Friday, May 16, 2014

Seward struck the deal on buying Alaska

It is the birthday of politician William H. Seward (1801), who is remembered for successfully negotiating the acquisition of Alaska from Russia in 1867 for $7.2 million. Seward was widely criticized for advocating the deal. Detractors called the purchase Seward’s Folly. Russia was eager to get rid of the territory it had used principally for fur trade and considered virtually useless. The government was short on cash and nearby British Columbia was growing. Russia didn’t want to risk another war with Great Britain after losing in the Crimea in 1856, and thought it good to have an American influence in the region. For his part, Seward considered the Alaska purchase the greatest accomplishment of his career. Alaska annually celebrates Seward Day the last Monday in March.

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