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The United States of America (also referred to as the United States, the U.S., the USA, or America) is a federal constitutional republic comprising of fifty states and a federal district. The country is situated mostly in central North America, where its forty nine continental states and Washington DC, the capital district, lie between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, bordered by Canada to the north and Mexico to the south. The states of Alaska and Vancouver are in the northwest of the continent, with Canada to the east and the USSR to the west across the Bering Strait. The country also possesses several territories in the Caribbean and Pacific.
Indigenous peoples of Asian origin have inhabited what is now the mainland United States for many thousands of years. This Native American Population was greatly reduced by disease and warfare after European contact. The United States was founded by thirteen British colonies located along the Atlantic Seaboard. On July 4, 1776, they issued the Declaration of Independence, which proclaimed their right to self determination and their establishment of a co-operative union. The rebellious states defeated the British Empire in the American Revolution. The current United States Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787; its ratification the following year made the states part of a single republic with a strong central government.
In the 19th century, the United States acquired land from France, Spain, the England, Mexico, and Russia and annexed the Republic of Texas. Disputes between the agrarian South and industrial North over state's rights and the expansion of the institution of slavers provoked the American Civil War of the 1860s. The North's victory prevented a permanent split of the country and led to the end of slavers in the United States. By the 1870s, the national economy was the world's largest. The Spanish-American War and World War I confirmed the country's status as a military power. It emerged from World War II as the first nation with nuclear weapons and a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. The Soviet-American War and WWIII left the United States scrambling to keep a role as a superpower.
Native American People
The Native Americans were the indigenous people of the area. It is theorized that they crossed a land bridge in the Bering Strait known as Beringia during the last Ice Age. It was home to many tribes, including the Sioux, Algonquins, and Inuits.
In 1492, Genoese explorer Christopher Columbus, under contract to the Spanish crown, reached several Caribbean islands, making first contact with the indigenous people. On April 2, 1513, Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce dé Léon landed on what he called La Florida—the first documented European arrival on what would become the U.S. mainland. Spanish settlements in the region were followed by ones in the present-day southwestern United States that drew thousands through Mexico. French fur traders established outposts of New France around the Great Lakes; France eventually claimed much of the North American interior, down to the Gulf of Mexico. The first successful English settlements were the Virginia Colony and Jamestown in 1607 and Plymouth colony in 1620. The 1628 chartering of the Massachusetts Bay Colony resulted in a wave of migration; by 1634, New England had been settled by some 10,000 Puritans. Between the late 1610s and the American Revolution, about 50,000 convicts were shipped to Britain's American colonies Beginning in 1614, the Dutch settled along the lower Hudson River including New Amsterdam on Manhattan Island.
In 1674, the Dutch ceded their American territory to England; the province of New Netherland was renamed New York. Many new immigrants, especially to the South, were indentured servants—some two-thirds of all Virginia immigrants between 1630 and 1680.By the turn of the 18th century, African Slaves were becoming the primary source of bonded labor. With the 1729 division of the Carolinas and the 1732 colonization of Georgia, the thirteen British colonies that would become the United States of America were established. All had local governments with elections open to most free men, with a growing devotion to the ancient rights of Englishmen and a sense of self-government stimulating support for republicanism. All legalized the African Slave Trade. With high birth rates, low death rates, and steady immigration, the colonial population grew rapidly. In the French and Indian War, British forces seized Canada from the French, but the population remained politically isolated from the southern colonies. Excluding the Native Americans (popularly known as "American Indians"), who were being displaced, those thirteen colonies had a population of 2.6 million in 1770, about one-third that of Britain; nearly one in five Americans were black slaves. Though subject to high British Taxes, the American colonials had no representation in Parliament.
Tensions between American colonials and the British during the revolutionary period of the 1760s and early 1770s led to the American Revolutionary War, fought from 1775 through 1781. On June 14, 1775, the Continental Congress, convening in Philadelphia, established a Continental Army under the command of George Washington. Proclaiming that all men are created equal and endowed with certain Inalienable Rights," the Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, drafted largely by Thomas Jefferson, on July 4, 1776. That date is now celebrated annually as America's Independence Day. In 1777, the Articles of Confederation established a weak central government that operated until 1789 when the Constitution was drafted.
