||This article needs additional citations for verification. (November 2007)|
|31st United States Secretary of War|
March 8, 1876 – May 22, 1876
|President||Ulysses S. Grant|
|Preceded by||William W. Belknap|
|Succeeded by||J. Donald Cameron|
|34th United States Attorney General|
May 22, 1876 – March 4, 1877
|President||Ulysses S. Grant|
|Preceded by||Edwards Pierrepont|
|Succeeded by||Charles Devens|
November 5, 1810|
Townshend, Vermont, U.S.
|Died||May 21, 1891
San Diego, California, U.S.
Louise Taft (1827-1907)
|Children||Charles Phelps Taft (1843-1929)
Peter Rawson Taft, II (1846-1889)
William Howard Taft (1857-1930)
Henry Waters Taft (1859-1945)
Horace Dutton Taft (1861-1943)
Frances Louis "Fanny" Taft (1865-1950)
|Alma mater||Yale University|
|Profession||Lawyer, Tutor, Politician|
Alphonso Taft (November 5, 1810 – May 21, 1891) was the Attorney General and Secretary of War under President Ulysses S. Grant and the founder of an American political dynasty. He was the father of U.S. President William Howard Taft.
Born in Townshend, Vermont, the son of Peter Rawson Taft of the powerful Taft family, he graduated from Yale College in 1833, where he also was a tutor 1835-37. At Yale, he and his classmate William Huntington Russell cofounded Skull and Bones, the preeminent senior society. He subsequently studied law at the Yale Law School, was admitted to the Connecticut bar in 1838, moved to Cincinnati in 1839 where he was a member of the Cincinnati City Council, and became one of the most influential citizens of Ohio. He was a member of the boards of trustees of the University of Cincinnati and of Yale College.
He was a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1856, and also that year made an unsuccessful run for the United States House of Representatives against George H. Pendleton. He was a judge of the Superior Court of Cincinnati from 1866 to 1872 when he resigned to practise law with two of his sons. He was the first president of the Cincinnati Bar Association, serving in 1872. At a famous 1874 Taft family reunion at Elmshade, at Uxbridge, Mass., Alphonso delivered an impassioned speech on his family history and his father's origins in this community, as recorded in his biography.
After he left office as Attorney General in 1877 he returned to the practice of law. He was again an unsuccessful candidate for Governor of Ohio in 1879, this time against Charles Foster. Taft was ambassador to Austria-Hungary from 1882 to 1884, and to Imperial Russia from 1884 to 1885.
Board of Education of Cincinnati vs. Minor
In 1870 court case Board of Education of Cincinnati vs. Minor, Taft played a role in overturning the decision made by the Superior Court of Cincinnati in 1869 regarding the reading the Bible in public schools. Taft asserted that the school board had overstepped their boundaries in their decision to continue the reading of the Bible in public schools. Taft’s discourse made at the Ohio Supreme Court challenged the previous ruling, arguing that according to the United States Constitution, Protestants did not have the right to control religion in the public education sphere. In his discourse, Taft specifically referenced Jewish groups opposed to the reading of the Bible in public schools. As tax payers Taft argued that Jews also had the right to take advantage of a public secular education. In addition, religion was a matter of the home and protected by the Bill of Rights. To suggest that the Bill of Rights only reflects Protestant values was inappropriate, according to Taft, as religious liberty was give to all religious denominations and Christianity “is not to be regarded as sectarian under our constitution.” 
Many believe that his opinion was the cause of much opposition to him, and contributed to his 1875 loss of the Republican nomination for Governor of Ohio to Rutherford B. Hayes. However, the opinion that defeated his nomination was unanimously affirmed by the Supreme Court of Ohio.
The independence of his opinion commanded widespread respect, a sentiment freely expressed when President Grant in March 1876 made him Secretary of War and three months later Attorney General of the United States.
Alphonso was married twice. His first wife was the daughter of Judge Charles Phelps, of Townshend, Vermont, Fanny, whom he married in 1841 and with whom he had five children, three of whom died in infancy. She died in 1851. On December 26, 1853, he married again to Louisa Maria (née Torrey), the daughter of Samuel Davenport Torrey, of Millbury, Massachusetts. They also had five children, one of whom died in infancy.
Alphonso and his family were members of Cincinnati's First Congregational-Unitarian Church; he served as one of the congregation's trustees for many years, and was for a time the chairman of the board of trustees. Although government business kept him out of town and thus frequently away from the church in his later years, he remained in contact with the church's minister on the occasions that he was able to return to Cincinnati.
His son, William Howard Taft, was the 27th President of the United States and was a member of Yale's Skull and Bones like his founder father; another son, Charles Phelps Taft, supported the founding of Wolf's Head Society at Yale; both his grandson and great-grandson, Robert A. Taft I (also Skull and Bones) and Robert Taft Jr., were U.S. Senators; his great-great-grandson, Robert A. Taft II, was the Governor of Ohio from 1999 until 2007. William Howard Taft III was ambassador to Ireland; William Howard Taft IV worked in several Republican administrations, most recently that of George W. Bush.
The home of Alphonso Taft and family, in Mount Auburn, one mile north of downtown Cincinnati, has been restored to its original appearance. It is open to the public. It is now called the William Howard Taft National Historic Site.
||Constructs such as ibid., loc. cit. and idem are discouraged by Wikipedia's style guide for footnotes, as they are easily broken. Please improve this article by replacing them with named references (quick guide), or an abbreviated title. (February 2013)|
- *"Bonesmen 1833-1899". Fleshing Out Skull and Bones.
- Religion and the Law in America: An Encyclopedia of Personal Belief and Public Policy. Vol. 1. (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2007), 149.
- Wilson, James Grant; Fiske, John, eds. (1889). "Taft, Alphonso". Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton.
- Leonard, Lewis Alexander (1920). The Life of Alphonso Taft. New York, NY: Hawke Publishing Co. Retrieved 2007-11-25.
- "FORMER U.S. AMBASSADORS TO AUSTRIA". U.S. Embassy in Vienna. Retrieved 2008-12-31.[dead link]
- Mark A. Noll, A Documentary History of Religion in America since 1877, 3 ed. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003), 49.
- Mark A. Noll, A Documentary History of Religion in America since 1877, 3 ed. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003), 52.
- Mark A. Noll, A Documentary History of Religion in America since 1877, 3 ed. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003), 51.
- Ancestry of William Howard Taft, Library of Congress (Archive.org)
- "Taft Once Unitarian Fairy", The New York Times 1908-08-04, A3.
- "William Howard Taft - National Historic Site". National Park Service. February 23, 2010. Archived from the original on 8 February 2010. Retrieved February 2010.
- "Alphonso Taft". Secretaries of War and Secretaries of the Army. United States Army Center of Military History. 1992. CMH Pub 70-12.
|Offices and distinctions|