William Henry Seward (1801-1872) was born in Florida, Orange County, New York. He graduated from Union College in 1820, was admitted to the bar in 1822, and practiced law in Auburn, New York. After two terms as governor (1838-1842), he took the advanced antislavery position, which helped his election to the U.S. Senate. He declared that the struggle over slavery was «an irrepressible conflict».
Seward served as secretary of state in Lincoln’s administration, but it was under President Johnson’s administration that he became convinced of the value of the Pacific Coast to the United States. The purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867, which came about solely through Seward’s determination, was decried by many and mocked as «Seward’s Folly». Some even called it «Seward’s Icebox». Few had the forethought to realize the bargain that was struck. The purchase of $7.2 million amounted to 2 cents an acre.
Of course, many minds changed after gold was discovered there. And consider the $900 million bid for Alaskan oil leases in 1969.