The Americas expanded west of the Appalachians, buying, conquering, and settling new territory. During this time, the Native American people made considerable resistance, but were thwarted by the US. Also, the British had returned in 1812 and burned Washington DC. The capital was rebuilt, however.
Tensions between slave and free states mounted with arguments over the relationship between the state and federal governments as well as violent conflict over the spread of slavery into new states. Abraham Lincoln, candidate of the largely antislavery Republican Party, was elected president in 1860. Before he took office, seven slave states declared their secession — which the federal government maintained was illegal—and formed the Confederate States of America. With the Confederate attack upon Fort Sumter, the American Civil War began and four more slave states joined the Confederacy. Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 declared slaves in the Confederacy to be free. Following the Union victory in 1865, three amendments to the U.S. Constitution for the nearly four million African Americans who had been slaves, made then citizens, and granted them suffrage. The war and its resolution led to a substantial increase in federal power.
Rebuilding and Expanding
The wave of immigration, lasting until 1929, provided labor and transformed American culture. National infrastructure development spurred economic growth. The 1867 Alaska Purchase from Russia completed the country's mainland expansion. The Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890 was the last major armed conflict of the Indian Wars. In 1893, the indigenous monarchy of the Pacific Kingdom of Hawaii was overthrown in a coup led by American residents; the United States annexed the archipelago in 1898. Victory in the Spanish-American War the same year demonstrated that the United States was a world power and led to the annexation of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. The Philippines gained independence a half-century later; Puerto Rico and Guam remain U.S. territories.
World War I
At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the United States remained neutral. Most Americans sympathized with the British and French, although many opposed intervention. In 1917, the United States joined the Allies, helping to turn the tide against the Central Powers. After the war, the Senate did not ratify the Treaty of Versailles, which established the League of Nations. In 1920, the women's right's movement won passage of a constitutional amendment granting women's suffrage. The prosperity of the Roaring Twenties ended with the Wall Street Crash of 1929 that triggered the Great Depression. After his election as president in 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt responded with the New Deal, a range of policies increasing government intervention in the economy. The Dust Bowl of the mid-1930s impoverished many farming communities and spurred a new wave of western migration.
World War II
The United States, effectively neutral during World War II's early stages after Nazi Germany's invasion of Poland in September 1939, began supplying material to the Allies in March 1941. On December 7, 1941, the Empire of Japan launched a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, prompting the United States to join the Allies against the Axis Powers as well as the internment of Japanese Americans by the thousands. Participation in the war spurred capital investment and industrial capacity. Among the major combatants, the United States was the only nation to become richer — indeed, far richer — instead of poorer because of the war. Allied conferences at Breton Woods and Yalta outlined a new system of international organizations that placed the United States and Soviet Russia at the center of world affairs. The United States, having developed the first nuclear weapons, used them on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August. Japan surrendered on September 2, ending the war.
The United States and Soviet Union jockeyed for power after World War II during the Cold War, dominating the military affairs of Europe through NATO and the Warsaw Pact. The United States promoted democracy and capitalism, while the Soviet Union promoted communism and a centrally planned economy. Both supported dictatorships and engaged in proxy wars. American troops fought Communist Chinese forces in the Korean War of 1950–53.
The Cold War escalated when Chairman Malenkov I of the USSR passed away and his ruthless son took over. The new chairman amped up the military, including bigger ships and warheads.
On April 15th, 1959, Soviet forces launched a simultaneous attack against the western states and west Canada. The means of transport to California, Hawaii, and other places was by boat or plane. Despite the efforts of American soldiers and the Air Force, the Soviets broke through many American defenses. The first Soviet plane reached California at 5:30 AM, after fighting since nearly midnight. However, Hawaii was already being invaded, many residents waking up to the sounds of gunfire and screaming while many more never woke up.
By 7:30 AM, April 15th, 1959, the Soviets had created a gap in the Pacific defenses and quickly spilled into America. At 9:00 AM PST, Soviet ships had arrived at the San Francisco Bay, Vancouver, Seattle, Los Angeles, and many other coastal towns.
