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Bar Journal - Summer 2005



Theodore Roosevelt’s Mediation of the 1905 Treaty of Portsmouth


In a surprise attack launched the evening of February 8, 1904, two days before an official declaration of war, Japanese naval forces commanded by Admiral Heihachiro Togo attacked and neutralized the Russian Pacific fleet at Port Arthur, Manchuria.  The Russo-Japanese War,
1 the first modern war of the 20th Century, ended 19 months later in an unlikely venue, a United States Naval Shipyard located in the Piscataqua River estuary between New Hampshire and Maine.  The Treaty of Portsmouth that officially concluded hostilities between the belligerent empires of Japan and Russia was adroitly mediated, albeit with great tact behind the scenes, by President Theodore Roosevelt, and earned for him the first Nobel Prize for Peace awarded to an American.2  While the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard appeared a most unlikely choice of venue to diplomats and reporters at the time, the Portsmouth preference was a shrewd election by one of America’s greatest presidents, who happily was as well versed in naval matters as he was in international diplomacy—and who had long enjoyed a cordial relationship with one of Japan’s most influential statesmen.



In 1872 two Japanese students arrived in Boston to enroll in Harvard University.  One of them, Kentaro Kaneko, met the 18-year old Theodore Roosevelt shortly after Roosevelt matriculated at Harvard in September 1876.They struck up a friendship that would endure for the rest of Roosevelt’s life.  Kaneko delighted in his life and studies in the United States, and embarked upon a distinguished career in his government’s service immediately upon his return to Japan.  His rapid rise came through merit, and in 1889 be was the principal framer of the Meiji
3 Constitution.  In 1890 he was actively involved in adapting the parliamentary form as the preferred political system of Japanese government.  At various times he held the portfolios of Minister of State for Agriculture and Commerce (where he strongly supported the right of workers to form trade unions); Secretary of the Privy Council; Chief Secretary of the House of Peers; and Minister of Justice.  Among Americans with whom Kaneko conducted an extensive correspondence was John H. Wigmore, who studied and wrote extensively about Japanese law, and whose name is known to every American law school student for his monumental Treatise on Evidence.  In later life Kaneko founded the America-Japan Society, and was that Society’s first president.



Without going into extensive detail, suffice it to say that the causes of the Russo-Japanese War grew out of expansionist desires and competing spheres of influence.  The Japanese Government, resolved to prosecute the war aggressively, threw all the ground troops at its disposal into Manchuria, winning major battles on the Yalu River and Dairen in 1904.  However, the Russians, confidently anticipating overwhelming reinforcements via the Trans-Siberian railway, remained passively on the defensive, inflicting significant loses on the attacking Japanese troops and refusing to counterattack, all the while falling back upon the fortifications around Port Arthur.

The Japanese, bereft of allies and aware that at some point hostilities would have to move from the battlefield to the negotiating table, cast about for—if not allies, at least friends—and if not friends, at least facilitators willing and able to get the belligerents into the same room.  The Japanese did not expect, nor did they wish assistance from Germany or France—Russia’s partners in the Tripartite Intervention that forced Japan to give up much of the spoils it had gained in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95.  In mid-1904 two envoys were dispatched to sound out public opinion and political backing in the two countries upholding the Open Door Policy towards China’s commercial interests: Kencho Suematsu to Great Britain, and—mindful of his long friendship with the American president—Kentaro Kaneko to the United States.

Kaneko lost no time in soliciting his colleague from Harvard days to devise some way to intervene.  Although incensed at the Czar’s autocratic despotism and the widespread pogroms targeting Russian Jews, Roosevelt was concerned about possible Japanese designs on the Philippines and Hawaii.  However, he realized America’s and the world’s interests would best be served by a balance of power in the Pacific Basin—and his humanitarian instincts wanted to see an end to the bloodshed and destruction the war was causing.  Roosevelt signaled his willingness to engage the belligerents in settlement negotiations when the opportunity presented itself.

