1909 Payne-Aldrich Tariff Act:
President William Howard Taft called Congress into special session to enact tariff-reform legislation, resulting in the Payne-Aldrich Tariff Act.  It lowered the overall tariff rate by only five percent (to 41%) and raised rates on crucial resources like coal and iron ore.  Although not as substantial as Taft had hoped, it was the first successful attempt at tariff reform in 15 years.  The law also included the president’s suggestion of a tariff commission to study rates and recommend further changes. 


Ballinger-Pinchot Controversy:
Gifford Pinchot, chief of the U.S. Forest Service, accused Interior Secretary Richard Ballinger of colluding with coal companies to plunder federal reserves in Alaska.  President Taft fired Pinchot for insubordination, angering many progressive Republicans who considered it an assault on the environmental conservation legacy of Theodore Roosevelt, Taft’s predecessor.  Ballinger was exonerated by a congressional committee, but resigned in March 1911, citing health reasons.

Mann-Elkins Act:
Sponsored by Republican James Mann of Illinois and Republican Senator Stephen Elkins of West Virginia, the law strengthened the authority of the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC) to set maximum rates charged by railroads.  It also prohibited higher rates for short hauls, and placed telegraph and telephone companies under ICC regulations. 

Mann Act:
Sponsored by Republican James Mann of Illinois, the federal statute banned and imposed heavy penalties on the transportation of women across state lines for immoral purposes (e.g., prostitution). 

Marines in Nicaragua:
In October 1909, a rebellion arose against Nicaraguan dictator Jose Santos Zelaya.  When two Americans were executed for aiding the rebels, President Taft severed diplomatic relations with Nicaragua and sent in the U.S. Marines.  A new government, which was friendlier to American interests in the country, took power in August 1910.

Mid-Term Elections:
Democrats won control of the U.S. House for the first time since the election of 1894, and elected six governors, including Woodrow Wilson of New Jersey.  Progressive Republicans also did better than their conservative GOP counterparts.


Antitrust Cases:
The Taft administration brought lawsuits against the Standard Oil Company and the American Tobacco Company for allegedly violating the Sherman Antitrust Act.  In May, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld lower court orders for the breakup of both corporations.


Marines in Nicaragua:
In May 1911, another revolt in Nicaragua placed Adolfo Diaz in power.  The country’s economic chaos and military fighting escalated, prompting President Taft to send in the U.S. Marines in August 1912 to support the government.

Republican National Convention:
Meeting at the Chicago Coliseum on June 18-22, the raucous event ended with the party divided into two factions.  The Credentials Committee awarded 235 of 254 contested delegates to President Taft, infuriating challenger Theodore Roosevelt and his supporters.  Most of the former president’s credentialed delegates refused to participate in the rest of the convention, allowing Taft to win renomination by a large margin, with 561 votes to 107 for Roosevelt and 41 for Senator Robert La Follette of Wisconsin.  Vice President James Sherman was renominated.  Roosevelt announced his plan to form a third party.

Democratic National Convention:
Meeting in Baltimore on June 25-July 2, the closely contested presidential nomination finally went to Governor Woodrow Wilson of New Jersey on the 46th ballot.  He defeated Speaker of the House Champ Clark of Missouri, the former frontrunner, Congressman Oscar Underwood of Alabama, and Governor Judson Harmon of Ohio.  Wilson’s victory was helped by William Jennings Bryan’s endorsement on the 14th ballot and secured by negotiations between Wilson’s managers and various state party bosses.  One of the deals resulted in the nomination of Governor Thomas R. Marshall of Indiana for vice president.

Progressive National Convention:
Meeting at Chicago’s Orchestra Hall on August 5-7, the Progressive Party chose Theodore Roosevelt as its presidential nominee and Governor Hiram Johnson of California as its vice-presidential nominee.  In giving a seconding speech for Roosevelt’s nomination, social reformer Jane Addams became the first woman to address a major party convention.  Roosevelt broke tradition by delivering his acceptance speech at the convention.  He called for sweeping political, judicial, economic, and social reforms, and ended by declaring, “We stand at Armageddon, and we battle for the Lord.”

Election Results:
On November 5, 1912, Woodrow Wilson became the first Democrat elected president in 20 years.  He received a large majority of Electoral College votes, 435 to Roosevelt’s 88 and Taft’s 8.  However, he only won a plurality of the popular vote, 42% to Roosevelt’s 27%, Taft’s 23%, and Socialist Eugene Deb’s 6%.  The Democrats remained the majority party in the U.S. House, with 291 seats to 127 for Republicans and 14 for Progressives, and gained control of the U.S. Senate, with 51 Democrats to 44 Republicans and 1 Progressive. 

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