||Oscar Solomon Straus (1850–1926), was a diplomat, author, public servant, and jurist. Oscar was educated at Columbia University (L.B. 1873). While his father and brothers were expanding their crockery store into a far-flung mercantile firm, he was drawn through his law practice into the circles of political reformers. A "mugwump" who worked for the election of Grover Cleveland in 1884, Straus was rewarded by the Democrats with the post of minister to Turkey. On that mission (1887–89) and during two subsequent missions (minister, 1898–1900; ambassador, 1909–10) he dealt with the problems of missionary rights, the protection of naturalized U.S. citizens, and the course of "dollar diplomacy."
In matters of foreign policy Oscar was usually the anti-imperialist and pacifist. Active in the organized peace movement, he labored continuously for the establishment of legal machinery for the amicable settlement of international disputes. During World War I and its aftermath he championed the idea of a league of nations. Theodore Roosevelt appointed Straus to the International Court of Arbitration at The Hague, an appointment which was renewed four times. In domestic affairs Straus stressed political reforms (e.g., direct primaries) as the best means to preserve the democratic system. A Cleveland Democrat who broke with the party when it backed free silver, he stood for sound money, low tariffs, liberal immigration policies, and civil service reform. He emphasized the interest of the public in the clashes between capital and labor, and, like Theodore Roosevelt, he advocated cooperation with business and regulation of trusts when he served as Roosevelt's secretary of commerce and labor (1906–09). In 1912 he followed Roosevelt into the Progressive Party, and he ran as that party's candidate for governor of New York.
The first Jew to hold a cabinet post, Straus displayed a strong sense of responsibility toward the Jewish community. On numerous occasions he interceded with U.S. and foreign statesmen on behalf of the suffering Jews of Russia and Romania. In 1906 he helped found the American Jewish Committee . Opposed to political Zionism, he nonetheless contributed to various projects for the physical rehabilitation of Palestine and he supported territorialist schemes for the settlement of persecuted Jews. As a founder and officer of the Baron de Hirsch Fund he also worked to ease the plight of the newly arrived immigrants to the United States. Straus, a Reform Jew, found ideological similarities between the missions of Judaism and Americanism. As first president of the American Jewish Historical Society, and in numerous writings, particularly The Origin of the Republican Form of Government in the United States of America (1887, 1925), he stressed the impact of Hebraic concepts upon U.S. culture. His other writings include: Roger Williams, the Pioneer of Religious Liberty in the United States (1896) and Under Four Administrations (1922), an autobiography.