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1905

Russo-Japanese War Mediation:
President Theodore Roosevelt played a central role in mediating an end to the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905).  Early in the conflict, the president headed an international coalition aimed at preserving China’s neutrality and territorial integrity by limiting the theater of war.  In mid-June 1905, the belligerents finally agreed to negotiate a settlement, provoking the London Morning Press to express a common sentiment, “Mr. Roosevelt’s success has amazed everybody.”  The president was also instrumental in the positive outcome of the peace talks, which resulted in a treaty signed on September 5 at Portsmouth, New Hampshire.  In 1906, Roosevelt was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his part in ending the Russo-Japanese War, the first American to win a Nobel Prize in any category. 

Taft-Katsura Memo:
Under the terms of this agreement, reached by Secretary of War William Howard Taft and Japanese Prime Minister Taro Katsura, the United States recognized Japanese authority over Korea and Japan acknowledged American authority over the Philippines.  The memorandum was signed prior to formal negotiation of the peace settlement ending the Russo-Japanese War (the Treaty of Portsmouth)
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1906

Algeciras Conference:
In April 1904, Britain and France signed the Entente Cordiale, which recognized the authority of Britain in Egypt and of France and Spain in Morocco.  It provoked concern in Germany, which had previously relied on the rivalry between Britain and France to help check the power of both.  In March 1905, Germany called for an international conference to ensure Morocco’s independence.  A war scare between Germany and France in June prompted President Theodore Roosevelt to convince the French to enter negotiations.  The conference in Algeciras, Spain, began in January 1906.  In February, Roosevelt helped break an impasse in the talks, and a treaty was signed in April.  It recognized Morocco’s territorial integrity, free trade with the Great Powers, and the supervisory authority of France and Spain over the Moroccan police. 

Hepburn Act:
Sponsored by Congressman William Hepburn, a Republican from Iowa, the law gave greater authority to the Interstate Commerce Commission by allowing it to decide which shipping rates were “reasonable.”  The Hepburn Act also banned free railroad passes, which were often given to politicians.

Meat Inspection Act:
This legislation established sanitary standards for slaughterhouses and meat-processing plants and authorized the Department of Agriculture to inspect animals intended for human consumption, both before and after slaughter. 

Pure Food and Drug Act:
This law established the Food and Drug Administration charged with inspecting all food and drugs intended for humans; mandated prescriptions from state-licensed physicians for the purchase of certain drugs (thereby restricting the patent medicine business); and required warning labels for habit-forming medicines. 

Immunity of Witness Act:
This federal statute prevented corporate officers from pleading immunity in cases involving alleged illegal activities of their corporation.

Brownsville Affair:
In August, white residents of Brownsville, Texas, accused 12 black men from the 1st Battalion of the 25th Infantry of a shooting rampage that killed one townsman.  A commanding officer reported that all troops had been accounted for during the time of the conflict, and two investigations produced no formal charges.  However, President Theodore Roosevelt signed papers dishonorably discharging 167 black soldiers for insubordination after none of them admitted guilt or provided any knowledge of the incident.  Black organizations and newspapers protested the president’s action.  Decades later, an investigation revealed that the soldiers had been framed.  In response, President Richard Nixon signed an act in 1972 that granted them honorable discharges and gave $25,000 to the sole survivor.

First National Monument:
On September 24, President Theodore Roosevelt declared Devil’s Tower, Wyoming, the nation’s first national monument.  The rock formation has steep, nearly vertical sides, and rises 1267 feet above the Belle Fourche River.  It was considered sacred by American Indians.


1907

Economic Panic:
There had been a mild economic recession in 1902-1904, but this was the first major banking panic since 1893.  In early 1907, the stock market began declining, while credit tightened from rising interest rates.  Without a central bank, there was no effective way to expand the money supply.  That summer, the weak economy caused several businesses and brokerages to declare bankruptcy.  A banking panic began in mid-October when a scheme to buy controlling shares of the United Cooper Company failed.  The stock speculators involved served as directors of large banks, which suffered “runs”—mass withdrawals by panicked depositors. 

