Portsmouth honors Roosevelt peace effort
Marks 100th anniversary of Nobel prize
The Russian and Japanese delegates negotiated in the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Treaty Room. They signed the Treaty of Portsmouth on Sept. 5, 1905, in Maine. (Globe file photo)PORTSMOUTH, N.H. -- It is famous as the home of the nation's oldest continuously operating naval shipyard, and its trendy boutiques give this town at the mouth of the Pisqataqua a big-city feel.But few think of Portsmouth as a place that gave birth to a Nobel Peace Prize.On Dec. 10, 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt was awarded the prize for his role in ending the Russo-Japanese War. He had brought together delegates from Russia and Japan, and after a month of negotiations they signed the Treaty of Portsmouth on Sept. 5, 1905, at the shipyard in Kittery, Maine.Today, a band of relentless enthusiasts who toil to highlight this faded chapter in US history intends to make sure the centennial of Roosevelt's Nobel is marked in at least this corner of the world .They call themselves the Portsmouth Peace Treaty Anniversary Committee and plan to present an authentic replica of the prize to the shipyard's commander at Wentworth by the Sea Hotel in New Castle, N.H., where the delegates were housed a century ago."It is one of the memorial icons of this country that is not recognized," Portsmouth lawyer Charles Doleac, the committee's cochairman, said recently, referring to the Nobel. "We've just completely forgotten about it."Some Portsmouth residents interviewed last week confirmed Doleac's assessment."I didn't know he got a peace prize for it, but I knew that a treaty was signed here," said Michael Tallone, 33, co-owner of a sports apparel store on Congress Street.Roosevelt's prize came as a history lesson to Jaime Reid, 30, a restaurant manager who has lived in Portsmouth for about a year."It's surprising that nobody talks about it," she said.The 53-member anniversary committee, which celebrated the centennial of the treaty's signing last year, wanted to make sure the memory of the Nobel, such as it was, would not fade.The committee mailed a letter to the Norwegian Nobel Institute requesting a replica of the medal.To bolster its case, the committee also sent its exhibit catalog and some other material, including a map of Portsmouth's Peace Treaty Trail and a book about the negotiations that was written by historian and committee member Peter Randall.The institute's director, Geir Lundestad, sent back a replica of the prize."We are honored that you are celebrating the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Theodore Roosevelt," he wrote. "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 delicate diplomacy that led to the agreement and helped Roosevelt win the prize may also explain why few in Portsmouth remember his involvement. Having brought together delegates of the warring countries, Roosevelt stayed out of town and allowed them to negotiate.He earned praise for his back-channel diplomacy and, as Lundestad wrote in his letter, "took a strong interest in the peaceful solution of disputes along several different lines."It was Roosevelt, who had served as assistant secretary of the Navy, who proposed that the shipyard host the negotiations."Placing his trust in the Navy, President Roosevelt was confident that Portsmouth Naval Shipyard's military leadership would properly execute the international protocol, attention to detail, and security required for this global event," Captain Jonathan Iverson, the shipyard's commander, wrote in an e-mail to the Globe last week.Added Doleac: "Maybe we should be thinking about the fact that" Roosevelt "got the Nobel Peace Prize for using this great nation's good offices for peace."Porter can be reached at wporter@....© Copyright 2006 Globe Newspaper Company.***********************************************************
Edward J. Renehan Jr.
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