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SPEECH

OF

HON. CHARLES SUMNER,

OF MASSACHUSETTS,

ON

THE CESSION OF RUSSIAN AMERICA

TO

THE UNITED STATES.

Thirteen governments founded on the natural authority of the people alone, without a pretense
of miracle or mystery, and which are destined to spread over the northern part of that whole quarter of
the globe, are a great point gained in favor of the rights of mankind.-John Adams's Preface to his
Defense of American Constitutions, dated at Grosvenor Square, London, January 1, 1787.

WASHINGTON:
PRINTED AT THE CONGRESSIONAL GLOBE OFFICE.

1867.

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SPEECH.

BOUNDARIES AND CONFIGURATION.

Mr. PRESIDENT: You have just listened to || boundary of our country the dividing line which the reading of the treaty by which Russia cedes separates Asia from America. to the United States all her possessions on the Look at the map and see the configuration of North American continent in consideration of this extensive region, whose estimated area is $7,200,000, to be paid by the United States. more than five hundred and seventy thousand On the one side is the cession of a vast country square miles. I speak by the authority of our with its jurisdiction and its resources of all own coast survey. Including the Sitkan archikinds; on the other side is the purchase-money. | pelago at the south, it takes a margin of the Such is this transaction on its face.

main land, fronting on the ocean thirty miles broad and three hundred miles long, to Mount

St. Elias, the highest peak of the continent, In endeavoring to estimate its character I || when it turns with an elbow to the west, and am glad to begin

with what is clear and beyond then along Behring straits northerly, when it question. I refer to the boundaries fixed by || rounds to the east along the Frozen ocean. the treaty. Commencing at the parallel of Here are upwards of four thousand statute miles 54° 40' north latitude, so famous in our history, of coast, indented by capacious bays and comthe line ascends Portland channel to the mount- modious harbors without number, embracing ains, which it follows on their summits to the the peninsula of Alaska, one of the most repoint of intersection with the 141° west longi- || markable in the world, fifty miles in breadth tude, which line it ascends to the Frozen ocean, and three hundred miles in length; piled with or, if you please, to the north pole. This is mountains, many volcanic and some still smokthe eastern boundary, separating this region || ing; penetrated by navigable rivers, one of which from the British possessions, and it is borrowed || is among the largest of the world ; studded with from the treaty between Russia and Great | islands which stand like sentinels on the coast, Britain in 1825, establishing the relations | and flanked by that narrow Aleutian range between these two Powers on this continent. || which, starting from Alaska, stretches far away It will be seen that this boundary is old ; the to Japan, as if America were extending a rest is new. Starting from the Frozen ocean friendly hand to Asia. This is the most general the western boundary descends Behring straits, || aspect. There are details specially disclosing midway between the two islands of Krusenstern | maritime advantages and approaches to the and Ratmanov, to the parallel of 65° 30', just sea which properly belong to this preliminary below where the continents of America and || sketch. According to accurate estimates the Asia approach each other the nearest; and coast line, including bays and islands, is not from this point it proceeds in a course nearly | less than eleven thousand two hundred and southwest through Beliring straits, midway seventy miles. In the Aleutian range, besides between the island of St. Lawrence and Cape || innumerable islets and rocks, there are not less Chonkotski, to the meridian of 172° west longi- than fifty-five islands exceeding three miles in tude, and thence, in a southwesterly direction, || length; there are seven exceeding forty miles, traversing Behring sea, midway between the with Ounimak, which is the largest, exceeding island of Attou on the east and Copper island seventy-three miles. In our part of Behring on the west, to the meridian of 193° west longi- sea there are five considerable islands, the tude, leaving the prolonged group of the Aleu- || largest of which is St. Lawrence, being more tian islands in the possessions now transferred than ninety-six miles long. Add to all these to the United States, and making the western the group south of the peninsula of Alaska,

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