As Secretary of State, William Seward purchased the Alaskan Territory from Russia in 1867 for about two cents per acre—totaling $7,200,000. At the time the American public found the idea agreeable, but opponents were critical because the land was too distant, settling it too difficult, and administration too costly. The acquisition of the secluded wilderness was termed “Seward’s Folly.” That changed soon after gold was discovered there in the 1870s; a folly became a legacy.
Today, William Seward is celebrated annually in upstate New York. This past Saturday former Republican Vice Presidential Nominee and Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin delivered the keynote in which she attacked bailouts, big government, and Obama. Her praise for Seward’s achievements was mired by her lack of understanding about the history of the Alaskan purchase and his legacy. Continue reading