As the Russian Empire sold Alaska 150 years ago
Why Alexander II lost to “Russian America” and that gave our country this deal.
Exactly 150 years ago in Washington an agreement was signed about the sale of Russian Alaska to the United States of America. Solemn ceremony of transfer of land took place almost six months later — October 18, 1867. After a couple of decades in the Yukon will discover huge reserves of gold, and in the twentieth century, they find oil, and the amount of comparable resources in Western Siberia and the Arabian Peninsula. All this will give rise to numerous discussions about whether it was necessary to sell “Russian America”.
But then, in the mid-nineteenth century, the Russian Empire had to make some effort to convince the United States of the need to purchase and prevent a possible war with Britain.
The issue price
The total area of land transferred to the United States was approximately 1.5 million sq. km. For its purchase the United States paid Russian Empire $7.2 million — every square kilometer of territory has cost the American government $4,73.
After the transaction, the Russian representative handed over a Bank cheque for the required amount, even though the contract it was about gold. Later, the supporters of the idea of the return of Alaska pointed out this violation as a way to challenge the transaction. However, at the time of sale, obviously, it has not caused objections.
While Alaska was not the first acquired by the U.S. government territory for a few years before that France sold America their possessions in Louisiana.
The amount received by the Russian government for less in size and almost undeveloped Northern land, was only slightly less than the one that won France over South Louisiana. For each hectare of land in Alaska, the U.S. government paid one and a half times less than a hectare of Louisiana land.
However, around the same time mayor of new York acquired is located in the city center three-story County courthouse. And she paid more for it than the government for all of Alaska.
The initiator of the transaction in 1857 was made by the brother of the Emperor Alexander II, Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolaevich. He sent a letter to the Minister of foreign Affairs Alexander Gorchakov, and he showed the message to the Russian Emperor.
The arguments set out in a letter to Konstantin Nikolayevich, was as follows. Alaska is too greatly removed from the Central part of Russia, to keep it in case of conflict is difficult, and development of the area will require large expenditures. The Treasury once completed in 1856 the Crimean war was empty, the country needed reform, and the sale of land would not only help bring additional funds, but would improve relations with the United States.
Later most of these arguments have been repeatedly recognized by historians of dubious and strong enough. But certain reason to fear a new conflict Konstantin Nikolayevich was still.
By the mid-nineteenth century in Alaska, outdoor Russian sailors, and were at that time in the management of the merchants of the Russian-American company, was already discovered gold. However, this discovery not only promised enrichment of the Empire, but did land a tasty morsel for geopolitical enemies of the country. First and foremost, the British Empire, which owned the adjacent canadian lands. During the Crimean war, the British had already tried to land troops in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, what did the prospects of a collision is very real. And the experience of the recently completed war showed that the new Empire was not yet ready.
Perhaps that is why Alexander II, having examined the proposal of the brother, put the letter of the resolution “need to understand”. And while the transaction was “realized” in the United States civil war began. The sale was again postponed.
The lost archive
To discuss the deal back in 1866. The interests of the Empire in the United States was requested to submit to the Russian attorney Baron Edward Glass. According to one version, he raised the price to Alaska, it is considered that in Russia land first estimated at $5 million in gold, however the Glass is, on reflection, called the us government the sum of $7.2 million — and he was right.
In Russia the decision about the sale of “Russian America” was made a very limited circle of people at a special meeting held in December 1866.
Part in addition to the Alexander II, Konstantin was attended by the Minister of foreign Affairs Gorchakov, the Minister of Finance Mikhail Reitern and naval Minister Nikolai Krabbe. Was also attended by attorney Stoeckl. At the meeting the idea of Konstantin Nikolaevich was supported, and even before the end of 1866, the Emperor confirmed the boundaries subject to sale site.
In March, 1867, Stoeckl arrived in Washington and suggested the us Secretary of state William Seward to discuss the previously received from the United States proposals for the purchase of Alaska. March 30, 1867 in Washington, with the active assistance of Seward, was signed the Russian-American agreement on sale of Alaska. 3 may of the same year he was signed by Emperor Alexander II. In order to make the deal, the US President had to convene an emergency meeting of the Senate, completed by the time the regular session.
In the Russian Prince Gagarin, who headed the Council of Ministers and Minister of war Milyutin, as well as a number of other dignitaries learned about the accomplished fact of sales already from the Newspapers. Six months later, in October, 1867, the solemn transfer of Alaska to the United States took place on Board an American sloop “Ossipee”, is located in the Russian port of Archangel (Sitka).
Under the terms of the Treaty America got land with all those on her property, and all archives and documents. Later this gave ground for the emergence of many versions of the additional terms of the transaction, which are thus concealed from the General public. However, no evidence of these assumptions have so far not found.
That he spent the money from the sale
Stoeckl received from the us government a check for $7.2 million, which was forwarded to the British Bank. Do not forget the intermediary about their own interests — out of the funds received, he kept about $10 thousand as fee and another $144 thousand, who allegedly paid support contract to us senators.
For a long time it was believed that the rest of the money was first converted into pounds, and then translated into gold, which were loaded on the ship “Orkney”. It was believed that on the way to the Russian ship caught in a storm and sank, so no money for Alaska in General, has been received.
However, in the Russian state archive was later discovered a document drawn up by one of the employees of the Ministry of Finance. It reads in part, received from USA and 11 million rubles, about 10 million were spent on purchase of components for the Russian Railways: the gold from the sale of Alaska updated including the Moscow-Ryazan and Kursk-Kiev railway.
Did America buy Alaska?
The questions deal not only in Russia but also in the United States. In 1867, not all in America were convinced that the country barely finished a bloody civil war, you need to buy the undeveloped area North of the main advantages of which export was furs and ice supplied for glaciers in the southern States.
According to one version, the Glass had to put a lot of effort to convince Americans of the necessity of this purchase. Appreciate the offer could only Secretary of state Seward.
Although the Senate supported the deal (“for” vote 37 human against two), a long time in USA and Alaska was called “Seward’s folly”.
However, in 1896 in the Yukon has opened up large reserves of gold, and attack of “gold fever” put an end to the massive doubt and skepticism. However, independent Alaska was only in 1949, and the opinion that the content of Alaska coupled with paid for it with the money still is too expensive, heard in the US until now.