Elihu Root was an American lawyer and statesman who served as the Secretary of War under two presidents, including 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, 1909â€“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, 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.