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Seward's Folly

Andrew Johnson

Seward's Folly: Andrew Johnson was the 17th American President who served in office from April 15, 1865 to March 4, 1869. One of the important events during his presidency was the purchase of Alaska which was initially called "Seward's Folly".

Definition and Summary of the Seward's Folly
Summary and definition:
Seward's Folly is also known as "Seward's Icebox" was the derisive nickname given to the Purchase of Alaska in 1867. It was called Seward's Folly because the United States Secretary of State, William Seward, purchased Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million which was considered to be a massive mistake by many Americans.

Facts about the Seward's Folly for kids
Interesting facts about the Seward's Folly are detailed below. The history of the Seward's Folly is told in a factual timeline sequence consisting of a series of interesting, short facts providing a simple method of relating the
history of the Seward's Folly for kids, schools and homework projects.

William Seward firmly believed in the expansion of US territories and the purchase of Alaska increased the size of the United States by 20%

He also believed in the Manifest Destiny of the United States which was based on the conviction  that the occupation the North American continent, was a divine right of the American people.

He was regarded as a firm supporter of President Andrew Johnson and as such enrage the radical Republicans in Congress

The Alaskan territory covered 586,412 square miles and at the purchase price of 7,200,000 worked out at about two cents per acre

So many Americans opposed the purchase of Alaska because although only a few people were likely to move to the inhospitable territory, all citizens were taxed to obtain the purchase price

Other criticism for the purchase of Alaska was because the government had to borrow the money to finance the transaction despite the fact that the nation was heavily in debt due to the expenses incurred during the Civil War

Many were surprised that the Secretary of State obtained approval from Congress for the Treaty of Russia and the purchase of Alaska which led to speculation that bribery was involved to gain agreement 

Seward and Johnson believed that if the United States had not purchased Alaska, it would probably have been taken by Great Britain and made a part of Canada.

William Seward was finally vindicated for his decision to purchase Alaska when a Important gold deposit was discovered in the Yukon which led to the 1896 Klondike gold rush

In addition to gold Alaska was also rich in oil, fish, timber and many other goods which far exceeded the purchase price of Alaska. In hindsight Seward's Folly should have been called Seward's Fortune!

US American History
1866-1881: Reconstruction Era

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Updated 2018-01-01

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