Russia and the United States of America

How Russian Orthodox state supported young America

At the time when British ships of James Cook were sailing alongside the America's northwest, perhaps in an attempt to claim the previously explored by Russian navigators Pacific shores, the 13 Colonies rebelled against the English king and declared themselves independent. Thus, with the silent help of Russia, began the history of the United States of America.

After the first declaration of independence by 13 colonies, King George III approached Russian Empress Catherine II with the request to send several detachments to suppress the rebellion.

Alexei Mussin-Pushkin later sent to Catherine II the original of the text of a throne speech of King George III at the opening of British Parliament winter session of 1774. 

“With great regret we had to …notify you that rather dangerous spirit of resistance and disobedience to law is unfortunately taking place in the province of Massachusetts Bay and in other places. It shows in other places via new and more severe cases of violence.” 

Military expenses of Great Britain reached an astronomical amount of 1 million pounds per year (7 mln. rubles). The affair resulted in “a matured crisis”. The English rushed to recruit people wherever possible. The citizens of His Majesty unwillingly went under the banners.

In May 1775 R. Ganning, an envoy in St. Petersburg, was instructed by the King to present this sensitive issue before Empress Catherine II. Catherine II had Count Nikita Panin express Russia's commitment to friendship with Britain. Nikita Panin, habitually, emitted smiles. Ganning laid his cards on the table. Britain needs a detachment of twenty thousand Russian troops with two years commitment. The Exchequer was prepared to pay Russia seven pounds sterling for/to every soldier. The diplomat was urged by London: “The increase in military forces is so desirable, that expenses are not important”. King George III also sent a handwritten letter to the Empress.

Catherine II realized that her politeness had been taken seriously and affirmed her decision. She was not about to send her subjects to die in America and put her denial in diplomatically eloquent form: "After the recent war the army needs to rest. It is inhumane to separate soldiers from Motherland for a long time"

In private conversations Nikita Panin was heard to had said with indignation: “John Bull fancies that guineas would always get him allies”, not understanding that one can’t equal “noble powers” and “petty German princes who are used to fix-price the blood of their nationals and sell it for cash”.  (George III was of German [thus Protestant] descent)

In her message Catherine II answered to George III the following: “It is not worthy and honorable for two great powers to join their strengths with the purpose to crush the nation which hadn't any allies in its fair struggle for independence”.

The Americans appreciated the service done to them: “We’re greatly delighted to find out on good authority, that requests and offers of Great Britain to the Russian Empress have been rejected with contempt”, — wrote George Washington.

The War for Independence of the USA was conducted both on land and at sea. The powerful British fleet that had blockaded the coast of rebellious colonies, captured trading vessels of neutral countries, including Russian, and had their freights confiscated. All this looked like piracy. 

In February of 1780 Catherine published the Declaration of the Armed Neutrality. This document became well-known. It proclaimed the right of the neutral states to trade in all goods except weapons and ammunition with the states being at war. This declaration provided the basis of codification of the International Marine Law. Denmark, Prussia, Austria, Portugal, the Kingdoms of both Sicilies signed it as well and formed the League of the Armed Neutrality. France and Spain have recognized its principles. In the United States of America the Continental congress welcomed it, having recognized the proclaimed rules as “useful, reasonable and fair”.  Russia showed the increase of political weight and the leading part in business of the global importance.

Americans recognized Catherine’s II action as her direct support of their struggle. In 1782 their representative Francis Dana arrived to St. Petersburg. The Congress instruction, which he was supplied with, expressed the desire to achieve Russian recognition of the independence of the United States, an inexperienced and even naive step of new born American diplomacy. Though the Russian government did not hurry rush to establish diplomatic relations with USA, vice-chancellor Ivan Andreevich Osterman issued an official assurance that personally he and his countrymen will provide warm welcome and safety to those “who happen to come to Russian empire on trading or other affairs”.

The proposal to be an intermediary in order to settle the conflict was made by St. Petersburg and Vienna but it had no success. It flattered Catherine’s II ambition to acquire “an enviable role of a mediator at current world-wide war”. However the initiative of two royal courts was unpromising from the very beginning. While the Americans insisted on a recognition of their independence, of all 13 states were still partially occupied by the British armies in 1780.

In such a complex, but nevertheless favorable conditions, the Russian-American relations were born. 

The relationships were favorable, because USA remembered Catherine’s II refusal to send Russian troops to suppress the American Revolution and fight for the British, and the establishment of the League of the Armed Neutrality, which according to George Washington, undermined “the pride and force of Great Britain at seas”

The testimony of an outstanding diplomat Lee stated the following: 
“The Big power of Russian empire, wisdom and a breadth of views of its ministers and respect which Empress enjoys, give to the royal court the greatest weight in confederation of the neutral states”

The American foreign policy was based on a fair and strong foundation.

From the moment of its founding the Russian-American Company (RAC) became an important factor of the Russian-American politics. In 1808 under Alexander I reign the first Russian general consul A. Dashkov was appointed as the Ambassador and Proxy to the USA. At the same time being an honorable correspondent and a member the RAC. J. Q. Adams, who later became  the sixth American President, was appointed  as USA ambassador to Russia (St. Petersburg).

Russian Empire 1827
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In the mid XIX century the point of view on the privileges of the RAC and its very existence changed. The basic decision of the land sale was accepted in 1866 at the special session in which Alexander II and A. Gorchakov participated. After the transfer of Russian America to the USA in 1867 the mutual relations of two countries continued to deepen. In 1871 the grand Duke Alexei Aleksandrovich visited America as the first representative of the Romanov royal family.

The opinion of Russian imperial government was further clearly expressed by the Emperor Alexander II in the dispatch to the Russian ambassador prince Gorchakov in the USA: 
“The American Union, -- is not only an essential element of the world balance in our view; it represents the nation to which our most Augustus Sovereign, and all Russia with him , have the most friendly interest, since both sides which are located on the ends of both hemispheres, both in the blossoming period of their development, seem to be devoted to a natural unity of mutual interests and sympathy the proofs of which they have displayed.”

between Russia and USA from XVIII to the beginning of XIX century. (all in Russian)
A letter of E. Styles to a member of St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences of M. Lomonosov.
From the letter of E. Styles to B. Franklin.
From the communique of G. Gross, Russian Minister in London, to Catherine II
A letter of B. Franklin to a member of Petersburg Academy of Sciences F. U. T. Apinus.
An official report of non-commissioned lieutenant I. Senyavin for the Admiralty — board.
The representation of a member of Petersburg Academy of Sciences G. Miller to Catherine’s II high-ranking court official S. M. Kozmin.
From the letter of G. Adams, the American representative on the contract with England about the peace and trade, Z. Luzak.
From the report of the continental Congress of the USA.
The representation of N. Panin to Catherine II.
The instruction of the president of the continental Congress S. Huntington to F. Daney, appointed the ambassador to Saint Petersburg.
From a diary of the fleet lieutenant J. F. Lisyansky.
The official document of T. Jefferson to Alexander I.
Letter of F. P. Palen, appointed Russian ambassador to Washington, to N. Rumjantsev.
A. Dashkov’s text of speech, addressed to the president of the USA G. Madison and to the Congress.
An official document of the president of the USA G. Madison to Alexander I.
From P. P. Svinin’s composition “The sight on free applied arts in the United States of America”.

Adapted from the original work: Commander's Epoch,  § The United States of America, Russia and the United States of America
On: 2015-07-14

The original is maintained by the Internet Center of Siberian Federal University.

For Educational Purposes