October 14, 2014

to whom it may concern

When Harding got elected, he intimated to Taft that if a spot on the Supreme Court came open, he would give it to him. I can't imagine the effect this would have had on him — in his mid-60s, after a lifetime of dizzying ups and downs, hearing that his dream may finally come true.

When the chief justice chair did open up, Taft did his best to keep his composure. His friends were more than willing to lobby on his behalf, but he sent them pretty detailed and fervent instructions about how to do so.

He was worried that his age (63) might be a hindrance. But, he wrote to his friend Gus Karger, in what is the either the sweetest or most desperate cover letter ever written: "I have had federal judicial experience, too. I. Three years on the state bench. 2. Two years solicitor general, U.S. 3. Eight years presiding judge, U.S. Circuit. 4. Four years Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit. 5. Four years secretary of war. 6. Four years president. 7. Eight years Kent professor, Yale University, five hours a week Federal Constitutional Law except one year Chairman National War Labor Board and one year arbitrator in case between Canadian government and Grand Trunk Railway. That would seem to indicate pretty continuous service in the line of judicial and other duties preparing one for service on the Supreme Court."

Oh Taft, you darling man.

He was an incredibly modest and good-hearted man, which is what I think allowed him to bounce back from a failed presidency so easily. Because he had never had a huge ego, there wasn't much of one to deflate. His presidency, the unhappiest time of his life, soon enough faded to an item on a long list of accomplishments.

He was named chief justice in June 1921, served tirelessly until February 1930, and died one month later.

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