Less than two cents per acre — Alaska State Quarter Coin

Today, the Alaska State Quarter Coin remembers when President Andrew Johnson proclaimed the purchase of the area from Russia on June 20, 1867.

From Our Alaskan Wonderland and Klondike Neighbor, A Personal Reminiscence and Thirty Years After by DeB. Randolph Keim published in 1898:

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It borders upon the grotesque to recall to mind Thirty Years After, the punctured sensibilities and prophetic utterances of the statesman, who secured to the domain of the Republic, through the peaceful methods of diplomacy, a vast region teeming with unexploited wealth and added another stride to the march of American destiny.

It does not seem credible as the magnitude of the possibilities of that same region become revealed year by year that the statesman who achieved such a triumph of diplomacy and by a stroke of the pen cemented a long, lasting and oft demonstrated friendship with the foremost power on the globe, found himself forced to call for friendly advocacy in justification then of what is now conceded to have been one of the master strokes of American statecraft.

“Write it up. Write It up,” the Secretary vehemently exclaimed to the writer when the opponents of the appropriation necessary to the closing of the terms of the treaty seemed to be gaining momentum. “Now is the time for the champions of American destiny to step forward. Show them the power of the press.”

The “them’s” were the men in public and potential private station who were trying to release “the rabbit” now that it had “been caught,” and were opposed to “cooking it” by the appropriation of the $7,200,000 stipulated in the treaty.

These were the figures of speech which the Secretary applied to the unexpected raid which had risen up in an unlooked for quarter to frustrate the consummation of the concluded cession.

Mr. Seward attributed all the difficulties and obstructions which had been thrown in his way in Congress to the American “tools” of intrigues fomented in London.

“Those English,” said he, upon one occasion, “can never be friends of America, and our people will make a mistake if they ever trust them. We have too many instances recorded in our international experiences with other nations not to feel assured of that. American destiny is so swift in peaceful expansion that lasting friendship is impossible. For my part I would rather bend my faith toward our great and good friend, the Emperor of all the Russias, than in the Queen’s councilors and the British people.”

The Secretary putting his foot down and his hand most emphatically upon the richly inlaid table near him simultaneously observed: “Now, mark you that! You are young and will find it so in your day as the interests of your country become more widely expanded and worldwide, and jealousy becomes stronger on the other side.”

The voluminous optimistic literature of the day brought to the support of the cession a degree of information which, after a short, sharp and decisive struggle, brushed away the pessimistic “Tories,” as the Secretary was wont to designate the American champions of the Anglo- American lobby which besieged Congress.

The opposition, as Mr. Seward would console himself, was no worse and from the same cause, the commercial jealousy of England, than was experienced during the Louisiana purchase in 1803.

At the time of the Russian cession, 1867, there was a party of “ins-and-outs” at St. Petersburg, as well as in London and Washington. In these three great capitals the Secretary was forced to combat a powerful element determined by every means, fair or foul, to discredit the American administration. The turmoils incident to President Johnson’s political projects were then at their climax and served to give the American allies of the opposition a pretext for their activity.

In St. Petersburg there was a strong influence among the reactionary nobility which opposed any contraction of the bounds of the Empire, and was antagonistic as far as it dared to be, to the Emperor for his liberal treatment of the serfs and for other marks of progressive spirit.

In London the professional growlers saw in the future a mighty rival in the trade of the Pacific.

With the same inflexible will the Secretary, by the exercise of a little political finesse, carried the day in the halls of Congress as he had done in the cabinet of diplomacy.

The remaining formalities of acquisition were promptly complied with by the proclamation of the treaty by Andrew Johnson, President of the United States, on the 20th of June, 1867.

The policy of the Russian-American Company, under its wholesale chartered franchises from St. Petersburg, was the exclusion of the vast region under its protection from every species of enterprise except the fisheries and pursuit of the fur-bearing animate in the sea and on the land.

The authorities at St. Petersburg were on this account aside from the international questions involved even more ready to transfer the territory to the United States, whose people had already shown themselves to be the most aggressive competitors for the commercial and manufacturing supremacy of the world.

The Russian company repelled every attempt to fell the forests and thus contract the haunts of the fur-bearing animals native to the region.

The policy of the Russian government was more concerned in promoting the colonization of a population upon the western shores of the Pacific, which might in the future contribute to the restriction of British aggression in that section of the globe.

The cession of the territory to the United States was expected to fulfill on American lines these expectations.

As early as April 21st, 1867, just three weeks after the treaty of cession to the United States was concluded, a meeting of citizens was held in Philadelphia, out of which sprung an association for the civilization of Russian America and asking the co-operation of the government. Similar movements were inaugurated in New York and Boston.

The lease of the seal fisheries and the investment of capital in the catch of codfish, whaling, canning and salting of salmon introduced a spirit of enterprise in that remote possession which only required the magic wand of gold to give it impetus which would make Alaska one of the finest possessions of the Union.

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The Alaska State Quarter Coin shows with an artist’s image of the signing of the treaty.

Alaska State Quarter Coin

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