The Life and Times of William Howard Taft: A Biography - Vol. 1

By Henry F. Pringle | Go to book overview

CHAPTER X
THE WORLD OUTSIDE

PERHAPS," Taft wrote in January, 1900, "it is the comfort and dignity and power without worry I like."1

Undoubtedly they were among the attractions of the bench, but the fascination of judicial life was even more important to him. By 1896 Taft was confident that he would remain a judge for the rest of his life. If he was elevated to the United States Supreme Court, so much the better--and he had reasons for optimism. No other jurist in the country was contributing so much to judicial thought as was William Howard Taft between 1894 and 1898. Had he been an older man, his appointment to the highest bench would have been certain. His relative youth meant merely that he would be forced to wait. Taft was constantly being encouraged in his ambition. When Associate Justice H. E. Jackson died in August, 1895, his widow addressed a letter to President Cleveland. Her husband, she told the President, had remarked that Circuit judge Taft was best qualified to take his place.2

In March, 1896--as the Cleveland administration was ending-- Taft went to Washington for a few days and again was encouraged by the widespread belief that he would soon be on the Supreme Court. "Almost every person I met spoke of my coming there as a certainty," he reported to Mrs. Taft. "I only allude to what is said to me on this subject to indicate the friendly feeling at Washington for me and the expectation would suggest my name to any president who was not prejudiced against me. . . . Most of the supreme judges [sic] seem to regard it as very probable."3

These were years of contentment. Taft was happy in his work, happy with his wife and children. "How does the ball dress come on?" he asked Nellie, from Grand Rapids where he was holding court. "I look forward with much pleasure to see you

____________________
1
Taft to H. W. and Horace D. Taft, Jan. 28, 1900.
2
Mrs. H. E. Jackson to Cleveland, Aug. 10, 1895; copy to Taft.
3
Taft to Helen H. Taft, March 25, 1896.

-148-

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