|United States of America|
|Motto: In God We Trust (official)
E Pluribus Unum (Latin; traditional)
(Out of Many, One)
|Largest city||New York City|
|Official languages||None at federal level1|
|National language||English (de facto)2|
|Government||Confederate constitutional republic (1776-1787)|
|Independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain|
|-||Declared||July 4, 1776|
|-||Recognized||September 3, 1783|
|-||Current constitution||June 21, 1788|
|Currency||United States dollar ($) (
|Drives on the||Right|
The first known inhabitants of modern-day United States territory are believed to have arrived over a period of several thousand years beginning sometime prior to 15,000 - 50,000 years ago by crossing Beringia into Alaska. Solid evidence of these cultures settling in what would become the US is dated to around 14,000 years ago.
Research has revealed much about the early Native American settlers of North America. Columbus' men were the first documented Old Worlders to land in the territory of what is now the United States when they arrived in Puerto Rico during their second voyage in 1493. Juan Ponce de León, who arrived in Florida in 1513, is credited as being the first European to land in what is now the continental United States, although some evidence suggests that John Cabot might have reached what is presently New England in 1498.
In its beginnings, the United States of America consisted only of the Thirteen Colonies, which consisted of states occupying the same lands as when they were British colonies. American colonists fought off the British army in the American Revolutionary War of the 1770s and issued a Declaration of Independence in 1776. Seven years later, the signing of the Treaty of Paris officially recognized independence from Britain. In the nineteenth century, westward expansion of United States territory began, upon the belief of Manifest Destiny, in which the United States would occupy all the North American land east to west, from the Atlantic to the Pacific Oceans. By 1912, with the admission of Arizona to the Union, the U.S. reached that goal. The outlying states of Alaska and Hawaii were both admitted in 1959.
Ratified in 1788, the Constitution serves as the supreme American law in organizing the government; the Supreme Court is responsible for upholding Constitutional law. Many forms of social progress started in the nineteenth century; those advancements have been widely reflected in the Constitution. Slavery was abolished in 1865 by the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution; the following Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments respectively guaranteed citizenship for all persons naturalized within U.S. territory and voting for people of all races. In later years, civil rights were extended to women and black Americans, following effective lobbying from social activists. The Nineteenth Amendment prohibited gender discrimination in voting rights; later, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed racial segregation in public places.
The Progressive Era marked a time of economic growth for the United States, advancing to the Roaring Twenties. However, the Wall Street Crash of 1929 led to the Great Depression, a time of economic downturn and mass unemployment. Consequently, the U.S. government established the New Deal, a series of reform programs that intended to assist those affected by the Depression. The New Deal had varied success. However, once the U.S. entered World War II in December 1941, the economy quickly recovered, so much that the U.S. became a world superpower by the dawn of the Cold War. During the Cold War, the U.S. and the Soviet Union were the world's two superpowers, but with the end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union, United States became the world's only superpower.
- Main article: Pre-Columbian
The earliest known inhabitants of what is now the United States are thought to have arrived in Alaska by crossing the Bering land bridge, at least 14,000 – 30,000 years ago. Some of these groups migrated south and east, and over time spread throughout the Americas. These were the ancestors to modern Native Americans in the United States and Alaskan Native peoples, as well as all indigenous peoples of the Americas.
Many indigenous peoples were semi-nomadic tribes of hunter-gatherers; others were sedentary and agricultural civilizations. Many formed new tribes or confederations in response to European colonization. Well-known groups included the Huron, Apache Tribe, Cherokee, Sioux, Delaware, Algonquin, Choctaw, Mohegan, Iroquois (which included the Mohawk nation, Oneida tribe, Seneca nation, Cayuga nation, Onondaga and later the Tuscarora tribe) and Inuit. Though not as technologically advanced as the Mesoamerican civilizations further south, there were extensive pre-Columbian sedentary societies in what is now the US. The Iroquois had a politically advanced and unique social structure that was at the very least inspirational if not directly influential to the later development of the democratic United States government, a departure from the strong monarchies from which the Europeans came.
