Elihu Root

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Elihu Root
Elihu Root, bw photo portrait, 1902.jpg
38th United States Secretary of State
In office
July 19, 1905 – January 27, 1909
PresidentTheodore Roosevelt
Preceded byJohn Hay
Succeeded byRobert Bacon
41st United States Secretary of War
In office
August 1, 1899 – January 31, 1904
PresidentWilliam McKinley (1899–1901)
Theodore Roosevelt (1901–1904)
Preceded byRussell A. Alger
Succeeded byWilliam Howard Taft
United States Senator
from New York
In office
March 4, 1909 – March 4, 1915
Preceded byThomas C. Platt
Succeeded byJames Wolcott Wadsworth, Jr.
Personal details
Born(1845-02-15)February 15, 1845
Clinton, New York
DiedFebruary 7, 1937(1937-02-07) (aged 91)
New York, New York
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Clara Frances Wales
RelationsOren Root I, father
Oren Root II, brother
Alma materHamilton College
New York University School of Law
ProfessionLawyer, Politician
 
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Elihu Root
Elihu Root, bw photo portrait, 1902.jpg
38th United States Secretary of State
In office
July 19, 1905 – January 27, 1909
PresidentTheodore Roosevelt
Preceded byJohn Hay
Succeeded byRobert Bacon
41st United States Secretary of War
In office
August 1, 1899 – January 31, 1904
PresidentWilliam McKinley (1899–1901)
Theodore Roosevelt (1901–1904)
Preceded byRussell A. Alger
Succeeded byWilliam Howard Taft
United States Senator
from New York
In office
March 4, 1909 – March 4, 1915
Preceded byThomas C. Platt
Succeeded byJames Wolcott Wadsworth, Jr.
Personal details
Born(1845-02-15)February 15, 1845
Clinton, New York
DiedFebruary 7, 1937(1937-02-07) (aged 91)
New York, New York
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Clara Frances Wales
RelationsOren Root I, father
Oren Root II, brother
Alma materHamilton College
New York University School of Law
ProfessionLawyer, Politician

Elihu Root (/ˈɛlɨhjuː ˈrt/; February 15, 1845 – February 7, 1937) was an American lawyer and statesman who served as the Secretary of War (1899–1904) under two presidents, as well as Secretary of State (1905–1909) under President Theodore Roosevelt. He was the prototype of the 20th century revolving door, shuttled between high-level appointed government positions in Washington, D.C. and private-sector legal practice in New York City. He was elected by the state legislature as a US Senator from New York and served one term, 1909–1915. Root was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1912.

Root was a leading lawyer, whose clients included major corporations and such powerful players as Andrew Carnegie. Root served as president or chairman of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Carnegie Institution of Washington, and the Carnegie Corporation of New York. As Secretary of War under McKinley and Roosevelt, Root designed American policies for the new colonial possessions, especially the Philippines and Cuba. His role in suppressing a Filipino revolt angered anti-imperialist activists at home. Root favored a paternalistic approach to colonial administration, emphasizing technology, engineering, and disinterested public service, as exemplified by the ethical standards of the Progressive Era. Like most American progressives, he had his doubts about democracy, both in the United States and in the Philippines. He helped design the Foraker Act of 1900, the Philippine Organic Act (1902), and the Platt Amendment of 1901, which authorized American intervention in Cuba in the future if needed to maintain a stable government. He was a strong advocate of what became the Panama Canal, and he championed the Open Door to expand world trade with China.[1]

Root was the leading modernizer in the history of the War Department, transforming the Army from a motley collection of small frontier outposts and coastal defense units into a modern, professionally organized, military machine comparable to the best in Europe. He restructured the National Guard into an effective reserve, and created the Army War College for the advanced study of military doctrine and most important set up a general staff. As Secretary of State under Theodore Roosevelt, Root modernized the consular service by minimizing patronage, promoted friendly relations with Latin America, and resolved frictions with Japan over the immigration of unskilled workers to the West Coast. He negotiated 24 arbitration treaties that seemed important at the time, but are now neglected by historians. In the United States Senate, Root was part of the conservative Republican support network for President William Howard Taft. He played a central role at the Republican National Convention in 1912 in getting Taft renominated. By 1916–17, he was a leading proponent of preparedness, with the expectation the United States would enter World War I. President Woodrow Wilson sent him to Russia in 1917, in a mission that accomplished nothing. Root supported Wilson's vision of the League of Nations, but with reservations along the lines proposed by Republican Senator Henry Cabot Lodge. He was a strong advocate of using international law to prevent war, and helped design the Permanent Court of International Justice (World Court).[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Root was born in Clinton, New York, to Oren Root and Nancy Whitney Buttrick both of whom were of English descent.[3] His father was professor of mathematics at Hamilton College. After studying at local schools, Elihu attended college at Hamilton. He joined the Sigma Phi Society and was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa Society[4]

After graduation, Root taught for one year at the Rome (N.Y.) Free Academy before going to New York City to attend law school. In 1867, Root graduated from the New York University School of Law.

