Monday, January 16, 2006
Story Retold to President Harding Before his Alaskan tour Regarding Purchase Price of Territory interested the Chief Immensely
By Joe Mitchell Chapple in National Magazine
Reprinted in Prosperity Edition of The Alaska Trail Blazer December 5, 1925
When Mr. Charles C. Glover of the Riggs National Bank retold me a story that very much interested the late President Harding just before his Alaskan Trip, I was all eyes and ears.
It conveys a new light upon an incident in United States history concerning which there has been a great deal of comment, but nothing officially declared. When a young clerk n the Riggs National Bank, C.C. Glover was accosted by General Simpson who was then living in Philadelphia and kept his bank account in Washington and came to pay his life insurance. The latter told him an enlightening story concerning the purchase of Alaska, which now, for the first time, is available for publication.
"According to the story told me," said Mr. Glover, "the truth of which has been vouched for, the United States did not, as the historians tell us, pay $7,200,000 for Alaska. The actual purchase price was $1,400,000, although the warrant turned over to Russia, which was handled by me, called for $7,200,000."
General Simpson, from whom Glover, then a young bank clerk, got the tale, was later Governor of Montana. After his term of office he was sent to Alaska, and while on the train going West he met Senator Dawes of Massachusetts, who had something to do with the negotiations, and who told him the anecdote which tus bears the stamp of Senatorial authority.
Prior to the war, negotiations had been started by Russia to sell Alaska for $1,400,000. It was decided to conclude the sale before England annexed the territory in extending her northwest boundary, at the time a land of icebergs. The war interfered with the negotiations. In the darkest days of the struggle, when England was about to break the blockade and declare her sympathy for the Southern Confederacy, Secretary William Henry Seward was looking about for some way of checkmating the move which he was informed had been definitely decided upon.
Soon after he called in the Russian Minister, Stoehl, for a conference and arranged to have a Russian fleet come to New York and a small fleet was sent to San Francisco as a warning to England to keep off the American coast. This little demonstration had much to do with turning the tide and was an emphatic notice to Great Britain that Russia was friendly to the Union. The cost of this little demonstration was about five million dollars, which England had added to the costs of the war to the U.S.A.
After the war, the deficiency fund was exhausted and the treasury was so depleted that there was no possible way of passing a bill to pay Russia for its services without giving offense to England. It was decided, when the final arrangements were made, that the price paid for the territory purchased should be made to cover the full cost of obtaining Alaska, at $7,200,000.
This sum, of course, included the original purchase price of $1,400,000 and the cost of sending the Russian fleet to safeguard the Union. Five million dollars and more was the sum paid for the services of the Russian naval vessels. This in what purported to be only the price paid for Alaska was payment also, for Russia;s friendly demonstration at a most critical time.
at 12:20 PM