Elihu Root, U.S. Secretary of War and State

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Elihu Root

Birthdate: (91)
Birthplace: Clinton, Oneida County, New York, United States
Death: February 7, 1937 (91)
New York, New York County, New York, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Oren Root, I and Nancy Whitney Root
Husband of Clara Frances Root
Father of Edith Ruth Grant; Elihu Root, Jr. and Edward Wales Root
Brother of Oren Root, II; Abigail Pickney and Edward Walstein Root

Occupation: Lawyer and statesman
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Elihu Root, U.S. Secretary of War and State

One of the most brilliant administrators in American history, Elihu Root was the prototype of the 20th century "wise man", who shuttled between high-level government positions in Washington, D.C. and private-sector legal practice in New York City. He became a U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York in 1883. He served as secretary of war from 1899 to 1904. After the Spanish-American War, he set up a civil government in Puerto Rico and organized U.S. control of the Philippines. As secretary of state (190509) under Theodore Roosevelt, he concluded treaties with Japan and persuaded Latin American states to participate in the second Hague conference in 1907 ( Hague Conventions). He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1912. He served in the U.S. Senate from 1909 to 1915. A supporter of the League of Nations, he helped frame the statute that established the International Court of Justice.

Root was born on February 15, 1845 in Clinton, New York, the son of a professor of mathematics at Hamilton College where he obtained a BA 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).

Personal Life

He married Clara Frances Wales (d. 1928), who was the daughter of Salem Wales, the managing editor of Scientific American, in 1878. They had three children: Edith (married Ulysses S. Grant III), Elihu, Jr. (who became a lawyer), and Edward Wales (who became Professor of Art at Hamilton College).

Root died on February 7, 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. He is buried at the Hamilton College Cemetery. The home in Clinton, New York, that he purchased in 1893, known as the Elihu Root House, was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1972.

Sources: Answers, Wikipedia

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Elihu Root, U.S. Secretary of War and State's Timeline

February 15, 1845
Clinton, Oneida County, New York, United States
December 1, 1878
Age 33
New York City, New York, NY
May 7, 1881
Age 36
July 23, 1884
Age 39
February 7, 1937
Age 91
New York, New York County, New York, United States