Historic events on this day

Ruth Griffiths

When looking for a column topic, I often search for significant events that happened on the day on which the column will be published. Here is a sampling of the many significant events on this day.

March 30 is the day in 1867 when the United States and Russia agreed to the purchase of Alaska.

Secretary of State William H. Seward secretly negotiated the land deal with Russian minister Edouard de Stoeckl for $7.2 million. Politicians and the press mocked it as Seward’s Folly, but the United States’ purchase of Alaska came to be regarded as a masterful deal. The treaty enlarged the United States by 586,000 square miles, an area more than twice the size of Texas, all for the bargain price of around two cents an acre.

Russians had harvested sea otters to extinction along the Alaskan coast and Russia found it difficult to defend this remote and now unprofitable territory because of heavy losses in the Crimean War. Russia did not want its rival, the British Empire, to acquire Alaska which led in part to its hasty negotiations with the United States.

Canada did not become an independent nation until July 1, 1867 when the British Parliament passed the British North America Act, creating the Dominion of Canada. Canada and the United States disputed the boundary of Alaska along the Pacific Coast for four decades. The coastal area claimed by the U.S. was a barrier for trade to the Klondike gold fields.

Today, many Alaskans are feeling isolated and neglected by the “lower 48 states”. An informal online poll suggests 80 per cent of Alaskans favour becoming Canada’s 11th province. It’s nice they were able to get their “two cents” in.

Other March 30 events include the first recorded passage of Halley’s Comet around our sun in 240 BCE. The large green comet can be seen with the naked eye. Its passage created fear and wonder throughout recorded history. In 1705 English astronomer Edmond Halley realized that these appearances were re-appearances of the same comet. As a result of this discovery, the comet is named after Halley. Because it returns every 76 years, Halley’s Comet is the only recurring comet that a person might be able to see twice in a lifetime. Halley’s Comet was last seen in Earth’s skies in 1986 and will return in 2061, so it’s not likely I will see it twice. Which leads me to the other important happening on March 30. On this historic day in 1949 your Rural Roots columnist Ruth Griffiths was born. (My joints are feeling particularly “historic” today.)