Senate agreed 52-35. The Teller amendment renounced the annexation of Cuba. The next day McKinley signed the bill and gave Spain three days to accept his ultimatum. On April 21 Spain broke off diplomatic relations with the United States, and Woodford left Madrid. On that day McKinley ordered the Navy to blockade Cuba. The US Congress approved 65,527 volunteers, and on April 23 McKinley called up 125,000 volunteers for two years. Spain declared war on the United States. The next day Commodore Dewey was ordered to go to the Philippines, and Spain’s Admiral Montojo went there too. When McKinley declared war on Spain on the 25th, he made it retroactive to the 21st so that the US could keep prizes captured at sea since then.
      On April 29 the US General Nelson Miles ordered General Shafter to muster 5,000 men at Tampa, Florida to prepare for invading Cuba. Commissioned Lt. Col. Theodore Roosevelt organized volunteer US Cavalry, and the “Rough Riders” moved from Texas to Tampa. McKinley asked for excise tax increases to raise $100 million, and Congress passed it quickly. On May 1 Dewey’s nine ships reached Manila harbor in the Philippines and defeated Spain’s eight ships. The city of Manila surrendered. McKinley ordered General Merritt to lead an expeditionary force of 20,000 men in the new Department of the Pacific.
      On May 2 McKinley ordered 50,000 soldiers to attack Cuba, and on the 12th Admiral Sampson’s squadron bombarded San Juan, Puerto Rico. On May 25 McKinley called for 75,000 more men. Those opposing the war heard a speech in Boston on June 15, and the Anti-Imperialist League was organized in November. On June 23 about 6,000 US troops defeated 600 Spanish forces at Siboney, Cuba. Roosevelt’s Rough Riders and Pershing’s 10th Cavalry of black troops supported the attack on the heights of Santiago on June 30.
      Emilio Aguinaldo led the Philippine Revolutionary Army, and in April at Singapore he met with the US Consul E. Spencer Pratt who agreed to fight the Spanish. The US Navy transported Aguinaldo and 17 revolutionary leaders from Hong Kong to Manila. Dewey met with Aguinaldo on May 19. Aguinaldo on June 23 proclaimed a revolutionary government in the Philippines, and he asked the US to recognize Philippine independence.
      On July 11 the New York Times justified the US keeping Cuba and Puerto Rico as permanent possessions. Ramón Betances, “Father of the Poor,” led the independence movement in Puerto Rico, but he was ignored. General Miles reported that a hundred American soldiers had yellow fever, and his army invaded Puerto Rico on July 25. The next day McKinley met with two French diplomats who were representing Spain. McKinley and Day told them that the US would keep Puerto Rico. On August 4 both sides agreed that five commissioners from each side would negotiate in Paris. By then General Shafter reported that he had 4,290 sick troops. McKinley ordered an investigation. After a protocol was signed on August 12, McKinley suspended military action. Cuba was to be independent, and the United States would annex Puerto Rico. The Americans would stay in the Philippines until there was a peace treaty. In this brief stage of the war only 281 American soldiers were killed, but about 2,500 died of diseases. Half the 270,000 American troops never got beyond the training camps. Lincoln’s former secretary John Hay called it “a splendid little war.”
      The American military held only the Manila harbor and part of the city while Aguinaldo had about 67,000 soldiers. McKinley sent 20,000 soldiers to General Merritt. They attacked the Spanish forces on August 13 while Americans kept the rebels out of the city. Manila capitulated the next day, and Filipinos were not allowed to participate in the victory parade. On August 21 McKinley informed Admiral Dewey that “there must be no joint occupation with the insurgents.” One week later General Otis became the Military Governor of the Philippines. On September 14 Aguinaldo agreed to move his soldiers out of Manilla. The next day a national assembly met at a church next to Aguinaldo’s headquarters.
      McKinley appointed General Dodge to head a commission investigating the War Department. Then he named Day to lead the peace commission with the editor Whitelaw Reid and three US Senators. McKinley gave them instructions, and they left for Europe on September 17. John Hay became Secretary of State. General Francis V. Greene had led troops in the Philippines, and he gave McKinley a detailed report over five days and suggested plans. McKinley met with Aguinaldo’s representatives, but he refused to let any Filipino be at the peace talks in Paris. McKinley in October gave 57 speeches on a western tour. He visited the South in December and met with Booker T. Washington at Tuskegee Institute. The US economy was improving as exports nearly doubled imports. In the fall elections violence in the Carolinas prevented black men from voting.
      Anti-imperialists argued that imperialism is hostile to freedom and that it increases militarism. On December 10 the ten commissioners in Paris signed the peace treaty in which the US promised to pay Spain $20 million in compensation for the Philippines. Spain ceded Puerto Rico and Guam to the United States, and the US assumed Cuba’s financial obligations during the occupation. In his annual address McKinley discussed various issues in foreign policy with many nations.
      Aguinaldo and nationalist Filipinos adopted a constitution on November 29. Yet the American war in the Philippines continued in 1899. Aguinaldo in January warned Americans that their taking other Philippine islands by force would cause a war. The US Senator Hoar criticized “the greed and lust of empire.” On January 23 the Philippine Republic was proclaimed, and Aguinaldo was inaugurated as president. Their minister Agoncillo argued that the US controlled only 143 square miles with 300,000 people while the Philippine Republic had almost 10 million people and 200,000 square miles. Two American soldiers killed three Filipinos on February 4. Aguinaldo ordered his men to stop fighting, but the next day Admiral Dewey ordered his navy artillery to begin firing. American armies led by General Arthur MacArthur advanced and killed about 3,000 Filipino soldiers while only 59 Americans died. Aguinaldo proposed peace talks and a demilitarized zone, but the Military Governor General Otis said that it “must go on to the grim end.”
      On March 2 McKinley signed the bill for 65,000 regulars and 35,000 two-year recruits to fight in a standing army. The Schurman Commission arrived in Manila on March 4 to study the Philippines. The Americans rejected a cease-fire that was offered on April 29 only days after 700 American volunteers had been killed at Calumpit.
      On May 5 the Schurman Commission proposed autonomy for the Philippines under the US President. Fifteen members of the Malolos Congress met and accepted the offer, and Aguinaldo reformed his government. General Otis suppressed democratic newspapers and accused an American editor of treason. He also censored American war correspondents. Schurman reported to McKinley in July that most Filipinos on islands other than Luzon wanted peace and would accept American sovereignty except for the Tagalogs. McKinley replaced the incompetent War Secretary Alger with the lawyer Elihu Root of New York. Filipinos organized an autonomous government on the island of Negros in November. By the end of the year the US had about 64,000 troops in the Philippines.
      In January 1900 McKinley and Root persuaded Judge William Howard Taft to accept the position as the Governor of the Philippines, though he did not get there until June. General MacArthur was permitted to offer amnesty on June 21 for three months, and about 5,000 mostly poor Filipinos surrendered. On September 1 the Taft Commission assumed the legislative powers to tax, fix tariffs, and establish law courts. On December 20 General MacArthur proclaimed martial law.
      In January 1901 the Spooner bill allowed granting public franchises, the selling of public lands, and mining claims. On January 21 the Philippine Commission established public schools with free primary education. General Frederick Funston used disguised men to get to Aguinaldo and arrested him on March 23. Aguinaldo on April 19 called for an end to hostilities and for lasting peace. On July 4 the Americans established a government with Taft as the first civil Governor-General.
      In February 1899 the Dodge Commission’s study of the War Department found that Secretary Alger had been incompetent but not corrupt. The President and Congress provided $2 million for the “territory” of Puerto Rico as part of the United States without the rights of a state. Tariffs with reciprocal trade agreements balanced protection, revenue, and improving the private economy. McKinley also allowed some choice for civil service officers in hiring private secretaries and clerks. He and New York’s Gov. Roosevelt made speeches in the Midwest. McKinley approved an exhibit on the progress of blacks in the Paris Exposition that was influenced by Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. DuBois. The peace established in Cuba and Puerto Rico as well as the improved economy helped convert the annual federal deficit of $89 million to a surplus of $40 million. The Democrat Bryan and McKinley wanted to control the abuses of large corporations and trusts. McKinley attempted to justify the military occupation of the Philippine Islands that Anti-Imperialists were criticizing. Appointing Walter Reed to study yellow fever would lead to understanding the role of mosquitos and reducing the death toll from that disease. Financial corruption in Cuba was punished.
      In March 1900 the Gold Standard Act helped new banks in the South and the Midwest. Puerto Rico got a civilian government in April. McKinley and his Secretary of State John Hay helped the western powers develop a more fair “open-door” policy toward trade with China. In June the Republicans easily nominated McKinley for another term and chose New York’s Gov. Roosevelt for Vice President. Democrats in July again chose William Jennings Bryan who opposed McKinley’s imperialism, but his advocacy of silver coinage was not widely popular. In the elections the Republicans held on to the presidency and made moderate gains in the House and Senate. The US Government’s surplus increased to about $80 million as exports set a new record. The US Army had been increased to 100,000 men.
      In 1901 McKinley and the US Congress insisted on holding on to control of the Philippines, and War Secretary Elihu Root made sure that the United States still had some power over Cuba through its constitution. On April 5 McKinley made the lawyer and banker Philander Knox the new Attorney General, and his efforts to enforce the Sherman Antitrust Act would bear fruit in the Roosevelt administration. McKinley traveled to the west coast. In a speech on September 5 to 50,000 people at the Buffalo Exposition he emphasized reciprocity treaties. The next day a man influenced by anarchists shot McKinley twice, and the President died on September 14.

