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Theodore Roosevelt Nobel Peace Prize 100th Anniversary Commemoration

December 10, 2006 marked the 100th anniversary of the awarding of the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize to President Theodore Roosevelt for his diplomacy ending the Russo-Japanese War. On that day, the Japan-America Society of New Hampshire and Portsmouth Peace Treaty Anniversary Committee hosted a commemorative lunch – the sole commemoration taking place anywhere in the world to honor Theodore Roosevelt's Nobel Peace Prize and his role as peacemaker. 

Thanks to the interest of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, the Portsmouth Peace Treaty Anniversary Committee presented an authentic replica of the Nobel Peace Prize to Capt. Jon Iverson, commander of the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard for the Shipyard’s Treaty Museum in Building 86 in honor of continuing efforts to document the legacy of the Treaty in diplomatic history, locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. The lunch and presentation took place at Wentworth By the Sea Hotel in Portsmouth/New Castle, New Hampshire.

In 1906, the Nobel Peace Prize Committee recognized that the Portsmouth Peace Treaty would not have been signed in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on September 5, 1905 had it not been for Roosevelt's good offices in arranging the formal negotiations.

"Research focused around the 100th anniversary of the Treaty in Portsmouth last year proved that Roosevelt orchestrated the dynamics of the formal and informal peace process, knowing that he could rely on the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, and the local people to create the positive atmosphere needed for the Russian and Japanese negotiations,” said Charles Doleac, founder of the Portsmouth Peace Treaty Forums and chairman of the Anniversary Committee. “This Nobel Peace Prize anniversary is a time to remember not the Theodore Roosevelt who wielded ‘big stick’ diplomacy but the Theodore Roosevelt who as President understood how to use a great nation’s diplomatic good offices for peace. Roosevelt’s Nobel recognizes that Roosevelt’s unique diplomacy was the first that used all of the forces that have since distinguished the United States on the world stage: the capacity of the American people for goodwill, the military’s tradition as peacemaker and the respect for the individual nations’ ability to negotiate these differences between themselves.”

To read the Union Leader/Associated Press story about the commemoration held at Wentworth By the Sea Hotel on the 100th anniversary of the presentation of President Theodore Roosevelt's Nobel Peace Prize, click here.


(Photo credit:Beth Lorden, Foster's Daily Democrat)

Charles Doleac (left), on behalf of the Portsmouth Peace Treaty Anniversary Committee, presents an authentic replica of the Nobel Peace Prize to Capt. Jon Iverson, USN, for the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard "Treaty Rooms" museum in Building 86.

On the 100th Anniversary of Theodore Roosevelt's Nobel Peace Prize

(Published: Union Leader, December 10, 2006)

By Charles B. Doleac, Esq,

December 10th is the 100th anniversary of the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize presented to President Theodore Roosevelt for his role in ending the Russo-Japanese War. Thanks to his efforts, the Treaty of Portsmouth was signed on September 5th, 1905. From a vantage point 100 years later we might do well to understand the Theodore Roosevelt the Nobel Committee honored: not the President "carrying a big stick," but the President who used the diplomatic good offices of a great nation for peace.

Fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Henry Kissinger, praised Theodore Roosevelt as one of our nation's greatest Presidential diplomats because he approached the global balance of power with unparalleled sophistication.  Roosevelt earned this reputation, and his Prize, for his realistic appraisal of competing international interests and for the creative blend of formal, informal and back channel diplomacy he used to bring Russia and Japan to the negotiating table to achieve lasting peace. Roosevelt's diplomacy brought the United States onto the world stage in 1905 not only as a player with national interests backed by the military might of the Great White Fleet; but also -- and more importantly -- as an international diplomatic player with the moral authority of proven success as the peacemaker who ended the largest land and sea war the world had ever seen.

The Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, fought between Russia and Japan in Korea , Manchuria and the Sea of Japan , was history's first modern war. With the largest land and sea battles ever fought between two nations, the war is now known as "World War Zero" for the modern weapons employed, huge armies and navies engaged and its effect on European colonialism and the international balance of power.

Despite winning most of the battles and sinking the Russian fleet in the Battle of Tsushima Strait, Japan could not decisively defeat the Russian Army. The continuation of the struggle threatened both Russia and Japan with financial ruin, destabilized the established balance of power in Asia and Europe and risked, through complicated alliances, drawing the other European powers into the conflict as later happened in World War I.  As President of a neutral power not aligned with either warring party, Roosevelt seized the opportunity to be peacemaker.

