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Edward Mandell House

Edward Mandell House

Edward Mandell House (1858-1938), American diplomat, was President Wilson's most intimate counselor for several years.

Edward M. House was born on July 26, 1858, in Houston, Tex., the son of a prosperous planter and exporter. Edward was educated in England and at Cornell University. After 10 years of managing his inherited properties, he sold them and lived comfortably off the interest and other investments for the rest of his life.

Though outwardly self-effacing, House was driven to become influential. "I have been thought without ambition, " he noted autobiographically. "That … is not quite true. My ambition has been so great that it has never seemed to me worthwhile to strive to satisfy it." In truth, he did try to satisfy it by counseling men of power and by writing a political novel, Philip Dru, Administrator (1911), under a pseudonym. Philip Dru was the story of a man who became dictator of the United States, imposed an enlightened reform program upon the country, and then voluntarily relinquished his power. The hero of the novel, House admitted, "was all that he himself would like to be but was not."

House became the close adviser of a string of Texas politicians. Four times between 1892 and 1902 he successfully managed the campaigns of Texas gubernatorial candidates. In the first of these, he acquired the honorary title "Colonel, " which he kept throughout life.

House supported Woodrow Wilson's successful bid for the presidency in 1912. The key to his relationship with Wilson was his penetrating insight into the President's character and personality. Further, his own views coincided with Wilson's on most substantive issues—House was a conservative progressive in domestic policy and an internationalist in foreign policy—and it seems fair to conclude that he served as much as a confidant and representative of the President as a true counselor. Moreover, he smoothed Wilson's relations with congressional leaders and with the Allied powers both before and after American entry into World War I.

During 1915 and 1916 House performed the fruitless task of sounding out the British, French, and Germans on ending the war through mediation. He concluded that the United States should expand its armed forces, and he may have influenced Wilson's decision to come out for "preparedness" in 1915. When the United States entered the war, House became chief of the American mission to London and Paris, serving as the President's spokesman. He also took charge of the preparations for the Paris Peace Conference and drew up a preliminary draft of the League of Nations Covenant. House's most striking success was in persuading the Allies to accept Wilson's Fourteen Points program as the basis for peace shortly before the armistice.

As one of the five members of the United States peace commission in Paris, House continued to consult intimately with the President. He evidently persuaded the President to be conciliatory toward the British and French; yet Wilson was already beginning to turn against House. After June 1919 House and Wilson never saw each other again; nor did the President respond to House's urgent recommendation to compromise with the Republican moderates during the Senate fight over ratification of the League of Nations.

House continued to play a behind-the-scenes role in Democratic politics until his death in New York City on March 28, 1938, but his influence was negligible. His wife and two daughters survived him.

Further Reading

For House's own story, Charles Seymour, ed., The Intimate Papers of Colonel House (4 vols., 1926-1928), is indispensable. House lacks a full-scale biography, but a perceptive work is Alexander L. George and Juliette L. George, Woodrow Wilson and Colonel House: A Personality Study (1956). See also Rupert Norval Richardson, Colonel Edward M. House, vol. 1: The Texas Years (1964). The interested reader should also consult the many works of the Wilson scholar Arthur S. Link, including Woodrow Wilson (1963). □

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House, Edward Mandell

Edward Mandell House, 1858–1938, American political figure, adviser to President Wilson, b. Houston. Active in Texas politics, he was (1882–92) campaign manager and adviser to Gov. James Hogg and his successors. He was known as "Colonel" House because of a Texas state office he held. He met Woodrow Wilson in 1911 and helped him secure (1912) the Democratic presidential nomination. After Wilson's election House became the President's closest adviser. He often served as the President's liaison with members of the administration and important men in the country. Greatly interested in foreign affairs, he was sent to Europe in 1914 in an attempt to prevent the outbreak of war and again in 1915 to propose a peace conference. After U.S. entry into World War I, he was U.S. representative at the conference for coordinating Allied activities. House also gathered data for the peace conference, was American delegate to negotiate the armistice, and was a member of the U.S. peace commission. He helped to draft the Treaty of Versailles and the Covenant of the League of Nations. More conciliatory and realistic than Wilson at the peace conference, his friendship with Wilson ended in 1919 because of conflict on the conduct of the negotiations. House and Charles Seymour edited the documentary What Really Happened at Paris (1921). Some of his papers, selected and edited by Seymour as The Intimate Papers of Colonel House (2 vol., 1926–28), are a valuable historical source.

See A. D. H. Smith, The Real Colonel House (1918) and Mr. House of Texas (1940); A. MacPhail, Three Persons (1929); A. L. George and J. George, Woodrow Wilson and Colonel House (1956, repr. 1964).

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House, Edward Mandell

House, Edward Mandell (1858–1938) US politician and diplomat. He helped Woodrow Wilson obtain the 1912 Democratic presidential nomination and became his closest adviser. He was twice sent to Europe in attempts to prevent World War I (1914) and mediate peace (1915). A member of the US peace commission, he helped draft the Treaty of Versailles and the Covenant of the League of Nations.

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