North America's Moundbuilder CultureEdit
Mound Builder is a general term referring to the American Indians who constructed various styles of earthen mounds for burial, residential and ceremonial purposes. These included Archaic, Woodland period (Adena and Hopewell cultures), and Mississippian period Pre-Columbian cultures dating from roughly 3000 BC to the 16th century AD, and living in the Great Lakes region, the Ohio River region, and the Mississippi River region.
Mound builder cultures can be divided into roughly three eras:
- Archaic era
Poverty Point in what is now Louisiana is perhaps the most prominent example of early archaic mound builder construction (c. 2500 – 1000 BC). An even earlier example, Watson Brake, dates to approximately 3400 BC and coincides with the emergence of social complexity worldwide.
- Woodland period
The Archaic period was followed by the Woodland period (c. 1000 BC). Some well-understood examples would be the Adena culture of Ohio and nearby states and the subsequent Hopewell culture known from Illinois to Ohio and renowned for their geometric earthworks. The Adena and Hopewell were not, however, the only mound building peoples during this time period. There were contemporaneous mound building cultures throughout the Eastern United States.
- Mississippian culture
- Main article: Mississippian Culture
Around 900 – 1450 AD the Mississippian culture developed and spread through the Eastern United States, primarily along the river valleys. The location where the Mississippian culture is first clearly developed is located in Illinois, and is referred to today as Cahokia.
- Main article: Colonial history of the United States
After a period of exploration by people from various European countries, Spanish, Dutch, English, French, Swedish, and Portuguese settlements were established. Christopher Columbus was the first European to set foot on what would one day become U.S. territory when he came to Puerto Rico on November 19, 1493, during his second voyage. In the 15th century, Europeans brought horses, cattle, and hogs to the Americas and, in turn, took back to Europe corn, potatoes, tobacco, beans, and squash.
Template:See also Spanish explorers came to what is now the United States beginning with Christopher Columbus' second expedition, which reached Puerto Rico on November 19, 1493. The first confirmed landing in the continental US was by a Spaniard, Juan Ponce de León, who landed in 1513 on a lush shore he christened La Florida.
Within three decades of Ponce de León's landing, the Spanish became the first Europeans to reach the Appalachian Mountains, the Mississippi River, the Grand Canyon and the Great Plains. In 1540, De Soto undertook an extensive exploration of the present US and, in the same year, Francisco Vázquez de Coronado led 2,000 Spaniards and Mexican Indians across the modern Arizona-Mexico border and traveled as far as central Kansas. Other Spanish explorers include Lucas Vásquez de Ayllón, Pánfilo de Narváez, Sebastián Vizcaíno, Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, Gaspar de Portolà, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, Tristán de Luna y Arellano and Juan de Oñate.
The Spanish sent some settlers, creating the first permanent European settlement in the continental United States at St. Augustine, Florida in 1565. Later Spanish settlements included Santa Fe, Albuquerque, San Antonio, Tucson, San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Most Spanish settlements were along the California coast or the Santa Fe River in New Mexico.
- Main article: New Netherland
Nieuw-Nederland, or New Netherland, was the seventeenth century Dutch colonial province on the eastern coast of North America. The claimed territory were the lands from the Delmarva Peninsula to Buzzards Bay, while the settled areas are now part of New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Delaware, and Pennsylvania. Its capital, New Amsterdam, was located at the southern tip of the island of Manhattan on the Upper New York Bay.
Template:See also New France was the area colonized by France in North America during a period extending from the exploration of the Saint Lawrence River, by Jacques Cartier in 1534, to the cession of New France to Spain and Britain in 1763. At its peak in 1712 (before the Treaty of Utrecht), the territory of New France extended from Newfoundland to the Rocky Mountains and from Hudson Bay to the Gulf of Mexico. The territory was divided in five colonies, each with its own administration: Canada, Acadia, Hudson Bay, Newfoundland and Louisiana.
Also during this period, French Huguenots, sailing under Jean Ribault, attempted to found a colony in what became the southeastern coast of the United States. Arriving in 1562, they established the ephemeral colony of Charlesfort on Parris Island in what is now South Carolina. When this failed, most of the colonists followed René Goulaine de Laudonnière and moved south, founding the colony of Fort Caroline at the mouth of the St. Johns River in what is now Jacksonville, Florida on June 22, 1564. Fort Caroline was destroyed in 1565 by the Spanish under Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, who moved in from St. Augustine, founded to the south earlier in the year.
