Miller Center

American President

A Reference Resource

Alphonso Taft (1876–1876): Secretary of War

Alphonso Taft was born in 1810 in Townshend, Vermont. He graduated with honors from Yale College, studied law, and was admitted to the Connecticut bar in 1838. He then moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he established a successful law practice.

Taft made a failed bid for the United States Congress in 1856 and stayed out of politics until 1865, when he was appointed to the superior court of Cincinnati. He won reelection to the post and served in that position until 1872, at which time he resumed his law practice.

In 1876, President Ulysses S. Grant nominated Taft to become his secretary of war, a post Taft held until 1876, when he shifted cabinet departments and became Grant’s attorney general. Taft served in that post until the end of the Grant administration in 1877, returning home to his Cincinnati law practice.

Taft went on to serve as U.S. minister to Austria-Hungary (1882), and in 1884, became U.S. minister to Russia. Alphonso Taft died in 1891.