"Most Educated Alaskans Are Aware Of All This"


History professor and Alaskan David Noon corrects Palin for repeating the myth of "Seward's Folly" - the purchase of Alaska in 1867 by Secretary of State William Seward. From Going Rogue:

Critics ridiculed Seward for spending so much on a remote chunk of earth that some thought of as just a frozen, inhospitable wilderness that was dark half the year. The $7.2 million purchase became known as “Seward’s Folly” or “Seward’ Icebox.” Seward withstood the mocking and disdain because of his vision for Alaska. He knew her potential to help secure the nation with her resources and strategic position on the globe. . . . [D]ecades later, he was posthumously vindicated, as purveyors of unpopular common sense often are.

From the historian:

So far as public opinion was concerned, most newspapers actually supported the purchase. The major exception was the New York Tribune, which was owned by Horace Greeley, a Republican who was nevertheless one of William Seward’s avowed enemies.  (Greeley believed Seward had been too radical on the slavery issue, among other things).  Even Democratically-aligned papers in the North while not missing the opportunity to crack wise about polar bears and walruses tended to support the purchase, mainly because there was no compelling reason to oppose it.  And at the end of the day, the treaty with Russia passed the US Senate by a vote of 37-2, with no significant expressions of opposition during the floor debate.

[M]ost educated Alaskans are aware of all this, at least in its broad outline.  It’s taught in the schools, and the few textbooks that have been written about Alaskan history all incorporate Wright’s findings into their treatment of the Alaskan purchase.  Certainly someone who claims to know and love the state as much as the abdicated governor does should know that the “Seward’s Folly” myth survives because most people outside the state know very little about Alaska and are perfectly comfortable substituting fable for fact when thinking about its history, culture and geography.  But since Sarah Palin’s entire schtick requires an audience that believes the myth that believes, for example, that we can drill the shit out of the state without wrecking its ecology I’m not surprised that she believes it as well.

(Photo: The document United States government used to purchase Alaska from Russia in the 19th century. 30 March 1867)