William Howard Taft's Cabinet Members

Instructor: Mary Ruth Sanders Bracy

Mary Ruth teaches college history and has a PhD.

In this lesson we will learn about President Taft's cabinet members. Taft was a conservative Republican, and he mostly surrounded himself with the same.

President Taft's Cabinet

Who should a president surround himself with? Politicians? Lawyers? Businessmen? Professors? Ambassadors? For President Taft, the answer was ''all of the above.'' This lesson will look at the details of President Taft's closest advisers— his cabinet members.

President Taft

Vice President

Taft's Vice President was James S. Sherman. Originally from New York, Sherman had been a long-time member of the House of Representatives. He was selected as Taft's running mate because he would balance the ticket (Taft was from Ohio), but the two did not get along. In fact, at the beginning of his presidency, when Taft asked Sherman to handle the troublesome speaker of the house, Sherman replied ''You will have to act on your own account. I am to be Vice President and acting as a messenger boy is not part of the duties of Vice President.'' However, Taft and Sherman grew closer throughout the course of Taft's presidency, and the two men became friends. Sherman had a kidney disease, and died two weeks before the presidential election of 1912. Taft attempted to replace him on the ticket, but it was too late, and Sherman became the only dead man to run for vice president.

Secretary of State

Philander C. Knox was Taft's Secretary of State. Knox reorganized the Department of State into regional divisions, and pursued civil service reform of the diplomatic corps, using the merit system instead of the spoils system to ensure expertise in the department. Knox was also the architect of Dollar Diplomacy, which used trade to further American interests abroad. He served in the Senate both before and after his appointment as Secretary of State.

Secretary of the Treasury

Franklin MacVeagh had almost no banking experience when Taft appointed him as Secretary of the Treasury, and he was not able to deal with some of the major economic problems of the time, especially currency reform. He did bring efficiency to the Treasury Department, including reorganizing its offices and increasing security. He also oversaw the creation and initial distribution of the buffalo nickel, which was only the second coin to feature a Native American.

A 1913 Buffalo Nickel
1913 Buffalo Nickel

Secretary of War

Taft had two separate Secretaries of War during his term in office (which did not see any major wars). The first was Jacob M. Dickinson, who served from 1909-1911. Dickinson was an interesting choice, because he was a Democrat and Taft was a committed Republican. Dickinson was a Progressive and focused on social issues in the military (like combating alcoholism among soldiers).

Taft's second Secretary of War was Henry L. Stimson (1911-1913). Stimson was a virtual unknown at the time, but would serve as Secretary of War again during President Franklin Roosevelt's administration, and was the architect of the U.S. atomic weapons program.

Attorney General

President Taft appointed George W. Wickersham as Attorney General. Wickersham was a prominent lawyer in New York City who worked with the President's brother. Wickersham was conservative, fighting against railroad regulations and working to break up trusts. After his time as Attorney General, he served on the War Trade Board and on the National Commission on Law Observance and Enforcement.

Postmaster General

President Taft's Postmaster General, Frank H. Hitchcock, oversaw a lot of changes in the U.S. Postal Service. Perhaps his most important achievement was authorizing the first airmail service. In 1911, mail was delivered by airplane in the United States for the first time. He also authorized local postmasters to deliver letters to Santa Claus.

Secretary of the Navy

George von L. Meyer was President Taft's Secretary of the Navy. Before Taft appointed him, he had been a member of the Massachusetts House of Representatives and an Ambassador to Italy and Russia. He reformed the Navy by overhauling the American fleet, and also worked to improve efficiency on naval yards. He also oversaw the beginnings of the use of aircraft in the Navy.

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