The Treaty of Portsmouth

The Treaty of Portsmouth, signed on September 5, 1905, officially concluded the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905. President Theodore Roosevelt won the Nobel Peace Prize for the role he played in the negotiations that ended the conflict. 

War broke out because the Russian and Japanese empires both wanted greater influence in Asia. Fighting began when the Japanese fired on the Russians at Port Arthur, in Manchuria. The Japanese maintained the military upper hand throughout the conflict, but Russia, despite being riven by civil strife, would not stop fighting. Lacking financial means to continue the war, Japan asked President Theodore Roosevelt to mediate a peace. Both sides accepted.

Roosevelt invited Russia’s Count Sergei Witte and Japan’s Baron JutarĊ Komura to Sagamore Hill to begin the personalized diplomacy that he favored. Once they arrived with their delegations, the negotiators then went to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine and finally on to the presidential yacht, the Mayflower. Eventually, thanks in part to Roosevelt’s adroit negotiating, both sides agreed that Russia would give up any rights to Port Arthur and to the southern half of Sakhalin Island, but would not pay indemnities to Japan, and that Japan could exercise control over Korea. Russia and Japan promised to evacuate Manchuria. Japan felt itself the victor in the war, and believed it should have gained more in the peace. This feeling would rankle for many years. Roosevelt’s goal was to create a balance of power between the two empires. Most historians believe that he succeeded, at least for the immediate future. Roosevelt’s efforts also elevated the United States to a position of greater authority in world affairs.

In 1906, the Nobel Prize Committee awarded Theodore Roosevelt the Nobel Peace Prize for his diplomatic success in ending the Russo-Japanese War. He was the first U.S. president to garner this prestigious award. Only three other U.S. presidents have earned this honor—Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Jimmy Carter, and Barack Obama.