27th President. Autograph letter signed (ALS) “Wm H. Taft”, four pages on two adjoining sheets, 5.75 x 7.75, American Red Cross letterhead, [January 24, 1917]. Letter to Mildred McLean Dewey, the widow of Admiral George Dewey, offering his sympathy and remembrances on their past association, in full:
For Mrs. Taft and me, I wish to say that our hearts go out to you in your deep sorrow. The nation mourns with you in the loss of one of its great heroes. I knew the Admiral well and count it a great good fortune in my career that I did and that I had the benefit of his valuable advice in the beginning [of] my Philippine career. Perhaps you remember my calling on the Admiral before I sailed for Manila. He was most kind and most interested and helped me see many ways. This was the beginning of a warm friendship between us. The simplicity, directness, and correctness of the Admiral’s nature supplemented his wonderful clearness of mind, his quickness and firmness of decision, and his professional genius in such a way as to make the memory of every conference with him full of pleasure.
The great debt which the nation owes him is aptly expressed in President Wilson’s tribute and in the unusual honors that are being done [in] the Admiral’s memory today. But I write this to express to you the personal feeling of affection which Nellie and I have always felt to you and the Admiral. The sorrows you have had in the loss of your sister and your brother added to with overwhelming weight in the loss of your dear husband are so heavy and stunning that they awaken the most profound sympathy. Our old associations in Cincinnati, our memories of the kindness of your father and mother, of their friendship with our mothers and fathers have led me to write this very personal note.
May God help you to bear up under the burden of sorrow you have.
In fine condition, with some edge toning to the last page.
Both Admiral Dewey’s widow, Mildred McLean Dewey, and Taft were natives of Cincinnati, Ohio. Mildred’s father, Washington McLean owned the Cincinnati Enquirer, and her brother, John R. McLean, owned the Washington Post (his wife, owned the Hope Diamond); it is this brother and Mildred’s sister, Mary McLean Ludlow, that Taft references in this letter. Taft served as Governor General of the Philippines from 1901-03, and the letter acknowledges Dewey’s help and advice when he accepted this position. At the time of this letter former U.S. President Taft was teaching at Yale Law School and serving as Chairman of the American Red Cross. Four years later he would become Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.