Richard Achilles Ballinger

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BALLINGER-PINCHOT CONTROVERSY. When William H. Taft became president of the United States in 1909, his administration canceled an order of former president Theodore Roosevelt that had withdrawn from sale certain public lands containing water-power sites in Montana and Wyoming. Gifford Pinchot, chief of the U.S. Forest Service, protested and publicly charged Secretary of the Interior Richard A. Ballinger with favoritism toward corporations seeking waterpower sites. Pinchot also defended a Land Office investigator who was dismissed for accusing Ballinger of being a tool of private interests that desired access to Alaskan mineral lands. Taft fired Pinchot, and a joint congressional investigating committee exonerated Ballinger. Nevertheless, public outcry over the controversy forced Ballinger to resign in March 1911, and the controversy widened the split between conservative (Taft) and progressive (Roosevelt) Republicans.


Anderson, Donald F. William Howard Taft: A Conservative's Conception of the Presidency. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1973.

Coletta, Paolo E. William Howard Taft: A Bibliography. Westport, Conn.: Meckler, 1989.

Penick, James L., Jr. Progressive Politics and Conservation: The Ballinger-Pinchot Affair. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1968.

Glenn H.Benton/a. g.

See alsoEnvironmental Business ; Interior, Department of the ; Marine Sanctuaries ; Waterways, Inland .

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Richard Achilles Ballinger (băl´Ĭnjər), 1858–1922, U.S. Secretary of the Interior (1909–11), b. Boonesboro (now in Boone), Iowa. He was mayor of Seattle (1904–6) and commissioner of the General Land Office (1907–9); in 1909, Taft appointed him Secretary of the Interior. While Secretary, he was accused by L. R. Glavis of the Land Office of having halted investigation into the legality of certain private coal-land claims in Alaska. With Taft's approval, Glavis was dismissed from service. Glavis took his case to the public in a series of articles in Collier's Weekly that roused the conservationists. Led by Gifford Pinchot, they demanded an investigation. A congressional committee exonerated Ballinger, but the questioning of committee counsel Louis D. Brandeis made the Secretary's anticonservationism clear; he resigned in Mar., 1911. The incident split the Republican party and helped turn the election of 1912 against Taft.

See A. T. Mason, Bureaucracy Convicts Itself (1941); J. L. Penick, The Ballinger-Pinchot Affair (1968).