"The proposal was accepted and on Sept. 5 the delegates signed the peace treaty. The world looked upon the president as a great man; congratulations came to him from kings and commoners alike." The British monarch was "simply lost in admiration for the president."
Despite the Sept. 5 date, that is not an account of an instant Jimmy Carter success at his Camp David summit. It comes from a biography of Theodore Roosevelt, the only other American president ever to try to stop a foreign conflict through personal mediation on American soil.
By coincidence, the opening day of Carter's Middle East summit yesterday was the 73rd anniversary of the close of the Portsmouth, N.H., conference that resulted in a treaty ending the Russian-Japanese war.
In addition to a date that seems a felictous omen for Carter's efforts, there are other comparisons between the presidential peacemaking efforts.
In the Russo-Japanese war, which began in 1904, Japan scored a series of lightning naval victories. But, confronted by a much larger population and military machine in Czarist Russia, the Japanese accepted Roosevelt's offer to mediate the conflict, which the American leader feared would spill over into American interests in Asia.
"I have led the horses to water, but heaven only knows whether they will drink or start kicking one another beside the though," Roosevelt wrote to a friend as the conference opened. The exchange is recorded in Stefan Lorent's The Life and Times of Theodore Roosevelt.
Roosevelt received the Russian and Japanese envoys aboard a battleship anchored in Oyster Bay, N.Y. In a toast, he pledged to work for "a just and lasting peace," the exact phrase Carter and the other participants at Camp David have used to describe their goal.
Carter will be sitting in with Sadat and Begin for a week or more. Roosevelt packed the lower ranking Russian and Japanese envoys off to Portsmouth and let them thrash away for three weeks. Eventually he intervened, much as Carter has said he will if it will move the talks along. He offered a compromise that neither side could suggest but which each was happy to blame on the Americans.
When the conference appeared nearing collapse because of Japan's demand for an indemnity. Roosevelt came up with what today would be called "an American plan." In a compromise, Japan waived indemnities in exchange for the southern half of the island of Sakhalin, off the Siberian coast.
Underlying Roosevelt's intervention, however, was a secret understanding he had made with Japan giving Japan politial control over Korea in return for a free hand in the Philippines.
Historians record that Roosevelt received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906, that it was the beginning of the end for the Czar's throne, and that Japan, feeling cheated out of the indemnity, intensified a expanionist policy in Asia. Americans were to feel the repercussions of that on Dec. 7, 1941.