      William McKinley was a competent and hard-working President, and his tariff and following Cleveland’s policy on the Gold Standard helped end the economic depression of the previous four years. McKinley was the last President who had fought in the Civil War, and he increased the US Army and the US Navy. As an abolitionist he appointed blacks to serve in his government. He wanted to stop the lynching of blacks and the ways blacks were prevented from voting, but the southern Democrats and the US Supreme Court blocked those efforts. He said he wanted to end the war in Cuba between the insurgents and Spanish colonialism, but in 1898 he ended up going to war against Spain not only in Cuba but also in the Philippines and in Puerto Rico. These policies were opposed by Anti-Imperialists in both parties, though the US Congress supported his war against Spain to liberate Cuba. Sending the battleship Maine to Manila in the Philippine Islands provoked a war there after the explosion was interpreted differently by the US and Spain. The Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Theodore Roosevelt, urged building up the Navy and using it for domination in wars. Roosevelt led the Rough Riders during the invasion of Cuba. McKinley’s treating as colonies the far-away Philippines, Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico, and to some extent Cuba transformed the United States from a large nation in North America into an imperial power with worldwide ambitions. This new policy violated the peaceful policies of Washington, John Adams, Jefferson, and Monroe, and led the United States into becoming an aggressive world power. During McKinley’s four and a half years the national debt was increased by about $326 million. I rank William McKinley #36.

