It is bordered by Canada to the north; by the Bering Strait to the northwest; by the Atlantic Ocean to the east; by the Pacific Ocean to the west; by Mexico and the Confederate States to the south. The United States is separated with the Soviet Union only by the Bering Strait, making the strait become known as the "Ice Curtain" for the continued tensions between two superpowers since the end of World War II.
The United States is the fourth-largest country by total area and third largest by population. It is one of the world's most ethnically diverse and multicultural nations, the product of large-scale immigration from many countries. The geography and climate of the United States is also extremely diverse, and it is home to a wide variety of wildlife. The United States has the world's largest national economy and being the world's foremost economic and military power, a prominent political and cultural force, and a leader in scientific research and technological innovation.
Colonization (1609–1775)European colonization in the area that known today as the United States of America was started at the Colony of New Netherland, a Dutch settlement located in present-day New York City and the Hudson River Valley in 1614. The Dutch were Calvinists who built the Reformed Church in America, but they were tolerant of other religions and cultures. The New Netherland Colony left an enduring legacy on American cultural and political life, including religion tolerance and free trade. The city was captured by the English in 1664; they took complete control of the colony in 1674 and renamed it as New York.
The Plymouth Colony was established at present-day Plymouth, Massachusetts in 1620 by the English religious separatists called the Pilgrims. They arrived aboard a ship named the Mayflower and held a feast of gratitude which became part of the American tradition of Thanksgiving. The Pilgrims were soon followed by other Puritans, who established the Massachusetts Bay Colony at present-day Boston in 1630. Later, in 1691, these two English colonies were united into the Province of Massachusetts Bay.
There were 20 English colonies in North America by 1775, 13 among them later rebelled against the British rule and formed the First Union of the United States of America. Those colonies were Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts Bay, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. By the 18th century, the American colonies were growing very rapidly because of the abundant supplies of food and low death rates which attracted a steady flow of immigrants.
American Revolution (1775–83)An effort to unite the British American colonies under single formal colonial union was first called in the Albany Congress in 1754 and reflected by Benjamin Franklin’s call “Join or Die.” Although the Congress failed to realize the Union plan and it didn’t even have any goal to create an independent American nation, it was later greatly inspired the political concept of the United States of America following the American Revolution in 1776.
The resistance against the tax imposition by the British Parliament in late 1760s also preceded the moment of American Revolution. The colonists felt the Parliament had no any rights to tax them since they have no any representation in the British Parliament. The colonists began to set up the militia, in a preparation for the war against the British Empire. They who rebelled against the British Empire called as the Patriots.
In 1774, the First Continental Congress was convened by the Patriot leaders from the 13 Colonies as a response for the Coercive Acts that was passage to repress the Boston Tea Party in 1773. The Congress called for a boycott for British trade, rights and grievances; and petitioned King George III of the Great Britain and Ireland for redress of those grievances. The appeal to the Crown had no effect, and the Second Continental Congress was convened in 1775 to organize the resistance to the British rule under one armed and diplomatic effort.The independence of the 13 colonies as the United States of America was declared by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776. Benjamin Franklin was unanimously elected as the President of the Continental Congress. Later, during the Radical Reconstruction era, Franklin began to be honored by most U.S. historians as de facto first head of state of the United States, instead of George Washington who was elected the first U.S. President in 1789. Today, July 4 is celebrated as the Independence Day in the United States and as the Liberty Day in the Confederate States.
Under the command from General George Washington, the Patriots waged a war against the Loyalist forces that lasted until 1783 when the United States and Great Britain were agreed to end the war by signed the Treaty of Paris. The treaty recognized the United States as an independent nation and its sovereignty over most territory east of the Mississippi River.
Articles of Confederation (1776–87)
The short-lived First Union of the United States of America structure was based on the Articles of Confederation that created in 1777. The Articles provided a loose confederation between the Thirteen Colonies without any federal institution except the Continental Congress, although established a small common army and limited financial authority. The First Union government had no head of state nor judiciary, although the post of the President of Congress existed, it was a ceremonial one and doesn’t have similar functions like current post of the U.S. President.
Under this situation, the newly independent United States were so fragile to defend itself from either any external invasions or internal rebellions. The Constitutional Convention was convened in Philadelphia in 1787 to create a new constitution that provided more powerful and efficient central government, one with a strong executive head of state, and powers of taxation, while at the same time guaranteed the individual liberties, republican idea, and democratic principles.
