U.S. Purchase of Alaska—Myths and Reality

Historian Stephen Haycox wrote in 1990 that the belief the purchase by the U.S. of Alaska from the Russian Empire in 1867 was broadly unpopular is “one of the strongest historical myths in American history. It persists despite conclusive evidence to the contrary, and the efforts of the best historians to dispel it.” Although some derided it as [Secretary of State William] “Seward’s folly”, popular opinion was broadly in favour of the purchase; it was supported by a majority of major newspapers; and the treaty ratifying the sale passed the U.S. Senate with only two votes opposed. The purchase was seen as part of the “manifest destiny” of the U.S. to occupy the entire North American continent, including the British colonies which later became provinces of Canada.