United States & McKinley’s War 1897-1901

Theodore Roosevelt 1901-09

            Theodore Roosevelt was born in New York City on 27 October 1858. He considered his father the best person he ever knew for his courage, gentleness, and unselfishness. His parents took him on trips to Europe, and he collected birds in Egypt. When his father died in February 1878, Theodore inherited $125,000. He graduated from Harvard, and his senior thesis was “The Practicability of Equalizing Men and Women Before the Law.” He went to Columbia Law School, and in 1882 he became a reforming politician in the New York Assembly. The minority Republicans elected Roosevelt their leader in 1883. He wrote The Naval War of 1812, and it became influential. He worked with Gov. Grover Cleveland on civil service reform. He was elected as an at-large delegate to the National Republican Convention in 1884, and he became friends with Henry Cabot Lodge and campaigned for him. Roosevelt bought a cattle ranch in the Dakota Badlands. He became the Deputy Sheriff there and captured three thieves. In 1886 he ran for Mayor of New York but lost. He published biographies of Thomas Hart Benton and Gouverneur Morris and Essays on Practical Politics.
      In 1889 President Harrison appointed him to the US Civil Service Commission. After being criticized he returned to the West and began writing several volumes on The Winning of the West. He rented a house in Washington to be near his friends Lodge, John Hay, Henry Adams, and the House Speaker Thomas Reed. Roosevelt agreed with Alfred Thayer Mahan who wrote The Influence of Sea Power Upon History. Roosevelt published his History of the City of New York and a 146-page report on elections. He visited Indian reservations and criticized the corrupt agencies that neglected them.
      In 1895 Roosevelt was appointed to New York City’s Board of Police Commissioners, and he was elected their president. His criticism persuaded Police Chief Byrnes and Inspector “Clubber” Williams to resign. Roosevelt enforced the laws including the ban on selling alcohol on Sundays. He became friends with the reformers Lincoln Steffens and Jacob Riis.
      The Republican President McKinley appointed Roosevelt the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and he soon began warning about trouble in Cuba. In his speech on June 2 to the graduates of the Naval War College at Newport, Rhode Island he used the word “war” 62 times, and major newspapers published his speech. While the Navy Secretary Long was on a two-week vacation, Roosevelt by June 30 prepared a new war plan to liberate Cuba from Spanish rule that included an attack on the Philippines. He persuaded McKinley to put Commodore Dewey in charge, and he urged a large build-up of the US Navy.
      On 15 February 1898 an explosion on the USS Maine caused the ship to sink as 262 men died. Ten days later while Secretary Long was away, Roosevelt ordered Dewey to take his squadron to Hong Kong and prepare for operations in the Philippines. Roosevelt wanted to fight in Cuba, and he was given a commission in the army. He recruited volunteers for the “Rough Riders.” Lt. Col. Roosevelt served under Col. Leonard Wood, and they both were promoted on June 30. Roosevelt spent $5,000 to get good food and medicine for his men.
      In the fall of 1898 Roosevelt ran for governor of New York even though he did not fulfill the residence requirements. He was elected, and at the beginning of January 1899 he said he would be “an independent organization man of the best type.” He worked to tax corporations on their public franchises and to protect nongame birds from being killed and sold. He hired scientists to work for the Fisheries, Game, and Forest Commission. He got the most advanced Civil Service Act passed. He replaced the corrupt Superintendent of Insurance Louis F. Payn. At their national convention in 1900 the Republicans nominated McKinley again for President with Roosevelt for Vice President. In the campaign Roosevelt traveled 21,209 miles in 24 states and gave 673 speeches in 567 towns to 3 million people. They were elected over William Jennings Bryan. Four days after the March 4 inauguration the US Senate adjourned until December, and Roosevelt went home to Oyster Bay, New York. McKinley was shot in Buffalo, New York on September 6, and he died on the 14th.
      Theodore Roosevelt took the oath in Buffalo, and he declared his “intention to continue unbroken the policy of President McKinley for the peace, prosperity, and honor of our beloved country.” He accepted the current cabinet officers. There was a backlash after Roosevelt dined with the black leader Booker T. Washington in the White House. In his First Annual Message to Congress he paid tribute to President McKinley and the enormous prosperity of the American economy, but he also noted that the evil of over-capitalization needed correction. He suggested that the first step was knowing the facts through publicity. He aimed to regulate the interstate commerce of corporations. He argued that railways are public servants and that their rates should be just and open to all. He also expressed his concern about forests and streams and the need for water conservation.
      Congressmen voted overwhelmingly for a canal in Nicaragua on 9 January 1902. Yet nine days later President Roosevelt announced that Panama would be better, and he sent them the report. He replaced the Postmaster General and the Treasury Secretary. Roosevelt and the US Attorney General Philander Knox began working on curtailing combinations that restrain trade, and they sued the Northern Securities Company for combining two railway systems with J. P. Morgan, James J. Hill, and E. H. Harriman as defendants.
      Reports of atrocities in the US-occupied Philippines came to Roosevelt who ordered General Jacob Smith to be tried before a court martial. War Secretary Elihu Root complained that the Anti-Imperialist League published an inaccurate account of the war “severities.” Roosevelt asked Senator Lodge to defend Root in a speech, and on May 5 he described cruelties experienced by American prisoners of war in the Philippines. Democrats and the Republican Senator Hoar wanted complete Filipino independence, but they were outvoted. Roosevelt made a speech on the Philippines on May 30, but his comparing the cruelty to lynching was not well received especially in the South. Roosevelt sent Taft to the Vatican in June 1902, and the US bought 410,000 acres of the Catholic friars’ land in the Philippines for $7,543,000.
      President Roosevelt proclaimed victory on 4 July 1902, granting amnesty to all insurgents, but 120,000 American troops were still occupying the Philippines and suppressing resistance. The Americans had lost 4,234 soldiers dead, 2,818 wounded, and spent $600 million on the war. About 20,000 Filipino soldiers died in battle. American records showed a 15-to-1 ratio between the dead and wounded Filipinos, indicating that most of the wounded were probably left to die or were shot. At least 200,000 civilians died from disease, hunger, torture, or execution. About 90% of the water buffalos (caraboas) died or were slaughtered; this hampered planting and harvesting, and rice production went down to a quarter of what it had been.
      On June 13 Roosevelt asked Congress to approve reciprocal trade with an independent Cuba. He also wanted the National Reclamation Bill, and after its passage he signed it on June 17. Congress also passed the Panama canal project with the Spooner Amendment approving the purchase of the assets from the French effort for $40 million before they adjourned on July 1. On August 11 Roosevelt appointed the Massachusetts Supreme Court Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Homes Jr. to the US Supreme Court.
      Roosevelt while traveling in New England was injured in the face and a leg when a trolley car ran into the President’s carriage. His shin required two operations, and he used a wheelchair for some time.
      On September 30 Massachusetts Gov. Murray Crane asked Roosevelt to intervene to end a serious coal strike. He agreed to mediate, and meetings began in Washington in October. J. P. Morgan and the owners devised a 5-man commission of experts to make a ruling. After a labor man was added, they agreed on the plan. The Anthracite Coal Commission’s report was accepted in March 1903, and Roosevelt received much credit for this successful resolution on long-standing conflicts.
      In the 1902 elections the Democrats gained 25 seats in the US House of Representatives, and Republicans gained 6 and maintained a 206-176 advantage as well as a 57-32 majority in the US Senate. In his Second Annual Message which he sent to Congress on December 2 Roosevelt proposed creating a Secretary of Commerce. He supported the international tribunal at The Hague, and he was proud that the United States and Mexico were the first nations to make use of its good offices. During a conflict between the European allies Britain and Germany who were trying to collect debts from Venezuela, the US had sent 53 warships to the region. Roosevelt met with the German ambassador and gave him an ultimatum. Venezuela’s President Castro asked the United States to intercede. After some bombarding of Venezuelan forts at Puerto Cabello on December 19 by the British and Germans, they asked Roosevelt to arbitrate their claims against Venezuela.
      In 1903 Roosevelt began working on a new Commerce Department with a Bureau of Corporations for investigations, banning railway rebates for big corporations, and passing the Expedition Act to fund the Justice Department’s actions to break up large combinations that were illegal. In January an envoy from Columbia signed a treaty with the United States for a Panama Canal for $250,000. Also the US and Britain agreed on a treaty establishing the border between Canada and the US Territory of Alaska. Roosevelt defended a black woman who was a postmaster in Mississippi, and he appointed a black Assistant District Attorney in Boston. The US Department of Commerce and Labor was founded on February 14. Roosevelt advised Admiral Dewey not to talk arrogantly. In March he sent the Isthmian Canal Commission to Panama to make a report. He also began saving birds with reservations in Florida.
      In the spring Roosevelt traveled in the West and made speeches in 25 states. He camped in the Yellowstone National Park with John Burroughs who wrote John James Audubon. In Nebraska he urged people to plant more trees. He met with Grover Cleveland in St. Louis at the World’s Fair. The Grand Canyon impressed him, and he worked to protect its natural beauty. In California he became concerned about the big trees, and he predicted that California would make progress in the future with the Pacific. He returned to Washington DC on June 5. In his speeches he offered people a Square Deal. After a Russian pogrom in April killed about 120 Jews in Kishinev he acted to support Jewish concerns. He sent an open letter in August to Indiana’s Gov. Winfield T. Durbin condemning lynching. He learned there had already been 3,500 nationwide strikes in 1903. He promised a square deal to labor unions and to trusts. A financial panic in July caused J. P. Morgan’s United States Shipbuilding Company to become bankrupt. Roosevelt spoke on Labor Day in Syracuse. He noted that when there is a recession or strikes and violence, the poorest are the first to suffer.
      In August 1903 the Colombian Senate rejected the US treaty. Roosevelt learned that since 1846 there had been 53 insurrections, riots, and revolts in Panama. He believed that building the canal was morally justified, and he welcomed an uprising in Panama. He declined to send Federal troops to Colorado during a mining strike. During a US election on November 3 a nonviolent revolution occurred in Panama to establish its independence from Colombia. US ships and Marines were there to assist, and eventually the Colombian troops withdrew. On November 18 Bunau-Varilla representing the Republic of Panama signed a treaty with US Secretary of State John Hay in the White House. The US agreed to pay a $10 million indemnity and $250,000 annual rent to begin nine years after the opening date for a US monopoly on the Panama Canal Zone that was to be ten miles wide. Roosevelt reported a surplus of $54,297,667 for the fiscal year. He asked for better education in the Indian Territory and for more improvements for the Navy.
