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War // Peace Talks

After Japan and Russia agreed to Roosevelt’s mediation, the president then faced the difficult task of facilitating a successful outcome for the peace talks beginning in early August 1905 at Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  The cover of the postdated August 19 issue of Harper’s Weekly was an often-reproduced photograph of the pre-conference meeting of President Roosevelt (center) with the peace envoys (left-right):  Sergei Witte, Russia’s chief negotiator and chairman of its Committee of Ministers; Baron Roman Rosen, Russian minister to the United States; Komura Jutaro, Japan’s chief negotiator and its foreign minister; and Takahira Kogoro, Japanese minister to the United States.

During the talks, Roosevelt readily acceded to Japan’s authority over Korea, thereby violating an 1882 Korean-American treaty.  He did so believing that a disgruntled Japan might strike against the American territories of Hawaii and the Philippines or American interests in China.  The two key issues in conflict at the negotiations were whether Russia should pay Japan an indemnity and which nation would control Sakhalin Island.  After resolving minor points, the talks stalled on August 18.  Three days later, President Roosevelt proposed that Sakhalin Island be divided between the two powers. 

Although other factors were involved, including Japan dropping its demand for indemnity, the president’s intervention was instrumental in resolving the deadlock.  Harper’s Weekly paid tribute to Roosevelt’s role in its September 2 cover cartoon showing the determined “Rough Rider” forcing the fierce “dogs of war” through the “Gateway of Peace.”  In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt received the Nobel Peace Prize for helping end the Russo-Japanese War.  He was the first American president, and the only incumbent, to win the award.  (Former president Jimmy Carter won the award in 2002.)

The Treaty of Portsmouth was signed on September 5, 1905.  By its terms, Japan kept Liaotung Peninsula (including Port Arthur) and the South Manchurian Railroad, and gained hegemony over Korea, but returned the northern half of Sakhalin Island to Russia. In its September 16 issue, Harper’s Weekly published a page of editorial cartoons from other American newspapers.  The New York American cartoon (top) exhibited concern over the “rising sun” of the Japanese Empire.  A Japanese soldier stands tall on the peninsula of Korea (“Corea”) as his shadow looms ominously across Japan, the Philippines, and the United States.  The cartoon from the Pittsburg[h] Leader (center right) credited the peace treaty to the “pure charity” of Japanese concessions.  The images from the New York Herald, Boston Herald, and the Richmond Times-Dispatch all emphasized Roosevelt’s mediation.  Although popular in the United States and much of Europe, the terms of the treaty led to riots in Tokyo and helped provoke the Russian revolt of 1905 (after which Czar Nicholas II signed a constitutional charter). 

Harper's Weekly References

1)  August 19, 1905, p. 1179
photograph, Roosevelt with peace envoys

2)  September 2, 1905, p. 1255
cartoon, “The Gateway of Peace”

3)  September 16, 1905, p. 1352
cartoons from various newspapers

Sources Consulted

Gould, Lewis.  The Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt.  Lawrence, KS:  University Press of Kansas, 1991.

“Russo-Japanese War.”  Encyclopædia Britannica 2003.  Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service.

“Russo-Japanese War:  Introduction.”  The Russo-Japanese War Research Society.

“Russo-Japanese War.”

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War // Peace Talks





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