- Main article: Colonial America
The strip of land along the eastern seacoast was settled primarily by English colonists in the 17th century, along with much smaller numbers of Dutch and Swedes. Colonial America was defined by a severe labor shortage that gave birth to forms of unfree labor such as slavery and indentured servitude, and by a British policy of benign neglect (salutary neglect) that permitted the development of an American spirit distinct from that of its European founders. Over half of all European migrants to Colonial America arrived as indentured servants.
The first successful English colony was established in 1607, on the James River at Jamestown. It languished for decades until a new wave of settlers arrived in the late 17th century and established commercial agriculture based on tobacco. Between the late 1610s and the Revolution, the British shipped an estimated 50,000 convicts to its American colonies. One example of conflict between Native Americans and English settlers was the 1622 Powhatan uprising in Virginia, in which Native Americans had killed hundreds of English settlers. The largest conflict between Native Americans and English settlers in the 17th century was King Philip's War in New England, although the Yamasee War may have been bloodier.
The Plymouth Colony was established in 1620. The area of New England was initially settled primarily by Puritans who established the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630. The Middle Colonies, consisting of the present-day states of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Delaware, were characterized by a large degree of diversity. The first attempted English settlement south of Virginia was the Province of Carolina, with Georgia Colony the last of the Thirteen Colonies established in 1733. Several colonies were used as penal settlements from the 1620s until the American Revolution. Methodism became the prevalent religion among colonial citizens after the First Great Awakening, a religious revival led by preacher Jonathan Edwards in 1734.
Political integration and autonomyEditThe French and Indian War (1754–1763) was a watershed event in the political development of the colonies. The influence of the main rivals of the British Crown in the colonies and Canada, the French and North American Indians, was significantly reduced. Moreover, the war effort resulted in greater political integration of the colonies, as symbolized by Benjamin Franklin's call for the colonies to "Join or Die". Following Britain's acquisition of French territory in North America, King George III issued the Royal Proclamation of 1763 with the goal of organizing the new North American empire and stabilizing relations with the native Indians. In ensuing years, strains developed in the relations between the colonists and the Crown. The British Parliament passed the Stamp Act of 1765, imposing a tax on the colonies to help pay for troops stationed in North America following the British victory in the Seven Years' War. The British government felt that the colonies were the primary beneficiaries of this military presence, and should pay at least a portion of the expense. The colonists did not share this view. Rather, with the French and Indian threat diminished, the primary outside influence remained that of Britain. A conflict of economic interests increased with the right of the British Parliament to govern the colonies without representation being called into question.
The Boston Tea Party in 1773 was a direct action by colonists in the town of Boston to protest against the taxes levied by the British government. In the following two years, the relations came to a boiling point with the Intolerable Acts being passed by the British Parliament in 1774. The acts sparked outrage and resistance in the Thirteen Colonies, which formed the Continental Association passing on October 20, 1774 the Articles of Association with the aim to boycott trade with Great Britain. The First Continental Congress hoped that by imposing economic sanctions, Great Britain would be pressured to redress the grievances of the colonies, and in particular repeal the Intolerable Acts. The Congress aimed to alter Britain's policies towards the colonies without severing allegiance. Personal gain was also a notable motivation of members of the Continental Association, made up mostly of those who had economic interests that would be served by forbidding imports from Britain. In response, the British government took punitive measures aimed at making an example of Massachusetts, in order to reverse the trend of colonial resistance to parliamentary authority that had begun with the 1765 Stamp Act. Rather than give in, the Colonists boycott became operative on December 1, 1774 resulting in a sharp fall in trade with Great Britain. The British responded with the New England Restraining Act of 1775. The outbreak of the American Revolutionary War effectively superseded the American attempt to boycott British goods.
