United States of America

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United States of America
Established in 1776
US map.PNG
Loc of United States.png
50 star flag.png
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FlagCoat of Arms
CapitalWashington, D.C.
GovernmentConstitutional Republic
LanguageEnglish (unofficial)
PresidentBarack Hussein Obama
Area3,718,695 sq mi
Population 313,232,000 (2011)
GDP per capita$48,029 (2011)
CurrencyUnited States Dollar (USD)

The United States of America[1] is the most prosperous, conservative and Christian large nation in the world, based on the longest-running Constitution in history. Located on the North American continent, this nation consists of a federal union of fifty individual states, along with territories and a capital district. Founded originally as 13 colonies in the British Empire, Britain's American colonies formally broke with the mother country on July 4, 1776 with the Declaration of Independence.[2] Britain formally recognized the independence of the new nation, the United States of America, in the 1783 Treaty of Paris, which ended the American Revolutionary War. Shortly thereafter, in 1787, the United States Constitution was written; grounded on republican political principles. The Constitution remains in effect today, albeit with several amendments since then. The Americans created political parties and, since abolishing slavery in a bloody civil war (1861-65), instituted a form of government guided by the rule of law rather than the desires of a majority of voters. According to the U.S. Constitution written by America's Founding Fathers, the United States is a Constitutional Republic that functions as a representative democracy. America derives many of its policies from the Bible, and the logic behind the Bible. Many people view America as holding a special place among nations, due to its foundations in liberty and justice.

America's free market economy grew rapidly, becoming the largest in the world by the 1870s. Between 1791 and 1959, 37 new states were added to the original 13 as the nation expanded across the North American continent and acquired a number of overseas possessions. After defeating the Soviet Union in the Cold War, the U.S. emerged as the world's only superpower, boasting the largest economy and most powerful military. It exerts enormous cultural and intellectual influence worldwide, and in return is the target of the enemies of democracy and capitalism.

The capital of the United States of America is Washington, DC.

Contents

People

At Washington, DC.

Population: 310,232,863 (July 2010 est.) Population growth rate: 0.97% (2010 est.) Labor force: 153.9 million (2010 est.).

Ethnic groups: white 79.96%, black 12.85%, Asian 4.43%, Amerindian and Alaska native 0.97%, native Hawaiian and other Pacific islander 0.18%, two or more races 1.61% (July 2007 estimate) note: a separate listing for Hispanic is not included because the US Census Bureau considers Hispanic to mean persons of Spanish/Hispanic/Latino origin including those of Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Dominican Republic, Spanish, and Central or South American origin living in the US who may be of any race or ethnic group (white, black, Asian, etc.); about 15.1% of the total US population is Hispanic [3]

In 2010, around 400,000 illegal immigrants were deported. The Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research organization in Washington, estimates 11.5 million to 12 million "unauthorized migrants" live in the US today. [4]

Although the diverse group of immigrants that has come to the U.S. speak many languages, English is the traditional unifying language of the United States and is necessary for full civic and cultural participation.

Geography

Forty-eight of the fifty United states form a regional grouping known as the contiguous United States, bordering both the North Atlantic Ocean and the North Pacific Ocean and lying between Canada and Mexico. Two of the fifty states, Alaska and Hawaii, are not contiguous with any of the other states. Alaska is located to the northwest of Canada and lies across the Bering Strait from the Russian Federation. Hawaii is an archipelago located in the North Pacific Ocean. Puerto Rico, which is largely self governing, is a commonwealth and is considered part of the U.S., as are several smaller territories in the Pacific Ocean, such as Guam. Each of the 50 states has a large degree of sovereignty, but the boundaries are debated and shift slightly every year.

At over 3.7 million square miles (over 9.6 million km²), the U.S. (including its non-contiguous and overseas states and territories) is the third largest country by total area (after Russia and Canada). It is the world's third most populous nation, with over 350 million people (after China and India).

Mt. McKinley, Alaska, is the highest point in North America and Death Valley, California, is the lowest point on the continent. [5]

History

American Revolution

For a more detailed treatment, see American Revolution.

Washington, Chief of the Continental Army, is shown crossing the Delaware River.

The American Revolution exploded from fears the British Empire was trying to restrict the historic rights and liberties of Americans. The British victory in the French and Indian War ended the threat that foreign powers might attack the colonies; Britain's protection was no longer needed. At the same time Britain decided to assert its powers by imposing taxes. The taxes (as on stamps, sugar, and tea) were not large but the principle was simple: Americans insisted their own legislatures could impose taxes but not Parliament, because Americans were not represented there. "No taxation without representation!" and "Don't tread on me" became common phrases in America by the American people, but the British refused over and over again to accept it. London sent in troops when Boston protested vehemently, and Americans organized shadow governments in every colony.

The Americans were adopting a new political philosophy, called republicanism, which stressed civic virtue, fear of corruption, and disdain for aristocracy (there were no aristocrats in America apart from occasional British visitors). Republicanism alerted Americans to their constitutional rights as Englishmen – one right was that the people, through their elected officials, set the taxes and upheld law. Constitutionally, to Americans their "elected officials" were not represented in the British Parliament, it meant having their own colonial legislatures. The British replied haughtily toward this desire from the Americans, going so far as to suggest America was "virtually represented" by the British Parliament in some way or form.

Boston Tea Party

For a more detailed treatment, see Boston Tea Party.