Careful to make certain that both parties understood the United States was not imposing its own view on the conflict, Roosevelt offered the US as the neutral host for peace negotiations, respecting the Japanese and Russian insistence on direct, face to face negotiations without the third party interference the European powers had previously imposed on both nations.  After convincing both Russia and Japan to come to Portsmouth , New Hampshire , Roosevelt engaged the capacity of the US Navy for the  security, diplomatic protocol, and telecommunications necessary for the formal talks at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. Roosevelt then entrusted the Governor of the State of New Hampshire and the local people of New Hampshire and Maine with the responsibility of hosting the delegates' stay (accommodating them at Wentworth by the Sea Hotel), confident they would provide the right neutral, encouraging atmosphere for the negotiations to proceed both formally and informally.

True to his promise of non-interference, Roosevelt never came to Portsmouth . But when the negotiations deadlocked for days over issues of territory and indemnity, Roosevelt pressed back channel communication with the Russian and Japanese governments and with other European powers to encourage both parties to break the impasse. Roosevelt relied at this critical juncture on the diplomatic protocol of the Navy, the informal encouragement of Governor John McLane and the persistent spirit of hope within the hospitality of the local people to keep the negotiators at the table. The two sides kept at their negotiations until they reached agreement, neither Japan nor Russia wishing to disappoint their hosts or risk world disapproval for being the first to break the negotiations.

Roosevelt 's brilliance was as a realistic diplomat. He created a neutral but supportive negotiating atmosphere where he could suggest compromises through back channel contacts but ensured that the belligerents decided their mutual balance of power without the interference of any other government. Ultimately, through the Treaty of Portsmouth, the Russians and Japanese established a framework that balanced power between Russia and Japan in Asia until the end of World War II.

On December 10, 2006, the Portsmouth Peace Treaty Anniversary Committee will commemorate the 100th anniversary of Theodore Roosevelt's Nobel Peace Prize, reminding those in attendance of the example set in Portsmouth 100 years ago when a President fostered the atmosphere necessary for the Russians and Japanese to achieve their peace .

At that commemoration we will read a message from the Director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute noting, "The basis for the [1906 Nobel Prize] committee's decision was stated in the presentation address as 'President Roosevelt's happy intervention to terminate the bloody war recently waged between two Great Powers, Japan and Russia.'" The Director's letter continues, "When I visited the White House a few years ago I was pleased to see Roosevelt 's peace prize medal prominently displayed in the Roosevelt Room right across the hall from the Oval Office." 

The Roosevelt Room also displays Roosevelt's Congressional Medal of Honor for heroism in the Spanish American War, when the United States was emerging as a world power. But today, as the world's most powerful nation, the United States would do well to reflect more on the Nobel medal honoring the peace process of a great President who used the good offices of our nation, the diplomacy of the US Navy and the spirit of the American people to achieve peace.

 Charles B. Doleac, Esq., Portsmouth NH is  partner with Boynton, Waldron, Doleac, Woodman & Scott, and is the founder and moderator of the Portsmouth Peace Treaty Forums.

For President Theodore Roosevelt's own Nobel Peace Prize acceptance remarks, click here. The comments were read in Oslo, Norway by Secretary of State Herbert Pierce, who accepted the Prize on behalf of the President -- and who represented the US government in Portsmouth during the Portsmouth Peace Treaty negotiations in 1905.

In his 1913 Autobiography, TR had this to say about the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize:

"As a result of the Portsmouth peace, I was given the Nobel Peace Prize.  This consisted of a medal, which I kept, and a sum of $40,000, which I turned over as a foundation of industrial peace to a board of trustees which included Oscar Straus, Seth Low and John Mitchell.  In the present state of the world's development, industrial peace is even more essential than international peace; and it was fitting and appropriate to devote the peace prize to such a purpose. In 1910, while in Europe, one of my most pleasant experiences was my visit to Norway, where I addressed the Nobel Committee, and set forth in full the principles upon which I had acted, not only in this particular case but throughout my administration."

For President Roosevelt's own Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, presented in Oslo in May 1910, click here.


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