As the 1906 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Theodore Roosevelt gained the distinction of being the first American ever to win the award. His exhaustive efforts to enable peaceful negotiations – and, eventually, a truce – led the Russians and Japanese to end their conflict in 1905. He did not formally accept the award in person until 1910, after he had left presidential office.
In 1905, Russia and Japan were in conflict due to Russia’s refusal to leave following the conclusion of the Boxer Rebellion. Although the conflict had ended in 1900, more than three years later, the Russians still had not left to return to their home country. Concerned about their ability to forcibly remove Russian troops from China, Japan offered them control of Manchuria in exchange for Japanese control of the northern part of Korea. Despite the attempts from both sides to reach agreement, Japan officially severed its ties with Russia in February 1904. Japan declared war against Russia on February 8, then immediately attacked Russian ships in the Battle of Port Arthur. Receiving the declaration of war after the Japanese attacked, Russian leaders were enraged; eight days later, they also declared war. The Battle of Yalu River on May 1 was Russia’s answer; the first land battle of the war, it served as undeniable proof that the war would not be an easy victory for Russia, and firmly established Japan as a power to be reckoned with. Throughout the remainder of 1904 and most of 1905, battles were waged by the two countries.
Finally, Teddy offered to intervene. Inviting leaders from both countries to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, he frequently acted as an impartial ‘referee’ of sorts. But he was not alone in his attempts to foster agreement and compromise. In fact, the entire city of Portsmouth – citizens and government officials alike – were instrumental in encouraging diplomacy. The city held numerous social events for the diplomats from both countries, and played a significant role in the final outcome. Even when peace talks were on the verge of collapse, the people helped repair and invigorate the process. Through his skillful negotiations which effectively put an end to the Russo-Japan War, the Theodore Roosevelt peace prize helped secure Theodore’s place in U.S. presidential history. Without the Nobel Peace Prize Theodore Roosevelt would not have had the position for presidency.
As the first American to ever win the award, he established an ideal for presidents who would later hold the office, proving that presidential power had its advantages. Despite the committee’s determination that he had earned the award, Roosevelt was unconvinced. In his acceptance speech for the award (in Christiania, Norway on May 5, 1910), he stated that his actions were only possible due to his position as president. Therefore, he felt it was unconscionable to accept the cash portion of the award. After winning the coveted award, he attempted to establish a foundation for the promotion of industrial peace, using the cash which came with the large gold medal and diploma. However, the foundation was never established, and Teddy eventually donated the money to numerous causes in support of the war relief efforts following the conclusion of WWI.