Law career[edit]

Root went into private practice as a lawyer. While mainly practicing corporate law, Root was a junior defense counsel during the corruption trial of William "Boss" Tweed. Root had some prominent and wealthy private clients, including Jay Gould, Chester A. Arthur, Charles Anderson Dana, William C. Whitney, Thomas Fortune Ryan, and E. H. Harriman.

Marriage and family[edit]

After getting established, in 1878 at the age of 33, Root married Clara Frances Wales (died in 1928). She was the daughter of Salem Wales, the managing editor of Scientific American, and his wife. They had three children: Edith (who married Ulysses S. Grant III), Elihu, Jr. (who became a lawyer), and Edward Wales Root (who became Professor of Art at Hamilton College).

Root was a member of the Union League Club of New York and twice served as its president, 1898–99, and again from 1915–16. He also served as president of the New York City Bar Association from 1904–1905.

U.S Attorney and Secretary of War[edit]

Root received his first political appointment from President Chester A. Arthur, when he was named as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Under presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt, Root served as the United States Secretary of War 1899–1904. He reformed the organization of the War Department. He enlarged West Point and established the U.S. Army War College, as well as the General Staff. He changed the procedures for promotions and organized schools for the special branches of the service. He also devised the principle of rotating officers from staff to line. Root was concerned about the new territories acquired after the Spanish–American War. He worked out the procedures for turning Cuba over to the Cubans, ensured a charter of government for the Philippines, and eliminated tariffs on goods imported to the United States from Puerto Rico. When the Anti-Imperialist League attacked American policies in the Philippines, Root defended the policies and counterattacked the critics, saying they prolonged the insurgency.[5] Root left the cabinet in 1904 and returned to private practice as a lawyer.

Root with William Howard Taft in 1904.

Secretary of State[edit]

In 1905, President Roosevelt named Root as the United States Secretary of State after the death of John Hay. As secretary, Root placed the consular service under the civil service. He maintained the Open Door Policy in the Far East.

On a tour to Latin America in 1906, Root persuaded those governments to participate in the Hague Peace Conference. He worked with Japan to limit emigration to the United States and on dealings with China. He established the Root–Takahira Agreement, which limited Japanese and American naval fortifications in the Pacific. He worked with Great Britain to resolve border disputes between the United States (Alaska) and Canada, and competition in the North Atlantic fisheries. He supported arbitration in resolving international disputes.

United States Senator[edit]

In January 1909, Root was elected by the legislature as a U.S. Senator from New York, serving from March 4, 1909 to March 4, 1915. He was a member of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. He chose not to seek re-election in 1914.

During and after his Senate service, Root served as President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, from 1910 to 1925.

In a 1910 letter published by the New York Times, Root supported the proposed income tax amendment, which was ratified as the Sixteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution:

It is said that a very large part of any income tax under the amendment would be paid by citizens of New York....

The reason why the citizens of New York will pay so large a part of the tax is New York City is the chief financial and commercial centre of a great country with vast resources and industrial activity. For many years Americans engaged in developing the wealth of all parts of the country have been going to New York to secure capital and market their securities and to buy their supplies. Thousands of men who have amassed fortunes in all sorts of enterprises in other states have gone to New York to live because they like the life of the city or because their distant enterprises require representation at the financial centre. The incomes of New York are in a great measure derived from the country at large. A continual stream of wealth sets toward the great city from the mines and manufactories and railroads outside of New York.[6]

World War[edit]

In 1912, as a result of his work to bring nations together through arbitration and cooperation, Root received the Nobel Peace Prize.

Portrait of Elihu Root

At the outbreak of World War I, Root opposed President Woodrow Wilson's policy of neutrality. Root promoted the Preparedness Movement to get the United States ready for actual participation in the war. He was a leading advocate of American entry into the war on the side of the British and French, because he feared the militarism of Germany would be bad for the world and bad for the United States.

