If modern Americans can name one U.S. Secretary of State from before they were born, that name is William Henry Seward. If they know one thing about him, it's that he bought Alaska. The $7.2 million bargain remains the single largest addition of territory to the United States after the Louisiana Purchase, larger than the Mexican Cession, the annexation of Texas or the acquisition of the Pacific Coast.
But Alaska was only one of Seward's accomplishments. As Abraham Lincoln's right hand man, he kept foreign countries from siding with the Confederacy in the Civil War. He held the United States together in the months before the war and through the impeachment crisis that followed it. He sheltered escaping slaves, advocated for immigrants, prisoners and women's rights.
The Man Who Bought Alaska is the first biography of Seward by an Alaskan and the first to focus on the purchase in the context of his other achievements. It is also the first to explore his attitude toward Native Americans, who made up the majority of the population of Alaska at the time it became U.S. property. It is the story of a patriot, gambler and 19th century visionary who saw the world from a remarkably modern perspective.
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