History Moment By William “Doc” Halliday

Seward’s Icebox
MomentHow much is an acre of land worth? Yes, it does depend upon the location of that land. An acre of land in downtown Manhattan is worth much more than an acre of land in the Nevada desert, 25 miles from nowhere. If you need some perspective, new homes today are being built on about one fifth of an acre. This is in what we might call subdivisions. I once purchased 160 acres of land, sight unseen, because the price was too low to pass up.

The average price per acre of land in the United States is about $3,000. Obviously, some is worth much more, because of its location, use, etc., and some is worth a lot less. If you were offered a large amount of land, how much (little) would you be willing to pay? What is the amount that you couldn’t pass up; $1,000 per acre; $500 per acre, $100, or would $10 per acre be something that you would not pass up? What if you had the opportunity to purchase a large tract of land at less than $0.02 per acre?

Since 1725 the Russians had had a intense interest in the area on the Northwest coast of North America because it was rich in natural resources and was sparsely inhabited. The Russian government lacked financial resources to develop the area or to keep troops there. Beginning in 1857 the Russian government made overtures to the United States government to sell what was referred to as Russia America. After their loss in the Crimean War, Russia wanted to sell their stake in America due to fear that their colony would be lost in a war with either France or Britain.

Russia made a formal offer to sell the territory to the United States in 1859. However, there were internal complications that arose from a contract with the Russian-American Company; thus, it was decided to wait until the contract terminated in 1861. Talks were held between the Russian and American diplomats during the winter of 1859-60, but there was not an agreement on the sale. Then the Civil War started in the United States and this country was in no position to pursue the matter.

The Emancipation Reform of 1861 in Russia was financed by borrowing 15 million pounds of Sterling from the Rothschilds. When the time came to repay the loan, the Russian government was short of funds. This put additional pressure on completing a sale of Russian America and with the end of the American Civil War; the Russians again pursued the matter.


The Russian Tsar…

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