If Seward Had Not Purchased Alaska How Would Things be Different Now?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by jbgusa, Sep 12, 2019.


What would have happened to Alaska if not purchases by U.S. in 1867?

  1. Purchased by U.S. later

    16 vote(s)
  2. Purchased by Hudson Bay Company

    5 vote(s)
  3. Purchase by Britain

    26 vote(s)
  4. Purchased by Canada as a new country

    8 vote(s)
  5. Purchased by Japanese Empire

    6 vote(s)
  6. Reverted to the Inuits and Native Americans

    3 vote(s)
  7. Purchased by extraterrestrial forces

    6 vote(s)
  8. Purchased by another entity (name on thread)

    8 vote(s)
  1. jbgusa Member

    Sep 5, 2019
    New York City area
    The U.S. purchased Alaska in 1867. At the time the purchase was called "Seward's Folly" and "Seward's Icebox", the name in honor of the Secretary of State. My guess is that the natural rival purchaser would have been Hudson Bay Company, since Britain declared Canada independent around the same time. Canada's Dominion Day in fact is July 1, 1867. Hudson Bay Company later sold Rupert's Land to the Dominion of Canada for $1,500,000.00.


    I doubt that Russia would have held it; Russia needed the cash badly.
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2019
  2. Euphemios Well-Known Member

    Nov 18, 2018
    I consider the Japanese more likely than Britain or Canada, as Russia viewed Britain as an enemy. If the US does not purchase it, out of the options here I personally consider the Japanese the most likely. The Meiji restoration is just around the corner and Japan might well purchase Alaska to at least get some land in the New World, for pride, if nothing else.
  3. Agra Well-Known Member

    Jun 8, 2018
  4. snerfuplz Liveral Fascist

    Aug 23, 2007
    I'd say it would be purchased later by the US. I can't imagine the United States letting anyone else get control of Alaska except the British/Canada. If the Russians hold onto it until the Russian Civil War I'd imagine the United States/Canada would occupy Alaska

    I doubt Japan would be allowed to annex Alaska. The West Coast states would probably protest too loudly and the Federal government would have to intervene
    Swede, mrmandias and UCB79 like this.
  5. Chrispi Byzantine Logothete

    Feb 11, 2004
    Constantinople, Capital of the World
    None of the above. Britain would have just taken it and made it part of Canada eventually.
    QuokkaCheese and Swede like this.
  6. Analytical Engine Monarchist Collectivist Federalist

    Mar 12, 2007
    UK, EU (for the moment), Earth
    CalBear would have taken it as his personal fiefdom.

    Seriously, it either remains Russian, or it gets added to Canada or the US. Unless Napoleon III decides that he wants it for France. :winkytongue:
  7. Claudius Well-Known Member

    Sep 12, 2008
    New Jersey, USA
    Russia keeps it, using it as a dumping ground for political undesirables . When gold is discovered, American and Canadian prospectors flood in despite Russian efforts to prevent them coming. At some point a Texas style revolution takes place and the Alyeska Republic is declared. USN and RN squadrons keep the Russian navy from intervening. Eventually either the USA or Canada annexes it.

    Alternatively, Russia keeps it until an alt-WW I/Bolshevik revolution happens Canada , with US cooperation, invades and takes it.
  8. Maniakes Well-Known Member

    Oct 10, 2008
    At the time, Britain didn't want it at any price: British Canada, like Russia, already had more uncharted wilderness with rotten climate than they could use.
    That actually wasn't a joke: the current Prince of Lichtenstein has stated in interviews (article in German) that one of his predecessors had been in negotiations with the Tsar to buy Alaska before it was sold to the US instead. If not Lichtenstein, then another small country (or its monarch) with a decent amount of disposable income might be interested for the same reasons. Maybe Leopold II of Belgium decides to go into go into the fur and whale oil businesses instead of the rubber and ivory businesses?

    If none of the small states of Europe bite and Alaska remains an unwanted possession of Russia until the 1880s, the German Empire is the most likely buyer: they were shopping for colonies by that time, and all the good ones had already been taken, so they're likely to be interested in buying Alaska if only as a map-painting exercise.