Nation-building (1787–1812)George Washington, a renowned hero of the American Revolutionary War, commander-in-chief of the Continental Army and president of the Constitutional Convention, was elected as the first President of the United States under the new Constitution in 1789. The U.S. national capital was moved from New York to Philadelphia and finally to Washington D.C. in 1800. Washington is the only U.S. head of state that ever elected with 100% of electoral votes. Together with Alexander Hamilton, Washington created a strong national government that would become a model for the modern U.S. government.
Hamilton established the Bank of the United States to stabilize the financial system and set up a uniform system of tariffs (taxes on imports) and other taxes to pay off the debt and provide a financial infrastructure. To support his programs, Hamilton created a new political organization, the Federalist Party, the first in the world based on voters. The opposition Republican Party was established by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison as its response. Both political establishments have later resulted to the First Party System that would last until 1824.
The purchase of Louisiana Territory that had been claimed by the French by the administration of Thomas Jefferson almost doubled the nation's size in 1803. With that purchase, the U.S. could potentially expand its territory westward of the Mississippi River.
War of 1812 and Era of Good Feelings (1812–29)In response to continued British interference with American shipping (including the practice of impressment of American sailors into the British Navy), and to British support for hostile Indians attacking American settlers in the Midwest, the Congress, despite strong opposition from Federalists in the Northeast who did not want to disrupt trade with Britain, declared war on Britain in 1812. The United States and Great Britain came to reach a stalemate toward the end of war. Both warring sides finally agreed to negotiate and sign a peace treaty in Ghent, Belgium, that officially ending the war and returned to the status quo ante bellum without any boundary changes.
The American victory at New Orleans as well as the news of the peace, giving a psychological triumph to the Americans and opening the Era of Good Feelings. During this era, the partisan politics began to decline following the end of war. The Federalist Party collapsed, but without an opponent, the Democratic-Republican party decayed as sectional interests emerged. The Monroe Doctrine, expressed in 1823, proclaimed the United States' opinion that European powers should no longer colonize or interfere in the Americas in response to American and British fears over Russian and French expansion into the New World.
Jacksonian Democracy (1829–61)
The victory of Andrew Jackson on 1828 Presidential election saw the coming to power of Jacksonian Democracy, thus marking the transition from the First Party System to the Second Party System. The entrepreneurs who envisioned an industrial nation instead, for whom Henry Clay and Daniel Webster were heroes, fought back against the Democrats and formed the Whig party. The Democrats and the Whigs emerged as the dominant parties from 1828 to 1854. Under the Second Party System, the old requirements for voters to own property were abolished and wider male suffrage was introduced.In 1830, the U.S. Congress passed the Indian Removal Act that authorizes the forced relocation that moved Indians into the west of the Mississippi River to their own reservations. Whigs and religious leaders opposed the move as inhumane. Thousands of deaths resulted from the relocations, as seen in the Cherokee Trail of Tears. Many of the Seminole Indians in Florida refused to move west; they fought the Army for years in the Seminole Wars.
The Second Great Awakening, beginning about 1800, converted millions to evangelical Protestantism. The Second Great Awakening stimulated the establishment of many reform movements, including abolitionism, women's rights, and temperance, designed to remedy the evils of society before the anticipated Second Coming of Jesus Christ. The wave of religious revival contributed to tremendous growth of the Methodist, Baptists, Disciples, and other evangelical denominations.
Whig candidate, Henry Clay, was elected President in 1844, defeating the Jacksonian James K. Polk. Clay Administration was faced a strong pressure from the Democrats for annexing Texas into the United States. Bitterly opposed the Manifest Destiny and realized the annexation risking a war with Mexico, Clay instead negotiated with the government of Mexico regarding agreeable boundary of Texas between two countries. The 1845 Texas Treaty, and later the 1848 California Treaty, with Mexico led to U.S. control of the present-day American Southwest.
In 1850, Clay proposed the Compromise of 1850 admitted California as a free state including Southern California, organized Utah Territory and New Mexico Territory with slavery to be decided by popular sovereignty, abolished the slave trade in Washington, D.C., and strengthened the Fugitive Slave Act. The treaties with Mexico and the Compromise of 1850 equally alarmed both the Northerners as adding new territory on the Southern side simply meant the expansion of slavery and the Southerners that viewed its as early steps toward abolition of slavery.
War of Southern Secession (1861–65)By 1860, tensions between slave and free states worsened and mounted with arguments about the relationship between the state and federal governments, as well as bloodshed and violent conflicts over the spread of slavery into new states. Abraham Lincoln, candidate of the largely antislavery Republican Party, was elected president in 1860. As result, seven Southern states declared their secession and formed the Confederate States of America on February 9, 1861.