Opportunity arose after May 27-28, 1905, when the Japanese Navy in the most decisive sea battle since Trafalgar, intercepted and annihilated the unwieldy Russian Second Pacific Fleet
4 as it entered the Tsushima Strait between Japan and Korea.5  Three days later Japan’s ambassador, Kogoro Takahira was instructed by his government to ask Roosevelt to mediate.  Roosevelt immediately agreed, “primarily to save lives and stabilize the military and diplomatic situation in the Pacific, but also to demonstrate to voters the constructive possibilities of getting more involved with foreign affairs”.6

In truth, both belligerents were desperate to end the war.  Despite overwhelming victories that ensured Japanese control of the seas, Japan had accumulated such massive debt that she was tottering on the edge of bankruptcy.  Furthermore, Japan had lost proportionately far more young men from her population than Russia had, and the lack of labor to bring in the rice harvest might mean famine.  Despite horrific losses of lives and materiél, Russia still had close to one million troops in Manchuria, a virtually inexhaustible supply of young men, and the ability to draw upon extensive lines of credit, particularly from Germany. The Russian government favored a truce in order to rebuild its naval forces, but economic distress and great social and political upheavals among the Russian people were manifesting themselves in disorders and strikes.  The “Bloody Sunday” of January 22, 1905, when soldiers killed scores of demonstrating workers in St. Petersburg, initiated a year of domestic terror.  In late June 1905 the crew of the battleship Potemkin assigned to the Russian Imperial Navy’s Black Sea Fleet mutinied, ostensibly over the matter of a “few maggots” in beef carcasses destined for their mess.
7  Thus, the Russian government was more receptive to Roosevelt’s overtures to arrange a meeting between the belligerents than it otherwise might have been.

On June 11, 1905, two weeks after the battle at Tsushima Strait, the Department of State formally announced that the belligerent powers had accepted President Roosevelt’s offer to sponsor
peace negotiations in the United States—but Roosevelt had been preparing the ground for months, as early as his inaugural in March of 1905.
8  In a letter to his son, Kermit, dated the day of the Department of State’s formal announcement, Roosevelt wrote:

“During the past fortnight, and indeed for a considerable time before, I have been carrying on negotiations with both Russia and Japan, together with side negotiations with Germany, France and England, to try to get the present war stopped.  With infinite labor and by the exercise of a good deal of tact and judgment—if I do say it myself—I have finally gotten the Japanese and Russians to agree to meet to discuss the terms of peace.  Whether they will be able to come to an agreement or not I can’t say.  But it is worthwhile to have obtained the chance of peace, and the only possible way to get this chance was to secure such an agreement of the two powers that they would meet and discuss the terms direct.  Of course, Japan will want to ask more than she ought
to ask, and Russia to give less than she ought to give.  Perhaps both sides will prove impracticable. Perhaps one will.  But there is the chance that they will prove sensible, and make a peace, which will really be for the interest of each as things are now.  At any rate the experiment was worth trying. I have kept the secret very successfully, and my dealings with the Japanese have been known to no one, so that the result is in the nature of a surprise.”

Given the declining health of his Secretary of State, John Hay10 and his own predilections, Roosevelt functioned as his own foreign minister.  He personally and disingenuously instructed, without advising either the State Department or the Congress, George von Lengerke Meyer, the American ambassador to Russia, to assure Czar Nicholas II he was acting on his own initiative, but felt confident the Japanese would assent to peace negotiations if the Czar first agreed.11  One of Roosevelt’s enduring traits was his ensuring that others received proper credit for their contributions.  In a conversation with Mr. E. Alexander Powell a fellow passenger aboard the SS Hamburg in March, 1909 Roosevelt stated:

“I don’t believe that I could have concluded the Treaty of Portsmouth, however, without the help of George Meyer, our ambassador at St. Petersburg, who enjoyed the confidence of the Czar and had his ear.  For the Russian diplomats lied to me right and left, while the officials who surrounded the Czar deliberately misrepresented to him everything I said and did.  At length it became necessary for me to order Meyer to ignore the Russian Foreign Office and delivery my messages to the Czar himself in order that they might not be falsified or distorted.”

With the Czar’s assent obtained, Roosevelt cast about for a suitable venue.  Europe was obviously out of the question, and Washington in the summer was so intolerable in that pre-air conditioned age that Congress recessed.  Several locations vied for the privilege of hosting the negotiations, Newport, Rhode Island, and Bar Harbor, Maine, among them.  But Roosevelt, as a result of his intense interest in naval matters13 knew of a small naval shipyard located in the Seacoast of New Hampshire and Maine.  The shipyard was a military reservation whose secure boundaries meant access could be tightly controlled, and international communications facilities were nearby.  The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard was also close to Roosevelt’s summer home, Sagamore Hill, on Long Island, where he would reside during the peace negotiations.  The following letter, dated July 10, 1905, was sent by the Acting Secretary of the Navy to W.W. Mead, Rear Admiral, USN, Commandant, Navy Yard, Portsmouth, New Hampshire:


This may introduce Honorable Herbert H.D. Peirce, Assistant Secretary of State, who is specially delegated by the President to arrange for the meeting of the plenipotentiaries at the Navy Yard, Portsmouth, N.H.

