Study Guide

Elihu Root in Platt Amendment

By U.S. Congress

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Elihu Root


Pretty much all Elihu Root is remembered for is having had the world's coolest name.

Oh wait. That's just false. This dude has been called "the original architect of America's rise to global power." That's pretty hefty praise—or is it damnation?— right there. (Source)

Root also knew his way around at least five U.S. presidents, from Chester A. Arthur (a.k.a. the one you always forget about) to Woodrow Wilson, and as a lawyer he represented Andrew Carnegie, one of the wealthiest men in all of American history.

So yeah, it's safe to say this Elihu guy was a pretty big deal.

Besides rocking a serious mustache and hanging out with presidents who did the same (check out Root on the right and President Taft on the left), Root was super involved in America's land grab around the Spanish-American War. As Secretary of War (and later Secretary of State) he was right in the thick of things.

The Platt Amendment was written by Root (even though Orville Platt got his name on the document), and he was concerned with making sure America's new territories had a balance of power between the local governments and the overseer (that'd be the U.S.).

While Senator Platt was more concerned with acquiring as much territory as possible for the U.S., Secretary Root wanted to help stabilize America's territories. Concerning Cuba, Root intended the Platt Amendment to gradually help Cuba become more, well, Cuban…just with American protection. He envisioned the Platt Amendment to allow America to help Cuba get on its feet and gradually become fully independent.

In fact, after being Secretary of War (where he wrote the Platt Amendment), Root became Secretary of State and his first move was to head to Cuba to try to ease some of the pain Cubans were feeling over the legislation. So we can clearly see that Root had good intentions with America's territorial acquisitions, even if the world didn't see it that way.

Maybe after all it was better it wasn't named the "Root Amendment," huh?

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