Story last updated at 1/15/2014 - 2:43 pm
The 55th Anniversary of Alaska Statehood, Jan 3, 2014, has come and gone. Yet I would like to respond to the scholarly letter of George Suckinaw James, Jr., printed in the Capital City Weekly, Nov. 20-26, 2013. Everything in his letter was true. Omitted was, that the United States did not purchase Alaska from Russia, but instead purchased whatever rights Russia possessed to Alaska. Russia was fearful that they would lose those rights and have nothing to show for their loss. The United States had been talking with Russia for almost a decade about the issue. The Civil War delayed the matter and Russia was reaping profits from the fur bearing industry.
In 1867, times were changing. Profits in the fur bearing industry had evaporated. Pirates were roaming the coast of Alaska and Russia had no meaningful security. The Tsar finally gave his permission to sell "the rights", and William Henry Seward seized the day. In four hours at midnight, March 30, 1867, the treaty was written and signed. The following Tuesday, President Andrew Johnson signed the treaty. Shortly thereafter, the U. S. Senate ratified the treaty. It took more than one year for the U. S. House of Representatives to ratify and pay the $7.2 million purchase price. The House of Representatives authorized the check for purchase on August 1, 1868.
William Henry Seward was long an advocate for human rights, civil rights and native rights. His speech in 1858, "There is a Higher Law than the Constitution of the United States" probably cost him the Republican nomination for President. A lesser candidate appears in 1860 and the Stop Seward campaign foils Seward's greatest ambition.
On August 12, 1969, William Henry Seward visited Sitka, Alaska. In his speech, he said that "Alaska will be my Greatest Legacy". He said that some day, "not in my lifetime, Alaska will become a State of the Union." He also said that Alaska was big enough to become four separate states.
I believe that a William Henry Seward statue in Juneau is a excellent idea. Several citizens in Juneau are working to make this a reality. Every elite capital of the United States has statuary. Juneau should step forward. I believe our city will be better, not only with a William Henry Seward statue, but also a statue for Judge James Wickersham, Territory Governor and U. S. Senator Ernest Gruening, U. S. Senator Bob Bartlett, and Governor William Egan. And some others too. Every name stated above stood for strong native rights. These are individuals that should never be forgotten. That is why my Alaska Living History exists.
-- John H. Venables
Alaska Living History
"The Man Depicted with the Shovel"
For any further info, contact John at email@example.com