The new storehouse building is to be placed at the disposal of the plenipotentiaries.

You will please take this up with Assistant Secretary Peirce and give him such aid and show him such courtesies as you are able?”14

Before removing his family from the White House to Sagamore Hill Roosevelt directed the Navy to obtain five Pope-Toledo touring cars for the use of the negotiators, and authorized the purchase of some $15,000 worth of furnishings for the “storehouse for general supplies”, building 86, recently constructed at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard at a cost of $131,000.  The cost of supplying the furnishings was to be offset by auctioning off the furnishings following the conclusion of negotiations.



On August 5, 1905, Roosevelt invited both delegations to Sagamore Hill and lunch aboard the USS Mayflower, a naval dispatch vessel sometimes referred to as the presidential yacht, anchored off Oyster Bay. Keenly aware that his every move at this luncheon to introduce the delegates to each other would be minutely scrutinized from the perspective of precedence and protocol (i.e., which delegation would enter the dining room first; which chief delegate would be seated to the president’s right; which emperor would receive the first toast?), Roosevelt finessed ceremonial courtesies by firmly grasping the respective chief delegates by their elbows and walking them into an area where a standing buffet had been prepared.  During the lunch Roosevelt proposed the adroit toast: “To the welfare and prosperity of the sovereigns and people of the two great nations, whose representatives have met one another on this ship.”

Czar Nicholas’ initial choices as First Plenipotentiary had declined, and reluctantly Nicholas had turned to Sergius Witte (pronounced Vitte), one of Russia’s foremost politicians and intellectuals, and physically very imposing—but a person who opposed the war and had worked diligently to prevent its outbreak.  The second ranking plenipotentiary, also an opponent of the war, was Baron Roman Rosen, Russian ambassador to the United States.  The choice of Witte was an extremely fortuitous one for the Russians.  Roosevelt did not care for him, and thought him “shockingly vulgar when compared with the gentlemanly self-respecting self-restraint of the Japanese,” though he supposed Witte was the best man that Russia could have at the head of her affairs.

The Mikado also experienced difficulty in selecting appropriate delegates.  A member of the Royal Family, Prince Ito, declined, arguing that the ministers who had ably prosecuted the war should be granted the honor of negotiating the peace.  The Mikado settled upon Foreign Minister Jutaro Komura as Japan’s First Plenipotentiary, and Kogoro Takahira, Japanese minister to the United States.  The slightly built, soft-spoken Komura knew America well for he was an 1877 graduate of Harvard Law School. 

The Japanese aboard the USS Mayflower, and the Russians aboard the similar-sized naval dispatch vessel USS Dolphin, proceeded to Portsmouth Harbor, though dense fog in Long Island Sound delayed the delegates’ official arrival until the morning of Tuesday, August 8, when the Mayflower, Dolphin and the Navy cruiser USS Galveston conveying Assistant Secretary of State Peirce, Roosevelt’s designated representative to the negotiations, anchored off the Whaleback Lighthouse.  The delegates were welcomed aboard the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard by Rear Admiral Mead and Secretary Peirce, then escorted to the conference site, the new storehouse building, still smelling strongly of fresh paint.  The delegates then traveled to Portsmouth for a formal reception at the Rockingham County Courthouse on State Street hosted by New Hampshire Governor John McLane.  The emissaries were then escorted to their accommodations at the Hotel Wentworth on Great Island in the nearby town of New Castle.

The next morning the First Plenipotentiaries exchanged credentials and got down to the serious business of attempting to end a mutually disastrous war.  The Japanese, quite rightly, saw themselves as having won the greatest gains in battle, and felt that the Russians, having provoked the war, must reimburse Japan with a large indemnity, “popularly supposed to have been $600 million.”
17  The Russian delegates, having been dispatched with Czar Nicholas’ direction not to cede “one hectare of land” nor pay “one kopek of indemnity” were adamant that no reimbursement of Japan’s war costs would be made. 