      William Howard Taft in December moved from being Governor-General of the Philippines to become the US Secretary of War in February 1904. On February 11 Roosevelt announced US neutrality toward the war between Russia and Japan. The US Senate ratified the Panama Canal Treaty 66 to 14. On March 14 the US Supreme Court decided on U.S. v. Northern Securities that the merger of the Great Northern and Northern Pacific railroads effectively and certainly suppressed free competition, though Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes issued a strong dissenting opinion. Roosevelt declined to annex the Dominican Republic. He put War Secretary Taft in charge of the Isthmian Canal Commission.
      Gunboat diplomacy helped free the wealthy Greek-American Ion Perdicaris and other hostages in Morocco, and the news coincided with the Republican National Convention in June that unanimously nominated Roosevelt for President and Indiana’s Senator Charles W. Fairbanks for Vice President. Democrats nominated Alton Brooks Parker, Chief Justice of the New York Court of Appeals. Roosevelt and Parker declined to make speeches during the campaign except one accepting the nomination, and each also wrote a letter. Lincoln Steffens urged Roosevelt to return corporate contributions and seek donations from the general public for his campaign, but Roosevelt said money would not influence him. His campaign received many large contributions, and he noted that they had less than half of what McKinley raised in 1900. Roosevelt won in 34 states with 336 electoral votes, and Parker had only 12 southern states with 140 electoral votes. In his 4th Annual Message on December 6 Roosevelt explained how he would enforce the Monroe Doctrine because international law was not yet established. He had reduced US troops in the Philippines to 28,000 men.
      President Roosevelt created many federal forest reserves, and in March 1905 he moved them into the Agriculture Department as the Forest Service. Ida Tarbell wrote her History of the Standard Oil Company. Bureau of Corporations director James Rudolph Garfield studied her documentary evidence and published a report, and Roosevelt sent it to Congress with a special message. Ray Stannard Baker had lunch with Roosevelt and began writing the six-part series “The Railroads on Trial.”
      In his Inaugural Address on 4 March 1905 Roosevelt called upon the republic to take on modern challenges for the welfare of mankind. He told Secretary of State John Hay that he would help negotiate a settlement of the war between Russia and Japan, and in April they began communicating by telegraph. After a major Japanese victory in late May, Russia’s Tsar Nicholas II agreed to negotiate on June 7. John Hay died on July 1, and Roosevelt made Elihu Root Secretary of State. Envoys and Roosevelt began negotiating directly in person at Portsmouth, New Hampshire on August 6. Roosevelt urged both sides to make concessions. Although Roosevelt respected Japan’s position, he warned the Japanese about being greedy for money and refusing to make concessions which could cost them more in another year of war. Japan accepted a compromise, and the treaty was signed and ratified by October 14.
      Ray Stannard Baker in November explained to Roosevelt that fixing the maximum rate was not unjust, but the trusts’ compelling railroads to give them rebates or lower rates than others was the worst problem. Roosevelt in his Fifth Annual Message to Congress on December 5 discussed commercial problems, labor conditions, corruption in elections, and he advocated the ethical Golden Rule. He discussed reforms that could be made by a Federal Bureau of Naturalization and the Reclamation Act. He recommended regulating food, drinks, and drugs.
      In January 1906 Roosevelt let the journalist Lincoln Steffens investigate the Federal government. Roosevelt agreed to preserve protective tariffs in order to get the Interstate Commerce Commission approved. Upton Sinclair’s novel The Jungle exposed the unsanitary conditions of the Chicago stock yards and the meat-packing industry, and Roosevelt called this kind of journalism “muckraking.” The Congress passed a Pure Food Bill in May. An Act for the Preservation of American Antiquities that became law on June 8 fulfilled some of Roosevelt requests for conservation and improvements.
      On August 13 some black soldiers shot up the town of Brownsville, Texas because of the discrimination they had experienced since being stationed there. All of the men in those black companies refused to talk about who was involved, and after much investigation Roosevelt decided to discharge them all and deny them re-enlistment. This became a great controversy, and in Atlanta a mob killed 20 blacks and wounded hundreds. Roosevelt said he would have treated whites the same way.
      In Cuba a protest against corrupt elections led to President Estrada Palma resigning on September 28, and War Secretary Taft eventually installed Charles Magoon as Cuba’s Provisional Governor. Roosevelt nominated William Moody of Massachusetts for the US Supreme Court, and it was announced on October 24 to gain more voters from that state. Democrats made gains in the US House, but the Republicans still controlled there and in the US Senate. Roosevelt visited the work on the Panama Canal from November 14 to 17 and made suggestions. In his Sixth Annual Message to Congress on December 3 he proposed prohibiting the corporations from making political contributions, and he strongly condemned racial hatred and lynching. He aimed to work for peace and equal rights. When he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, Roosevelt donated the prize money for a permanent Industrial Peace Committee in Washington. He appointed the first Jew to a US cabinet office when he made Oscar S. Straus the Secretary of Commerce and Labor.
      In January 1907 Roosevelt regained support from Wall Street by making a gentlemen’s agreement that tolerated the merger of the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company and other companies to form the International Harvester Company even though it controlled 85% of the reaping and harvesting market. Roosevelt was also concerned that San Francisco labor unions opposed Japanese immigration even though Japan contributed $100,000 in emergency aid after the earthquake there in April 1906. San Francisco segregated the Japanese in public schools. Japan promised to reduce emigration. Roosevelt asked for a new immigration act to naturalize the Japanese. He used executive orders to create many new forest reserves.
      On March 4 the Republican National Committee Chairman George Cortelyou became Treasury Secretary, and the former President’s son James R. Garfield was appointed Secretary of the Interior. When the New York Stock Exchange fell on March 14, Cortelyou deposited $12 million in gold from the US Treasury into New York banks to replenish their money supply. More anti-immigrant riots broke out in San Francisco in May, and on June 22 Secretary of War Taft gave Roosevelt his detailed plan for defending the Philippines, Hawaii, Guam, and the Pacific Coast. Japan was preparing for war by purchasing armored ships in Europe. Roosevelt said there would not be a war against Japan for a long time.
      On August 3 Standard Oil was convicted of getting illegal rebates on 1,462 carloads of oil, and Judge Landis fined them $20,000 for each carload for a total of $29,240,000. John D. Rockefeller was not worried, and in July 1908 the US Appeals Court Judge Grosscup negated the fine, criticized the 1,462 separate counts, and ordered a retrial. Roosevelt called it a “miscarriage of justice” and said judges had too much power. He promised to prosecute Standard Oil again.
      The forester Gifford Pinchot helped Roosevelt form the Inland Waterways Commission to improve and control rivers in the US, and they planned a great conference. Two bank magnates tried to corner the copper market in October by driving up prices; but their stock became depressed, and the failure of the Knickerbocker Trust Company that had financed their speculation caused a panic on October 18. Treasury Secretary Cortelyou and financier J. P. Morgan worked together to prevent bank failures. On October 28 New York City was about to default. Roosevelt approved their efforts, and prices recovered. On November 11 Roosevelt called for a national conservation conference at the White House in May 1908. In his 7th Annual Message on December 3 he asked Congress to approve the 8-hour day for more workers. He affirmed the value of waterways and the Biological Survey; he reported on the Panama Canal; and he proposed a national gallery of art. On December 11 Roosevelt announced he would not run for President again, and five days later the Great White Fleet left for its voyage around the Horn to the Pacific Ocean.
      In January 1908 the US Supreme Court ruled that applying the Employers’ Liability Act of 1906 to intrastate corporations was unconstitutional because it violated states’ rights. Roosevelt disagreed because workers should be protected. He asked Congress to revise the employers’ liability law to please the Supreme Court. Progressive Republicans and many moderate Democrats revised it, and they also passed the Workman’s Compensation Act for Federal employees and the Child Labor Act for the District of Columbia.
      On May 13-15 about 360 political, social, and scientific leaders met at the White House for the Conservation Conference that included only one woman. Roosevelt spoke first on “Conservation as a National Duty.” Governors declared that they would promote the forest and water policies. On June 8 Roosevelt proclaimed the forming of the National Conservation Commission and made Gifford Pinchot the chairman. During his presidency Roosevelt created or enlarged 150 National Forests, 51 bird reservations, and 18 national monuments.
      In June the Republican National Convention nominated William Howard Taft on the first ballot for President, and in July the Democrats nominated William Jennings Bryan for the third time. Roosevelt publicly criticized Democratic candidates that he considered corrupt or vulnerable, and he released information on Taft’s career and policies. Taft won the presidency with a majority of the popular votes and a 321-162 victory in the Electoral College. While the Great White Fleet was having a friendly visit with Japan in October, Secretary of State Root negotiated a treaty in Washington with the Japanese minister that respected China’s territory.
      In his last Annual Message to Congress on December 8 Roosevelt advised increasing the power of the federal government in order to control the abuses of corporations and to protect workers. He discussed many issues and made his recommendations. Congressmen accused him of using the secret service to investigate them, and they passed an amendment to restrict the service to protecting the President and investigating counterfeiting. On 4 January 1909 Roosevelt sent another Special Message to Congress criticizing their action and calling them a “criminal class.” The House of Representatives reacted by voting 212-35 to reject the President’s message.
      On January 22 he sent them another special message with the National Conservation Commission’s report, and he requested $50,000 for their expenses. Roosevelt hoped that in the future his administration would be known for its ideals. On February 22 he welcomed the return of the 28 ships in the Great White Fleet from their historic voyage around the world. During his presidency the Roosevelt Administration spent $900 million on the Navy that increased from 19,000 men to 44,500, and they added ten more battleships.

