Seward’s Folly

Today in History, March 30: 1867 – “Seward’s Folly”. US Secretary of State William H. Seward signs a treaty with Russia, purchasing Alaska for $7 Million, about 2 cents per acre. He was excoriated in the press for using public funds to buy a frozen landscape. One of his contemporaries described Seward as, “one of those spirits who sometimes will go ahead of public opinion instead of tamely following its footprints.” This would be borne out with the realization that the United States now owned some of the most beautiful landscape on Earth, which was larger than Texas, California and Montana combined and contained gold and oil that would replace Seward’s investment exponentially. Seward had been a leading contender for the Presidency in 1860, but was beaten by Abraham Lincoln, who asked him to be Secretary of State. Their initially rocky relationship soon changed, and Seward soon became a faithful friend to Lincoln. On the night Lincoln was assassinated, one of John Wilkes Booth’s co-conspirators nearly murdered Seward in his home, stabbing him repeatedly. But he survived and continued to serve.

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