Treaty of Portsmouth

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Japan-Russia Treaty of Peace, or "Treaty of Portsmouth", September 5, 1905. Diplomatic Archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan.
Negotiating the Treaty of Portsmouth (1905). From left: Russians (at far side of table) Korostovetz, Nabokov, Witte, Rosen, Plancon; Japanese (near side) Adachi, Ochiai, Komura, Takahira, Satō. The conference table is today preserved at the Museum Meiji-mura in Inuyama, Aichi Prefecture, Japan.

The Treaty of Portsmouth formally ended the 1904–1905 Russo-Japanese War. It was signed on September 5, 1905,[1] after negotiations from August 6 to August 30, at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine, United States.[2] U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt was instrumental in the negotiations and won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.


The war of 1904–1905 was fought between the Russian Empire, an international power with one of the largest armies in the world, and the Empire of Japan, a nation that had only recently industrialized after two-and-a-half centuries of isolation. A series of battles in the Liaodong Peninsula had resulted in Russian armies being driven from southern Manchuria, and the Battle of Tsushima had resulted in a cataclysm for the Imperial Russian Navy. The war was unpopular in Russia, whose government was under increasing threat of revolution at home. On the other hand, the Japanese economy was severely strained by the war, with rapidly mounting foreign debts, and Japanese forces in Manchuria faced the problem of ever-extending supply lines. No Russian territory had been seized, and the Russians continued to build up reinforcements via the Trans-Siberian Railway. Recognizing that a long war was not to Japan's advantage, the Japanese government as early as July 1904 had begun seeking out intermediaries to assist in bringing the war to a negotiated conclusion.[3]

The intermediary approached by the Japanese was U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, who had publicly expressed a pro-Japanese stance at the beginning of the war. However, as the war progressed, Roosevelt had begun to show concerns on the strengthening military power of Japan and its long-term impact on U.S. interests in Asia. In February 1905, Roosevelt sent messages to the Russian government via the US ambassador in Saint Petersburg. Initially, the Russians were unresponsive, with Tsar Nicholas II still adamant that Russia would eventually prove victorious. The Japanese government was also lukewarm to a peace treaty, as Japanese armies were enjoying an unbroken string of victories. However, after the Battle of Mukden, which was extremely costly to both sides in terms of manpower and resources, Japanese Foreign Minister Komura Jutarō judged that it was now critical for Japan to push for a settlement.[3]

On March 8, 1905, Japanese Army Minister Terauchi Masatake met with the American Minister to Japan, Lloyd Griscom, to tell Roosevelt that Japan was ready to negotiate. However, a positive response did not come from Russia until after the loss of the Russian fleet at the Battle of Tsushima. Two days later, Nicholas met with his grand dukes and military leadership and agreed to discuss peace. On June 7, 1905, Roosevelt met with Kaneko Kentarō, a Japanese diplomat, and on June 8, he received a positive reply from Russia. Roosevelt chose Portsmouth, New Hampshire, as the site for the negotiations, primarily because the talks were to begin in August, and the cooler climate in Portsmouth would avoid subjecting the parties to the sweltering Washington summer.[3]

Portsmouth Peace Conference[edit]

The Japanese delegation to the Portsmouth Peace Conference was led by Foreign Minister Komura Jutarō and assisted by Ambassador Takahira Kogorō. The Russian delegation was led by former Finance Minister Sergei Witte, who was assisted by the former Ambassador to Japan Roman Rosen and the international law and arbitration specialist Friedrich Martens.[4] The delegations arrived in Portsmouth on August 8 and stayed in New Castle, New Hampshire, at the Hotel Wentworth, where the armistice was signed. They were ferried across the Piscataqua River every day to the naval base in Kittery, Maine, where the negotiations were held.[citation needed]

The negotiations took place at the General Stores Building (now Building 86). Mahogany furniture patterned after the Cabinet Room of the White House was ordered from Washington.[citation needed]

Before the negotiations began, Tsar Nicholas had adopted a hard line and forbidden his delegates to agree to any territorial concessions, reparations, or limitations on the deployment of Russian forces in the Far East.[3] The Japanese initially demanded recognition of their interests in Korea, the removal of all Russian forces from Manchuria, and substantial reparations. They also wanted confirmation of their control of the island of Sakhalin, which Japanese forces had seized in July 1905, partly to use as a bargaining chip in the negotiations.[3]

