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French/Industrial Revolution » 1800 » 1867

The Alaska Purchase

When: 1867
Where: Alaska, United States, North America

Secretary Seward, who remained in the State Department from 1861 to 1869, was an expansionist who felt he could improve his own political standing and strengthen the administration by a spectacular program of expansion. After failing to purchase any major islands, he turned to Alaska (Russian-America).

American feeling toward Russia was generally friendly, Russia and America had many things in common. Both were large, expanding, ex-slaveholding, and recovering from war. Both had a common enemy: Great Britain. Russia had sent a fleet of ships to help the North win the Civil War; this paved the way for the Alaskan Purchase.

Before 1867, the Czar's government had regarded Alaska as a potentially valuable but immediately unprofitable area. The Russian-American Company, a regional fur business, was facing bankruptcy. By Capitalizing on the friendship generated by the visit of the fleets, the czar hoped to unload this troublesome liability on the Americans for a profit.

The Russians also realized that Alaska would be easy prey for Britain in the event of a war. If sold, Britain would have little ambition in the Pacific. The monopolistic tactics taken by their fur company were causing trouble for American traders, jeopardizing relations, which the czar needed.

The czar dropped a rumor that Russia would be willing to sell Alaska, much to the excitement of Seward. Seward took the bait and bought the territory for $7.2 million. After hearing the new deal, many Americans criticized him, saying Alaska was a "barren worthless region." Seward came back emphasizing the vast natural resources in Alaska, as well as the commercial advantages of extending the Pacific coast. He also explained that Democratic institutions made a gain by abolishing the Russian monarchy from North America. This purchase also put a seal upon America's friendship with Russia, and prevented Britain from instigating conflict in the Pacific.

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History Fact of the Month
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The Origin of Valentine's Day?

Valentines day dates back to Roman times, when a holiday called The Feast of Lubercus was celebrated to protect shepherds and their flocks from wolves. During this time of year, goddess Juno Februata was honored by pairing boys and girls and denoting them 'partners' for a year.

Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine's Day around 497 AD, in an effort to replace pagan holidays with Christian tradition. Although the pairing ritual was banished, romance remains the distinctive attribute of this holiday.

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