Alaska purchase

Alaska purchase

The Alaska Purchase (otherwise known as Seward's Folly or Seward's Icebox) by the United States from the Russian Empire occurred in 1867 at the behest of Secretary of State William Seward. The territory purchased was 586,412 square miles (1,518,800 km²) of the modern state of Alaska.


Russia was in a difficult financial position and feared losing the Alaskan territory without compensation in some future conflict, especially to their rivals the British, who could easily have captured the hard-to-defend region. Therefore Emperor Alexander II decided to sell the territory to the US and instructed Russian minister to the United States, Louis Baydalal, to enter into negotiations with Seward in the beginning of March 1867. The negotiations concluded after an all-night session with the signing of the treaty at 4 o'clock in the morning of March 30, 1867 [Seward, Frederick W., "Seward at Washington as Senator and Secretary of State". Volume: 3, 1891, p. 348] with the purchase price set at $7,200,000 (about 1.9¢ per acre). American public opinion was generally positive, but some newspaper writers and editors had negative feelings about the purchase of land. Notably, one of those men was Horace Greeley of the "New York Tribune". An example of this is a quotation:

Already, so it was said, we were burdened with territory we had no population to fill. The Indians within the present boundaries of the republic strained our power to govern aboriginal peoples. Could it be that we would now, with open eyes, seek to add to our difficulties by increasing the number of such peoples under our national care? The purchase price was small; the annual charges for administration, civil and military, would be yet greater, and continuing. The territory included in the proposed cession was not contiguous to the national domain. It lay away at an inconvenient and a dangerous distance. The treaty had been secretly prepared, and signed and foisted upon the country at one o'clock in the morning. It was a dark deed done in the night.... The "New York World" said that it was a "sucked orange." It contained nothing of value but furbearing animals, and these had been hunted until they were nearly extinct. Except for the Aleutian Islands and a narrow strip of land extending along the southern coast the country would be not worth taking as a gift.... Unless gold were found in the country much time would elapse before it would be blessed with Hoe printing presses, Methodist chapels and a metropolitan police. It was "a frozen wilderness," said the "New York Tribune." [Oberholtzer, Ellis Paxson. "A History of the United States since the Civil War". Volume: 1. 1917. p. 123]

While criticized by some at the time the financial value of the Alaska purchase turned out to be many times greater than what the United States had paid for it. The land turned out to be resource rich and also provided the US a great advantage in the Cold War.

The Viewpoint from Washington

The purchase was at the time derided as "Seward's folly", "Seward's icebox", and Andrew Johnson's "polar bear garden", because it was believed foolhardy to spend so much money on the remote region. [ [ Have you been to the "polar bear garden"?] The Wise Guide]

The treaty was promoted by Secretary of State William H. Seward, who had long favored expansion, and by the chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Charles Sumner. They argued that the nation's strategic interests favored the treaty. Russia had been a valuable ally of the Union position during the U.S. Civil War, while Britain had been a nearly open enemy. It seemed wise to help Russia while discomforting the British. Furthermore there was the matter of adjacent territory belonging to Britain (and now part of Canada). Nearly surrounded by the United States they were of little strategic value to Britain and might someday be purchased. The purchase, editorialized the "New York Herald", was a "hint" from the Tsar to England and France that they had "no business on this continent." "It was in short a flank movement" upon Canada said the influential "New York Tribune". Soon the world would see in the northwest "a hostile cockney with a watchful Yankee on each side of him," and John Bull would be led to understand that his only course was a sale of his interests there to Brother Jonathan.

On March 3 Sumner made a major speech advocating the treaty, and covering in depth the history, the climate, the natural configuration, the population, the resources—the forests, mines, furs, fisheries—of Alaska. A good scholar, he cited the testimony of geographers and navigators: Alexander von Humboldt, Joseph Billings, Yuri Lisiansky, Fyodor Petrovich Litke, Otto von Kotzebue, Portlock, James Cook, John Meares, Ferdinand von Wrangel. When he had finished, he observed that he had "done little more than hold the scales." If these had inclined on either side, he continued, it was "because reason or testimony on that side was the weightier." Soon, said Sumner, "A practical race of intrepid navigators will swarm the coast ready for any enterprise of business or patriotism. Commerce will find new arms; the country new defenders; the national flag new hands to bear it aloft." Bestow American republicanism upon the territory, he urged, "and you will bestow what is better than all you can receive, whether quintals of fish, sands of gold, choicest fur or most beautiful ivory." "Our city," exclaimed Sumner, "can be nothing less than the North American continent with the gates on all the surrounding seas." He argued the treaty was "a visible step" in this direction. By its terms we should "dismiss one more monarch from this continent." One by one they had retired—" first France; then Spain; then France again, and now Russia, all giving way to that absorbing unity which is declared in the national motto — E pluribus unum." [Oberholtzer, Ellis Paxson. "A History of the United States since the Civil War". Volume: 1. 1917. p. 544-5]

Seward's Day, in honor of William H. Seward, is a holiday in Alaska on the last Monday of March which celebrates the United States' purchase of Alaska from Russia. Seward's Day is also an alcohol-free day in many cities such as Ketchikan, one of Alaska's major port cities — though the one-day alcohol ban is not observed in all cities.

