Elihu Root


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(b. Clinton, New York, 15 Feb. 1845; d. New York City, 7 Feb. 1937)

US; Secretary of War 1899–1904, Secretary of State 1905–9, US Senator 1909–15 The son of a college professor, Root graduated BA from Hamilton College in 1864, LL B from New York City University in 1867, and was that same year called to the New York bar. He became a lawyer specializing in corporate law. He was appointed district attorney for New York Southern district, 1883–5. Thereafter he returned to private practice whilst assuming an active role in the Republican Party of New York City.

It was in 1899 that Root became a prominent national political figure and began a career in international diplomacy, when he was appointed Secretary of War by President McKinley. He remained in post when Vice-President Theodore Roosevelt assumed office after McKinley's death. Root briefly returned to his private law practice in 1904 but by 1905 returned to the public service as Roosevelt's Secretary of State. In 1909 he gained election to the US Senate where he became an influential member of the prestigious Foreign Relations Committee. He declined to stand for re-election in 1915, returning instead to practising law.

Root remained an influential voice within the American foreign policy élite and served on numerous national and international bodies. In 1917, as President Wilson's ambassador extraordinary, he headed a diplomatic mission to Russia, tasked with trying to persuade Russia to stay in the war. As chairman of the Republican Party national convention in Chicago in 1912, it was Root who presided over the historic division of the party that year, which led to the formation of the Progressive Party.

Root was noted for his brilliant analytical mind and a remarkable faculty for solving complicated problems of law, politics, and international affairs. His services in the cause of international peace were recognized in 1912 when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He is the author of several books including: Experiment in Government and the Essentials of the Constitution (1913); Russia and the United States (1917).

Subjects: Warfare and Defence.

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