You are on page 1of 6

HIThe United States of America (USA), commonly referred to as the United States

(U.S.), America, and sometimes the States, is a federal republic[16][17] consist


ing of 50 states and a federal district. The 48 contiguous states and Washington
, D.C., are in central North America between Canada and Mexico. The state of Ala
ska is located in the northwestern part of North America and the state of Hawaii
is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific. The country also has five populated and n
ine unpopulated territories in the Pacific and the Caribbean. At 3.80 million sq
uare miles (9.85 million km2)[4] and with around 318 million people, the United
States is the world's fourth-largest country by total area and third-largest by
population. It is one of the world's most ethnically diverse and multicultural n
ations, the product of large-scale immigration from many countries.[18] The geog
raphy and climate of the United States are also extremely diverse, and the count
ry is home to a wide variety of wildlife.[19]
Paleo-Indians migrated from Eurasia to what is now the U.S. mainland around 15,0
00 years ago,[20] with European colonization beginning in the 16th century. The
United States emerged from 13 British colonies located along the East Coast. Dis
putes between Great Britain and the colonies led to the American Revolution. On
July 4, 1776, as the colonies were fighting Great Britain in the American Revolu
tionary War, delegates from the 13 colonies unanimously issued the Declaration o
f Independence. The war ended in 1783 with the recognition of independence of th
e United States from the Kingdom of Great Britain, and was the first successful
war of independence against a European colonial empire. The United States is the
only country that ever won its independence from Great Britain by war.[21][22]
The current Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787. The first ten amendm
ents, collectively named the Bill of Rights, were ratified in 1791 and designed
to guarantee many fundamental civil rights and freedoms.
Driven by the doctrine of manifest destiny, the United States embarked on a vigo
rous expansion across North America throughout the 19th century.[23] This involv
ed displacing native tribes, acquiring new territories, and gradually admitting
new states, until by 1848 the nation spanned the continent.[23] During the secon
d half of the 19th century, the American Civil War ended legal slavery in the co
untry.[24] By the end of that century, the United States extended into the Pacif
ic Ocean,[25] and the economy, driven in large part by the Industrial Revolution
, began to soar.[26] The Spanish American War and World War I confirmed the countr
y's status as a global military power. The United States emerged from World War
II as a global superpower, the first country to develop nuclear weapons, the onl
y country to use them in warfare, and as a permanent member of the United Nation
s Security Council. The end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Un
ion left the United States as the sole superpower.[27]
The United States is a developed country and has the world's largest national ec
onomy,[28] benefiting from an abundance of natural resources and high worker pro
ductivity.[29] While the U.S. economy is considered post-industrial, the country
continues to be one of the world's largest manufacturers.[30] Accounting for 37
% of global military spending,[31] it is the world's foremost economic and milit
ary power, a prominent political and cultural force, and a leader in scientific
research and technological innovations.[32]
Contents [hide]
1 Etymology
2 History
2.1 Native American and European contact
2.2 Settlements
2.3 Independence and expansion
2.4 Civil War and Reconstruction Era
2.5 Industrialization
2.6 World War I, Great Depression, and World War II
2.7 Cold War and civil rights era

2.8 Contemporary history


3 Geography, climate, and environment
3.1 Wildlife
4 Demographics
4.1 Population
4.2 Language
4.3 Religion
4.4 Family structure
5 Government and politics
5.1 Political divisions
5.2 Parties and elections
5.3 Foreign relations
5.4 Government finance
5.4.1 National debt
6 Military
7 Law enforcement and crime
8 Economy
8.1 Income, poverty and wealth
9 Education
10 Culture
10.1 Food
10.2 Literature, philosophy, and the arts
10.3 Music
10.4 Cinema
11 Sports
12 Infrastructure
12.1 Transportation
12.2 Energy
13 Science and technology
14 Health
15 Media
16 See also
17 Notes
18 References
19 Bibliography
19.1 Website sources
20 External links
Etymology
See also: Names for United States citizens
In 1507, the German cartographer Martin Waldseemller produced a world map on whic
h he named the lands of the Western Hemisphere "America" after the Italian explo
rer and cartographer Amerigo Vespucci (Latin: Americus Vespucius).[33] The first
documentary evidence of the phrase "United States of America" is from a letter
dated January 2, 1776, written by Stephen Moylan, Esq., George Washington's aide
-de-camp and Muster-Master General of the Continental Army. Addressed to Lt. Col
. Joseph Reed, Moylan expressed his wish to carry the "full and ample powers of
the United States of America" to Spain to assist in the revolutionary war effort
.[34]
The first publicly published evidence of the phrase "United States of America" w
as in an anonymously written essay in The Virginia Gazette newspaper in Williams
burg, Virginia, on April 6, 1776.[35][36] In June 1776, Thomas Jefferson include
d the phrase "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" in all capitalized letters in the headli
ne of his "original Rough draught" of the Declaration of Independence.[37][38] I
n the final Fourth of July version of the Declaration, the pertinent section of
the title was changed to read, "The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united
States of America".[39] In 1777 the Articles of Confederation announced, "The S
tile of this Confederacy shall be 'The United States of America'".[40]
The short form "United States" is also standard. Other common forms include the

