Kittery Peace

Kittery Peace
   The settlement that brought to an end the Russo-Japanese War that had begun in the spring of 1904. President Theodore Roosevelt offered his and the good offices of the United States to the two warring parties at the beginning of June 1905. Japanese Emperor Mutsuhito accepted Roosevelt’s invitation on June 10, with Russian Tsar Nicholas II following suit two days later. Delegations from Moscow and Tokyo conducted their talks at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard on an island in Kittery, Maine, across from Portsmouth, New Hampshire. After a month of negotiations, a peace treaty, know as the Treaty of Portsmouth, was signed on September 5, 1905.
   The Japanese arrived in New England following their military successes on land and at sea over the Russians and were led by their foreign minister, Jutaro Komura. The Russian plenipotentiary was Count Sergius Witte, and he was assisted by the Russian minister to the United States, Baron Roman Rosen, as Komura was by Kogoro Takahira, the Japanese minister to the United States. In addition to Roosevelt these four individuals were vital to the eventual conclusion of the treaty. As well as the formal talks that took place at the naval shipyard, informal discussions took place in the relaxed atmosphere of the nearby Wentworth Hotel in New Castle, New Hampshire, where the delegates resided.
   After agreement on Japanese preponderance in Korea, an evacuation of Manchuria, and a commitment to open trading, the key issues that came closest to causing deadlock were those of a Russian indemnity to Japan and the future of the disputed island of Sakhalin. They proved sufficiently contentious for Roosevelt to have to intervene to break the impasse in mid-August, with Komura eventually accepting that there would be no reparations and that Sakhalin would be divided in half. This compromise was unpopular in Japan and, the United States was blamed. A feature of the negotiations was unprecedented international media coverage. This had an important conciliatory effect because neither party wanted to be portrayed to the world as being the cause of a failed conference.
   Roosevelt earned the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize for his success in bringing the two sides to a negotiated settlement despite not attending any of the discussions in New England. Instead, he exerted influence in preliminary meetings with each delegation at his summer residence, Sagamore Hill in Oyster Bay, New York, by bringing the parties together for an introductory lunch, and once the negotiations had begun through back channels coordinated by Herbert H. D. Pierce, the third under secretary of state. Roosevelt also acted as hub for communications with the delegates and their leaders in the various capitals.
   Roosevelt’s purpose in the whole enterprise was to prevent the war escalating and upsetting a balance of power in the Pacific with Britain and France taking the sides of Japan and Russia, respectively, and Germany and Italy also seeking to expand their influence in the region. Roosevelt was well aware that the scope of American interests in the Pacific had recently increased as a consequence of the acquisition of the Philippines after the Spanish-American War of 1898 and that this tended to augment those in Alaska and Hawaii. The successful conclusion of the treaty inaugurated by Roosevelt marked a new era of presidential leadership and of American presence in the international diplomatic arena. For the Japanese the settlement saw their emergence as Great Power, and many consider the treaty the beginning of the end for the tsarist regime in Russia.
   See also <>; <>; <>; <>.
    Saul, Norman E. “The Kittery Peace.” In John W. Steinberg et al., eds. The Russo-Japanese War in Global Perspective: World War Zero. Boston: Brill, 2005;
    Tilchin, William N. Theodore Roosevelt and the British Empire: A Study in Presidential Statecraft. New York: St. Martin’s, 1997.

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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