Alaska 1867 acquisition by the United States from Russia of 586,412 -
Stan Klos Website
The 1867 acquisition by the United
States from Russia of 586,412 square miles of land at the northwestern tip of
the North American continent now known as Alaska created quite a stir during the
William Henry Seward, secretary of state under President Andrew Johnson, had as
early as 1860 proposed the US acquisition of Alaska. The territory was
considered an economic wasteland by the Russians, and in December 1866 Baron
Eduard de Stoeckl, Russian minister to the United States, was authorized to open
negotiations with Seward for Alaska’s sale. On March 29, 1867, Stoeckl and
Seward completed the draft of a treaty ceding Russian North America to the
United States, and the treaty was signed on the following day. The $7,200,000
price amounted to about two cents per acre.
Many Americans, however, viewed the purchase as a too costly an acquisition. The
press mirrored the popular opinion and Seward was ridiculed in the press.
"Seward's Icebox" was the catchy tag name for the Alaska Purchase.
The ratification and funding for the purchase by Congress seemed impossible due
to the well publicized public outrage. The treaty was submitted for ratification
on March 30. Founding Republican Party Senator Charles Sumner eloquently spoke
in its favor, and the treaty was passed on April 9, 1867.
The check for $7.2 million was made payable to the Russian Minister to
the United States Edouard de Stoeckl, who negotiated the deal for the
Russians. Also shown here is the Treaty of Cession, signed by Tzar Alexander
II, which formally concluded the agreement for the purchase of Alaska from
Russia. - Image
and Text Courtesy of the National Archives
The Russian exchange copy of the Treaty of Cession, March 30, 1867,
General Records of the United States Government; Record Group 11; National
Courtesy of the National Archives
Treaty of Cession
March 30, 1867
CONVENTION between the
United States of America and His Majesty the Emperor of Russia, for the
Cession of the Russian Possessions in North America to the United States,
Concluded at Washington, March 30, 1867; Ratification Advised by Senate,
April 9, 1867; Ratified by President, May 28, 1867; Ratification Exchanged
at Washington, June 20, 1867; Proclaimed, June 20, 1867.
The United States of
America and His Majesty the Emperor of all the Russias, being desirous of
strengthening, if possible, the good understanding which exists between
them, have, for that purpose, appointed as their Plenipotentiaries, the
President of the United States, William H. Seward, Secretary of State; and
His Majesty the Emperor of all the Russias, the Privy Counsellor Edward de
Stoeckl, his Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the
And the said Plenipotentiaries, having exchanged their full powers,
which were found to be in due form, have agreed upon and signed the
His Majesty the Emperor of all the Russias, agrees to cede to the United
States, by this convention, immediately upon the exchange of the
ratifications thereof, all the territory and dominion now possessed by his
said Majesty on the continent of America and in adjacent islands, the same
being contained within the geographical limits herein set forth, to wit:
The eastern limit is the line of demarcation between the Russian and the
British possessions in North America, as established by the convention
between Russia and Great Britain, of February 28—16, 1825, and described
in Articles III and IV of said convention, in the following terms:
“III Commencing from the southernmost point of the island called Prince
of Wales Island, which point lies in the parallel of 54 degrees 40 minutes
north latitude, and between the 131st and 133d degree of west longitude
(meridian of Greenwich), the said line shall ascend to the north along the
channel called Portland Channel, as far as the point of the continent
where it strikes the 56th degree of north latitude; from this
last-mentioned point, the line of demarcation shall follow the summit of
the mountains situated parallel to the coast, as far as the point of
intersection of the 141st degree of west longitude (of the same meridian);
and finally, from the said point of intersection, the said meridian line
of the 141st degree, in its prolongation as far as the Frozen Ocean.
“IV With reference to the line of demarcation laid down in the preceding
article, it is understood—
“1st That the island called Prince of Wales Island shall belong wholly
to Russia” (now, by this cession to the United States).
“2d That whenever the summit of the mountains which extend in a
direction parallel to the coast, from the 56th degree of north latitude to
the point of intersection of the 141st degree of west longitude, shall
prove to be at the distance of more than ten marine leagues from the
ocean, the limit between the British possessions and the line of coast
which is to belong to Russia as above mentioned (that is to say, the limit
to the possessions ceded by this convention), shall be formed by a line
parallel to the winding of the coast, and which shall never exceed the
distance of ten marine leagues there from.”