Foreign Minister Komura quickly won his country’s demands for mutual obligations to evacuate Manchuria, surrender of the Russian leases in the Liaotung Peninsula to Japan, ceding the railway from Harbin to Port Arthur to Japan, and recognition of Japan’s “preponderating influence” in Korea.  But as Roosevelt had anticipated, the Russians adamantly rejected payment of any indemnity and would not cede the strategic island of Sakhalin to Japan.

Roosevelt, of course, played no official rôle in the negotiations, but he was extremely active behind the scenes. Secretary Peirce briefed him daily on the state of negotiations via telegraph and telephone, even passing on tidbits of overheard conversations by the Japanese and Russian delegates from an informant at the Hotel Wentworth.  He also received confidential “back-channel” communications from his old friend, Kaneko.

Initially, Roosevelt made neither demands nor suggestions to the delegates. As negotiations deadlocked, he began firing off coded cablegrams from Sagamore Hill to Ambassadors Meyer in St. Petersburg and Lloyd C. Griscom in Tokyo,
19 instructing them to make clear to their respective governments the need for peace.  He also communicated with envoys of Great Britain, France, and Germany, urging their respective governments to use their influences on the governments of Russia and Japan.  Roosevelt beseeched his friend, Kaneko, whom he knew had the Mikado’s ear, that it “is in the interest of the great empire of Nippon to make peace”.  The President was unceasing in his efforts to persuade the Japanese to drop their demands for an indemnity, and restrain the Russians from resuming the war.  Roosevelt was frustrated by the obstinacy of both governments, and complained to his son, Kermit:

“I am having my hair turned gray by dealing with the Russian and Japanese peace negotiations.  The Japanese ask too much, but the Russians are ten times worse than the Japanese because they are so stupid and won’t tell the truth.”


On Friday, August 18, negotiations at Portsmouth were reported at impasse, and a thoroughly disgusted Roosevelt secretly summoned Ambassador Rosen to the summer White House for frank discussions the following day.  Roosevelt got nowhere with Rosen, but his continued efforts to sway the Czar and the Mikado at least got the negotiators back to the conference table in the general stores building at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.  Then, on Tuesday, August 22, Witte received a cablegram from Czar Nicholas ordering him to break off negotiations.  His instincts told Witte to ignore the cable—and he did, for he had been preparing the ground for a tactical coup de main. 

On that same date Roosevelt, knowing full well his sentiments would be cabled immediately to the Japanese Emperor’s special confidential advisors, poured out his heart to his old friend Kaneko:

“You know how urgently I advised the Russians to conclude peace.  With equal firmness I advise Japan not to continue the war for the sake of war indemnity.  Should she do so, I believe that there will occur a considerable reversal of public opinion against her.  I do not believe that this public opinion could have a tangible effect.  Nevertheless, it must not be altogether neglected.  Moreover, I do not think that the Japanese people could attain its aims if it continued the war solely because of the question of an indemnity.  I think that Russia will refuse to pay and that the common opinion of the civilized world will support her in her refusal to pay the enormous sum that is being demanded, or anything like that sum.  Of course, if Russia pays that sum, there is nothing else for me to say.  But should she refuse to pay, you will see that, having waged war for another year, even if you succeeded in occupying Eastern Siberia, you would spend four or five hundred more millions in addition to those expended, you would shed an enormous quantity of blood, and even if you obtained Eastern Siberia, you would get something which you do not need, and Russia would be completely unable to pay you anything.”

Roosevelt was both clear-eyed and compelling.

When the First Plenipotentiaries convened in the conference room in the general stores building the next day (August 23), Witte reacted to Komura’s proposal, that Russia cede to Japan the northern half of Sakhalin Island for a monetary payment to be negotiated later, by asking if the offer implied Japan’s willingness to dispense with an indemnity if Russia ceded the entire island.  Komura adamantly replied that his government would not give in on the issue of an indemnity—realizing too late that he had fallen into Witte’s trap.  Henceforth, the Japanese position would be construed as willing to continue the war strictly for financial gain.  Negotiations recessed until Saturday, August 26, and both Plenipotentiaries dispatched a flurry of coded cablegrams to their governments.  When Secretary Peirce informed Roosevelt of the development, Roosevelt immediately instructed Ambassador Griscom to plead to the Mikado’s advisers that Japan could accept a peace without an official indemnity, since cessation of half of Sakhalin could be viewed as having a monetary element.  He instructed Ambassador Meyer to plead with the Czar to be more forthright in the offer of ceding all claims to half of Sakhalin.