A total of twelve sessions were held between August 9 and August 30. During the first eight sessions, the delegates were able to reach an agreement on eight points. These included an immediate ceasefire, recognition of Japan's claims to Korea, and the evacuation of Russian forces from Manchuria. Russia also ceded its leases in southern Manchuria (containing Port Arthur and Talien) to Japan and turned over the South Manchuria Railway and its mining concessions to Japan. Russia was allowed to retain the Chinese Eastern Railway in northern Manchuria.[3]

The remaining four sessions addressed the most difficult issues: reparations and territorial concessions. On August 18, Roosevelt proposed that Rosen offer to divide Sakhalin to address the territory issue. On August 23, however, Witte proposed that the Japanese keep Sakhalin and drop their claims for reparations. When Komura rejected the proposal, Witte warned that he was instructed to cease negotiations and that the war would resume. The ultimatum came as four new Russian divisions arrived in Manchuria, and the Russian delegation made an ostentatious show of packing their bags and preparing to depart.[4] Witte was convinced that the Japanese could not afford to restart the war and so applied pressure via the American media and his American hosts[4] to convince the Japanese that monetary compensation was not open for compromise by Russia.[5] Outmaneuvered by Witte, Komura yielded, and in exchange for the southern half of Sakhalin, the Japanese dropped their claims for reparations.[3]

The Treaty of Portsmouth was signed on September 5. The treaty was ratified by the Privy Council of Japan on October 10,[6] and in Russia on October 14, 1905.


The signing of the treaty settled immediate difficulties in the Far East and created three decades of peace between the two nations. The treaty confirmed Japan's emergence as the pre-eminent power in East Asia and forced Russia to abandon its expansionist policies there, but it was not well received by the Japanese people.[7] The Japanese public were aware of their country's unbroken string of military victories over the Russians but were less aware of the precarious overextension of military and economic power that the victories had required. News of the terms of the treaty appeared to show Japanese weakness in front of the European powers, and this frustration caused the Hibiya riots and the collapse of Katsura Tarō's cabinet on January 7, 1906.[3]

Because of the role played by Roosevelt, the United States became a significant force in world diplomacy. Roosevelt was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906 for his backchannel efforts before and during the peace negotiations even though he never actually went to Portsmouth.


Ratification of the Peace Treaty between Japan and Russia, November 25, 1905

In 1994, the Portsmouth Peace Treaty Forum was created by the Japan-America Society of New Hampshire to commemorate the Portsmouth Peace Treaty with the first formal meeting between Japanese and Russian scholars and diplomats in Portsmouth since 1905. As the Treaty of Portsmouth was one of the most powerful symbols of peace in the Northern Pacific region and the most significant shared peace history of Japan, Russia, and the United States, the forum was designed to explore from the Japanese, Russian, and American perspectives, the history of the Portsmouth Treaty and its relevance to current issues involving the Northern Pacific region. The forum is intended to focus modern scholarship on international problems in the "spirit of the Portsmouth Peace Treaty."[8]


  1. ^ "Text of Treaty; Signed by the Emperor of Japan and Czar of Russia", The New York Times. October 17, 1905.
  2. ^ Location of shipyard in Maine: "York, ME-NH". USGS 15-minute topographic map series. 1893. Retrieved January 22, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Kowner, Historical Dictionary of the Russo-Japanese War, p. 300-304.
  4. ^ a b c Jukes, The Russo-Japanese War 1904–1905, p. 86-90.
  5. ^ White, J. A.: "Portsmouth 1905: Peace or Truce?", Journal of Peace Research, 6(4):362
  6. ^ "Partial record of Privy Council meeting to ratify the treaty (from the National Archives of Japan)".
  7. ^ "Japan's Present Crisis and Her Constitution; The Mikado's Ministers Will Be Held Responsible by the People for the Peace Treaty – Marquis Ito May Be Able to Save Baron Komura," New York Times. September 3, 1905.
  8. ^ See "The First Portsmouth Peace Treaty Forum June 15, 1994" (2005) online


External links[edit]