Ratification and enactment

The United States Senate ratified the treaty on April 9, 1867, by a vote of 37 to 2. However, the appropriation of money needed to purchase Alaska was delayed by more than a year due to opposition in the House of Representatives. The House finally approved the appropriation in July 1868, by a vote of 113 to 48. [cite web|url= |title=Treaty with Russia for the Purchase of Alaska: Primary Documents of American History (Virtual Programs & Services, Library of Congress) | |date= |accessdate=2008-09-15]

Sumner reported Russian estimates that Alaska contained about 2,500 Russians and those of mixed race, and 8,000 aborigines, in all about 10,000 people under the direct government of the Russian fur company, and possibly 50,000 Eskimos and Native Americans living outside its jurisdiction. The Russians were settled at 23 trading posts, placed conveniently on the islands and coasts. At smaller stations only four or five Russians were stationed to collect furs from the Indians for storage and shipment when the company's boats arrived to take it away. There were two larger towns, New Archangel, now named Sitka, which had been established in 1804 to handle the valuable trade in the skins of the sea otter. It contained 116 small log cabins with 968 residents. The second town was St. Paul on Kodiak Island, with 100 cabins and 283 people. It was the center of the fur seal industry.

An Aleut name, "Alaska" was chosen by the Americans. The transfer ceremony took place in Sitka on October 18, 1867. Russian and American soldiers paraded in front of the governor's house; the Russian flag was lowered and the American flag raised amid peals of artillery. Captain Alexis Pestchouroff said, "General Rousseau, by authority from His Majesty, the Emperor of Russia, I transfer to the United States the territory of Alaska." General Lovell Rousseau accepted the territory. A number of forts, blockhouses and timber buildings were made over to the Americans. The troops occupied the barracks; General Jefferson C. Davis established his residence in the governor's house, and most of the Russian citizens went home, leaving a few traders and priests who chose to remain.

Alaska Day celebrates the formal transfer of Alaska from Russia to the United States, which took place on October 18, 1867. Currently, Alaska celebrates the purchase on Seward's Day, the last Monday of March.

(*October 18, 1867, was by the Gregorian calendar and a clock time 9:01:20 behind Greenwich, which came into effect the following day in Alaska to replace the Julian calendar and a clock time 14:58:40 "ahead" of Greenwich. For the Russians, the handover was on October 5, 1867.)

ee also

* Alaska Boundary Dispute
* Adams-Onís Treaty
* Louisiana purchase



*citebook|last=Jensen|first=Ronald|title=The Alaska Purchase and Russian-American Relations|year=1975
*citebook|authorlink=Ellis Paxson Oberholtzer|last=Oberholtzer|first=Ellis|title=A History of the United States since the Civil War|volume=vol 1|year=1917
*"Alaska. Speech of William H. Seward at Sitka, August 12, 1869" (1869; [ Digitized page images & text] ), primary source.

External links

* [ Treaty with Russia for the Purchase of Alaska and related resources at the Library of Congress]
* [ Text of Treaty with Russia]
* [ Meeting of Frontiers, Library of Congress]
* [
* [ US Government artice]
* [ Britannica article]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Нужно решить контрольную?

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Alaska Purchase — Nordamerika, Alaska farblich hervorgehoben. Der Kauf Alaskas von Russland durch die Vereinigten Staaten (engl. Alaska Purchase) fand 1867 auf Initiative des damaligen US Außenministers William H. Seward hin statt. Das verkaufte Areal umfasste… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Alaska Purchase — 1. purchase of the territory of Alaska by the U.S. from Russia in 1867 for $7,200,000. Cf. Seward s Folly. 2. the territory itself. * * * Acquisition in 1867 by the U.S. from Russia of 586,412 sq mi (1.5 million sq km) at the northwestern tip of… …   Universalium

  • Alaska Purchase Treaty — (1867)    A treaty transferring Alaska, a Russian possession in North America, to the United States. Negotiations between Secretary of State William H. Seward and Russian Minister Edouard de Stoeckl concluded on March 30; the U.S. Senate ratified …   Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914

  • Alaska Purchase — 1. purchase of the territory of Alaska by the U.S. from Russia in 1867 for $7,200,000. Cf. Seward s Folly. 2. the territory itself …   Useful english dictionary

  • Alaska — (Details) (Details) …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Alaska (Begriffsklärung) — Alaska bezeichnet: Geografische Objekte: Alaska, US amerikanischer Bundesstaat Department of Alaska, Bezeichnung für Alaska von 1867 bis 1884 District of Alaska, Bezeichnung für Alaska von 1884 bis 1912 Alaska Territorium, Bezeichnung für Alaska… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Alaska State Capitol — Das Alaska State House ist das Staatskapitol von Alaska. Es befindet sich in der Main Street in Juneau, der Bundeshauptstadt von Alaska und beherbergt die Legislative Alaskas und die Büros des Gouverneurs und Vizegouverneurs von Alaska …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Purchase (disambiguation) — Purchase may refer to:*Names of persons **Zac Purchase, a British rower. *Names of places **SUNY Purchase, a public college in the State University of New York system **Purchase, New York, USA*Territorial purchases in history **Gadsden Purchase,… …   Wikipedia

  • Purchase — ist der Familienname von Zac Purchase (* 1986), britischer Ruderer Purchase heißt der Ort Purchase (New York) im Westchester County im US Bundesstaat New York Purchase (in der Bedeutung Landkauf ) steht für u.a.: Gadsden Purchase, Vereinigte… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Alaska — Alaskan, adj., n. /euh las keuh/, n. 1. a state of the United States in NW North America. 400,481; 586,400 sq. mi. (1,519,000 sq. km). Cap.: Juneau. Abbr.: AK (for use with zip code), Alas. 2. Gulf of, a gulf of the Pacific, on the coast of S… …   Universalium

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”