      Theodore Roosevelt was a very popular President. After taking over after McKinley’s death in September 1901 he was easily elected in 1904. If he had not respected Washington’s tradition of two terms in 1908, he surely would have been elected to a third term. Yet by 1912 he was much less popular, and his forming the progressive Bull Moose Party divided the Republicans and enabled the Democrats to elect the progressive Woodrow Wilson.
      This book focuses on the presidency itself. His promoting the Spanish-American War in 1898 is also outside his presidency and surely would reduce his ranking if considered.
      Theodore Roosevelt really liked being President, and he worked very hard to implement his ideals and policy goals. Yet he knew the value of taking time off to exercise by playing tennis or going hiking and bird-watching and even taking longer vacations when he went camping and sometimes hunting. He also spent much time in his life studying history and writing books. I believe these pursuits gave him a better perspective on politics and government. He had been a boxer at Harvard, and he was a fighter for his beliefs.
      Yet as President he did not start any war, and he worked hard to prevent wars from occurring. He won the Nobel Peace Prize for helping Russia and Japan end their war. He definitely built up the US Navy, and yet in comparison to recent history it appears miniscule. Both Britain and Germany had larger navies. He used warships to influence diplomacy so that very few if any were killed. Columbia wanted too much money to keep control over Panama while the Panamanians were ready for a nonviolent revolution that was aided by the presence of US ships and Marines. Roosevelt took the Monroe Doctrine very seriously, and he worked to protect the western hemisphere from outside interference, and his interpretation of the doctrine included his understanding and prophecy that international law needed to be developed in order to prevent or subdue any possible wars by international law enforcement.
      The military occupation of the Philippines was his worst failing because of the imperialism, colonialism, and militarism as well as the racist belief that such people were not ready for democracy. In fact they created a republic that the US suppressed during the McKinley era when the atrocities were the worst. Roosevelt could have withdrawn troops and let the Filipinos govern themselves. The case is especially absurd because of the great distance between the two nations.
      Roosevelt worked for justice especially for workers and the common people who were being exploited by the rich and powerful. He promised to give everyone a “square deal,” and his actions showed that he did not discriminate against the persecuted. He helped mediate a long strike by coal miners, and he used the power of the Federal government to prosecute rich capitalists who were violating anti-trust laws. He strongly condemned lynching and appointed and defended prominent black leaders. He helped the persecuted Jews of Russia, and he appointed the first Jewish cabinet officer. Roosevelt’s concern for the conservation of water, forests, birds, and other natural resources make him by far the President who did the most for the natural environment as can be seen from Douglas Brinkley’s extraordinary biography, The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America. Roosevelt’s contributions to the West were rewarded by his place on Mount Rushmore. During his seven and a half years as President the national debt increased by about $496 million. I rank Theodore Roosevelt #3.

