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Purchase of alaska from russia in 1867


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Purchase of alaska from russia in 1867

  1. 1. Americas first venture beyond her continental borders was the purchase of Alaska -- sparsely populatedby Inuit and other native peoples -- from Russia in 1867. Most Americans were either indifferent to orindignant at this action by Secretary of State William Seward, and Alaska was widely referred to as"Sewards Folly" and "Sewards Icebox." But 30 years later, when gold was discovered on AlaskasKlondike River, thousands of Americans headed north, and many of them settled in Alaska permanently.When Alaska became the 49th state in 1959 and replaced texas as the lasrgest state in theunion..sManifest Destiny was a phrase which invoked the idea of divine sanction for the territorialexpansion of the United States. It first appeared in prints in 1845, in the July-August issue of the UnitedStates Magazine and Democratic Review. The anonymous author, thought to be its editor John L.OSullivan, proclaimed "our manifest destiny to overspread the continent allotted by Providence for thefree development of our multiplying millions."both Russia and America had sought out the northwest coast of North America for furs, mostly of seaotters and seals; Americans also pushed the whaling industry into the north Pacific. After the UnitedStates acquired California in 1848, San Francisco became the center of trading companies and otherenterprises extending their activities northward. The most striking of these expansionist ventures wasPerry Macdonough Collinss project to extend a telegraph line across western Canada, Alaska, and theBering Strait to Siberia, where it would connect with Russian and other European lines. (Unfortunately, itcould not compete with Cyrus Fields transatlantic cable for investment funds.)American public interest in acquiring Alaska had already been rumored occasionally. At the time of theCrimean War, some Americans were considering taking over Russian holdings in the Alaska panhandle tokeep them out of British hands, but the British avoided this action by agreeing to neutralize Russianproperty there. Even before then, a few American expansionists, especially William H. Seward, a Whigsenator from New York, were attracted to Alaska. Seward regarded it as the key to an expanded Pacificcommercialism pointed toward the Far East, especially China, which had long been a magnet forexpansionist American businesspeople. At this time, Russia was losing interest in its remote,unprofitable colony. Fearful that the United States or Britain would take it over without paying for it, theczar and his government decided on the sale to the Americans. As secretary of state, Seward eagerlyreceived the Russian overtures, and he and the Russian minister to the United States drew up a treatyliterally overnight. The American public and press were taken by surprise and Seward and his fellowexpansionists had to put together an intensive lobbying campaign to sell the treaty to Congress. TheUnited States paid $7.2 million to Russia, and historians feel that perhaps $200,000 of that went tocongressmen in one way or another to buy their votes for the bill appropriating the purchase price.(Perhaps many would have voted for it anyway.) Not for the first time in American history, expansionismwas temporarily discredited, and later efforts to purchase the Danish West Indies and the Dominican
  2. 2. Republic were voted down amid accusations of scandal. Nevertheless, the United States promptly set upa government in AlaskaRead more: destiny was a popular and easily understood phrase, which was adopted by successive politicalparties. Originally the position of the Democratic Party, it was absorbed into the platforms of the Whigand later Republican parties. Even the Alaska Purchase of 1867 and acquisitions outside the continent,such as Guam and Hawaii, were promoted as examples of manifest destiny in action. Gradually, thephrase became seen as a cover for imperialism and political support has died out.Effect on continental expansionThe phrase “Manifest Destiny” is most often associated with the territorial expansion of the UnitedStates from 1815 to 1860. This era, from the end of the War of 1812 to the beginning of the AmericanCivil War, has been called the “Age of Manifest Destiny.” During this time, the United States expandedto the Pacific Ocean—”from sea to shining sea”—largely defining the borders of the continental UnitedStates as they are today