About Quizzes

Edward M. House

Edward House Edward Mandell House, the son of a successful banker and land owner, was born in Houston, Texas. He was educated in Connecticut private schools and entered Cornell University in 1877. His father died in 1880 and House returned to Texas to handle family business affairs. For the next dozen years he devoted his energies to cotton farming and became a wealthy man. In 1892, he supported the dim reelection hopes of Texas Governor James S. Hogg. A surprise victory prompted the governor to make House an honorary colonel in the Texas militia, a title he would use throughout his life. He later became a campaign advisor to other Texas governors. In 1910, House relocated to New York City in a move calculated to widen his political horizons. He became acquainted with Woodrow Wilson the following year; this relationship would dramatically change the course of the colonel’s life. House played a prominent role in engineering the Democratic presidential nomination for the New Jersey governor in 1912. Following the election victory in November, House aided the president-elect in the selection of the new cabinet. He never held an official political position within the administration, but emerged as the president’s chief advisor and go-between. House worked well with Congress and earned a share of the credit for Wilson’s early successes in the enactment of New Freedom legislation. In the spring of 1914, House was sent to Europe on his first official diplomatic mission. (He had made an unofficial visit to confer with British foreign secretary Sir Edward Grey in 1913.) In what he described as a “great adventure,” House called upon the Kaiser and other European leaders, but discovered little interest in toning down the martial posturing he found in most quarters. Shortly before heading back to the United States, word was received of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand (June 1914), but House and many others remained confident that war was not in the offing. Nevertheless, the American public was surprised and saddened when war did erupt in late July. Wilson proclaimed neutrality and in January 1915 dispatched House back to Europe on board the Lusitania for a second official mission. House hoped to change British blockade policies and end German attacks on merchant ships. He also sought to determine what terms each side would need to end hostilities. House found that both sides were so heavily invested in the conflict that they feared a public backlash if peace were sought without victory. A third mission took place in 1916, when House met with Lord Grey in an abortive attempt to mediate a conclusion to the stalemated conflict. House had hoped to secure the commitment of the Allies for a peace conference; if Germany were to refuse to participate in those peace talks, then the United States would enter the war on the Allied side. House had actually exceeded his authority in making this offer, but it mattered little since neither side was ready for serious negotiations. Later, House also served on the Allied coordinating committee, which decided upon vital financial and supply issues. In 1918, he was an armistice negotiator after Germany requested the opening of talks; House prevailed upon reluctant Allies to base the war’s termination on Wilson’s Fourteen Points. In January 1919, House accompanied Wilson to Paris for the peace conference and was instrumental in advancing American positions as well as drafting the Covenant of the League of Nations. The president and House split over the need to compromise to gain acceptance of the Treaty; the two would never again meet after the conference's conclusion in June. In an effort to try to advance the prospects for ratification of the Treaty, House later sent a letter to the seriously incapacitated Wilson, suggesting that he resign in favor of Vice-President Thomas Marshall. The letter was never answered. House published What Really Happened in Paris (1921), his account of the Paris meetings. Colonel Edward House was a superb behind-the-scenes operator whose talents made him an invaluable diplomat and presidential advisor. His courtly manner and unwavering realism tended to temper, at least for a while, Woodrow Wilson's abrupt idealism.