The western limit within which the territories and dominion conveyed are
contained passes through a point in Behring’s Straits on the parallel of
sixty-five degrees thirty minutes north latitude, at its intersection by
the meridian which passes midway between the islands of Krusenstern of
Ignalook, and the island of Ratmanoff, or Noonarbook, and proceeds due
north without limitation, into the same Frozen Ocean. The same western
limit, beginning at the same initial point, proceeds thence in a course
nearly southwest, through Behring’s Straits and Behring’s Sea, so as to
pass midway between the northwest point of the island of St. Lawrence and
the southeast point of Cape Choukotski, to the meridian of one hundred and
seventy-two west longitude; thence, from the intersection of that
meridian, in a southwesterly direction, so as to pass midway between the
island of Attou and the Copper Island of the Kormandorski couplet or
group, in the North Pacific Ocean, to the meridian of one hundred and
ninety-three degrees west longitude, so as to include in the territory
conveyed the whole of the Aleutian Islands east of that meridian.
In the cession of territory and dominion made by the preceding article,
are included the right of property in all public lots and squares, vacant
lands, and all public buildings, fortifications, barracks, and other
edifies which are not private individual property. It is, however,
understood and agreed, that the churches which have been built in the
ceded territory by the Russian Government, shall remain the property of
such members of the Greek Oriental Church resident in the territory as may
choose to worship therein. Any Government archives, papers, and documents
relative to the territory and dominion aforesaid, which may now be
existing there, will be left in the possession of the agent of the United
States; but an authenticated copy of such of them as may be required, will
be, at all times, given by the United States to the Russian Government, or
to such Russian officers or subjects as they may apply for.
The inhabitants of the ceded territory, according to their choice,
reserving their natural allegiance, may return to Russia within three
years; but if they should prefer to remain in the ceded territory, they,
with the exception of uncivilized native tribes, shall be admitted to the
enjoyment of all the rights, advantages, and immunities of citizens of the
United States, and shall be maintained and protected in the free enjoyment
of their liberty, property, and religion. The uncivilized tribes will be
subject to such laws and regulations as the United States may from time to
time adopt in regard to aboriginal tribes of that country.
His Majesty, the Emperor of all the Russias, shall appoint, with
convenient dispatch, an agent or agents for the purpose of formally
delivering to a similar agent or agents, appointed on behalf of the United
States, the territory, dominion, property, dependencies, and appurtenances
which are ceded as above, and for doing any other act which may be
necessary in regard thereto. But the cession, with the right of immediate
possession, is nevertheless to be deemed complete and absolute on the
exchange of ratifications, without waiting for such formal delivery.
Immediately after the exchange of the ratifications of this convention,
any fortifications or military posts which may be in the ceded territory
shall be delivered to the agent of the United States, and any Russian
troops which may be in the territory shall be withdrawn as soon as may be
reasonably and conveniently practicable.
In consideration of the cession aforesaid, the United States agree to
pay at the Treasury in Washington, within ten months after the exchange of
the ratifications of this convention, to the diplomatic representative or
other agent of His Majesty the Emperor of all the Russias, duly authorized
to receive the same, seven million two hundred thousand dollars in gold.
The cession of territory and dominion herein made is hereby declared to be
free and unencumbered by any reservations, privileges, franchises, grants,
or possessions, by any associated companies, whether corporate or
incorporate, Russian or any other; or by any parties, except merely
private individual property-holders; and the cession hereby made conveys
all the rights, franchises, and privileges now belonging to Russia in the
said territory or dominion, and appurtenances thereto.
When this convention shall have been duly ratified by the President, of
the United States, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, on
the one part, and, on the other, by His Majesty the Emperor of all the
Russias, the ratifications shall be exchanged at Washington within three
months from the date thereof, or sooner if possible.
In faith whereof the respective Plenipotentiaries have signed this
convention, and thereto affixed the seals of their arms.
Done at Washington, the thirtieth day of March, in the year of our Lord
one thousand eight hundred and sixty-seven.
William H. Seward [L. S.]
Edward de Stoeckl [L. S.]
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Scope & Content
In 1866 the Russian government offered to sell the territory
of Alaska to the United States. Secretary of State William H. Seward,
enthusiastic about the prospect of American expansion, negotiated the deal
for the Americans. Eduard de Stoekl, Russian Minister to the United States,
negotiated for the Russians. On March 30, 1867, the two parties agrees that
the United States would pay Russia $7.2 million for the territory of Alaska.
For less than 2 cents an acre, the United States acquired nearly 600,000
square miles. Opponents of the Alaska Purchase persisted in calling
it "Seward's Folly" or "Seward's Icebox" until 1896, when the great Klondike
Gold Rush convinced even the harshest critics that Alaska was a valuable
addition to the United States.
Exhibit History: "American Originals," December 1995 - June
1996, National Archives Rotunda, Washington, DC, Exhibit No. 624.0050.
"Russian America: The Forgotten Frontier" (traveling exhibit organized by
Anchorage Museum of History and Art), July 1990 - September 1992, Exhibit
No. 1088.xxxx Warrant 927, Treasury Dept. segment from 1868. Treasury
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