The respective governments were noncommittal.  Roosevelt waited in Sagamore Hill in an agony of suspense, though the always naval minded president did manage one diversion: on Friday, August 25, he was an interested and informed observer aboard the Navy’s experimental submarine Plunger, which submerged in Long Island Sound with Roosevelt manipulating the controls at various times during the dive.

A message from Secretary Peirce informed him that the Plenipotentiaries had set a date for final discussions—the 28
th.  Witte had been informed that the Czar acquiesced to surrendering all claims to the northern half of Sakhalin, but no payment of any kind would be made.  However, the Czar was convinced further negotiations would be unproductive, and for the second time ordered Witte to end the negotiations.  Responding both to his instincts and a plea from Roosevelt via Secretary Peirce to await a definitive response from the Japanese, Witte again ignored his sovereign’s instructions.

On his part, a discouraged Komura had notified his Emperor that if the Russians remained obstinate over the matter of some form of monetary payment he recommended dissolving the negotiations and resuming the war.  But helped along by appeals from Roosevelt transmitted via Ambassador Griscom, high-ranking Japanese military officers, dismayed at the butcher’s bill they would have to pay in assaulting Russia’s well-fortified positions in Manchuria, and the finance ministry that emphasized the economic costs of continuing the war, the Japanese government cabled Komura on August 28 to accept the Russian terms. 


Success at Last!

At a tense meeting of the First Plenipotentiaries on Tuesday the 29
th, Komura, ever the consummate diplomat, advised his counterpart that Japan would drop all consideration of an indemnity if Russia would cede all of Sakhalin to Japan.  Witte blandly declined the proposal.  Komura reluctantly counter-proposed the offer his government had directed him to make.  If Japan gave up its demand for some form of payment, was the Russian offer to cede half of Sakhalin still valid?  A triumphant Witte immediately agreed.  Agreement had been reached!

Upon hearing the momentous news, Secretary Peirce immediately notified Portsmouth Mayor William E. Marvin of the agreement.  The mayor ordered the bells of the city rung for half an hour, a tribute previously accorded only at the end of the American Civil War

Theodore Roosevelt heard the news around noon on the 29
th.  He was in his library at Sagamore Hill perusing correspondence with his secretary, William Loeb,23 when the telephone rang.  Loeb answered it, and after a moment happily informed the president that “The Associated Press has announced in an official bulletin from Portsmouth that the plenipotentiaries have agreed on all points of difference, and will proceed at once to draft a treaty of peace!”24

Roosevelt rushed upstairs to tell his wife, Edith, then, flashing his teeth in his signature grin, exclaimed to Loeb: “It’s a mighty good thing for Russia, and a mighty good thing for Japan—and a mighty good thing for me too!”
25  The verbally agreed protocols were then given to the respective legal advisors to hammer out the final treaty terms and conditions.  The Russians were represented by Professor Theodore de Martens, a member of the Council to the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Japanese were represented by Henry Denison, long a legal and financial advisor to the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.26

For the first time in modern history a third party had intervened and mediated an end to an international war.  The parties were not particularly pleased with the treaty’s provisions,
27 though Czar Nicholas was glad enough to have one less flashpoint in that chaotic year of 1905.  The Japanese public, unaware of the country’s dire financial condition, believed the terms of peace had been dictated by the nation their military forces had vanquished.  Their anger was expressed in riots, resulting in some loss of life and martial law being imposed on Tokyo.  However, the Emperor, all too aware of his nation’s vulnerabilities, supported the treaty.  The Emperor and his closest ministers viewed the Treaty of Portsmouth as marking the emergence and recognition of Japan as a co-equal in the community of major nations—a view that Japan holds to this day.

The governments of Russia, Japan, Great Britain, Germany, France—and all the major European powers, heaped praise upon Roosevelt for his peacemaking efforts.  His countrymen appreciated his efforts equally, and when Roosevelt and his family returned from Sagamore Hill to take up residence in the White House they were greeted in Washington by crowds of enthusiastic well-wishers.  As further recognition of his unstinting efforts to bring about the compromises leading to peace between the belligerent empires, the Norwegian Nobel Committee voted (with some controversy among the members) to award the twenty-sixth President of the United States the sixth Nobel Prize for Peace for his “successful mediation to end the Russo-Japanese War, and for his interest in arbitration” (emphasis supplied).