He supported Wilson once the United States entered the war. In June 1916, he scotched talk that he might contend for the Republican presidential nomination, stating that he was too old to bear the burden of the Presidency.[7] At the Republican National Convention, Root reached his peak strength of 103 votes on the first ballot. The Republican presidential nomination went to Charles Evans Hughes, who lost the election to the Democrat Woodrow Wilson.

In June 1917, at age 72, Root went to Russia, which had just overthrown the czar. He headed a mission sent by President Wilson, the Root Commission, to arrange American co-operation with the new revolutionary government. Root remained in Petrograd for close to a month, and was not much impressed by what he saw. American financial aid to the new regime was possible only if the Russians would fight on the Allied side. The Russians, he said, "are sincerely, kindly, good people but confused and dazed." He summed up the Provisional Government very trenchantly: "No fight, no loans."[8]

Root was the founding chairman of the Council on Foreign Relations, established in 1918 in New York.

1920s[edit]

In the Senate fight in 1919 over American membership in the League of Nations, Root supported Lodge's proposal of membership with certain reservations that allowed the United States government to decide whether or not it would go to war. The US never joined, but Root supported the League of Nations and served on the commission of jurists, which created the Permanent Court of International Justice. In 1922, when Root was 77, President Warren G. Harding appointed him as a delegate of an American team headed by Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes. They participated in the Washington Naval Conference (International Conference on the Limitation of Armaments).[9]

Root's former home in Washington, D.C.

Root also worked with Andrew Carnegie in programs for international peace and the advancement of science. He was the first president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He was among the founders of the American Law Institute in 1923. Furthermore, he also helped create the Hague Academy of International Law in the Netherlands.

Root served as vice president of the American Peace Society, which publishes World Affairs, the oldest U.S. journal on international relations.

In addition to the Nobel Prize, Root was awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown (from Belgium) and the Grand Commander of the Order of George I (from Greece). He was the second cousin twice removed of Henry Luce, through Elihu Root (1772–1843). Before his death, Root was the last surviving member of the McKinley Cabinet.

He joined the Empire State Society of the Sons of the American Revolution in 1895.

Root died in 1937 in New York City, with his family by his side. He was survived by at least one son, Elihu Root, Jr., a graduate of Hamilton College and an attorney like his father.[10] He was survived also by his daughter, Edith, who was married to Ulysses S. Grant III. He is buried at the Hamilton College Cemetery.

Legacy and honors[edit]

Elihu Root Gold Medal

Works by Elihu Root[edit]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Robert Muccigrosso, ed., Research Guide to American Historical Biography (1988) 3:1329–33
  2. ^ Muccigrosso, ed., Research Guide to American Historical Biography (1988) 3:1330
  3. ^ The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography: Being the History of the United States as Illustrated in the Lives of the Founders, Builders, and Defenders of the Republic, and of the Men and Women who are Doing the Work and Moulding the Thought of the Present Time, Volume 11 page 15
  4. ^ History of the Society, Rutgers.edu, accessed Oct 9, 2009
  5. ^ James R. Arnold (2011). The Moro War: How America Battled a Muslim Insurgency in the Philippine Jungle, 1902–1913. Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 171–72. 
  6. ^ "Root For Adoption of Tax Amendment," New York Times, March 1, 1910
  7. ^ Stefan Lorant, The Glorious Burden (New York: Harper & Row, 1968), page 540.
  8. ^ David Mayers (1997). The Ambassadors and America's Soviet Policy. Oxford University Press. p. 77. 
  9. ^ u-s-history.com Washington Naval Conference – Retrieved 2011-12-18
  10. ^ Exhibition by Elihu Root, Jr. at Hamilton College (https://www.hamilton.edu/gallery/exhibitions/history-of-exhibitions/elihu-root-jr-class-of-1903-lawyer-painter)

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Russell A. Alger
U.S. Secretary of War
Served under: William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt

August 1, 1899 – January 31, 1904
Succeeded by
William Howard Taft
Preceded by
John Hay
U.S. Secretary of State
Served under: Theodore Roosevelt

July 19, 1905 – January 27, 1909
Succeeded by
Robert Bacon
United States Senate
Preceded by
Thomas C. Platt
U.S. Senator (Class 3) from New York
March 4, 1909 – March 4, 1915
Served alongside: Chauncey Depew, James O'Gorman
Succeeded by
James Wolcott Wadsworth Jr.
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Adelbert Ames
Oldest living U.S. Senator
April 12, 1933 – February 7, 1937
Succeeded by
Newell Sanders