Governor Palin’s Path is Set: Had it not been for the dogged determination of Secretary of State William H. Seward, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin may not have been the Vice-Presidential nominee of the Republican Party in 2008. It was not an easy task, but, ultimately, Seward got Congress to simply write a big’ol check to the Russians and America had gained the final frontier.
In the 19th Century, Russia laid claim to the Alaskan territory with the establishment of the fur-trading Russian-American Company. The company was quite profitable for awhile but by the 1860’s, business wasn’t too good. In order for the company to remain viable, the Tsar would have to heavily subsidize operations. But, only a few hundred Russians had emigrated to Alaska and the Russians had no way of defending the vast region. The Tsar and his ministers thought it was in their best interest to sell the land to the Americans rather than lose it in battle to one of the world powers, like Great Britain.
In 1867. Secretary of State William H. Seward began negotiations to acquire the territory. Now, Seward was a hold-over from the Lincoln administration and was serving under President Andrew Johnson at the time. Johnson became quite unpopular due to his Reconstruction policies and some in the public derisively called the plan “Seward’s Folly”, “Seward’s Ice Box” or “Andrew Johnson’s Polar Bear Garden.” There were also facticious calls for the opening of the “Polar Bear Bureau” and the establishment of the “Superintendent of Walruses.” At the time, it was seen as a vast, empty wilderness opposed by many public figures such as Horace Greeley. But, some histories now suggest that most of the general public thought it was a shrewd deal. Political opponents in Congress who were trying to figure out how to impeach Johnson delayed approval of the $7.2 million needed to complete the deal. Perhaps because public opposition wasn’t as great as has been advertised because Congress ratified the deal on April 9, 1867, though it did by just one vote. The Senate’s approval opened the door for the United States to acquire an area about twice the size of Texas for the purchase price of $7.2 million, or about 2 cents an acre. Funny thing is, Congress didn’t appropriate the money until July 1868. I’m guessing that, while the Senate is charged with approving treaties, the House of Representatives has a say in the approval of funding and I suspect that opponents in the House hoped to halt the purchase by keeping the purse strings tight. If you notice the check above is dated August 1868 so there must have been some politicking and horse trading. Guess the Tsar didn’t care too much about the slow payment but I suppose any Americans who were in Alaska before the check cleared could have been considered considered to be squatters.
In any event, the deal got done and the public remained generally non-plussed about the whole thing until gold was discovered in 1896 the territory’s Klondike region and suddenly the acquisition wasn’t such a folly after all. As time went on, the deal became to be on par with buying Manhattan for $24. Today, 20% of America’s oil is found in Alaska and about half of the seafood. It also produces a huge amount of natural gas, timber and other natural resources. Pokiness seems to be part of Alaska’s history because, after Congress delayed cutting the check, it took until 1912 to establish the Alaska Territory. And statehood wasn’t exactly around the corner from there.
Today, it has produced “Sarah Barracuda”, the first female Republican nominee for Vice-President. Alaska became a state in 1959 which seems kinda odd when one considers that California gained statehood very shortly after it’s gold rush broke out. Alaska is too big for just one day of recognition so there are two state holidays marking its heritage. One is “Seward’s Day” which is in March every year to mark the day that William Seward signed the treaty (Mar 30, 1867) and the other is “Alaska Day,” which commemorates this date in History when on October 18, 1867, the United States formally took possession of the 586, 412 square miles of Alaska. If this Global Warming caper goes the way that Mr. Gore suggests, then “Andrew Johnson’s Polar Bear Garden” will have to find a new name…perhaps “Andrew Johnson’s Polar Bear Swimming Pool” would be more appropriate.
Weather Bottom Line: We need rain. Count yourself lucky if you get it this week. Officially, Louisville has gotten .56 inches of rain since Sept 1. Now, climatologically, Sept and Oct are the driest month in Louisville but his is a bit out of hand. A boundary snuck through yesterday but its not too far to the south. The previous thinking was that a wave of energy would run along that front and bring us some light rain on Tuesday. But, the front appears to be inching farther south so when the wave goes by, the rain will be mainly in Tennessee. That’s okay because they could use it too but…anyway, maybe a slight shot on Monday night or Tuesday but probably only if you do a rain dance in your backyard. Cooler air filters in beginning Tuesday and we will at least be pleasant with highs in the upper 60’s Tuesday and lower 70’s the rest of the week.