Elihu Root

Elihu Root
Elihu Root
  • Born: February 15, 1845
  • Died: February 7, 1937
  • Nationality: American
  • Profession: Lawyer









Elihu Root was an American lawyer and statesman who served as the Secretary of State under President Theodore Roosevelt and as Secretary of War under Roosevelt and President William McKinley. He moved frequently between high-level appointed government positions in Washington, D.C. and private-sector legal practice in New York City. For that reason, he is sometimes considered to be the prototype of the 20th century political "wise man," advising presidents on a range of foreign and domestic issues. He was elected by the state legislature as a U.S. Senator from New York and served one term, 1909–1915. Root was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1912.

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[Foreign] Trade is necessary to modern comfort and prosperity. Foreign Trade
… the field of action is not the field of intellect, it is the field of character; and change or development of character is always slow work. Reform, Change, Transformation & Reformers
… we should remember that the real power behind international as well as national progress towards better conditions is public opinion Public Opinion & Polling
…the burden of proof rests always upon the advocates of change. Reform, Change, Transformation & Reformers
…this duty lies in your path and that you ought to undertake it. If defeated, so much the better for you personally; if victorious, the greatest opportunity in the American struggle for self-government except that afforded by the Presidency will lie at your hands. Detriments & Qualifications ;Public Office: Benefits
A great many wars come on because neither party quite knows how to give up in a controversy without humiliation. War & Peace
For many years I have known a good deal about international arbitrations and I have never known of one in which both nations in controversy did not benefit more from having the question between them settled than either gained from a favorable judgment or lost by an unfavorable one. Negotiating & Negotiations
How is it that nations composed of people who don't want war are continually fighting?" The answer is that the opinion against war has been without adequate institutions to give it effect. War is an international affair; and to prevent it there must be international opinion, and international action upon that opinion, and international institutions to give effect to that opinion. War & Peace
I have read your proposed speech. Your argument is like that of the man who is accused of seduction and defends himself by explaining that he has committed rape. Presidency, Vice Presidency & Prime Ministership
If a statute rightly reflects the opinion of the people for whom it is passed, or is adapted to give effect to that opinion, it gets itself enforced. If the contrary is true, the law fails of effect. Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
In the democratic countries generally, the great body of citizens are refusing to wait until negotiations are over or policies are acted upon or even determined. They demand to know what is going on and to have an opportunity to express their opinions at all stages of diplomatic proceedings…. public opinion will be increasingly not merely the ultimate judge but an immediate and active force in negotiation. Secrecy & Transparency ;Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
Long before we wake up from our dream of prosperity through an inflated currency, our gold … will have vanished and no rate of interest will tempt it to return. Money, Coins & Minting
Men do not fail; they give up trying. Human Nature
Moral disarmament is to safeguard the future; material disarmament is to save for the present, that there may be a future to safeguard. Arms Race & Disarmament
Never for a moment, have the responsible and instructed statesmen in charge of the foreign affairs of the United States failed to consider themselves bound to insist upon this policy . . . . Almost every President and Secretary of State has re-stated the doctrine with vigor and emphasis in the discussion of the diplomatic affairs of his day. Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
No law however formal can withstand the effect of changes in opinion. Public Opinion & Polling
No two men ever devised plans of action to accomplish a particular object without finding that there were differences in their plans. That is peculiarly the case in international affairs. Management & Managing Government ;Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
Political demagogues will seek popularity by public speeches full of insult to foreign countries, and yellow journals will seek to increase their circulation by appeals to prejudice against foreigners. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
The farmers in America who are raising wheat and beef and cotton, and the great multitudes engaged in manufacture, depend for the rewards of their labor largely upon the orderly continuance of purchase, consumption and payment by the people of other countries. It would be a real misfortune to the American breakfast table if Brazil ceased to produce coffee and Cuba ceased to produce sugar and China ceased to produce tea.
The government of the State has presented two different lines of activity, one of the constitutional and statutory officers of the State, and the other of the party leaders,—they call them party bosses. They call the system—I don’t coin the phrase, I adopt it because it carries its own meaning—the system they call "invisible government." For I don’t remember how many years, Mr. Conkling was the supreme ruler in this State; the Governor did not count, the legislatures did not count; comptrollers and secretaries of state and what not, did not count. It was what Mr. Conkling said, and in a great outburst of public rage, he was pulled down. Then Mr. Platt ruled the State; for nigh upon twenty years he ruled it. It was not the Governor; it was not the Legislature; it was not any elected officers; it was Mr. Platt. And the capitol was not here; it was at 49 Broadway. Political Parties & Machines
The organization of independent nations which has followed the disappearance of the Holy Roman Empire is in the main the outgrowth of that progress in civilization which leads peoples to seek the liberty of local self-government according to their own ideas. Freedom & Liberty
The reason why the citizens of New York will pay so large a part of the tax is New York City is the chief financial and commercial centre of a great country with vast resources and industrial activity. For many years Americans engaged in developing the wealth of all parts of the country have been going to New York to secure capital and market their securities and to buy their supplies. Thousands of men who have amassed fortunes in all sorts of enterprises in other states have gone to New York to live because they like the life of the city or because their distant enterprises require representation at the financial centre. The incomes of New York are in a great measure derived from the country at large. A continual stream of wealth sets toward the great city from the mines and manufactories and railroads outside of New York Taxes