"U.S.", the "USA", and "America". Colloquial names include the "U.S. of A." and,
internationally, the "States". "Columbia", a name popular in poetry and songs o
f the late 1700s, derives its origin from Christopher Columbus; it appears in th
e name "District of Columbia".[41] In non-English languages, the name is frequen
tly the translation of either the "United States" or "United States of America",
and colloquially as "America". In addition, an abbreviation (e.g. USA) is somet
imes used.[42]
The phrase "United States" was originally treated as plural, a description of a
collection of independent states e.g., "the United States are" including in the Thir
teenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified in 1865. It became
common to treat it as singular, a single unit e.g., "the United States is" after the
end of the Civil War. The singular form is now standard; the plural form is ret
ained in the idiom "these United States".[43] The difference has been described
as more significant than one of usage, but reflecting the difference between a c
ollection of states and a unit.[44]
The standard way to refer to a citizen of the United States is as an "American".
"United States", "American" and "U.S." are used to refer to the country adjecti
vally ("American values", "U.S. forces"). "American" is rarely used in English t
o refer to subjects not connected with the United States.[45]
History
Main articles: History of the United States and Timeline of United States histor
y
Native Americans meeting with Europeans, 1764
Native American and European contact
Further information: Pre-Columbian era and Colonial history of the United States
The first North American settlers migrated from Siberia by way of the Bering lan
d bridge approximately 15,000 or more years ago.[20][46][47] Some, such as the p
re-Columbian Mississippian culture, developed advanced agriculture, grand archit
ecture, and state-level societies. After European explorers and traders made the
first contacts, the native population declined for various reasons, including d
iseases, such as smallpox and measles,[48][49] and violence.[50][51][52]
In the early days of colonization many settlers were subject to food shortages,
disease and attacks from Native Americans. Native Americans were also often at w
ar with neighboring tribes and allied with Europeans in their colonial wars.[53]
At the same time, however, many natives and settlers came to depend on each oth
er. Settlers traded for food and animal pelts, natives for guns, ammunition and
other European wares.[54] Natives taught many settlers where, when and how to cu
ltivate corn, beans and squash. European missionaries and others felt it was imp
ortant to "civilize" the Indians and urged them to concentrate on farming and ra
nching rather than depending on hunting and gathering.[55][56]
Settlements
Further information: European colonization of the Americas and Thirteen Colonies
After Columbus' first voyage to the New World in 1492, other explorers followed
with settlement into the Floridas and the American Southwest.[57][58] There were
also some French attempts to colonize the east coast, and later more successful
settlements along the Mississippi River. Successful English settlement on the e
astern coast of North America began with the Virginia Colony in 1607 at Jamestow
n and the Pilgrims' Plymouth Colony in 1620. Early experiments in communal livin
g failed until the introduction of private farm holdings.[59] Many settlers were
dissenting Christian groups who came seeking religious freedom. The continent's
first elected legislative assembly, Virginia's House of Burgesses created in 16
19, and the Mayflower Compact, signed by the Pilgrims before disembarking, estab
lished precedents for the pattern of representative self-government and constitu
tionalism that would develop throughout the American colonies.[60][61]

