Dispatches between Seward and the Russian Ambassador an then discussion of the treaty itself.
Continuing The Alaska Purchase,
our selection from Charles Sumner’s Speech to the Senate During the Alaskan Treaty Ratification Debate in 1867. The selection is presented in seven easy 5 minute installments. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Previously in The Alaska Purchase.
Place: Washington, D.C.
Few treaties have been conceived, initiated, prosecuted, and completed in so simple a manner without protocols or dispatches. The whole negotiation will be seen in its result, unless we except two brief notes, which constitute all that passed between the negotiators. These have an interest general and special, and I conclude the history of this transaction by reading them:
DEPARTMENT or STATE,
“WASHINGTON, March 23, 1867.
“ SIR: With reference to the proposed convention between our respective Governments for a cession by Russia of her American territory to the United States, I have the honor to acquaint you that I must insist upon that clause in the sixth article of the draft which declares the cession to be free and unencumbered by any reservations, privileges, franchises, grants, or possessions by any associated companies, whether corporate or incorporate, Russian or any other, etc., and must regard it as an ultimatum. With the President’s approval, however, I will add two hundred thou sand dollars to the consideration-money on that account. “I avail myself of this occasion to offer to you a renewed assurance of my most distinguished consideration. “
WILLIAM H. SEWARD. “
Mr. EDWARD De Stoeckl, etc., etc., etc.”
“Washington, March 17/29, 1867.
“Mr. SECRETARY of STATE: I have the honor to inform you that by a telegram dated 16/ 28th of this month from St. Petersburg, Prince Gortschakoff informs me that his majesty the Emperor of All the Russias gives his consent to the cession of the Russian possessions on the American continent to the United States for the stipulated sum of seven million two hundred thou sand dollars in gold, and that his majesty the Emperor invests me with full powers to negotiate and sign the treaty.
“Please accept, Mr. Secretary of State, the assurance of my very high consideration.
“To Honorable WILLIAM H. SEWARD, “Secretary of State of the United States.”
The treaty begins with the declaration that “the United States of America and his majesty the Emperor of All the Russias, being desirous of strengthening, if possible, the good understanding which exists between them,” have appointed pleni-potentiaries, who have proceeded to sign articles wherein it is stipulated in behalf of Russia that “his majesty the Emperor of All the Russias agrees to cede to the United States by this convention, immediately upon the exchange of the ratiﬁcations thereof, all the territory and dominion now possessed by his said majesty on the continent of America and in the adjacent islands, the same being contained within the geographical limits herein set forth ”; and it is stipulated in behalf of the United States that “in consideration of the cession aforesaid the United States agree to pay, at the Treasury in Washington, within ten months after the ratiﬁcation of this convention, to the diplomatic representative or other agent of his majesty the Emperor of All the Russias duly authorized to receive the same, seven million two hundred thousand dollars in gold.” The ratiﬁcations are to be exchanged within three months from the date of the treaty, or sooner, if possible.
Beyond the consideration founded on the desire of “strengthening the good understanding” between the two countries, there is the pecuniary consideration already mentioned, which underwent a change in the progress of the negotiation. The sum of seven millions was originally agreed upon; but when it was under stood that there was a fur company and also an ice company enjoying monopolies under the existing government, it was thought best that these should be extinguished, in consideration of which our Government added two hundred thousand dollars to the purchase money, and the Russian Government in formal terms declared “the cession of territory and dominion to be free and unencumbered by any reservations, privileges, franchises, grants, or possessions, by any associated companies, whether corporate or incorporate, or by any parties, except merely private individual property-holders.”
The treaty proceeds to say that “the cession hereby made conveys all the rights, franchises, and privileges now belonging to Russia in the said territory or dominion, and appurtenances thereto.”
There are questions not unworthy of attention, which arise under the treaty between Russia and Great Britain, ﬁxing the eastern limits of these possessions, and conceding certain privileges to the latter power. By this treaty, signed at St. Petersburg February 28, 1825, after ﬁxing the boundaries between the Russian and British possessions, it is provided that “for the space of ten years the vessels of the two Powers, or those belonging to their respective subjects, shall mutually be at liberty to frequent, without any hinderance whatever, all the inland seas, gulfs, havens, and creeks on the coast, for the purpose of ﬁshing and trading with the natives”; and also that “for the space of ten years the port of Sitka, or Novo Archangelsk, shall be open to the commerce and vessels of British subjects.” In the same treaty it is also provided that “the subjects of his Britannic majesty, from whatever quarter they may arrive, whether from the ocean or from the interior of the continent, shall forever enjoy the right of navigating freely and without any hinderance whatever all the rivers and streams which in their course toward the Paciﬁc ocean may cross the line of demarcation.” Afterward a treaty of commerce and navigation between Russia and Great Britain was signed at St. Petersburg, January 11, 1843, subject to be terminated on notice from either party at the expiration of ten years, in which it is provided that “in regard to commerce and navigation in the Russian possessions on the northwest coast of America the convention of February 28, 182 5, continues in force.”
Then ensued the Crimean War between Russia and Great Britain, effacing or suspending treaties. Afterward another treaty of commerce and navigation was signed at St. Petersburg, January I2, 1859, subject to be terminated on notice from either party at the expiration of ten years, which repeats the last provision.
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