|42nd United States Secretary of State|
June 24, 1915 – February 13, 1920
Acting: June 9, 1915 – June 24, 1915
|Preceded by||William Jennings Bryan|
|Succeeded by||Bainbridge Colby|
|Counselor of the United States Department of State|
April 1, 1914 – June 23, 1915
|Preceded by||John Bassett Moore|
|Succeeded by||Frank Polk|
|Born||October 17, 1864|
Watertown, New York, U.S.
|Died||October 30, 1928 (aged 64)|
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Eleanor Foster (1890–1928)|
|Education||Amherst College (BA)|
Robert Lansing (//; October 17, 1864 – October 30, 1928) was an American lawyer and high government official who served as Counselor to the State Department at the outbreak of World War I, and then as United States Secretary of State under President Woodrow Wilson from 1915 to 1920. A conservative pro-business Democrat, he was pro-British and a strong defender of American rights at international law. He was a leading enemy of Germany autocracy and Russian Bolshevism. Before U.S. involvement in the war, Lansing vigorously advocated in favor of the principles of freedom of the seas and the rights of neutral nations. He later advocated U.S. participation in World War I, negotiated the Lansing–Ishii Agreement with Japan in 1917 and was a member of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace at Paris in 1919. However Wilson made Colonel House his chief foreign policy advisor because Lansing privately opposed much of the Versailles treaty and was skeptical of the Wilsonian principle of self-determination.
Robert Lansing was born in Watertown, New York in October 1864, the son of John Lansing (1832–1907) and Maria Lay (Dodge) Lansing. He graduated from Amherst College in 1886, studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1889.
From then until 1907 he was a member of the law firm of Lansing & Lansing at Watertown. An authority on international law, he served as associate counsel for the United States, in the Bering Sea Arbitration in 1892-1893, as counsel for the United States Bering Sea Claims Commission in 1896-1897, as the government's lawyer before the Alaskan Boundary Tribunal in 1903, as counsel for the North Atlantic Fisheries in the Arbitration at The Hague in 1909-1910, and as agent of the United States in the American and British Arbitration in 1912-1914. In 1914 Lansing was appointed counselor to the State Department by President Woodrow Wilson.
Lansing advocated "benevolent neutrality" at the start of World War I, but shifted away from the ideal after increasing interference and violation of the rights of neutrals by Great Britain. Following the sinking of the RMS Lusitania on 7 May 1915 by the German submarine U-20, Lansing backed Woodrow Wilson in issuing three notes of protest to the German government. William Jennings Bryan resigned as Secretary of State following Wilson's second note, which Bryan considered too belligerent. Lansing replaced Bryan, and said in his memoirs that following the Lusitania tragedy he always had the "conviction that we would ultimately become the ally of Britain".
In 1916 Lansing hired a handful of men who became the State Department's first special agents in the new Bureau of Secret Intelligence. These agents were initially used to observe the activities of the Central Powers in America, and later to watch over interned German diplomats. The small group of agents hired by Lansing would eventually become the U.S. Diplomatic Security Service (DSS).
A few weeks before the formal end of World War I, Lansing informed the crumbling Austro-Hungarian Empire that since the Americans were now committed to the causes of the Czechs, Slovaks and South Slavs, the Empire's proposal to satisfy the tenth of Wilson's Fourteen Points by granting the nationalities autonomy within the Empire was no longer sufficient. The declaration of independence the small nations was read by the president of Mid-European Union professor Thomas Garrigue Masaryk in a Philadelphia congress on 26 October 1918.  Within two weeks, these new nations began to declare themselves independent and Austria-Hungary ceased to exist.
In 1919, Lansing became the nominal head of the US Commission to the Paris Peace Conference. Because he did not regard the League of Nations as essential to the peace treaty, Lansing began to fall out of favor with Wilson, for whom participation in the League of Nations was a primary goal. During Wilson's stroke and illness, Lansing called the cabinet together for consultations on several occasions. In addition, he was the first cabinet member to suggest that Vice President Thomas R. Marshall assume the powers of the presidency. Displeased by Lansing's independence, Edith Wilson requested Lansing's resignation. Lansing stepped down from his post on February 12, 1920.
In 1890, Lansing married Eleanor Foster, the daughter of Secretary of State John W. Foster. Eleanor's older sister Edith was the mother of John Foster Dulles, who also became Secretary of State, Allen Welsh Dulles who served as Director of Central Intelligence, and Eleanor Lansing Dulles, an economist and high level policy analyst and advisor for the State Department.
Lansing was associate editor of the American Journal of International Law, and with Gary M. Jones was the author of Government: Its Origin, Growth, and Form in the United States (1902). He also wrote: The Big Four and Others at the Peace Conference, Boston (1921) and The Peace Negotiations: A Personal Narrative, Boston/New York (1921).
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Robert Lansing.|
|Wikisource has the text of a 1921 Collier's Encyclopedia article about Robert Lansing.|
William Jennings Bryan
| U.S. Secretary of State
Served under: Woodrow Wilson
1915 – 1920