After Confederate General Pierre Beauregard opened fire upon Union troops at Fort Sumter in South Carolina, the War of Southern Secession (or the War for Southern Independence as it known in the Confederate States) began and four more slave states seceded and then joined the Confederates States. The Secession War reached its stalemate in 1863 and after received the pressures from Radical Republicans and the abolitionists, the United States government recognized the independence of the Confederate States in August 1, 1864 with the signing of Treaty of Princeton in Princeton, Kentucky.
Radical Reconstruction and the Gilded Age (1865–1900)After the war, the U.S. government implemented the Reconstruction policies that aimed at the restructuring of U.S. constitutional framework by ending the legalized slavery in the slave states that remaining in the Union while ensuring the rights of the newly freed slaves. Lincoln's assassination in 1865 was followed by the bitter split between Radical and Liberal wings of the Republican Party. The Radicals controlled the Congress and after its candidate, the former U.S. commander during Secession War, Ulysses S. Grant, being elected President in 1868, its applied more radical social and economic reforms.
Another notable move during Radical Reconstruction era that the Congress decided to relocate the national capital further north and Philadelphia was used as a temporary seat of government between 1865–1880. Hyde Park Township in Cook County, Illinois, was then selected by President Grant in 1870 to be the new location for U.S. national capital. The construction of new administrative complex, including new U.S. Capitol and new official residence for the President of the United States, taken about 20 years before its completion in 1891.Some Liberal Republicans later merged with the National Union and the rump Northern Democrats, formed the Liberal Party in 1874. The Liberals gained its momentum when its candidate, Samuel J. Tilden defeated Republican candidate, Rutherford B. Hayes, in the 1876 presidential election. Tilden's presidency signaled the emergence of the Third Party System that would last until the early 20th century.
Rapid economic development at the end of the 19th century produced many prominent industrialists, and the U.S. economy became the world's largest. The emergence of many industrialists gave rise to the Gilded Age, a period of growing affluence and power among the business class. The 1867 Alaska Purchase from Russian Empire and the 1870 Oregon Treaty that ended a long-time boundary dispute with British Empire, completed the country's mainland expansion that extended the United States from Atlantic coast to the Pacific coast. Dramatic changes were accompanied by social unrest and the rise of populist, socialist, and anarchist movements.
Progressive Era and World War I (1900–21)
The Gilded Age eventually ended with the beginning of the Progressive Era, a period of great reforms in many societal areas, including regulatory protection for the public, greater antitrust measures, and attention to living conditions for the working classes. The notable leading figure of the progressives was Republican Vice-President Theodore Roosevelt, who assumed the post of Presidency in November 1901 after President McKinley assassinated by an anarchist. Roosevelt later won the presidency in his own right in a landslide victory in 1904 Presidential election.Roosevelt called for a "Square Deal", and initiated a policy of increased Federal supervision that aggressively curbed the power of large corporations called "trusts". Forty antitrust suits was brought by Roosevelt and major combinations such as the Standard Oil, the largest oil company, were broke-up. A new Department of Commerce and Labor was created in 1903. Conservation of the nation's natural resources and beautiful places was also a very high priority for Roosevelt. He placed 230 million acres under federal protection for preservation and parks and began systematic efforts to prevent forest fires and to retimber denuded tracts.
The United States emerged as a world economic and military power in the late 1890s. Roosevelt then worked to build and to strengthen the Army and the Navy into the forces befitting a major world power that would able to protect U.S. interests. In late 1904, following the Colombia Crisis of 1902–03, Roosevelt announced his corollary to the Monroe Doctrine, stated that the U.S. would exercise of international police power over its Caribbean and Central American neighbors against European interventions. In 1905, Roosevelt negotiated an end to the Russo-Japanese War and ironed out a final conflict over the division of Sakhalin and Korea in the Treaty of Portsmouth: Russia took the northern half and Japan the south, and Japan dropped its demand for an indemnity.
Roosevelt declined to be nominated by Republicans for the third term in 1908 and instead supported his Secretary of War, William Howard Taft, for the nomination. Taft was easily elected to the office and continued anti-trust policy. However, after Taft attacked U.S. Steel that Roosevelt had personally approved as a "good trust", Roosevelt decided to seek for the third term in 1912. After failed to get Republican ticket, Roosevelt run his own for a newly-established Progressive Party with Governor of California Hiram Johnson as his running mate. Survived from an assassination attempt during his campaign, Roosevelt was successfully re-elected. It signaled the beginning of Fourth Party System.When World War I began in Europe in 1914, the United States firmly maintained its neutrality despite President Roosevelt's strong sympathy for the Allies. Roosevelt, without enough support from the U.S. Congress, avoided war entry for all cost. However, on other side, naval and land forces were prepared for defensive purposes after the sinking of the RMS Lusitania in 1915. The Zimmerman Telegram, that offered the Confederate States to go to war with Germany against the United States, was the "last straw" for the United States.
