Draft for Payment for the Purchase of Alaska


In 1866 the Russian government offered to sell the territory of Alaska to the United States. Secretary of State William H. Seward, enthusiastic about the prospect of American expansion, negotiated the deal for the U.S. government. Eduard de Stoeckl, Russian minister to the United States, negotiated for the Russians. On March 30, 1867, the two parties agreed that the United States would pay Russia $7.2 million for the territory. For less than two cents an acre, the United States acquired nearly 600,000 square miles (1.55 million square kilometers) of new territory. At the time, critics of the purchase called it “Seward’s Folly” or “Seward’s Icebox.” Payment for Alaska, which by law required an appropriation of funds by the U.S. Congress, was delayed for a time by internal American political opposition and by the political wrangling that surrounded the impeachment proceedings against President Andrew Johnson. The U.S. government finally issued a treasury warrant for the Alaska purchase on August 1, 1868, a full 16 months after the treaty had been signed by Seward and de Stoeckl. This note certifies receipt of $7.2 million by the Russian minister in fulfillment of the Alaska purchase, which he subsequently received in gold coin from the Riggs Bank in Washington, D.C.

Last updated: November 20, 2015