Formation of the United States of America (1776–1789)Edit
- Main article: History of the United States (1776–1789)
The Thirteen Colonies began a rebellion against British rule in 1775 and proclaimed their independence in 1776. They subsequently constituted the first thirteen states of the United States of America, which became a nation state in 1781 with the ratification of the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union. The 1783 Treaty of Paris represented Great Britain's formal acknowledgement of the United States as an independent nation.
The United States defeated the Kingdom of Great Britain with help from France and Spain in the American Revolutionary War. The colonists' victory at Saratoga in 1777 led the French into an open alliance with the United States. In 1781, a combined American and French Army, acting with the support of a French fleet, captured a large British army led by General Charles Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia. The surrender of General Cornwallis ended serious British efforts to find a military solution to their American problem. Seymour Martin Lipset points out that "The United States was the first major colony successfully to revolt against colonial rule. In this sense, it was the first 'new nation'."
Side by side with the states' efforts to gain independence through armed resistance, a political union was being developed and agreed upon by them. The first step was to formally declare independence from Great Britain. On July 4, 1776, the Second Continental Congress, still meeting in Philadelphia, declared the independence of "the United States of America" in the Declaration of Independence. Although the states were still independent entities and not yet formally bound in a legal union, July 4 is celebrated as the nation's birthday. The new nation was dedicated to principles of republicanism, which emphasized civic duty and a fear of corruption and hereditary aristocracy.
A Union of the states with a constitutional government, the Congress of the Confederation first became possible with the ratification of the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union. The drafting of the Articles began in June 1776 and the approved text was sent to the States on November 15, 1777 for their ratification. While most States passed laws to authorize their representatives in Congress to sign the document by 1778, Maryland refused to do so until a dispute between the states concerning Western land claims had been resolved. After Virginia passed a law ceding its claims on January 2, 1781, Maryland became the 13th and final state to pass an Act to ratify the Articles on February 2, 1781. The formal signing of the Articles by Maryland was completed on March 1, 1781 in Philadelphia and on the following day Samuel Huntington became the first President of the United States in Congress Assembled. However, it became apparent early on that the new constitution was inadequate for the operation of the new government and efforts soon began to improve upon it.
A series of attempts to organize a movement to outline and press reforms culminated in the Congress calling the Philadelphia Convention in 1787. The structure of the national government was profoundly changed on March 4, 1789, when the American people replaced the confederation type government of the Articles with a federation type government of the Constitution. The new government reflected a radical break from the normative governmental structures of the time, favoring representative, elective government with a weak executive, rather than the existing monarchical structures common within the western traditions of the time. The system of republicanism borrowed heavily from the Enlightenment ideas and classical western philosophy: a primacy was placed upon individual liberty and upon constraining the power of government through a system of separation of powers. Additionally, the United States Bill of Rights was ratified on December 15, 1791 to guarantee individual liberties such as freedom of speech and religious practice and consisted of the first ten amendments of the Constitution. John Jay was the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, whose membership was established by the Judiciary Act of 1789; the first Supreme Court session was held in New York City on February 1, 1790. In 1803, the Court case Marbury v. Madison made the Court the sole arbiter of constitutionality of federal law.
Foundations for American governmentEdit
Native American societies reminded Europeans of a golden age only known to them in folk history. The idea of freedom and democratic ideals was born in the Americas because "it was only in America" that Europeans from 1500 to 1776 knew of societies that were "truly free."
|“||Natural freedom is the only object of the policy of the [Native Americans]; with this freedom do nature and climate rule alone amongst them ... [Native Americans] maintain their freedom and find abundant nourishment . . . [and are] people who live without laws, without police, without religion.||”|
The Iroquois nations' political confederacy and democratic government has been credited as one of the influences on the Articles of Confederation and the United States Constitution. However, there is heated debate among historians about the importance of their contribution. Although Native American governmental influence is debated, it is a historical fact that several founding fathers had contact with the Iroquois, and prominent figures such as Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin were involved with their stronger and larger native neighbor-- the Iroquois.
|“||As powerful, dense [Mound Builder] populations were reduced to weakened, scattered remnants, political readjustments were necessary. New confederacies were formed. One such was to become a pattern called up by Benjamin Franklin when the thirteen colonies struggled to confederate: "If the Iroquois can do it so can we", he said in substance.||”|
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