Elihu Root - Vol. 1
Elihu Root - Vol. 1
To write the life of a man whom one has known, is inevitably a personal matter. I knew Mr. Root for twenty-two years; rather intimately since 1929 when I accompanied him on his last trip to Europe. Like most of those who came to know him well, my feeling for him is one not only of admiration but of affection. I have sought to avoid rendering him the disservice of writing his biography in whitewash or of concocting it solely from the store of readily available encomiums. Mr. Root was genuinely human and no human being is made up solely of excellences. When in 1930 the publishers inquired whether he would give me his permission to write his biography, he wrote to me:
My dear Philip
You may say to your publisher that if any sort of a book about me is to be written after my death you are my choice to be the writer of it & my family whom you know so well will help you all they can.
With kind regards
On only two occasions out of the many on which I saw him after that did he volunteer any statements about himself. At those two times he dwelt on general influences, attitudes and interests, not on specific events. In regard to many points, when I asked questions he answered them so far as his memory supplied the details, but more in the way of being accommodating to his questioner than with the manner of one making a record for posterity. He had none of the attitude of Theodore Roosevelt in supplying data to Joseph B. Bishop. Mr. Root's viewpoint is expressed in a letter which he wrote in 1909 refusing to consent to the writing of his biography by a newspaper man who had already written many laudatory articles about him:
. . . I can not . . . bring myself to feel that any biography of me would be an appropriate or suitable thing. I should feel convicted of over-weening self esteem and conceit by having anything to do with a publication of my own life. It seems to me that the question whether any man's life has been of sufficient interest to the world to justify a published biography, must be . . .