William Howard Taft

Letter to Chief of the United States Forest Service Gifford Pinchot Notifying Him of His Dismissal from Office

January 07, 1910

Washington, January 7, 1910.

SIR: The Secretary of Agriculture informs me that on the 28th of December your associate forester, Mr. Price, went to him and proposed to resign on the ground that he had been engaged with Mr. Shaw, assistant law officer, in instigating the publication in various newspapers and magazines attacking the good name of Secretary Ballinger and charging the Interior Department and the Land Office with corruption. The Secretary thereupon wrote a note to you, under date of December 29, asking for your recommendation in the premises. You did not answer, but on January 4 you had a conversation with him in which you said you wished to make a statement which should be read in the Senate at the same time that my message transmitting the record in the Glavis case reached there, and that you thought you could induce Senator Dolliver to introduce the statement for you. The Secretary advised against such a course; but asked you for a recommendation as to accepting Price's resignation, in order that he might bring the matter to me, to whom, he told you, it must ultimately come, because I had considered the Glavis charges and had passed upon them.

Without further conference with the Secretary, and before making a report to him, you succeeded in making public, by having it read in the Senate, a letter from you stating that you had sufficiently disciplined Messrs. Price and Shaw by reprimanding them, and that your recommendation would be that no further punishment was required, and this before that recommendation was submitted to the Secretary and me, whose power and duty it was to determine, upon Price's admissions as to his complicity, what action should be taken with respect to his resignation.

In order to understand the full purport of your letter in which you admit the complicity of Price and Shaw in the publications of the press, it should be said that the gravamen of the Glavis charges was that Secretary Ballinger and the others were all affected by a corrupt wish to patent 33 so-called Cunningham claims upon coal lands in Alaska; that the question whether these claims were fraudulent or not remained to be decided upon the evidence after both the United States and the claimants had been heard; that every patent as an executive act is completely within the jurisdiction of the President, to direct the withholding of it in order that he himself may examine the evidence as to the validity of the claim. These facts understood, the plain intimations in your letter are, first, that I had reached a wrong conclusion as to the good faith of Secretary Ballinger and the officers of the Land Office, although you and your subordinates had only seen the evidence of Glavis, the accuser, and had never seen or read the evidence of those accused or the records that they disclosed, which were submitted to me; and, second, that under these circumstances, without the exploitation by Messrs. Shaw and Price in the daily, weekly, and monthly press of the charges of Glavis, the administration, including the President and the officers of the Interior Department and Land Office, would have allowed certain fraudulent claims to be patented on coal lands in Alaska, although the matter had been specifically brought to the attention of the President by the Glavis charges. You solicited the opportunity to make such a declaration in Congress for the purpose of offsetting, if possible, in the public mind the President's decision in the Glavis case supported by the opinion of the Attorney-General, after a full examination by both, of the evidence adduced by the accuser and the evidence on behalf of the accused, while the latter evidence you and your subordinates had never seen. You did this against the advice of the Secretary of Agriculture, without notifying him that you intended to do so, and without conferring with me at all. Your letter was in effect an improper appeal to Congress and the public to excuse in advance the guilt of your subordinates before I could act, and against my decision in the Glavis case before the whole evidence on which that was based could be considered. I should be glad to regard what has happened only as a personal reflection, so that I could pass it over and take no official cognizance of it. But other and higher considerations must govern me. When the People of the United States elected me President, they placed me in an office of the highest dignity and charged me with the duty of maintaining that dignity and proper respect for the office on the part of my subordinates. Moreover, if I were to pass over this matter in silence, it would be most demoralizing to the discipline of the executive branch of the Government.

By your own conduct you have destroyed your usefulness as a helpful subordinate of the Government, and it therefore now becomes my duty to direct the Secretary of Agriculture to remove you from your office as the Forester.

Very sincerely, yours,

Signature of William Howard Taft

[TO:] Hon. GIFFORD PINCHOT, The Forester.

Washington, January 7, 1910.

SIR: By direction of the President, you are hereby removed from your office as Forester. You will deliver possession of your office affairs belonging to the Government to Mr. Albert F. Potter, Assistant Forester.




Forester, Department of Agriculture

William Howard Taft, Letter to Chief of the United States Forest Service Gifford Pinchot Notifying Him of His Dismissal from Office Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/363278

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