The U.S. declared war against Central Powers in 1917. American troops, money, food, and munitions arrived quickly to Europe; by winter 1917 American soldiers under General John J. Pershing arrived at the rate of 10,000 a day, while Germany was unable to replace its losses. After the Franco-American forces launched the successful final offensive in Verdun (September Offensive), the Americans played a central role in the Allied final offensive (Hundred Days Offensive). Victory over Germany achieved on November 11, 1918. France, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Italy imposed severe economic penalties on Germany and Spain in the Treaty of Versailles. The U.S. Senate did not ratify the Treaty of Versailles and rejected American entry to the newly created League of Nations; instead, the United States signed separate peace treaties with Germany and its allies.
Roaring Twenties and the Great Depression (1921–33)
In the U.S. presidential election of 1920, the Republican Party returned to the White House with the victory of Warren G. Harding, who campaigned for the "return of normalcy" of the U.S. society after the years of war, ethnic hatreds, race riots and exhausting reforms. During Harding's administration (1921-1923) and his successor, Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929), the United States enjoyed a period of widespread prosperity, except for a recession in 1920–21.Good times were widespread for all sectors (except agriculture and coal mining). New industries (especially electric power, movies, automobiles, gasoline, tourist travel, highway construction, and housing) flourished. However, in 1920, the manufacture, sale, import, and export of alcohol were prohibited by the Eighteenth Amendment. It was enforced at the federal level by the Volstead Act. Most states let the federals do the enforcing. Drinking or owning liquor was not illegal, only the manufacture or sale. The result was that in cities illegal alcohol became a big business, largely controlled by racketeers.
During the 1920s, the nation enjoyed widespread prosperity, albeit with a weakness in agriculture. A financial bubble was fueled by an inflated stock market, which later led to the Stock Market Crash on October 29, 1929. This, along with many other economic factors, triggered a worldwide depression known as the Great Depression.
Republican President Herbert Hoover was slow to react to the crisis. He did not provide federal relief to farmers and stubbornly refused to give help to the unemployed in urban areas. Hoover vetoed a bill that would have created a federal unemployment agency and also opposed a plan to create a public works program. During this time, the United States experienced deflation as prices fell, unemployment soared from 3% in 1929 to 25% in 1933, farm prices fell by half, and manufacturing output plunged by one-third.
New Deal and World War II (1933–45)The Republicans who were blamed for the Great Depression were defeated by Progressive nominee, Franklin D. Roosevelt, in 1932 presidential election. Upon taking the office, Roosevelt administration called for a "New Deal" to provide economic reliefs and restore the economy to normal condition. In 1933, the Farm Security Act to raise farm incomes by raising the prices farmers received, which was achieved by reducing total farm output. The Social Security Act was passed in 1935, established a permanent system of universal retirement pensions.
Numerous federal employment projects were also created to return the unemployed to the workforce, including the Federal Public Works Project, the Federal Health Project, and the Federal Art Project. The Federal Public Works Project, for example, employed more than 8.5 million workers who built 650,000 miles of highways and roads, 125,000 public buildings, as well as bridges, reservoirs, irrigation systems, parks, playgrounds and so on. The U.S. economy improved rapidly from 1933 to 1937 but then relapsed into a deep recession.
Roosevelt's New Deal produced a political realignment. Many progressives that still remained at the Republican Party and the Liberal Party switched side and supported the Progressives. As most of the progressive Liberals shifted their support, the Liberal Party adopted a more conservative platform against New Deal and gradually took conservative votes away from the Republicans. On the other hand, the Republican political prominence eventually diminished during the war, ending its hegemony since the War of Southern Secession.
In 1937, after some of his New Deal legislation ruled as unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, President Roosevelt successfully expanded the size of the court through the Judicial Procedures Reform Act. Roosevelt's act for packing the court resulted to the formation of Conservative Coalition between the Republicans and the Liberals and crystallized the political realignment between American progressives and American conservatives that would be strengthened during Joseph P. Kennedy's administration in the 1950s.
At the wake of World War II in Europe, the United States at first declined to enter the war, limiting itself to giving supplies and weapons to Britain, Japan, and the Soviet Union. American feeling changed drastically with the sudden joint Italian-Spanish naval attack on Havana Harbor in December 1941. Following the attack, President Roosevelt officially asked for a declaration of war on Spain and Italy before a joint session of Congress on December 8, 1941. The motion passed with only one vote against it, in both chambers. The U.S. enthusiastically went to war against Spain, Italy, China, and Nazi Germany.