Elihu Root (15 February 1845 – 7 February 1937) was an American lawyer, Republican politician, and statesman. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1912.

Life and Career

He was born on 15 February 1845, in Clinton, New York. Root moved to New York City in 1865 with his brother Wally and wanted to be a lawyer.

He got his law degree from New York University in 1867 and became a leading corporate lawyer. During his tenure as U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York (1883–85), he became a friend and legal advisor to Theodore Roosevelt.

Root served as the Secretary of War under President William McKinley from 1899 to 1904 and later as Secretary of State under President Theodore Roosevelt from 1905 to 1909.


From 1909 to 1915, Elihu Root was a United States senator who helped settle the North Atlantic fisheries dispute, opposed a bill that would have exempted U.S. shipping from Panama Canal tolls, but charged other nations’ shipping. He also pushed for international arbitration.

Despite his lack of formal diplomatic training, Root had strong foreign policy skills from working with Hay in both administrations.

He died on 7 February 1937, in New York City.

Major Works

Root was a prominent figure in American politics and was known for his efforts to modernize the U.S. military, improve the country’s relationships with other nations, and promote international peace. He was also a strong advocate for civil service reform and was instrumental in the passage of the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act of 1883.

He also reorganized the Department of State in an unprecedented way. He created the first Foreign Service Exam in an attempt to professionalize the Foreign Service and Consular Service. He implemented new recordkeeping methods, rotated members of the diplomatic service to give them more experience, and organized the Department by region.


In 1912, Root was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to promote international peace, and he continued to play a significant role in American foreign policy throughout his life.

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