There must of course always be separate interests of different nations which their governments are bound to maintain, but there are also common interests in which all civilized nations share. These common interests arise from the interdependence of civilized peoples and they are a product of developing civilization. Negotiating & Negotiations ;Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
Think for a moment of what this patronage system means. How many of you are there who would be willing to do to your private client, or customer, or any private trust, or to a friend or neighbor, what you see being done to the State of New York every year of your lives in the taking of money out of her treasury without service? Patronage & Pork Barrel
To be safe, democracy must kill its enemy where it can and when it can. The world must be all democratic or all Prussian. Democracies & Republics
We have a nation with great wealth, willing to spend its money freely for the procurement of arms and munitions of war and supplies of all kinds. Nevertheless, no one can fail to see that there has been in the past, in the administration of the army, something which was out of joint. It is not necessary for me to go into the specification of details; for every one of us knows that whenever an exigency has come, confusion has come Compliments, Insults & Rebukes
We must be patient if we would act wisely. What we do today may bear fruit long after we are dead, for no good work is ever really lost. The important thing is to get the tendency right. We should think of all these subjects in terms not of brief individual life, but long continued national life. Policy & Policy Making
What happens today or tomorrow is of little consequence. The tendencies of a nation are all that count. Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
When foreign affairs were ruled by autocracies or oligarchies the danger of war was in sinister purpose. When foreign affairs are ruled by democracies the danger of war will be in mistaken beliefs. War & Peace ;Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
Claims of right and insistence upon obligations may depend upon treaty stipulations, or upon the rules of international law, or upon the sense of natural justice applied to the circumstances of a particular case, or upon disputed facts.
Cruelty to men and to the lower animals as well, which would have passed unnoticed a century ago, now shocks the sensibilities and is regarded as wicked and degrading.
Gradually, everything that happens in the world is coming to be of interest everywhere in the world, and, gradually, thoughtful men and women everywhere are sitting in judgment upon the conduct of all nations. Women
Honest people, mistakenly believing in the justice of their cause, are led to support injustice.
Human life is held in much higher esteem, and the taking of it, whether in private quarrel or by judicial procedure, is looked upon much more seriously than it was formerly. Life
Human nature must have come much nearer perfection than it is now, or will be in many generations, to exclude from such a control prejudice, selfishness, ambition, and injustice. Nature
In the first place, when there is a policy of intentional aggression, inspired by a desire to get possession of the territory or the trade of another country, right or wrong, a pretext is always sought.
It is not uncommon in modern times to see governments straining every nerve to keep the peace, and the people whom they represent, with patriotic enthusiasm and resentment over real or fancied wrongs, urging them forward to war. War & Peace
It is to be observed that every case of war averted is a gain in general, for it helps to form a habit of peace, and community habits long continued become standards of conduct. War & Peace
No nation now sets forth to despoil another upon the avowed ground that it desires the spoils.
Nobody knows through how many thousands of years fighting men have made a place for themselves while the weak and peaceable have gone to the wall.
Nothing is more important in the preservation of peace than to secure among the great mass of the people living under constitutional government a just conception of the rights which their nation has against others and of the duties their nation owes to others. Government ;War & Peace
Prejudice and passion and suspicion are more dangerous than the incitement of self-interest or the most stubborn adherence to real differences of opinion regarding rights.
Secretary of War Stanton used to get out of patience with Lincoln because he was all the time pardoning men who ought to be shot. Time ;Patience ;War & Peace
The attractive idea that we can now have a parliament of man with authority to control the conduct of nations by legislation or an international police force with power to enforce national conformity to rules of right conduct is a counsel of perfection. Power
The growth of modern constitutional government compels for its successful practice the exercise of reason and considerate judgment by the individual citizens who constitute the electorate. Government
The law of the survival of the fittest led inevitably to the survival and predominance of the men who were effective in war and who loved it because they were effective. War & Peace
The limitation upon this mode of promoting peace lies in the fact that it consists in an appeal to the civilized side of man, while war is the product of forces proceeding from man's original savage nature. Nature ;War & Peace
The line of least resistance in the progress of civilization is to make that theoretical postulate real by the continually increasing force of the world's public opinion.
The mere assemblage of peace loving people to interchange convincing reasons for their common faith, mere exhortation and argument to the public in favor of peace in general fall short of the mark. Religion & God ;War & Peace
The methods of peace propaganda which aim at establishing peace doctrine by argument and by creating a feeling favorable to peace in general seem to fall short of reaching the springs of human action and of dealing with the causes of the conduct which they seek to modify. War & Peace
The point of departure of the process to which we wish to contribute is the fact that war is the natural reaction of human nature in the savage state, while peace is the result of acquired characteristics. Nature ;War & Peace
The popular tendency is to listen approvingly to the most extreme statements and claims of politicians and orators who seek popularity by declaring their own country right in everything and other countries wrong in everything.
The theoretical postulate of all diplomatic discussion between nations is the assumed willingness of every nation to do justice.
The wolf always charges the lamb with muddying the stream.
There is so much of good in human nature that men grow to like each other upon better acquaintance, and this points to another way in which we may strive to promote the peace of the world. Nature ;War & Peace
To deal with the true causes of war one must begin by recognizing as of prime relevancy to the solution of the problem the familiar fact that civilization is a partial, incomplete, and, to a great extent, superficial modification of barbarism. War & Peace
War was forced upon mankind in his original civil and social condition. War & Peace

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