Roosevelt Orchestrates End of War
On September 5, 1905, President Theodore Roosevelt mediated the Treaty of Portsmouth, ending the Russo-Japanese War.
Japan and Russia had been at odds for some time, with both nations staking a claim on Korea and Manchuria. Japan offered to recognize Russia’s dominance in Manchuria if Russia would recognize that Korea was under Japan’s influence. However, Russia refused and insisted that Korea north of the 39th parallel be a neutral buffer zone between the nations.
The Japanese saw this as a threat to their expansionist plans. When negotiations between the two nations broke down, Japan prepared for war and launched a surprise attack on Russian forces at Port Arthur, China. That same day, February 8, 1904, Japan officially declared war on Russia.
The war raged for over a year, with Japan claiming a number of unexpected victories. Russia’s Tsar Nicholas II believed his troops could still win the war, and didn’t want to submit to a “humiliating peace.”
Early in the war, US president Theodore Roosevelt publicly supported the Japanese cause. But over time he realized the dangers of Japan’s powerful military and how it could affect US interests in Asia. In early 1905, Roosevelt reached out to both nations to encourage peace. They both refused until the Battle of Mukden, which saw high casualties on both sides, and the Battle of Tsushima.
Roosevelt then invited representatives from both nations to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (which at the time the Navy considered to be part of New Hampshire, but in 2002 was ruled to be a part of Maine by the Supreme Court), for peace negotiations. The negotiations took place over 12 sessions between August 9 and August 30, 1905. The delegates managed to agree on eight points during the first eight meetings, including an immediate cease-fire, recognition of Japan’s claim to Korea, and Russia’s evacuation of Manchuria.
A major point of contention was reparations and territorial concessions. The Russians issued an ultimatum and were prepared to start fighting again, but the Japanese eventually agreed to drop their claims for reparations.
Both sides signed the Treaty of Portsmouth on September 5, 1905, and then ratified it in early October. The treaty ushered in three decades of peace between the nations, while the war showed Japan was a major military power. Roosevelt also became a major force in world diplomacy and received the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in the negotiations. Roosevelt accepted the medal and donated his prize money to later war relief efforts.
Japan sought a way to thank the US for its role in the negotiations. Learning of America’s desire for cherry trees, in 1909 the mayor of Tokyo offered to send the trees as a symbol of friendship between the nations. The US reciprocated in 1915, when Howard Taft sent 50 flowering dogwood trees to Japan. With the exception of World War II and the years leading up to it, the US and Japan have been close allies. The tree-giving tradition continues into the 21st century. The trees remain living symbols of the enduring friendship between the US and Japan – their blossoms an inspiration for international peace throughout the world.
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