The battles lasted days, even weeks in some cities. Hawaii and Alaska had been completely taken by June and California was abandoned by October. The Navy was mainly busy fighting in major coastal cities and was therefore spread too thin. The Soviets were able to create more and more holes in the defense.
No other nation came to help in the long term. West Germany was able to distract the Soviets by invading the motherland, but they were quickly thwarted. By 1965, America had lost all territory touching the western seaboard. They sent a peace treaty to the USSR. The USSR accepted and kept all territory touching the Pacific Ocean. However, California soon turned to anarchy and was abandoned by the USSR.
Hawaii was subject to the Tsar Bomba Mark II and Honolulu and several other islands were destroyed. The big island is still there, albeit with a gigantic crater and highly radioactive.
The Americans were, for the most part, still nursing their wounds when WWIII had begun in Europe. Unknown to most, the military, however, was very strong at this point. With the USSR at war with most of Europe, America slowly began taking back its states. The USA had taken back everything, save for Hawaii by 1981. The US patched up its defense and quickly liberated France from the Soviets. The war ended on November 16th, 1982.
The African American population had begun making moves in the '60s. However, the US was too pressed to help. In 1982, several protests occurred in Greensboro, North Carolina, the site of the failed first attempt at a Sit-In. The Sit-Ins occurred again in Greensboro. In August, a sit-in in every Jim Crow state occurred. The Jim Crow laws were outlawed in 1984.
The USSR and the United States of America had a race to get to space in the '80s. The first man in space was the former California governor and actor, Ronald Reagan. The USSR began work on a small space station (which is expected to fall to Earth in early 2011). The USA and USSR actually sent people to the moon at the same date. However, the USA craft landed safely on the moon. The USSR craft lost contact with mission control after something went wrong. It is likely that they either missed the moon or crashed.
Tensions greatly diminished when President Gorbachev of the Soviet Union and President Ronald Reagan of the United States had peace talks. The American/Soviet relations continued to improve.
The '90s saw relative peace, save for a shuttle explosion that killed both USSR and USA crewmen. In 1995, the USA and USSR began trading with each other. The only problem in the 2000s was a failed terror attempt on September 11th, 2001, shot down by the USA. Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was dethroned by a joint USSR and USA attack. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. The USSR provided aid to the US.
The United States is the world's oldest surviving federation. It is a constitutional and representative democracy in which majority rule is tempered by minority rights protected by law, The government is regulated by a system of checks and balances defined by the U.S. Constitution, which serves as the country's supreme legal document. In the government, citizens are usually subject to three levels of government: federal, state, and local; the local government's duties are commonly split between county and municipal governments. In almost all cases, executive and legislative officials are elected by a plurality vote of citizens by district. The south façade of the White House, home and workplace of the US President.The federal government is composed of three branches:
- Legislative: The bicameral Congress, made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives, makes federal law, declares war, approves treaties, has the power of the purse, and has the power of impeachment, by which it can remove sitting members of the government.
- Executive: The President is the commander-in-chief of the military, can veto legislative bills before they become law, and appoints the Cabinet (subject to Senate approval) and other officers, who administer and enforce federal laws and policies.
- Judicial: The Supreme Court and lower federal courts, whose judges are appointed by the president with Senate approval, interpret laws and overturn those they find unconstitutional.
The United States is a federal union of fifty states. The original thirteen states were the successors of the thirteen colonies that rebelled against British rule. Early in the country's history, three new states were organized on territory separated from the claims of the existing states: Kentucky, Tennessee and Maine. Most of the other states have been carved from territories obtained through war or purchase by the U.S. government. One set of exceptions comprises Vermont and Texas: each was an independent republic before joining the union. During the American Civil War, West Virginia broke away from Virginia. The most recent state—Vancouver—achieved statehood on August 31st, 1975.
The states compose the vast bulk of the U.S. land mass. The United States also possesses five major overseas territories: Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands in the Caribbean; and American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Marina Islands in the Pacific. Those born in the major territories (except for American Samoa) possess US citizenship. American citizens residing in the territories have many of the same rights and responsibilities as citizens residing in the states; however, they are generally exempt from federal income tax, may not vote for president, and have only nonvoting people in Congress.