The United States of America (commonly referred to as the United States, the U.S., the USA, or America) is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states, a federal district and seven commonwealths. The United States is one of the world's most ethnically diverse and multicultural nations, the product of large-scale immigration from many countries.
The nation was founded by thirteen colonies of Great Britain located along the Atlantic seaboard. On July 4, 1776, they issued the Declaration of Independence, which proclaimed their independence from Great Britain and their formation of a cooperative union. The rebellious states defeated Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War, the first successful colonial war of independence. The Philadelphia Convention adopted the current United States Constitution on September 17, 1787; its ratification the following year made the states part of a single republic with a strong central government. The Bill of Rights, comprising ten constitutional amendments guaranteeing many fundamental civil rights and freedoms, was ratified in 1791.
In the 19th century, the United States acquired land from France, Spain, the United Kingdom, Mexico, and Russia, and annexed the Republic of Texas (1846) and the Republic of Hawaii (1898). Disputes between the agrarian South and industrial North over states' rights and the expansion of the institution of slavery 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 legal slavery in the United States. By the 1870s, the national economy was the world's largest. The Spanish–American War (1898) and the Second Mexican–American War (1916-1917) confirmed the country's status as an imperial power.
Second Mexican-American War
The early 20th century was marked by American expansion into Latin America. On March 8, 1916, Mexican revolutionary general Francisco "Pancho" Villa raided Columbus, New Mexico killing 17 people. In response to this act, President Wilson sent 12,000 US troops into Mexico to find Pancho Villa. This act began the Second Mexican–American War.
The war took a new turn when on July 22, 1916, a bombing during a parade in California is blamed on two Mexican immigrants who are quickly tried and executed. Meanwhile, many Mexicans in the United States become targets of discrimination. Prominent politicians in Congress call on President Wilson to protect Americans from the chaos seeping out of Mexico by using the military to establish a responsible government there.
On January 30, 1917, an American army led by General John J. Pershing captured Mexico City. On February 5, 1917, the Mexican government surrenders unconditionally to the United States, but Pancho Villa vowed to continue to fight. Villa would continue to organize a guerrilla campaign against American forces until April 25, 1918 when he is killed by an American soldier.
On December 14, 1918, President Wilson arrived in Mexico City and announced the creation of the Commonwealth of Mexico. Under a new constitution, similar to the US constitution, Mexico would become an organized but unincorporated dependent territory of the United States. The announcement was met with revolts in several Mexican provinces that were not completely put down until 1920.
Expansion into Latin America
By 1920, events in Mexico calmed down enough for the new Commonwealth government to begin implementing reforms, financed by increased American investment. The success in Mexico encouraged many ambitious American politicians to push for the Commonwealth system to be "exported" to other troublesome Latin American countries. The idea became popular, despite arguments by dissenters who pointed toward John Quincy Adams' arguments that colonies were unconstitutional. Meanwhile, American history textbooks began focusing on expansionist figures in American history, including President James Polk and filibuster William Walker, who is portrayed as a man ahead of his times yet rejected by contemporary society.
Puerto Rico and the Philippines became the next Commonwealths in 1922, though it was already an American territory at that time. Meanwhile American foreign policy became more focused in intervening in the troubled nations of Central America and the Caribbean Sea. Haiti (1923), Dominican Republic (1924), Honduras (1925), Nicaragua (1928) and Cuba (1930) all became Commonwealths of the United States.
American expansion in Latin American caused many Central and South American nations to adopt pro-American policies in fear of being annexed into the US. Not all nations, however, were fearful of the United States. The ABC Alliance of Argentina, Brazil and Chile acted as bulwark against American influence in South America. The Alliance was supported by various European powers who wanted to place a check on further American expansion in the region.
Meanwhile the increased American expansion convinced Canada to support the Statute of Westminster (1931), which created the Imperial Federation of Britain. The Canadian government feared that their independence would be in jeopardy if they cut ties with Britain. The creation of the Imperial Federation led to increased tensions between it and the United States and saw the United States reiterating the Monroe Doctrine by telling the Europeans that the Western Hemisphere was the United States' sphere of influence.
Despite that the United States had reached the extent of its empire, the 30s and 40s were a time of peace and prosperity for the nation. But its was short lived. By the 1940s, the ideas of Pan-Asianism spread into the Philippines from Japan. In 1948, a major revolt took place across the Philippines. US forces were sent in to put the revolt down, but due to clandestine Japanese support of rebels and shoddy equipment supplied to American forces (in one highly publicized incident, an entire case of artillery shells was discovered to be filled with sawdust) the US was forced to agree to come to the peace table. A referendum was held in 1959 and the majority of Filipino voters voted for independence.
