Marker unveiled in honor of Portsmouth Peace Treaty
By GRETYL MACALASTER Union Leader Correspondent
Portsmouth Mayor Eric Spear rings the bell to mark the anniversary of the Portsmouth Peace Treaty signing, which took place on Sept. 5, 1905, ending the Russo-Japanese War. A historical marker was also unveiled on Pleasant Street detailing the citizen diplomacy that helped make the treaty negotiations a success. (GRETYL MACALASTER/Union Leader Correspondent)
PORTSMOUTH — For years, the history of the Portsmouth Peace Treaty that led to the end of the Russo-Japanese War in 1905 was unknown to many.
But a new historical marker unveiled Thursday, Portsmouth Peace Treaty Day statewide, will ensure all future visitors have the opportunity to learn about the citizen diplomacy that helped accomplish peace.
Each year on Sept. 5 for at least the last eight years, the bells have rung out in Portsmouth and from the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard at exactly 3:47 p.m., the time the treaty was signed at the shipyard after weeks of negotiations.
Attorney Chuck Doleac is the local expert on the peace treaty and said the most important part of the process was the role everyday people played in making it happen.
“What grabs people about the Treaty of Portsmouth is local people being able to impact international events,” Doleac said.
This included housing the delegates and hosting parties and events to keep them entertained and keep them at the table when things got difficult.
In 2010, the New Hampshire Legislature passed a bill marking Sept. 5 as Portsmouth Peace Treaty Day, making it the sole example of a state honoring its citizens for the active role they played in fostering successful international negotiations.
The new city historical marker is in front of Piscataqua Savings Bank, right below the former office of Judge Calvin Page, trustee of the Frank Jones estate, who arranged for the delegates to stay at the Wentworth by the Sea hotel free of charge and was a pivotal figure in encouraging the citizen diplomacy that Portsmouth Peace Treaty Day celebrates.
The plaque also focuses on the Nobel Peace Prize won by President Theodore Roosevelt for hosting the talks, although he never came to Portsmouth.
There are about 40 such markers across the city highlighting different parts of its history. Portsmouth Mayor Eric Spear said at the unveiling that markers are added periodically, based on the budget.
Students in Portsmouth are now growing up learning about the treaty, and about Japanese culture.
This past April, a group of Portsmouth High School students traveled to their sister city in Nichinan, Japan to stay with host families and learn about the country and its culture.
The sister school relationship was borne out of celebrations of the peace treaty. Students from Japan have been visiting and staying with host families in Portsmouth for the last four years.
Kevin Wade, 17, said students in Japan seemed more informed about the peace treaty than students in New Hampshire, because of the important role it played in that nation’s history.
Japanese delegates often come to Portsmouth on Peace Treaty Day, and the city is adorned with cherry trees gifted from Japan as a living monument to the treaty.