The Purchase of Alaska
The Russian Empire strived to gain a foothold in the Americas during the 18th century, but after a defeat in the Crimean War, 1853-1856, Russia no longer had the financial capabilities to support its colonies in Alaska. Russia preferred the territory go to the United States rather than Great Britain, Russia’s longtime enemy, but the Civil War kept America’s attention far away from northern Alaska. After the Civil War, Secretary of State William Seward quickly pursued the Russian offer. On March 30, 1867, Seward and Russian ambassador Stoecki signed the treaty for the U.S. purchase of Alaska. The United States paid $7.2 million, roughly two cents per acre, for the large territory that would one day provide the country with gold and numerous natural resources. At first, this event was known as “Seward’s Folly,” but the strategic advantage coupled with the territory’s wealth of resources ultimately made it a wise purchase for the United States.
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Seward Justifies the Purchase of Alaska
This article from the San Francisco Chronicle on September 5, 1869, records a speech given by former Secretary of State William Seward on his involvement in the purchase of Alaska. In his speech he describes the weather, the beauty, the population, the rivers and seas, the land, and the natural resources of Alaska. Seward uses all these facts to support his decision to purchase Alaska for the United States and prove that buying Alaska was not “Seward’s Folly.”