Edward M. House

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Edward M. House
Frontal image of man with white mustache, white shirt, necktie, dark suit and hat. He appears to be seated with hands folded in his lap.
Edward M. House in 1915
Born Edward Mandell House
(1858-07-26)July 26, 1858
Houston, Texas
Died March 28, 1938(1938-03-28) (aged 79)
New York City
Resting place Glenwood Cemetery (Houston, Texas)
Political party Democrat
Spouse(s) Loulie Hunter
(m. 1881; his death 1938)
  • two daughters survived him:
  • Mona and Janet
  • Mary Elizabeth (Shearn) House
  • Thomas William House
Relatives six older brothers
Edward M. House, from An Onlooker in France 1917–1919 by William Orpen, 1921. Plate LXXXV
This article is about the diplomat. For the journalist, see Edward Howard House.

Edward Mandell House (July 26, 1858 – March 28, 1938) was a powerful American diplomat, politician, and presidential advisor, commonly known by the courtesy title Colonel House, although he had no military experience. He was a highly influential back-stage politician in Texas before becoming a key supporter of the presidential bid of Woodrow Wilson in 1912. He did not hold office but was Wilson's chief advisor on European politics and diplomacy during World War I (1914–18) and at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919. In 1919 Wilson broke with House and several other top advisors, believing they had deceived him at Paris.

Early years[edit]

He was born July 26, 1858 in Houston, Texas, the last of seven children. His father, Thomas William House, Sr., was an immigrant from England by way of New Orleans who became a prominent Houston businessman with a large role in developing the city and served a term as its mayor. An ardent Confederate, he had also sent blockade runners against the Union blockade in the Gulf of Mexico during the American Civil War.[1][4]

House attended Houston Academy, a school in Bath, England, a prep school in Virginia, and Hopkins Grammar School, New Haven, Connecticut.[1] He went on to study at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, in 1877. He was a member of Alpha Delta Phi, a fraternity with its roots as a Literary society founded at Hamilton College in 1832. He left at the beginning of his third year to care for his sick father, who died in 1880.[1][3][5][6]

He married Loulie Hunter on August 4, 1881.[3]

Texas business and politics[edit]

Edward M. House in 1920

On his return to Texas, House ran his family's business. He eventually sold the cotton plantations, and invested in banking. He was a founder of the Trinity and Brazos Valley Railway. House moved to New York City about 1902.

In 1912, House published anonymously a novel called Philip Dru: Administrator, in which the title character, Dru, leads the democratic western U.S. in a civil war against the plutocratic East, becoming the dictator of America. Dru as dictator imposes a series of reforms which resemble the Bull Moose platform of 1912 and then vanishes.[7]

House helped to make four men governor of Texas: James S. Hogg (1892), Charles A. Culberson (1894), Joseph D. Sayers (1898), and S. W. T. Lanham (1902). After the election House acted as unofficial advisor to each governor. Hogg gave House the title "Colonel" by appointing House to his staff.

A “cosmopolitan progressive” who examined political developments in Europe, House was an admirer of the British Liberal welfare reforms instigated between 1906 and 1914, noting to a friend in June 1911 that David Lloyd George

“is working out the problems which are nearest my heart and that is the equalization of opportunity …. The income tax, the employers’ liability act, the old age pension measure, the budget of last year and this insurance bill puts England well to the fore. We have touched these problems in America but lightly as yet but the soil is fallow.”[8]

Becomes advisor to Wilson[edit]

After House withdrew from Texas politics and moved to New York, he became an advisor, close friend and supporter of New Jersey governor Woodrow Wilson in 1911, and helped him win the Democratic presidential nomination in 1912. He became an intimate of Wilson and helped set up his administration.

House was offered the cabinet position of his choice (except for Secretary of State, which was already pledged to William Jennings Bryan) but declined, choosing instead "to serve wherever and whenever possible." House was even provided living quarters within the White House.

He continued as an advisor to Wilson particularly in the area of foreign affairs. House functioned as Wilson's chief negotiator in Europe during the negotiations for peace (1917–1919) and as chief deputy for Wilson at the Paris Peace Conference.

