American-Russian Trade, Pt. 2

Despite the importance of the trade relationship, bilateral, relations were slow to get started. The burgeoning American nation made its first attempt at approaching Russia on a high level during the revolutionary war, when the US Continental Congress appointed Francis Dana as ambassador to Russia.

Dana, the personal secretary of John Adams, was given two objectives: securing a commercial treaty with Russia and gaining admittance to the League of Armed Neutrality, a collection of countries whose goal was to prevent international hostilities from interfering with sea-borne trade. Dana’s credentials, however, may not have been appropriate for the posting: he spoke neither Russian nor French, a condition that severely hampered communication and ultimately limited his effectiveness.

Furthermore, Russia was reluctant to accept his credentials as a diplomat from an as-yet-formed country, fearing potential backlash from Britain (should the colonial rebellion be quashed). As such, Dana did not accomplish much in the ways of official diplomacy; unofficially, however, Dana’s greatest contribution to American-Russian relations came in his promotion of St. Petersburg, found in a letter to John Adams. After an arduous, 51-day journey from Amsterdam to St. Petersburg, Dana arrived in the city awestruck. He is quoted as saying: “This is the finest City I have seen in Europe, & far surpasses all my expectations: Alone, it is sufficient to immortalize the memory of Peter the first.”