William Howard Taft

Letter to Richard A. Ballinger Accepting His Resignation as Secretary of the Interior

March 07, 1911

Dear Mr. Secretary: I accept your resignation with great reluctance. I have had the fullest opportunity to know you, to know your standards of service to the Government and the public, to know your motives, to know how you have administered your office, and to know the motives of those who have assailed you. I do not hesitate to say that you have been the object of one of the most unscrupulous conspiracies for the defamation of character that history can show.

I have deemed it my duty not only to the Government, but to society In general, to fight out this battle to the end, confident that In the end your fellow-citizens would see that the impressions of you as a man and as the administrator of a high public office were false, and were the result of a malicious and unprincipled plan for the use of the Press to misrepresent you and your actions, and to torture every circumstance, however free from detrimental significance, into proof of corrupt motive.

With the hypocritical pretense that they did not accuse you of corruption in order to avoid the necessity that even the worst criminal Is entitled to, to wit, that of a definitely formulated charge of some misconduct, they showered you with suspicion, and by the most pettifogging methods, exploited to the public matters which had no relevancy to an issue of either corruption or efficiency in office, but which paraded before an hysterical body of headline readers, served to blacken your character and to obscure the proper Issue of your honesty and effectiveness as a public servant.

The result has been a cruel tragedy. You and yours have lost health and have been burdened financially. The conspirators, who have not hesitated in their pursuit of you to resort to the meanest of methods, including the corruption of your most confidential assistant, plume themselves like the Pharisees of old, as the only pure members of society, actuated by the spirit of self-sacrifice for their fellow-men.

Every fibre of my nature rebels against such hypocrisy and nerves me to fight such a combination and such methods to the bitter end, lest success in this instance may form a demoralizing precedent. But personal consideration for you and yours makes me feel that I have no right to ask you for further sacrifice. Of course, it has been made evident that I was and am the ultimate object of the attack; and to insist, against your will, on your remaining in office with the prospect of further efforts against you is selfishly to impose on you more of a burden than I ought to impose.

As I say farewell to you, let me renew my expressions of affection and sincerest respect for you, and of my profound gratitude for your hard work, your unvarying loyalty, and your effective public service. I hope and pray that success may attend you in your profession and that real happiness will come to you and yours when you return to that community where you live, ana whose members know your worth as a man and a citizen, and who will receive you again with open arms.

Sincerely yours,

Signature of William Howard Taft

SOURCE: The New York Times March 7, 1911, p 3.

William Howard Taft, Letter to Richard A. Ballinger Accepting His Resignation as Secretary of the Interior Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/363271

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