In the 1916 presidential election, House declined any public role but was Wilson's top campaign advisor: "he planned its structure; set its tone; guided its finance; chose speakers, tactics, and strategy; and, not least, handled the campaign's greatest asset and greatest potential liability: its brilliant but temperamental candidate."[9]

After Wilson's first wife died in 1914, the President was even closer to House. However, Wilson's second wife, Edith, of whom he had commissioned the Swiss-born American artist Adolfo Müller-Ury (1862–1947) to paint a portrait in 1916, disliked House, and his position weakened. It is believed that her personal animosity was significantly responsible for Wilson's eventual decision to break with House.


Col. House and President Wilson in 1915.[10]

House threw himself into world affairs, promoting Wilson's goal of brokering a peace to end World War I. He spent much of 1915 and 1916 in Europe, trying to negotiate peace through diplomacy. He was enthusiastic but lacked deep insight into European affairs and relied on the information received from British diplomats, such as Edward Grey, to make decisions. After the sinking of the Lusitania on 7 May 1915, which was predicted by Grey and House in a telephone conversation, tension escalated with Germany, and US neutrality was precarious. House decided that the war was an epic battle between democracy and autocracy; he argued the United States ought to help Britain and France win a limited Allied victory. However, Wilson still insisted on neutrality.

House played a major role in shaping wartime diplomacy. Wilson had House assemble "The Inquiry", a team of academic experts to devise efficient postwar solutions to all the world's problems. In September 1918, Wilson gave House the responsibility for preparing a constitution for a League of Nations. In October 1918, when Germany petitioned for peace based on the Fourteen Points, Wilson charged House with working out details of an armistice with the Allies.

Paris Conference[edit]

House helped Wilson outline his Fourteen Points and worked with the president on the drafting of the Treaty of Versailles and the Covenant of the League of Nations. House served on the League of Nations Commission on Mandates with Lord Milner and Lord Robert Cecil of Great Britain, Henri Simon[11] of France, Viscount Chinda of Japan, Guglielmo Marconi of Italy, and George Louis Beer as adviser. On May 30, 1919 House participated in a meeting in Paris which laid the groundwork for establishment of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). Throughout 1919, House urged Wilson to work with Senator Henry Cabot Lodge to achieve ratification of the Versailles Treaty, but Wilson refused to deal with Lodge or any other senior Republican.

The conference revealed serious policy disagreements and personality conflicts between Wilson and House. Wilson became less tolerant and broke with his closest advisors, one after another. Later, he dismissed House's son-in-law, Gordon Auchincloss, from the American peace commission when it became known the young man was making derogatory comments about him.[12]

In February 1919, House took his place on the Council of Ten, where he negotiated compromises unacceptable to Wilson. The following month, Wilson returned to Paris and, having lost confidence in House, relegated him to the sidelines. After they returned to the US later that year, the two men never saw or spoke to each other again.[12]

In the 1920s, House strongly supported membership in both the League of Nations and the Permanent Court of International Justice.

In 1932, House supported Franklin D. Roosevelt for the presidency without joining his inner circle. Although he became disillusioned with the course of the New Deal after Roosevelt's election, he expressed his reservations only privately.

Death and legacy[edit]

Edward M. House Statue in Warsaw

House died on March 28, 1938 in New York City, following a bout of pleurisy and was buried at Glenwood Cemetery in Houston. House Park, a high school football stadium in Austin, Texas, stands on House's former horse pasture. The small farming community of Emhouse in north-central Navarro County, Texas was renamed from Lyford in his honor, as he had served as the superintendent of the railroad company that operated in the community.[13]

In 1944, in Darryl F. Zanuck's 20th Century Fox film, Wilson, Charles Halton portrayed Colonel House.