Because of other domestic and international commitments Roosevelt was unable to attend the December 10, 1906 ceremony in Oslo awarding him the Nobel Prize for Peace, but he sent a telegraph that was read at the presentation ceremony by none other than Herbert H.D. Peirce, the then- United States Ambassador to Norway.  The acceptance telegram was modest, and fully in keeping with Roosevelt’s concept of service to his nation and the international community.

“I am profoundly moved and touched by the signal honor shown me through your body in conferring upon me the Nobel Peace Prize. There is no gift I could appreciate more and I wish it were in my power fully to express my gratitude.  I thank you for it, and I thank you on behalf of the United States; for what I did, I was able to accomplish only as the representative of the nation of which, for the time being, I am president.”

If ever an American President understood the value and benefits of alternative dispute resolution that president was Theodore Roosevelt.



Did Theodore Roosevelt personally investigate the site he would propose as the ideal place for the belligerents to meet almost one year before the Russian and Japanese delegates arrived in the Seacoast of New Hampshire and Maine?  The register of the Champernowne Hotel, Kittery Point, Maine for Thursday, August 11, 1904 bears the signature Theodore Roosevelt, Washington.  No hotel room was assigned, nor was a room assigned to the two people whose signatures appear above Roosevelt’s: a “Miss (could be Iris) Osborne or Osburn, Boston” and “W.A. Burleigh, South Berwick.”  Nothing could be learned about “Miss Osborne,” but “W.A. Burleigh” was indeed a local politician from South Berwick, Maine.

Even more intriguing is the fact the Champernowne register for Wednesday, August 10, 1904 bears the signatures of two Japanese, Naboru Kawasaki and Tadanori Togi, with addresses in Boston, Massachusetts.  Is it possible that Roosevelt slipped away from Washington, DC to meet some Japanese envoys, and the venue chosen was the quiet, out of the way Champernowne Hotel?  But how to reconcile what is apparently Theodore Roosevelt’s signature with the Theodore Roosevelt Association’s daily database of Roosevelt’s life—which reflects Roosevelt as being in the White House the first 20 days of August 1904? 

Did Theodore Roosevelt somehow slip away from Washington, DC for a few days in August 1904 for a clandestine meeting with Japanese envoys?  Did the venue of such a meeting, Kittery Point, Maine, close by and within sight of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard suggest the perfect site for the delegates to meet—if Roosevelt was successful in getting the parties to the negotiating table? 

Any answer is speculative, and we shall probably never know how Theodore Roosevelt’s purported signature came to appear on a hotel register dated August 11, 1904.

Special thanks are extended to prominent Seacoast historian, Joseph W.P. Frost, for bringing this fascinating detail to light.  Joe Frost located the register among the effects of the deceased owner of the Champernowne Hotel after the hotel was razed many years ago, and noted the signature of Theodore Roosevelt.  He has donated the register to the Portsmouth Athenaeum.



1.   In Japanese: Nichiro Senso.

2.   Geir Lundestad, The Nobel Peace Prize 1901-2000, 1-5; now published as a chapter of the book: The Nobel Prize: the First 100 Years, Agneta Wallin Levinovitz and Nils Ringertz, editors, Imperial College Press and World Scientific Publishing Co. (2001). (Available at  Alfred Nobel’s will dated November 27, 1895 provided funds for five prizes, with a prize for peace being awarded to the person who “shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding of peace congresses.”

3.   Meiji, appropriately meaning “Enlightened Rule” marked the reign of Emperor Mutsuhito (1868-1912).

4.   This “Second Pacific Fleet” was actually the Imperial Russian Baltic Fleet home ported at Cronstadt in the Baltic.  Following the destruction of the Russian Pacific Squadrons at Port Arthur and Vladivostok, Czar Nicholas II ordered the Baltic Fleet on an eight month, 20,000 mile deployment to the Northern Pacific.

5.   The Russian Navy lost 8,247 men killed or wounded, and 3,200 became prisoners of war.  The Japanese Navy lost a total of 400 men killed or wounded.