Signing of the Mayflower Compact, 1620


Most settlers in every colony were small farmers, but other industries developed
within a few decades as varied as the settlements. Cash crops included tobacco,
rice and wheat. Extraction industries grew up in furs, fishing and lumber. Manu
facturers produced rum and ships, and by the late colonial period Americans were
producing one-seventh of the world's iron supply.[62] Cities eventually dotted
the coast to support local economies and serve as trade hubs. English colonists
were supplemented by waves of Scotch-Irish and other groups. As coastal land gre
w more expensive freed indentured servants pushed further west.[63] Slave cultiv
ation of cash crops began with the Spanish in the 1500s, and was adopted by the
English, but life expectancy was much higher in North America because of less di
sease and better food and treatment, leading to a rapid increase in the numbers
of slaves.[64][65][66] Colonial society was largely divided over the religious a
nd moral implications of slavery and colonies passed acts for and against the pr
actice.[67][68] But by the turn of the 18th century, African slaves were replaci
ng indentured servants for cash crop labor, especially in southern regions.[69]
With the colonization of Georgia in 1732, the 13 colonies that would become the
United States of America were established.[70] All had local governments with el
ections 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.
[71] With extremely high birth rates, low death rates, and steady settlement, th
e colonial population grew rapidly. Relatively small Native American populations
were eclipsed.[72] The Christian revivalist movement of the 1730s and 1740s kno
wn as the Great Awakening fueled interest in both religion and religious liberty
.[73]
In the French and Indian War, British forces seized Canada from the French, but
the francophone population remained politically isolated from the southern colon
ies. Excluding the Native Americans, who were being conquered and displaced, tho
se 13 colonies had a population of over 2.1 million in 1770, about one-third tha
t of Britain. Despite continuing new arrivals, the rate of natural increase was
such that by the 1770s only a small minority of Americans had been born overseas
.[74] The colonies' distance from Britain had allowed the development of self-go
vernment, but their success motivated monarchs to periodically seek to reassert
royal authority.[75]
Independence and expansion
Further information: American Revolutionary War, United States Declaration of In
dependence and American Revolution
The Declaration of Independence: the Committee of Five presenting their draft to
the Second Continental Congress in 1776
The American Revolutionary War was the first successful colonial war of independ
ence against a European power. Americans had developed an ideology of "republica
nism" asserting that government rested on the will of the people as expressed in
their local legislatures. They demanded their rights as Englishmen, "no taxatio
n without representation". The British insisted on administering the empire thro
ugh Parliament, and the conflict escalated into war.[76] Following the passage o
f the Lee Resolution, on July 2, 1776, which was the actual vote for independenc
e, the Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence, on July 4, which procla
imed, in a long preamble, that humanity is created equal in their unalienable ri
ghts and that those rights were not being protected by Great Britain, and finall
y declared, in the words of the resolution, that the Thirteen Colonies were inde
pendent states and had no allegiance to the British crown in the United States.
July fourth is celebrated annually as Independence Day. In 1777, the Articles of
Confederation established a weak government that operated until 1789.[77]

Britain recognized the independence of the United States following their defeat
at Yorktown.[78] In the peace treaty of 1783, American sovereignty was recognize
d from the Atlantic coast west to the Mississippi River. Nationalists led the Ph
iladelphia Convention of 1787 in writing the United States Constitution, ratifie
d in state conventions in 1788. The federal government was reorganized into thre
e branches, on the principle of creating salutary checks and balances, in 1789.
George Washington, who had led the revolutionary army to victory, was the first
president elected under the new constitution. The Bill of Rights, forbidding fed
eral restriction of personal freedoms and guaranteeing a range of legal protecti
ons, was adopted in 1791.[79]
Although the federal government criminalized the international slave trade in 18
08, after 1820 cultivation of the highly profitable cotton crop exploded in the
Deep South, and along with it the slave population.[80][81][82] The Second Great
Awakening, beginning about 1800, converted millions to evangelical Protestantis
m. In the North it energized multiple social reform movements, including aboliti
onism;[83] in the South, Methodists and Baptists proselytized among slave popula
tions.[84]
Americans' eagerness to expand westward prompted a long series of American India
n Wars.[85] The Louisiana Purchase of French-claimed territory in 1803 almost do
ubled the nation's size.[86] The War of 1812, declared against Britain over vari
ous grievances and fought to a draw, strengthened U.S. nationalism.[87] A series
of U.S. military incursions into Florida led Spain to cede it and other Gulf Co
ast territory in 1819.[88] Expansion was aided by steam power, when steamboats b
egan traveling along America's large water systems, which were connected by new
canals, such as the Erie and the I&M; then, even faster railroads began their st
retch across the nation's land.[89]
U.S. territorial acquisitions portions of each territory were granted statehood si
nce the 18th century.
From 1820 to 1850, Jacksonian democracy began a set of reforms which included wi
der male suffrage; it led to the rise of the Second Party System of Democrats an
d Whigs as the dominant parties from 1828 to 1854. The Trail of Tears in the 183
0s exemplified the Indian removal policy that moved Indians into the west to the
ir own reservations. The U.S. annexed the Republic of Texas in 1845 during a per
iod of expansionist Manifest destiny.[90] The 1846 Oregon Treaty with Britain le
d to U.S. control of the present-day American Northwest.[91] Victory in the Mexi
can American War resulted in the 1848 Mexican Cession of California and much of th
e present-day American Southwest.[92]
The California Gold Rush of 1848 49 spurred western migration and the creation of
additional western states.[93] After the American Civil War, new transcontinenta
l railways made relocation easier for settlers, expanded internal trade and incr
eased conflicts with Native Americans.[94] Over a half-century, the loss of the
buffalo was an existential blow to many Plains Indians cultures.[95] In 1869, a
new Peace Policy sought to protect Native-Americans from abuses, avoid further w
arfare, and secure their eventual U.S. citizenship.[96]
Civil War and Reconstruction Era
Further information: American Civil War and Reconstruction Era
Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania during the Civil War by Thure de Thulstrup
From the beginning of the United States, inherent divisions over slavery between
the North and the South in American society ultimately led to the American Civi
l War.[97] Initially, states entering the Union alternated between slave and fre
e states, keeping a sectional balance in the Senate, while free states outstripp
ed slave states in population and in the House of Representatives. But with addi
tional western territory and more free-soil states, tensions between slave and f

