The cartoon, “Holding a Candle to the
xxxxxxx” Much the Same Thing, appeared in London Punch on November 7, 1863.
Again offering proof of how the tacit alliance between Russia and the United
States grated on the sensibilities of certain high-placed Britons, the artist
sought to move the multitude to laughter by depicting the President as
Mephistopheles saluting the Russian bear. Mr. Lincoln was the victim of many
forms of abuse both at home and abroad, but the writer fails to recall any other
instance in which he was portrayed in Satan’s livery. It stands to Tenniel’s
credit that not he but another was responsible for this vicious drawing.
Mr. Lincoln had been two years in his grave
when the friendship between the United States and Russia had unexpected and
surprising issue. For upward of a century Russia had held by right of discovery
the vast stretch of North America now known as Alaska. This territory had never
been brought under direct rule of the imperial government, but for the better
part of seventy years its affairs had been directed by a monopoly known as the
Russian-American Company. The charter of this concern, which had sublet some of
its privileges to the Hudson Bay Company, expired in 1861 and renewal was
delayed while the imperial government pondered whether, instead of taking such
action, it should make its American possessions the basis of a colonial system
or sell them at a fair price to some friendly power.
The third alternative was finally decided
upon by the czar’s government, and in March, 1367, Stoeckle, the Russian
minister at Washington and Secretary Seward began negotiations for purchase by
the United States. A price of $7,200,000 was shortly agreed upon between them;
this was promptly accepted by the authorities at St. Petersburg, and in a single
night session, on March 29 a treaty of purchase took final form. In the forenoon
of March 30 the President sent this treaty to the Senate, where it was adopted
practically without debate, only two senators voting against it. Formal transfer
of the purchase, to which Seward gave the name Alaska, occurred on October 11,
And So 577,396 square miles of land became
United States territory because Russia wished to sell, and because a majority of
the members of the Senate believed that in 1863 she had been ready to go to war
with France or Britain in our behalf. Republics are not always ungrateful.