A statue of House, financed by Ignacy Jan Paderewski in 1932, is located at Skaryszewski Park in Warsaw.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Neu, Charles E. (June 15, 2010). "HOUSE, EDWARD MANDELL". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 2014-07-12. 
  2. ^ "Edward Mandell House". Encyclopedia of World Biography. Biography in Context. Detroit: Gale. 1998. GALE|K1631003142. Retrieved 2014-07-12. 
  3. ^ a b c "Edward Mandell House". Dictionary of American Biography. Biography in Context. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. 1944. GALE|BT2310010933. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  4. ^ Beazley, Julia (June 15, 2010). "HOUSE, THOMAS WILLIAM". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 2014-07-12. 
  5. ^ "Alpha Delt - Alpha Delt Hall of Famevh us dgt da FB f". Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  6. ^ Zawel, Marc B. "PART ONE: The History of Alpha Delta Phi at Cornell" (PDF). A Comprehensive History of Alpha Delt Phi. pp. 1–2. Retrieved 2014-07-13. 
  7. ^ Lasch, pp. 230–35.
  8. ^ https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=g1IgBQAAQBAJ&pg=PA69&dq=colonel+house+old-age+pensions&hl=en&sa=X&ei=yqUzVePQNMzsaKSNgSg&ved=0CCkQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=colonel%20house%20old-age%20pensions&f=false
  9. ^ Godfrey Hodgson (2006). Woodrow Wilson's right hand: the life of Colonel Edward M. House. Yale University Press. p. 126. 
  10. ^ "Col. House Discusses Peace Outlook with Wilson". Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections. June 28, 1915. Retrieved 29 June 2015. 
  11. ^ MacMillan, Margaret. Paris 1919. New York, Random House, 2002
  12. ^ a b Berg, A. Scott (2013). Wilson. New York, NY: G.P. Putnam's Sons. p. 571. ISBN 978-0-399-15921-3. 
  13. ^ Long, Christopher. "EMHOUSE, TX". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 2014-07-12. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Bailey, Thomas. Woodrow Wilson and the Lost Peace (1963) on Paris, 1919
  • Bruce, Scot David, Woodrow Wilson's Colonial Emissary: Edward M. House and the Origins of the Mandate System, 1917-1919 (University of Nebraska Press, 2013).
  • Cooper, John Milton, Jr. Woodrow Wilson: A Biography (2011) the major scholarly biography
  • Floto, Inga. Colonel House in Paris: A Study of American Policy at the Paris Peace Conference 1919 (Princeton U. Press, 1980)
  • Esposito, David M. "Imagined Power: The Secret Life of Colonel House." Historian (1998) 60#4 pp 741–755.online
  • George, Alexander L. and Juliette George. Woodrow Wilson and Colonel House: A Personality Study. New York: Dover Publications, 1964.
  • Hodgson, Godfrey. Woodrow Wilson's Right Hand: The Life of Colonel Edward M. House. 2006.
  • Lasch, Christopher. The New Radicalism in America, 1889–1963: The Intellectual as a Social Type. 1965.
  • Neu, Charles E. "Edward Mandell House," American National Biography, 2000.
  • Neu, Charles E. Colonel House: A Biography of Woodrow Wilson's Silent Partner (2014)
  • Neu, Charles E. "In Search of Colonel Edward M. House: The Texas Years, 1858-1912." Southwestern Historical Quarterly (1989) 93#1 pp: 25-44. in JSTOR
  • Richardson, Rupert N., Colonel Edward M. House: The Texas Years. 1964 .
  • Startt, James D. "Colonel Edward M. House and the Journalists," American Journalism (2010) 27#3 pp 27–58.
  • Viereck, George Sylvester (1932). The Strangest Friendship in History. 
  • Walworth, Arthur (1986). Wilson and His Peacemakers: American Diplomacy at the Paris Peace Conference, 1919. 
  • Williams, Joyce G. Colonel House and Sir Edward Grey: A Study in Anglo-American Diplomacy (University Press of America, 1984)

Primary sources[edit]

  • Link. Arthur C., ed. The Papers of Woodrow Wilson. In 69 volumes. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press (1966–1994)
  • Seymour, Charles, ed. The intimate papers of Colonel House (4 vols., 1928)

External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Herbert L. Pratt
Cover of Time Magazine
25 June 1923
Succeeded by
Andrew Mellon