ree states mounted with arguments over federalism and disposition of the territo
ries, whether and how to expand or restrict slavery.[98]
With the 1860 election of Abraham Lincoln, the first president from the largely
anti-slavery Republican Party, conventions in thirteen states ultimately declare
d secession and formed the Confederate States of America, while the U.S. federal
government maintained that secession was illegal.[98] The ensuing war was at fi
rst for Union, then after 1863 as casualties mounted and Lincoln delivered his E
mancipation Proclamation, a second war aim became abolition of slavery. The war
remains the deadliest military conflict in American history, resulting in the de
aths of approximately 618,000 soldiers as well as many civilians.[99]
Following the Union victory in 1865, three amendments to the U.S. Constitution b
rought about the prohibition of slavery, gave U.S. citizenship to the nearly fou
r million African Americans who had been slaves,[100] and promised them voting r
ights. The war and its resolution led to a substantial increase in federal power
[101] aimed at reintegrating and rebuilding the Southern states while ensuring t
he rights of the newly freed slaves.[102] But following the Reconstruction Era,
throughout the South Jim Crow laws soon effectively disenfranchised most blacks
and some poor whites. Over the subsequent decades, in both the North and the Sou
th blacks and some whites faced systemic discrimination, including racial segreg
ation and occasional vigilante violence, sparking national movements against the
se abuses.[102]
Industrialization
Further information: Labor history of the United States
Ellis Island, in New York City, was a major gateway for the influx of immigratio
n from Europe
In the North, urbanization and an unprecedented influx of immigrants from Southe
rn and Eastern Europe supplied a surplus of labor for the country's industrializ
ation and transformed its culture.[103] National infrastructure including telegr
aph and transcontinental railroads spurred economic growth and greater settlemen
t and development of the American Old West. The later invention of electric ligh
t and the telephone would also impact communication and urban life.[104] The end
of the Indian Wars further expanded acreage under mechanical cultivation, incre
asing surpluses for international markets.[105] Mainland expansion was completed
by the purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867.[106] In 1898 the U.S. entered th
e world stage with important sugar production and strategic facilities acquired
in Hawaii.[107] Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines were ceded by Spain in th
e same year, following the Spanish American War.[108]
Rapid economic development at the end of the 19th century produced many prominen
t industrialists, and the U.S. economy became the world's largest.[109] Dramatic
changes were accompanied by social unrest and the rise of populist, socialist,
and anarchist movements.[110] This period eventually ended with the advent of th
e Progressive Era, which saw significant reforms in many societal areas, includi
ng women's suffrage, alcohol prohibition, regulation of consumer goods, greater
antitrust measures to ensure competition and attention to worker conditions.
World War I, Great Depression, and World War II
Further information: World War I, Great Depression and World War II
U.S. troops approaching Omaha Beach during World War II
The United States remained neutral at the outbreak of World War I in 1914, thoug
h by 1917, it joined the Allies, helping to turn the tide against the Central Po
wers. In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson took a leading diplomatic role at the Pa
ris Peace Conference and advocated strongly for the U.S. to join the League of N
ations. However, the Senate refused to approve this, and did not ratify the Trea
ty of Versailles that established the League of Nations.[111]