    And if Germany's not interested either, then the US and Canada are going to become very interested whenever the Klondike's gold gets discovered (1896 IOTL), and while Russia would likely want to keep it once they know there's gold, it's be pretty hard for them to hold onto it once Alaska starts filling up with American and Canadian prospectors. The indefensibility of Russian Alaska against either Britain/Canada or the US was one of Russia's big reasons for wanting to sell.
    Gladsome, Swede, RyuDrago and 4 others like this.
  9. Richard V Well-Known Member

    Jul 5, 2013
    Russia would refuse to allow Anglo-American prospectors from crossing Alaska into the Yukon. This leads to both the British and American governments lobbying to buy Alaska which Russia will ignore. Britain steps up pressure after Russian defeat in Russo-Japanese War and Russia no longer able to hold back gold prospectors. Heavy handed diplomacy leads to a cooling of relations with Russia. Britain delays entry in the Great War. No U-boat War and therefore no American involvement. Germany wins. Czarist Alaskan separatists eventually agree to join Canada.
  10. Born in the USSA Well-Known Member

    Nov 14, 2015
    I always like a Taiwanese-style remnant. Romanov Alyska all the way!
  11. AnonymousSauce Raisin Canesian

    Aug 17, 2016
    by the deep fryer
    I voted extraterrestrial forces. Upon coming into orbit and sending out reconnaissance probes, Fleet Lord Atvar realizes that the Race's original conquest plan for planet Earth based on 1,000 year old information isn't going to work, so he negotiates to purchase Alaska and use it as a foothold on the planet/place where the Race can learn about human culture and figure out a new conquest plan.
    P L Richards, Kerney and Maniakes like this.
  12. Born in the USSA Well-Known Member

    Nov 14, 2015
    And then they all freeze/get bombed with ginger powder. Alien bats are clearly the superior party to sell Alaska to, they have much better credit.
  13. Nephi Well-Known Member

    Mar 16, 2017
    That poll has plenty of options, not a single one I agree with.

    Try taken by force by the British, and later added to Canada.
    Swede likes this.
  14. Nephi Well-Known Member

    Mar 16, 2017

    Now that, that's one of the most interesting ideas, Belgian Alaska, rather than buying the Congo, if Leopold tried to make the native Alaskans mine for gold like the way the Congolese were abused I wonder if that could spark British intervention, maybe they just outright snag it for that.

    Then later Belgium still a little unhappy about that Alaska thing allows the Germans to pass through it's territory.

    Alternative a Dutch Alaska seems interesting and less bleak.
    FranzAncheNo likes this.
  15. jbgusa Member

    Sep 5, 2019
    New York City area
    A large chunk of Alaska has a coastal climate not unlike Vancouver, BC. And at the time Britain and others were jockeying for coasts. That being said Canada had just been declared independent by Britain so I doubt they wanted any more investment in a linguistically and religiously fractious country. Which it remains to this day.
    The German Empire really didn't exist until, I believe, 1881. And it was Germany's perennial insecurity and inferiority complex that made it fertile territory for militarism under Bismarck and ultimately for Hitler.
    This was a poll option: "Purchased by another entity (name on thread)." Britain was better at threatening than using force, i.e. at bluffing. They were after all defeated by a rag-tag bunch of rural troops in the U.S. and later Kenya.
  16. Kerney defender of low probability atls everywhere

    Feb 23, 2010
    Give it to the survivors of the Cylon War when they arrive. They'll build New Caprica City right by Anchorage.
    goalieboy82 and Nephi like this.
  17. FranzAncheNo Citizen of the Republic of Pistoia

    Oct 8, 2018
    Republic of Pistoia
    Russia keeps it, Lenin is exiled there and in 1917 the ASSR declares its independence.
  18. metalinvader665 Well-Known Member

    Aug 19, 2011
    Tennessee, North American Union
    Russia might hold it for a while since if the US doesn't buy Alaska, the British are the most obvious other choice. Spain might buy it if they can somehow avert the chaos of the 1868 Glorious Revolution, but perhaps the circumstances could fall in line that Spain buys Alaska from Russia (and no doubt becomes an issue in Spain which led to said revolution). You'd have to modify 1850s/early 1860s Spanish politics to make a leader like Leopoldo O'Donnell or Ramón Narváez want to buy Alaska.

    I don't think Japan is likely to buy Alaska in the 1860s-1880s period since they don't have the money and would rather gain control of Sakhalin/Karafuto and the Kurils/Chishima from Russia than Alaska. But if Spain buys Alaska, then they might pawn it to Japan in the 1880s/1890s which will be huge. Japan can easily supply the labour needed for Alaska's mines, and with their alliance with the British can fend off any animosity from the Americans. They'll settle Alaska in sizable numbers (compare the number of Japanese in the South Pacific Mandate) and before the Russo-Japanese War Alaska will be a land of opportunity if Hokkaido isn't enough. It will likely have a sizable white minority, which Japan will be careful not to offend out of fear of ruining diplomatic relations with the British and Americans.

    Alaska will get Japan much more interested in the North Pacific and Anchorage (or whatever site on the Knik Arm or in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley becomes the main center). They'll likely be much more aggressive toward Russia in terms of cessions, and it's likely that in their intervention in the Russian Civil War, they'll ensure all Karafuto falls under Japanese control although they'll likely be unable to support any anti-USSR faction from ruling the Russian Far East.

