Elihu Root was born on February 15, 1845, in the State of New York and took his degree in law at New York University in 1867. At a later date he studied international law and took his doctorate1 in 1894. For some years he practiced as an attorney in New York, becoming one of the best in the profession. In August, 1899, he was appointed secretary of war by President McKinley and held that office until 1904. In the following year Roosevelt persuaded him to take over the State Department where he remained until his election to the Senate in 1909.
Root is a man of engaging personality who has tried, with determination and independence, to put his ideals into practice.
In the ten years during which he held office [as secretary of war and secretary of state], he had to settle a number of particularly difficult problems, some of an international character. It was he who was chiefly responsible for organizing affairs in Cuba and in the Philippines after the Spanish-American War2. Even more important was his work in bringing about better understanding between the countries of North and South America. When he visited South America in the summer of 1906, he did a great deal to strengthen the Pan-American movement, and in 1908 he founded the Pan-American Bureau in New York3. His strenuous efforts to improve relations between the small Central American countries have borne splendid fruit. The most difficult problem with which Root had to deal while secretary of state, however, was the dispute with Japan over the status of Japanese immigrants. Although a final solution of this dispute eluded him, his work4 on it was nevertheless of great value.
After he had left the government, Root gave himself heart and soul to the cause of peace, and he is now president of the great Carnegie Peace Foundation5. [As a senator] Root was one of the most energetic champions of Taft’s proposal for an unconditional arbitration treaty between the U.S.A. and Great Britain; and in the dispute concerning tolls for the Panama Canal, he supported the English interpretation of the Hay-Pauncefote Treaty, opposing special privileges for American shipping6. When he spoke on this in the Senate last spring, he gained the admiration of all friends of peace.
* Mr. Moe delivered this speech on the laureate’s political career on December 10, 1913, in the Norwegian Nobel Institute after Mr. Løvland, chairman of the Committee, had announced that the Nobel Peace Prize for 1912, reserved in that year, was being awarded to Mr. Root and the prize for 1913 to Henri La Fontaine. Neither laureate was present. The translation is based on the Norwegian reporting of the speech appearing in the Oslo Morgenposten of December 11, 1913.
3. Washington, D.C., rather than New York, would be correct here if, as seems probable, the reference is to the laureate’s part in the 1908 cornerstone ceremonies for the Pan-American building which thereafter housed the Bureau; Root had proposed the building and had solicited the money for it from Andrew Carnegie.
6. The Hay-Pauncefote Treaty (1901) between the U.S. and Great Britain provided that the Panama Canal be open to all nations on equal terms; the U.S. Panama Canal Act (passed in 1912 and repealed in 1914) exempted U.S. ships from tolls.
Their work and discoveries range from the Earth’s climate and our sense of touch to efforts to safeguard freedom of expression.
See them all presented here.