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The Purchase of Alaska - Research Paper Example

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Alaska Purchase Instructor name Date In the mid-1600’s, about the time that the British were colonizing the Atlantic coast region of North America, Russia occupied and had claimed the Northern Pacific region of the America’s now known as Alaska…
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Download file to see previous pages The sales price was $7.2 million or approximately two cents per acre, a small sum even by 1867 standards. Alaska was the last major land-holdings of any non-American nation in the Western Hemisphere. U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward initiated, promoted and brokered the deal. Opponents in the U.S. referred to the sale as ‘Seward’s Folly’ unaware of the riches contained in this massive region. Much of the public thought this region to be nothing but a frozen wasteland and a waste of money that could be used to reconstruct the South following the Civil War. Under Russian control, Alaska reflected the pioneer, adventurous spirit commonly characterized and romanticized in stories of the American West. Russian-American, as it was called, attracted explorers, merchants, adventurers, sinners and saints of all descriptions, most of which was attracted to the region by the lucrative fur trade. Few remnants of Russian control exist today outside of the influence of the Russian Orthodox Church which to this day has a strong tradition in Alaskan society (“Russian Colonization” 2005). In short, Russia sold Alaska for two reasons, the Russian American Company was no longer profiting in the fur trade as it had for over a century and the region was too far away to be adequately defended. Russia believed that eventually, either the U.S. or Britain would forcedly take its Eastern-most colony with relative ease. Continuing to hold Alaska had become less and less important to the Russians because of other, more pressing, geopolitical and economic concerns and by 1850 interest was all but non-existent. The sea otter fur market was in decline for various reasons therefore decreasing the value to Russian commercial interests and the government was busy acquiring other, more lucrative and useful lands at that time. Britain was a new enemy. It had allied with France and the Ottoman Empire during the Crimean War (1853-56) against Russia which lost great amounts of territory in the region north of Turkey. During the war, Britain had also attacked Russia in Eastern Siberia. Though Britain would have been more than interested in purchasing Alaska, the Russians were not going to sell it to an enemy. They reasoned that if the U.S. owned it, this would provide a degree of protection for Russia from Canada, much of it a under the control of Britain at that time. “Russia determined to seek a friendly Western power as purchaser of the Russian holdings in America; and yet, anxious to create a buffer zone between British North America and Siberia” (Rasche). The Hudson Bay Company, of British origin, had made it no secret it desired more access to Alaska so as to harvest its riches. Immediately following the sale of Alaska to the U.S., Britain formerly colonized all of western Canada to the Alaskan border. Russia had sold Alaska just in time. It prevented another certain defeat against Britain resulting in further loss of territory and resources. More importantly, the already low level of public confidence in the Russian government following the fresh defeat in the Crimean War would have been further diminished thus enhancing the possibility of rebellion (Tompkins, 1945). Russia had little choice but to sell Alaska to the U.S. The selling price of two cents per acre is ample evidence that the U.S. was well aware of Russia’s poor negotiating position. The two countries were on friendly terms and shared a common disdain of Britain. Just 50 years earlier, British troops ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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