Taft, Robert A. (1889–1953)

Author:Dennis J. Mahoney

Page 2633

Senator Robert Alphonso Taft, the son of President and Chief Justice WILLIAM HOWARD TAFT, was a leader of Republican opposition to the NEW DEAL policies of FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT. A graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law School, Taft served in the Ohio legislature from 1921 to 1933. His public crusade against the Roosevelt revolution began in 1935; in 1938 he was elected to the United States SENATE, sworn to do battle against "the mistaken belief that government can remove all poverty, redistribute all wealth, and bestow happiness on every citizen."

An advocate of STRICT CONSTRUCTION of constitutional provisions that confer power on government, Taft severely criticized Roosevelt's appointees to the Supreme Court for acting as if "constitutional principles are weak as water" by abdicating their duty to keep the government within the limits set by the Constitution. He strongly urged that Congress become the locus of responsible CONSTITUTIONALISM, and he opposed, both in peacetime and wartime, DELEGATIONS OF POWER to the executive branch.

Taft continued to oppose expansion of the executive power after HARRY S. TRUMAN became President. During the STEEL SEIZURE CONTROVERSY Taft argued that if the President could increase his own powers by simply declaring a national emergency the Constitution would become a dead letter. Taft used his position as chairman of the Senate Labor Committee to sponsor a comprehensive reform of federal labor law, now known as the TAFT-HARTLEY ACT.

After a decade and a half of being "Mr. Republican," Taft felt entitled to his party's presidential nomination in 1952. However, the nomination, and election to the presidency, went to General DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, hero of WORLD WAR II...

To continue reading