The loss of the Philippines was a major blow to the United States. Shortly thereafter a series of low-key revolts spread across the other Commonwealths. The 1960s and 70s became an era of violence and war as Americans were drafted to put down the revolt. The era illuminated many of the blemishes of the American empire. The politicians, business leaders and military leaders who profited most from the Commonwealth system were now forcing those who gained nothing from American expansion in Latin America to fight to keep it. Anti-war protests grew, but these protesters found themselves victim of hard-handed tactics taken by the government. Meanwhile the Socialist Party of America grew in popularity as an opposition party to the Democrats and Republicans who supported the Commonwealth system.
In the 1972 Presidential Elections, Republican nominee Richard Nixon defeated Democrat nominee George Wallace and Socialist nominee George McGovern. Nixon immediately instituted a series of reforms to the Commonwealth system. The autonomy of the Commonwealth governments were increased and each was given representation in the House of Representatives. These reforms along with a change in military tactics (increased air strikes on rebel targets and expanded and better trained Commonwealth military forces) by the end of the 1970s the situation in the Commonwealths had stabilized. Some historians, however, have contributed victory in these revolts because of the quality of government the Commonwealths had. The Philippines had always been the depository for the undesirables of the American government, the most incompetent or corrupt. The Commonwealth governments of Latin America on the hand, had been comparably better staffed and run.
The Crazy Eighties
President Nixon won a third term as President in 1980. Two years later he resigned over investigations into alleged corruption that spanned all the way into his first term. Despite Nixon's accomplishments, Congress and the states were quick to pass a new constitutional amendment limiting the President to only two terms.
This blow to America's faith in its elected leaders came during a period of intense domestic unrest. Former war protesters turned too supporting new causes. The African-American civil rights Movement attempted to end the discrimination that affected blacks in the United States, especially in the southern states. They pointed toward the fact that though they were drafted as well as whites to fight against the rebels in the Commonwealths, they were denied the same rights in their own home nation, sometimes even denied the right to vote. Young pop singer Michael Jackson received national attention for his music supporting civil rights. When he was shot in 1987 it set off several riots in major American cities and finally convinced Congress to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1988.
The 1980s also saw the rise of feminism. At the time, a woman's place was generally seen as being in the home, and they were excluded from many jobs and professions. Commercials often portrayed women as being helpless if their car broke down. In the wokplace discrimination against women was commonplace, as in every other aspect of life. Feminists took to the streets, marching and protesting, writing books and debating to change social and political views that limited women. The movement gained some success in getting new acts pushed through Congress some acts guaranteeing equal pay and preventing discrimination, but many feminist leaders felt that work still needed to be done to "liberate" women.
Meanwhile a new form of Hispanic nationalism was taking place in the Commonwealths. These new revolutionaries were inspired by Argentine Professor Ernesto Guevara, who at one time fought against American forces in the 60s, but gave up violence as being a successful catalyst to change. Instead Guevara encouraged peaceful protests and using the political system to encourage change. Violent responses to these peaceful protests by Commonwealth forces only caused these new nationalists to grow in number.
The New Left
In 1992, with the election of Ted Kennedy to President, the Socialist Party had taken control for the first time both the White House and Congress. With this new power the Socialist Party began pushing through new reforms including a stronger Civil Rights Act, new laws preventing sex discrimination, abolition of the death penalty and increased regulation on large corporations. Some Socialists, however, saw the party's failure to take the opportunity to create a classless society was betraying the ideals of the party's founders. In reality the Socialist Party was trying a moderate approach to appeal to more Americans. A small group of Socialists split from the party forming the Industrial Radicals.
Meanwhile in the southern states a new movement sprung up in opposition to the Socialist administration. Angry over the new direction the United States was taking, many prominent southern leaders began calling for the resecession of the Confederate States of America. These Neo-Confederates felt that the United States had changed too drastically to be worth saving and only a new CSA would ensure a Christian, free market society where women and racial minorities are relegated back to their traditional roles in American society. While most Neo-Confederates preach non-violence to reach their goals, others like the Southern Liberation Army have used violence against government and minorities in support of re-establishing an independent south. The Democrats, which over the years has become little but a regional party for the southern states, has adopted some of the ideals of the Neo-Confederate movement, such an increase in states rights.
The United States has had to deal with a rise of violence in the southern states against government representatives amid new cries of independence from the Commonwealths as separatist political parties gain increased power in those regions. Despite these domestic problems the United States has made it a priority to catch up with the other world powers technologically, especially in the space race.
The United States has a three party system. Usually three parties (Democrats, Republicans and Socialists) dominate in nearly all elections. Sometimes minor parties will rise up to challenge these three parties. Here is a brief description of all active political parties in the United States.
|Democratic Party||Christian Conservatism||One of the oldest political parties in the United States and world, it is today become a regional party for the southern states, though they have some representation in the Great Plains.|
|Republican Party||Centrism||Founded by anti-slavery activist, this party follows a moderate platform and has been the dominant party in the country since the Civil War.|
|Socialist Party of America||American Socialism||Formed in the early 20th century, it has become one of the three major parties in the United States.|
|Industrial Radicals Party||Radical Socialism||A splinter group from the Socialist Party of America, it advocates policies that some say border on Communism|