6.   Kathleen Dalton, Theodore Roosevelt – A Strenuous Life, 282.  Alfred A. Knopf (2002).

7.   Richard Hough, The Potemkin Mutiny, 13. Pantheon Books (1961).  Of course, revolutionary sentiment was already strong among the sailors of the Russian Imperial Navy, and the tainted beef served merely as a catalyst.

8.   Nathan Miller, Theodore Roosevelt – A Life, 19.  William Morrow & Company (1992).

9.   The Works of Theodore Roosevelt, Memorial Edition, Volume XXI,  545.  Charles Scribner’s Sons (1923-26).

10.       Secretary Hay had been one of President Lincoln’s private secretaries.  Although the comment is frequently attributed to Roosevelt, it was Hay (in a letter to Roosevelt) who described the Spanish American War as a “splendid little war”.  He died July 1, 1905.

11.       Miller, 446.

12.       E. Alexander Powell, Yonder Lies Adventure, 313-314.  Macmillan Company (1932).

13.       At age 23 Roosevelt had researched and published a 500 page scholarly work, The Naval War of 1812, the most enduring of his 38 titles, and a much consulted authority, even today.  He served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy from April 1897 through May 1898.

14.       National Archives and Records Administration, Northeast Region, Portsmouth Navy Yard, General Correspondence, Folder 55-251-300.

15.       Miller, 446.

16.       Letter from Roosevelt to Sir George Otto Trevelyan, September 12, 1905: The Works of Theodore Roosevelt, Memorial Edition, Volume XXIII, 480-481).  Charles Scribner’s Sons (1923-26).

17.       Richard Linthicum, War Between Japan and Russia – The Complete Story of the Desperate Struggle Between Two Great Nations, With Dominion over the Orient as the Tremendous Prize, 484.  W.R. Vansant (copyright 1904).

18.       Sakhalin, an island off the east coast of Siberia, had originally been a Japanese possession, but subsequently ceded to Russia.  In the latter stages of the Russo-Japanese War Japanese troops overwhelmed the Russian garrison on the island, and occupied it.

19.       Ambassador Meyer was able to meet directly with Czar Nicholas II on several occasions.  Ambassador Griscom did not have direct access to the person of Emperor Mutsuhito, but he did have access to the unique body of politicians and military leaders known as the Genro who served as special confidential advisers to the Meiji Emperor.

20.       Miller, 447.

21.       Communication to Baron Kentaro Kaneko, quoted in Abraham Yarmolinsky, editor and translator; The Memoirs of Count Witte, 156-157.  Doubleday, Page & Company (1921).

22.       Peter E. Randall, There Are No Victors Here! A Local Perspective on the Treaty of Portsmouth, 53.  Portsmouth Marine Society, Publication 8 (1985).

23.       Another link to New Hampshire.  Loeb had long been an Executive Secretary and confident of Roosevelt.  His son, William Loeb III, later publisher of the Manchester Union Leader, was born in 1905.

24.       Miller, 448.

25.       Id.

26.       Yet another New Hampshire link.  Denison was a native of Lancaster, New Hampshire.  He had been Vice-Consul in Japan, spoke Japanese fluently, and understood Japanese society.

27.       The First Plenipotentiaries solemnly affixed their signatures to the Treaty of Portsmouth the afternoon of September 5, 1905 in the main conference room of the general stores building at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.  The Treaty was ratified by the respective Emperors, and made public to their subjects on October 16, 1905.

28.       Roosevelt’s reputation and deserved fame as a mediator has eclipsed his pioneering efforts in international arbitration.  In the late 1900s Germany, the United Kingdom and other European nations had made large loans to Venezuela; upon default, the foreign creditors, principally Germany, blockaded Venezuela and landed troops to enforce their claims.  The Venezuelan Government asked Roosevelt to arbitrate, but while willing, Roosevelt believed the claims of the parties more properly belonged before the recently formed Permanent Court of International Justice at the Hague, and referred the claims there—becoming, because of the implications of the Monroe Doctrine, the first national leader to submit a dispute involving his own country to the Permanent Court.

29. The New York Times, 1.  December 11, 1906. Roosevelt kept only the medal, advising, “I have concluded that the best and most fitting way to apply the amount of the prize is by using it as a foundation to establish at Washington a permanent industrial peace committee.”


Attorney James E. Fender is legal counsel for the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and a member of the New Hampshire Bar Association. In 2005, he published his fourth novel in the saga of Geoffrey Frost, a Revolutionary War-era privateer sailing out of Portsmouth.

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