US & Theodore Roosevelt 1901-09

William Howard Taft 1909-13

      William Howard Taft was born on 15 September 1857 in Cincinnati. His father Alphonso Taft was a Republican judge, and he served in the cabinet during President Grant’s last year. Will was a Unitarian and graduated from Yale. He became a prosecuting attorney and was Collector of Internal Revenue in Cincinnati for a year. In 1885 he campaigned for Joseph Foraker for Governor, and he made Taft an Ohio Superior Court judge. He ruled that a secondary boycott was illegal. He held a railroad company liable for a worker’s injuries. In 1890 President Benjamin Harrison made Taft the sixth US Solicitor General, and in two years he won 20 of 27 cases for the US. In Washington he became friends with Theodore Roosevelt. Taft was a Federal appeals judge in Cincinnati 1892-1900. During the Pullman strike in 1894 he ruled against the American Railway Union led by Eugene Debs. In 1898 he upheld the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.
      In January 1900 President McKinley made Taft the head of the Civil Commission in the Philippines. Taft spent $2,300 on books and visited Japan’s Emperor on the way to Manila. The US Army occupied the country under the Military Governor, General Arthur MacArthur, who granted amnesty. The Commission gained control of the funds and made taxes more fair, and Taft encouraged democracy. English was made the official language. On 4 July 1901 Taft became the first Civil Governor of the Philippines. Taft and his wife treated Filipinos as social equals, but many US soldiers did not. Taft promoted schools, health care, building roads, local governments, and land reform. Spanish judges were replaced by Americans and some Filipinos. There were about 500 American military posts in the Philippines in October. That month the independence leader Aguinaldo declared that the land of the Spanish friars was forfeited. After Taft testified to a Senate committee in January 1902 President Roosevelt sent him to make a treaty with Pope Leo XIII, and in November 1903 the US bought that land and appointed American and Filipino bishops. Taft refused to authorize a law-and-order party that was not subservient to the United States. In 1902 and 1903 disease and famine killed over 100,000 Filipinos. Roosevelt wanted to put Taft on the US Supreme Court, but after a protest by 8,000 Filipinos to keep Taft, the President changed his mind. Roosevelt persuaded Taft to become Secretary of War, and Taft left Manila in December 1903.
      Roosevelt put Taft in charge of building the Panama Canal. He worked closely with the President and with members of Congress. Elihu Root became Secretary of State in July, and the three worked together. Taft made speeches to help Roosevelt get elected President in 1904. He won easily, and Republicans gained 45 seats in the House of Representatives. While Roosevelt was away on a hunting trip in the spring of 1905, Taft handled a crisis involving Germans in Morocco. In April 1906 he sent aid to San Francisco after their devastating earthquake. Taft supported the sanitary officer who was trying to prevent yellow fever in Panama by stopping the spread of mosquitoes. In July he told Japan’s Premier Taro Katsura that Japan could take over Korea. He visited the Philippines, and he made a speech urging Filipinos to become self-governing. In December he went on a diet and reduced his weight from 321 pounds to 250 by the next summer.
      Taft’s effort reduced the tariff on imports from the Philippines in January 1906. He went to Havana in September during a rebellion, and he proclaimed himself the provisional governor of Cuba. Roosevelt sent 6,000 troops to provide “confidence.” Taft let Charles E. Magoon take over on October 13, and in their first elections in 1907 Cubans voted for independence. After Taft was elected US President in 1908, US troops withdrew from Cuba in January 1909.
      In September 1907 Taft visited Japan where he worked on immigration issues involving Hawaii and California. He agreed that Japanese should not be restricted more than Europeans. Taft went to the Philippines and returned on the Trans-Siberian Railway meeting Tsar Nicholas II. He caught the USS President Grant at Hamburg and returned to America to run for President on Roosevelt’s policies. Roosevelt held to his promise not to run for a third term, and his endorsement helped Taft get nominated easily in June. After getting a check from Andrew Carnegie for $20,000, Taft refused to take any money from a corporation or from anyone connected to one. His campaign raised about $1,600,000. Roosevelt had spent over $2,200,000 in 1904. Taft described reforms that he would make. He won the election in November but could not keep Roosevelt’s cabinet together. Most of Taft’s cabinet officers were lawyers. He inspected the Panama Canal project in January 1909, and he made speeches in the South in February.
      On March 4 Taft was inaugurated as President in the Senate Chamber because of a snow storm, and he gave the second longest inaugural address in US history. He summoned Congress for a special session on March 15 to work on revising tariffs and reducing a large Federal deficit from the financial panic in 1907. Roosevelt left to go hunting in Africa and would not be back until June 1910. Taft had supported Roosevelt who was no longer there for Taft. He wanted a tariff to help the entire country including the South, but the US Senate removed cuts and increased many items. Taft in June asked for a 2% tax on the net incomes of all corporations except banks. He persuaded Congress to stay and complete a compromise tariff containing the corporate tax that he signed on 5 August 1909.
      A conflict arose between Roosevelt’s friend Gifford Pinchot, who ran the Forestry Service, and the Interior Secretary Richard Ballinger who was accused of corruption in a coal case by the Interior Field director Louis Galvis. Taft found little evidence against Ballinger, and he left on a nation-wide speaking tour on September 13. Taft wrote speeches on various issues for different towns. Journalists publicized a comment he made that the tariff was the best Republican bill ever. This would help Democrats in future elections. Taft met with Mexico’s President Porfirio Diaz at El Paso, Texas and in Juarez, Mexico. By 1910 Americans owned 43% of Mexico’s property. Taft warned against “pork barrel” spending on waterways. On that tour he gave 259 speeches.
      After Nicaragua executed two Americans in November 1909 for fighting with rebels, Taft sent warships there and broke off diplomatic relations. When the rebel leader Juan Estrada became president in August 1910, Taft supported his conservative government by sending Marines that began the US occupation of Nicaragua.
      In November 1909 the US Supreme Court ordered Standard Oil of New Jersey to divest their subsidiaries within 30 days. The US Government managed to prevent the Rockefeller Foundation from forming a national corporation with $100 million. Taft asked the Congress to raise the low postal rate on second-class mail that had benefited periodicals. Later he realized that caused a political disaster.
      In January 1910 Taft signed the Mann-Elkins Act that gave the Interstate Commerce Commission more authority to regulate railway rates for communications. Rep. George Norris of Nebraska agreed and urged Taft to make more reforms. Interior Secretary Ballinger and Taft believed that waterways were needed for water power, and they ordered many removed from the protection of the Forestry Service. Taft believed that Roosevelt and Pinchot were sympathetic to socialism. Secretary of State Root persuaded Taft to dismiss Pinchot even though Roosevelt said that Pinchot as Forestry Service Chief had done more than anyone to preserve natural resources. Congress passed legislation that gave the President authority to protect public land from private development.
      On June 25 Taft signed a bill that created postal savings banks which had been proved popular in many countries. The 1909 deficit of $89 million was reduced to about $18 million in 1910. Congress approved $20 million for irrigation projects, and Taft gave up his opposition to “pork barrel” spending. His foreign policy to help capitalists was called “dollar diplomacy.”
