- Root, Elihu
- (1845–1937)An American lawyer and statesman who played a prominent role in the development of a legal and administrative framework for the colonial empire of the United States. During his term as secretary of war (1899–1904), Root laid the foundations of an American approach to colonial governance in Puerto Rico and the Philippines and to informal empire in Cuba.Based on a close reading of British imperial experience, Root’s approach combined benevolent paternalism with military enforcement of colonial control. He supported extensive social engineering measures and limited political reforms in the colonies but defended the brutal suppression of indigenous resistance to American rule and questioned the abilities of the colonized for self-government on cultural and racial grounds. He designed a legal framework that allocated the overseas possessions a status of unincorporated territories with no constitutional rights for the colonial subjects. In the case of Cuba, Root supported reforms for Cuban independence but simultaneously devised important legal mechanisms, such as the Platt Amendment of 1901, which facilitated continued American control over Cuban affairs through intervention rights and a Cuban-U.S. lease agreement for a naval base at Guantánamo Bay.Between 1905 and 1909, Root served as secretary of state and reformed the consular service, improved relations with Latin America, negotiated mutual recognition of U.S. and Japanese colonial possessions, as in the Root-Takahira Agreement of 1908, and supported a legal framework for the arbitration of international disputes. Root served in the U.S. Senate from 1909 to 1915 and received the Nobel Peace Price for his efforts at international arbitration in 1912.See also <
>; < >.FURTHER READING:Jessup, Philip C. Elihu Root. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1938;Leopold, Richard W. Elihu Root and the Conservative Tradition. Boston: Little, Brown, 1954;Zimmermann, Warren. First Great Triumph. How Five Americans Made Their Country a World Power. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002.FRANK SCHUMACHER
Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.