    Alaska will likely have some oil finds in the 1930s, but the biggest site at Prudhoe Bay will likely either be undiscovered or be impossible for Japan to tap (in any case, Japan may have more oil from Karafuto than OTL). Alaska does produce other needed resources (i.e. copper, coal) which the IJA/IJN will demand so along with the food produced in Alaska (likely farmers of buckwheat and potato--expect shochu made from those ingredients to become a major export) there may be a larger Japanese merchant fleet which will be important for them. A lot depends on 1930s Japanese politics--will they still go for expansion in China? It's possible Japan will be more cautious about offending the British or United States since Alaska with its resources is vulnerable to the Royal Navy or US Navy. I'd expect TTL's Canada will have a stronger fleet in the Pacific and measures in BC and Yukon to protect against the Japanese, not to mention the American preparation for the threat Japan poses. If something like the OTL Pacific War occurs, then it's likely Japan will be better prepared for it (i.e. larger merchant fleet), have more resources (coal, oil, and other resources from North Sakhalin and Alaska even if its just a trickle of what Karafuto and especially Alaska potentially has), and have some nice fortifications which makes the Anglo-American-Canadian advance into Alaska an extreme challenge.

    It's very possible that even Karafuto and Alaska won't win Japan the Pacific War, and even though TTL's Japan will still be allowed to keep Karafuto (since the Soviets won't be able to occupy it, even though they'll likely grab most of the Kurils as compensation), Alaska will be occupied territory. It will likely be spun off as an independent republic and permanently separated from Japan. British, Canadian, and especially American interests will dominate Alaskan politics and they'll be ensuring anything remotely socialist will never win elections there. You may very well have various South Korean-style military dictatorships there which are supported in the name of "fighting communism" or otherwise have a dominant-party system like Cold War Japan. Perhaps they'll respect environmentalism less than OTL--with a charismatic leader, Rampart Dam may get built with Japanese, Canadian, and American assistance. More intensive mining than OTL will also occur and environmentalism may take a backseat to the practical concerns of the Alaskan government. Additional labour for these mines and megaprojects will likely be sourced from Japan or even South Korea.

    In the 21st century, it's likely Alaska is more populated and economically powerful than OTL but at the cost of far more pollution and environmental devastation than OTL. The indigenous people may have been treated even worse than OTL. On the positive side, Alaskan culture likely has unique takes on Japanese cuisine including soba/potato-heavy dishes and famous soba/potato shochu spirits which they'll export to Japan and eventually to Canada/the United States.

    There were nowhere near enough of them to force into mining gold and the Tlingit were your archetypical "indigenous group pulls off an intense resistance against modern forces" sort of people. The Aleuts might be easier to manipulate if the Belgians can inherit the state of subjugation the Russians placed on them.
  19. Maniakes Well-Known Member

    Oct 10, 2008
    I was going off this bit from wikipedia:
    Unfortunately, neither of the citations at the end of the paragraph support the bit about Palmerston and uncharted wilderness, so I need to at least partially withdraw my assessment of Britain's interest. I tried looking for other sources, but none of the ones I've looked at so far directly support it, although there does seem to be a general theme that Britain had at least a passing interest in blocking the sale of Alaska to the US but never seriously attempted to bid for Alaska themselves.
    The German Empire was formally proclaimed in 1871. They didn't start seriously shopping for colonies in 1884, though, which is why I said they wouldn't be in the mix unless Alaska went unsold in the 1860s and 1870s. True, Germany would have had little capacity to defend Russia against the US or Canada/Britain, but that didn't stop them from acquiring a chunk of New Guinea, some of the Samoa Islands, and several colonies in Africa.
    Last edited: Sep 13, 2019
  20. alexmilman Well-Known Member

    Apr 24, 2018

    The main difference with Texas is that most of these prospectors were not planning to stay in the territory permanently. Then, an assumption that the Russian government would be automatically opposed to these people is anything but certain. 1st, Russia at that time already had a well-established practice and legislation for dealing with the gold rush in Siberia that started in 1820s (taxes, gold purchasing by the state, etc.) and 2nd, it would just have to expand existing program used for attracting the Russian and foreign settlers to the Pacific region (tax free land grants for 20 years with an option to buy land at a low price). Neither would there be problems with the big companies getting into the area: by the late XIX Russia was actively inviting the foreign investments into the Russian economy.

    Of course, at the time of OTL purchase Alaska was nothing but a burden and was going to remain as such for few more decades so it was quite reasonable to try to sell it. The money had been spent on purchasing the railroad equipment and trains abroad.

    Now, as far as the political undesirables were involved, they usually were not getting even as far as Sakhalin (place for the criminal undesirables) ending up in much more comfortable places.
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