In the 19th century life was different. Russia was a great power and the United States of America was young boy, new in the block, trying to find his footing in the big bad world.
Alaska actually belonged to Russia. The Czar had large amounts of snow covered land. Russian America or Alaska happened to be one of them. Also, when the United States America started expanding westward, the Czar did not have enough resources at hand to maintain a settlement so far from his capital, St. Petersburg.
The political situation at this time was not the most stable and quite unenviable. Russia and Great Britain were in a constant conflict to expand their already expansive empires. The Russian empire was in a tight financial condition. Defeat in the Crimean war had drained the Russian treasury and the Czar needed money to run his empire. He feared that British Columbia would go on to dominate in the Pacific, which till that time had been left largely untouched by the British Crown.
With tensions running high, the Czar came up with an idea, which at that time seemed the most sensible. The United States were keen on expanding and cementing their hold on the continent and Russian America proved to be an obstacle. The Czar was not too keen on having a new frontier of conflict and wished to avoid confrontation with another country, especially a young one like America. The unease between the two nations was mainly due to the competition in fur and pelts. There was never really a concrete population of Russians in the continent, perhaps another factor in the sale of Alaska, as the discontent at the sale of such a large tract of land would not really stir up much discontent because of the social disconnect it had.
The sale of Russian America was delayed because of the ongoing Civil war between the Northern and the Confederate states. After the war was over, the Secretary of state, William Seward, was quick in asking the Russians for renewal of talks. The talks came through and the Senate also duly passed the treaty. Alaska was bought for the monumental price of 7.4 million dollars, in context of the year 1867.
Many in the United States saw this move as foolish and termed it as ‘Seward’s folly’. However, the critics were left hiding for shelter, when gold was found in Alaska. Tables turned and Alaska was welcomed generously because of the material generosity it afforded the nation. The USA had been ‘looking for Alaska’ and found her.