      Taft appointed his 65-year-old friend, the Federal Appeals Court Judge Lurton to the US Supreme Court, because he respected him so much. Then he named New York’s Gov. Charles Evans Hughes in October. He promoted Justice Edward D. White to Chief Justice even though he was a Democrat. Taft appointed the conservative Willis Van Devanter who would serve from 1911 to 1937.
      Taft became the honorary president of the American Society for the Judicial Settlement of International Disputes, and he spoke on the futility of war. Congress approved a peace commission, but only Austria-Hungary and Britain responded favorably. Taft warned that without arbitration there would be war. Andrew Carnegie provided $10 million for a Carnegie Peace Fund to support Taft’s views.
      After hunting in Africa and visiting European monarchs, Roosevelt returned to the United States in June 1910. Taft disagreed with Roosevelt’s New Nationalism and his support of “insurgent” Republican Senators such as La Follette, Payne, Aldrich, and Lodge who were opposing Taft. In the November election Democrats gained 55 seats in the House of Representatives to give them a 227-161 advantage. Republicans lost 9 seats in the Senate and still had a 50-40 majority, but progressives opposed conservatives.
      In his Second Annual Message to Congress on December 6 Taft reported how arbitration had helped solve disputes. He thanked Congress for providing a peace commission. He reported progress on the Panama Canal and urged fortification. He complained that anti-trust laws were not enforced. He discussed various reforms, and he asked that more western forest lands be reserved.
      In January 1911 the United States and Canada passed laws for reciprocal trading on agricultural products. Robert La Follette organized the National Progressive League to work for the direct election of US senators, primary elections for candidates and delegates to national conventions, and amendments to state constitutions to allow initiative, referendum, and recall.
      Talk in Congress of taking over British North America alarmed Canadians, though Taft called annexation a joke. Interior Secretary Ballinger resigned, and Taft’s choice of Walter Fisher pleased the conservationists.
      In May the US Supreme Court ordered the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey to divest its subsidiaries, and they condemned the American Tobacco Company and 28 other companies.
      In June the US made a treaty with Nicaragua that allowed the US President to approve the receiver general of customs. When a revolution broke out, the US sent Marines again.
      Taft appointed a Commission on Efficiency and Economy, and he ordered his cabinet officers to provide information. Taft asked for $250,000 for the Commission, but Congress granted them only $75,000. Taft aimed to expand the merit system to reduce patronage. He signed the reciprocity bill on July 26.
      On August 4 British and French diplomats agreed on an Arbitration Treaty with the United States, but Taft said that US Senate amendments ruined the bill. In 1911 he reduced US military spending by $53 million. Taft said that any trust violating the law would be prosecuted. He vetoed tariff reductions on wool, cotton, chemicals, metals, and other products.
      President Taft went on a speaking tour to the West from September 15 for two months. He said they could establish international peace by avoiding entangling alliances. As his administration brought anti-trust suits against rich corporations, he criticized Roosevelt for having approved the acquisition of the Tennessee Coal and Iron Company. Taft said that his administration had brought more anti-trust cases in three years than Roosevelt had in seven and a half years. Yet polls showed that more Republican voters favored Roosevelt. Taft agreed to loan money to Peru in exchange for a coaling station, and Peru bought two submarines built in the US. Taft said that the US spent $400 million to construct the Panama Canal and had the right to charge tolls. He sent 20,000 troops to the border during a rebellion in Mexico. The revolution made Madero president in November.
      Taft’s Third Annual Message to Congress on December 5 was 66 pages in four parts giving detailed reports on his administration. They discussed anti-trust issues, foreign relations and arbitration treaties, tariffs, and budget concerns. Taft abrogated the Treaty of Commerce with Russia because of their persecution of Jews.
      In the Philippine Islands the US forces defeated 800 Moros in December.
      In February 1912 Taft directed his State Department to study food prices in the world, though he believed that the US was more prosperous than ever.
      President Taft faced a challenge from his long-time friend Theodore Roosevelt, and he wanted to avoid personal abuse. Funds were going to Roosevelt, and on February 21 in his “Charter of Democracy” speech Roosevelt announced his candidacy for President. Taft had 274 delegates by the end of March.
      When the US Senate amended the arbitration treaties with Britain and France, that meant they had to be negotiated again. Taft in April 1912 appointed Julia Lathrop to run the Children’s Bureau making her the first woman to become a bureau chief. His administration brought an antitrust case against International Harvester and its director George W. Perkins who was a Roosevelt supporter. Taft in Ohio talked about how he helped workers. Elihu Root and Henry Cabot Lodge persuaded Taft to sign an increase in pensions for veterans. Taft made speeches to counter how Roosevelt misrepresented his record, and his campaign had difficulty raising money. Roosevelt spent $338,000 before the Republican convention at Chicago. This was the first year of states having primary elections, and Roosevelt won 9 of the 13 that gave him 278 delegates to Taft’s 48 from primaries.
      The Republican National Committee that had been elected in 1908 controlled the convention. They were for Roosevelt then, but now they were for President Taft. Elihu Root was elected chairman of the convention, and his speech praised Taft and criticized Roosevelt. The Credentials Committee favored Taft, and they awarded 235 contested delegates to him and only 19 to Roosevelt. Warren G. Harding nominated Taft for President. He was nominated with 561 votes to Roosevelt’s 107; 344 delectates refused to vote because they believed that Roosevelt was cheated.
      Roosevelt implied the convention was stolen, and he declared he would run as a third-party candidate for the Bull Moose Party. The Democrats were for progressive ideas and nominated New Jersey’s Gov. Woodrow Wilson. Taft decided to make no speeches except his acceptance speech.
      Taft was the first President to submit a detailed budget to Congress. He believed that he had signed valuable legislation, not interfered with business, kept the peace, and enabled people to pursue their occupations. In the 1912 election over a million women voted in nine western states. Taft said that states should decide on women voting. Yet he realized that the least government is not always the best government because government has a duty to protect weaker classes.
      Taft learned in September that Santo Domingo was violating its treaty, and he broke off diplomatic relations and sent marines and warships.
      In the election the Democrat Wilson won 40 states with 435 electoral votes while Roosevelt had 6 states with 88 electoral votes. Taft won in Vermont and Utah and got only 8 electoral votes. Roosevelt and Taft together had over half the popular votes, and they both conceded. Taft felt greatly relieved. He always believed in doing what he thought was best even if it meant he would not be re-elected. He suggested allowing each president only one six-year term. In his last Annual Message to Congress on December 3 he was grateful for the arbitrations in Central and South America, and he reported on the prosperous agriculture in the US. He asked the state governors to give more financial aid to farmers who had to pay higher interest rates on loans.
      The US Congress had approved the 16th Amendment to the US Constitution for a Federal income tax in 1909, and it was finally ratified on 3 February 1913.
      Taft taught constitutional and governmental law at Yale for several years. In October 1921 President Harding made him the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, a position he had always wanted more than the presidency, and he served until the month before his death in March 1930.