Investment banker J. P. Morgan organized a team of bank executives who worked successfully to stop the panic by transferring money from strong banks to weak ones, buying stock in depressed but sound companies, and finding foreign sources of credit.  In addition, the Roosevelt administration deposited almost $40 million into federally chartered banks in New York City.  The economy began recovering in the spring of 1908, but the Panic of 1907 provoked calls for monetary reform, resulting in the Aldrich-Vreeland Act of 1908 and the establishment of the Federal Reserve System in 1913. 

Gentleman’s Agreement:
Tension between Japan and the United States had been building for years over the issue of Japanese immigrant workers, who were resented by white Americans in the West.  In October 1906, the San Francisco School Board announced that Asian students would henceforth attend racially segregated schools.  The move sparked a diplomatic crisis and war scare between Japan and the United States.  In his annual report to Congress in December, the president labeled the school segregation a “wicked absurdity.”  In early 1907, Roosevelt and Secretary of War William Howard Taft negotiated a “Gentleman’s Agreement” in which Japan agreed to prohibit passports for travel to the United States, except for Hawaii.  With the new immigration restrictions adopted, the San Francisco school board reversed its segregation order. 


1908

Aldrich-Vreeland Act:
Passed in the wake of the Panic of 1907, the law allowed federally chartered national banks to issue additional currency during economic emergencies.  It also created the National Monetary Commission, whose 1912 report sparked debate leading to the establishment of the Federal Reserve banking system the next year.  The legislation was sponsored by Senator Nelson Aldrich, a Republican from Rhode Island, and Congressman Edward Vreeland, a Republican from New York.

Republican National Convention:
Meeting at the Chicago Coliseum on June 16-19, Republican delegates nominated Secretary of War William Howard Taft for president by an overwhelming majority on the first ballot:  702 for Taft versus 274 combined votes for other candidates.  Delegates then chose Congressman James S. Sherman of New York for the vice presidential nomination.  The Republican platform endorsed tariff revision and monetary reform, two major changes from past GOP policies.  The document called from strengthening the Sherman Antitrust Act and limiting the use of court-imposed injunctions (which were often applied against striking workers).

Democratic National Convention:
Meeting in Denver on July 7-10, Democratic delegates gave William Jennings Bryan his third presidential nomination with a landslide, first-ballot tally of 892 against 105 votes for favorite-son candidates.  The convention then selected John Kern, a former state senator from Indiana, as the vice-presidential nominee.  The Democratic platform reduced all issues to the question, “Shall the people rule?”  It criticized Republican spending and promised a frugal Democratic administration.  A key plank endorsed federal legislation that would require publication of campaign contributions, limit the amount individuals could donate, and ban contributions from business corporations via their officers.  The platform labeled monopoly “indefensible and intolerable,” and called for stricter regulation of business.  The labor plank criticized the unfair use of injunctions against strikers and called for a separate Department of Labor.

Election Results:
On November 3, Republican William Howard Taft defeated Democrat William Jennings Bryan 321-162 in the Electoral College and 52%-43.5% in the popular vote.  Bryan carried the South, Oklahoma, Colorado, Nevada, and won 6 of 8 electors in narrowly divided Maryland.  He won no crucial state and only two large cities, Kansas City and New Orleans.  Taft did well in the more urban Northeast, the Midwest, and the Pacific Coast.  The Socialist and Prohibition Parties received only 2.8% and 1.7%, respectively, down slightly from their 1904 totals.  Democrats gained eight seats in the U.S. House, gained strength in most state legislatures, and won governorships in five states that Taft carried.

Root-Takahira Agreement:
To further ease Japanese-American tensions, Secretary of State Elihu Root and the Japanese ambassador to the U.S., Takahira Kogoro reached an accord on November 30.  Both countries agreed to respect each other’s sphere of influence and maintain the status quo in the Pacific, to uphold the Open Door policy of preserving the independence and territorial integrity of China, and to consult together in the event of future crises in East Asia.


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