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Visionary Leadership And The Two Biggest Land Deals in U.S. History (That Almost Never Happened)

The two biggest land deals in U.S. history almost never happened and many critics thought at the time that they were two of the worst mistakes in American history. How wrong the critics were….

The real estate industry may see some large land deals these days such as the $2 billion Antilla building in Mumbai or the 105,000 square foot mega mansion in Los Angeles known as “The One” which recently listed for $295 million and is the most expensive listing in the U.S. right now. But these pale in comparison to the two biggest and most historic land deals.

The first one is Russia’s sale of Alaska to the United States in 1867. It is one of the biggest land deals in history. This deal gave the U.S. 375 million more acres and a huge domestic source of oil ad other natural resources. The U.S. purchase of Alaska from Russia is considered to be the largest land deal in history. Fearing another war with Britain after the Crimean War, Russia rushed to sell Alaska to the United Sates for just $7.2 million or about 2 cents per acre. Since much of Canada was controlled by Britain and the Russians considered them their arch enemy, they were afraid British Colombia would take over Alaska. Plus, Russia needed the money to bolster it’s finances.

Today, Alaska is worth astronomically more than $7.2 million. The State of Alaska encompasses 586,412 square miles and churns out hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil each year plus has many other natural resources. It is also home to several very strategic U.S. military bases.

The second biggest land deal in U.S. history was the Louisiana Purchase from France in 1803 which proved to be transformational to the United States. This purchase added 512 million additional acres and 13 states. The purchase price? $15 million.

Of course, today the land in the Louisiana Purchase is worth infinitely more and encompasses 827,000 square miles. To show you how big it was, the Louisiana Territory which was purchased included Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas along with most of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, North Dakota and Minnesota. This is a huge land mass. Can you imagine the United States without these 13 key states plus Alaska?

Well, believe it or not, these two deals almost never happened. And they would not have happened if not for two visionary people. Secretary of State William Seward and President Thomas Jefferson.

William Seward was the Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln during the Civil war and Andrew Johnson after the war. Seward had also served as the Governor of New York and as a U.S. Senator. Seward had a broad vision for the commercial and economic expansion of the United States and started talks with the Russian government in 1864 about selling Alaska. The Civil War stalled their talks. But after the war was over, Seward renewed the talks and signed a treaty with Russia to buy Alaska. Despite the bargain price of just 2 cents per acre, Seward was ridiculed in congress, and, in the press, the purchase of Alaska was called “Sewards Folly’ and “Sewards Icebox.” President Andrew Johnson was also criticized in the newspapers calling Alaska Andrew Johnsons “Polar Bear Garden.” Fortunately, they didn’t let the critics and visionless people stop them from this key purchase. What a deal?

President Thomas Jefferson was widely criticized for the Louisiana Purchase because he didn’t seek congressional approval before he made the deal. Many believed he was acting above and beyond his constitutional authority. Which he probably was. Secondly, many Federalists worried that the U.S. was funding a war against Spain by buying the land from Napoleon. But, despite the attacks and the critics, Thomas Jefferson unilaterally signed the deal to purchase the Louisiana Territory. Thank God he didn’t listen to the naysayers and the criticism. He pursued the vision for an expanded America which would open the doors for the United Staes to become the greatest country and the super power it has become.

Visionary leaders like William Seward and Thomas Jefferson helped make the United States the great nation it is today. They expanded our territory, our resources and our potential significantly through these two land deals. The two biggest land deals in U.S. history changed our country forever…. But they almost never happened.

If Seward and Jefferson had listened to the critics and the naysayers and not made these land deals happen, our country would be much, much smaller today with significantly less resources and people. Perhaps the America we know and love today would never have developed into the beacon of strength and freedom in the world without these visionary acquisitions of land.

I have traveled to all of these beautiful states included in the Louisiana Purchase, and, this Summer, Janeese and I traveled for the first time to Alaska which is truly gorgeous, wild and definitely the last frontier. I cannot imagine our great country without these magnificent states and their amazing people. I would encourage everyone to get outside and travel to these incredible places and be sure to remember with appreciation how we got them. It was visionary leadership!

Never underestimate the power and the potential impact of a vision. Perhaps, God has a vision he has given you. If not, pray and ask the Lord to give you one. It may be your purpose in life to pursue that vision…. that dream he has placed in your heart. Remember, however, that when it comes to visions and dreams for your future or your family or your business or your church or your city….. there will always be critics and naysayers. Hold fast to your vision!

My favorite Bible verse about visions and dreams is found in Joel 2:28. “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy. Your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions.”

Seek your vision!


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