      William Howard Taft had an impressive career of public service that prepared him to be President. After his four years he became a law professor at Yale and then was Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court 1921-30. This book focuses on the presidency, and the evaluation is based only on what he did in those four years.
      After Taft had loyally supported the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt, in March 1909 Roosevelt went big-game hunting in Africa. After he came back in June 1910, Roosevelt remained aloof from Taft and became more critical. Taft diligently worked to continue the policies of his friend and predecessor, but he also made his own decisions that occasionally veered away from Roosevelt’s views.
      Taft faced an increased Federal deficit from the financial panic of 1907, and his first major task was to revise tariffs in order to increase federal revenues and balance the budget. He also proposed a 2% tax on the incomes of corporations which controlled much wealth. Taft supported Roosevelt’s great contributions to conservation of natural resources; but Taft also saw the need to use waterways to generate electric power. This led to a conflict that removed Roosevelt’s friend Gifford Pinchot from the Forestry Service. Taft went on a tour to the West and made 259 speeches on many different issues. He did not have the intensity and charisma of Roosevelt, but Taft had a good sense of humor and a pleasing personality that enhanced communication. When he was Roosevelt’s Secretary of War, he had been that administration’s main link to Congress. His using a superlative to describe the revised tariff bill backfired when the press exposed the exaggeration.
      Taft was more peace-oriented than Roosevelt, though he occasionally sent forces to Latin America to back up his “dollar diplomacy” that led to military occupations in Mexico and Nicaragua. He believed in making arbitration treaties to prevent wars, and Roosevelt disagreed on that. Roosevelt had pioneered trust-busting to break up monopolies and overgrown corporations, and Taft continued this by bringing more suits than Roosevelt had done in seven and half years. Taft signed the Mann-Elkins Act that gave the Interstate Commerce Commission more power.
      As Roosevelt was becoming more progressive, Taft remained conservative on many things. Taft opposed socialism, though he realized that new conditions required new policies. He came to understand that the smallest government was not necessarily best in an era when economic inequality was increasing. Taft was less ambitious than Roosevelt who broke his promise not to run for a third term to challenge his friend. Taft was conscientious about making the best decisions regardless of political consequences for re-election.
      Taft let the Congress spread irrigation projects around even if it meant “pork barrel” spending because it fostered prosperity. He promoted reciprocity in trade; but after Democrats took over the House of Representatives in 1911, they blocked many programs. The Republicans were also split between conservatives and progressives, mirroring the conflict between Taft and Roosevelt.
      Taft went on another long speaking tour in 1911. The year 1912 was a difficult one for Taft. Roosevelt did very well in the new primary elections; but the conservative Republicans on the National Committee since 1908 made sure that Taft got the party’s nomination again. Even if Roosevelt had not started a third party, the Democrat Woodrow Wilson still probably would have won. Taft took the conservative position that states should decide if women were to vote. Taft was a good man, but he remained a little too conservative for the times. Yet he kept the peace. During his four years the national debt was increased by about $277 million. I rank William Howard Taft #15.

United States & Taft 1909-13


1. Great Issues in American History From Reconstruction to the Present Day, 1864-1969 ed. Richard Hofstadter, p. 21-22.
2. Grant by Jean Edward Smith, p. 422.
3. Andrew Johnson: A Profile (1969), “Johnson and the Negro,” by Lawanda Cox and John H. Cox, p. 141.
4. Black Reconstruction in America 1860-1880 by W. E. B. Du Bois, p. 261.
5. Messages and Papers of the Presidents 1789-1908 ed. James D. Richardson, Volume 6, 358, 360.
6. Ibid., Volume 7, p. 7, 8.

Copyright © 2022 by Sanderson Beck

Evaluating US Presidents Volume 2: Andrew Johnson to Taft 1865-1913 has been published as a book. For ordering information, please click here.
United States & Capitalism 1869-1897 has been published as a book. For ordering information, please click here.

Evaluating US Presidents Volume 1: Washington to Lincoln 1789-1865
United States & Civil War 1845-1868

US Reconstruction & Johnson 1865-66
US Reconstruction & Johnson 1867-68
US Reconstruction & Grant 1869-72
Grant & United States Depression 1873-77
United States & Hayes 1877-81
United States, Garfield & Arthur 1881-85
United States & Cleveland 1885-89
United States & Harrison 1889-93
US Depression & Cleveland 1893-97
US Capitalists & Socialists 1869-97
US Labor Unions & Railroads 1869-97
Edison, Bell & Inventions 1869-97
US Women Reformers 1869-97
American Philosophy & Religion 1869-97
American Education 1869-97
American Literature 1869-97
US Summary & Evaluation 1869-1897
United States & Capitalism 1869-1897 Bibliography
United States & McKinley’s War 1897-1901
US & Theodore Roosevelt 1901-09
United States & Taft 1909-13
Evaluating US Presidents Summary & Evaluation 1865-1913
Evaluating US Presidents 1865-1913 Bibliography

World Chronology
Chronology of America

BECK index