Sunday, 30 March 2014

seward's folly or geopolitics

On this day in 1867 (depending on whether one employed the Georgian or Julian calendar, still in use by the Russian Empire at the time), the United States senate formally ratified the purchase of the territory that would become the state of Alaska from Russia, brokered by US Secretary of State, William H. Seward.
The czar, Alexander II, was little engaged with his North American colony, and having been recently trounced by a coalition led by the British in the Crimean War, was eager to unburden himself of this wasteland, lest Russia loose it to their colonial neighbours without compensation. Those lands that would become Canada had little interest in buying the land, and Russia assumed that the UK would just as likely appropriate the peninsula in some future war or for past reparations, the Empire approached the Americans as buyers for the difficult to defend outpost. At the time, the American public did not think it much of a bargain and the newly acquired territory, twice the size of Texas, became known as Seward's Folly, paying some seven million dollars, two cents an acre, for what was regarded as a frozen wilderness.