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August 10: Funding the the Russo-Japanese War

August 10, 2014
220px-Portrait_of_Jacob_SchiffPeace negotiations to end the Russo-Japanese war began on this date in 1905 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, with President Theodore Roosevelt as the mediator. The war grew out of conflicting imperial ambitions of the Russian Empire and the Empire of Japan in Manchuria and Korea, and resulted in a humiliating defeat for Russia. Japan was backed by loans from Jacob Schiff, the foremost Jewish banker and philanthropist of his day, who floated bonds on Wall Street that yielded $200 million, about half of Japan’s expenditures for the war. He did so in opposition to Tsarist Russia for its anti-Semitism, expressed most recently in the 1903 Kishinev pogrom. Rather than lessening anti-Semitism, however, Schiff’s intervention convinced many people of the international power of Jews and gave credibility to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the recently forged anti-Semitic Russian document. In 1905, Japan awarded Schiff the Order of the Sacred Treasure, and in 1907, the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star, which Schiff became the first foreigner to receive in person from Emperor Meiji in the Imperial Palace. “Through his firm, Kuhn, Loeb and Company, he was able to help finance the development and growth of such corporations as Westinghouse Electric, U.S. Rubber, Armour, and American Telephone and Telegraph.... Schiff was a prime mover in helping to consolidate and expand the American railroad networks...” —Jewish Virtual Library