The British Parliaments idea of representation in America fueled their desire to increase taxes on the Americans. The tax on stamps in 1765 incited near rebellion, as the 13 separate colonies began meeting together and sharing their grievances. The stamp tax was repealed but others followed, especially the tax on tea. In response, Americans boycotted tea and merchants refused to order it, except in Boston. There, a well-organized group of patriots dumped the tea in the harbor, historically known as the Boston Tea Party. These events infuriated London, so they sent troops to North America and stripped Massachusetts of its self government and suspended the historic rights the colonists were so proud of.

Thirteen Colonies

For a more detailed treatment, see Thirteen Colonies.
Pop1750.jpg

The thirteen original colonies began organizing shadow governments, called "Committees of Correspondence," which prepared the Americans for the day "patriots" (or "Whigs," as they called themselves) could assume all functions of local government. That day came when the British sent troops from Boston to seize gunpowder in attempt to dismantle a potential revolt, and the American patriots gathered there to defend their liberty. These patriots were known as the American "Minute men," a well trained militia, and had planned for this day at Lexington and Concord. When the militia clashed with the elite British troops they soundly defeated them, prompting an historic backlash from Britain. The American Revolution had begun.

The thirteen colonies, organized as the "First Continental Congress," became a national government as the shadow governments in each colony took control and ousted all royal officials. Congress set up a Continental Army and gave command to an American hero and Virginia's leader, George Washington. George Washington took charge in Boston, and he forced the British to leave in the spring of 1776. All 13 colonies were at this point in control of the American Patriots, and they listened as Tom Paine explained Common Sense principles, proudly boasting of America's strength and its power as a new nation. America, in its own right as an individual nation no longer needed nor wanted a foreign King. Congress called on the colonies to become States and to write new State constitutions. On July 4, 1776, Congress unanimously declared the independence of a new nation, the United States of America.

France in the American Revolutionary War

King George III could not abide the insolent Americans and he sent his small army and large navy to America in attempt to reconquer his lost colonies. They were able to recapture New York City, but the King's failure to spread elsewhere greatly outweighed this small victory. The powerful Royal navy gave the British command of the seas and the ability to land troops anywhere and capture any specific place, but the shortage of British soldiers, and the very long 3000 mile supply line, meant that the British could only hold a few points at any one time. Hiring German soldiers (Hessians) was necessary, but they were not enough, for the Patriots always had more available soldiers. The British expectations that Loyalist would rise up and overthrow the Patriots was a chimera; the Loyalists did provide some help to British invasion forces, but were never strong enough to operate on their own or control any territory.

France, humiliated by Britain in the 1760s, was stronger in the late 1770's than it was a decade earlier and wanted revenge against the British for their past woes. Thus, the French secretly armed and financed the Americans. Lafayette, a French general in the American Revolutionary War, served in the Continental Army under George Washington. He convinced France to send their first naval and land forces to the Americas and participated in defending Richmond, Virginia from Benedict Arnold and in the battle of Yorktown, Virginia; Lafayette contributed in no slight degree toward the grand result.

In 1777, the British sent a large army to invade New York and cut off the revolutionary states of New England. The plan was a disaster as the American militia captured the entire British invasion force at Saratoga. Encouraged by diplomat Benjamin Franklin, the French recognized the United States as an independent nation, signed a treaty of alliance, and entered the war against Britain. Later, the treaty extended to Spain and the Netherlands as allies to America; Britain's diplomacy was disjointed that it had no allies at all, and was militarily matched or surpassed by America and its new allies. The British invasion of the South in 1780-81 was designed to bring out Loyalist support, but it failed and the second major British army was captured at the Battle of Yorktown. The British Parliament revolted at their reckless king and his incompetent government and sued for peace, which was achieved on terms favorable to the U.S. in 1783. About 20% of the Loyalists moved to Canada, but many stayed in America, and the new peaceful nation resumed its rapid growth.

New Nation

Albert Bierstadt, Looking Down Yosemite-Valley, 1865.

In 1783, when the Treaty of Paris concluded the war of independence, the American population totalled some three million citizens and slaves living on about one million square miles of land. Tens of thousands of Native Americans also lived in the Northwest Territory and the Southwest.

The Thirteen original states are Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts (including maine), New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Virginia. In 1790, an agreement between supporters of Jefferson and those of Alexander Hamilton resulted in the creation of the District of Columbia from part of Maryland; it has served as the national capital since 1800. The remainder of the 1783 territory was eventually organized as the states of Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama.

Westward Expansion

Territorial acquisitions such as the Thirteen Colonies, the Louisiana Purchase, and British and Spanish Cession.

In 1803, French first consul Napoleon Bonaparte took advantage of a lull in his war with Great Britain to sell the Louisiana Territory to the United States, more than doubling the nation's land area. This territory would later be organized as the states of Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana proper. President Jefferson commissioned Lewis and Clark to explore the new territory from 1802 to 1804.

The U.S. seized, then purchased Florida from Spain in 1819. Texas joined the United States in 1845 after winning its revolution against Mexico.

Map Leading Group by County, 2000.

After victory the Mexican American War of 1846-48, the U.S. purchased via the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo territory that became the states of California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. In 1846 the U.S. and Britain agreed that the 49th Parallel (degree of latitude) would serve as the boundary between the U. S. and British Columbia (now part of Canada). The American portion became the states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

Civil War

For a more detailed treatment, see American Civil War.
An issue that had been left unresolved at the Constitutional Convention was slavery. The South's largely agricultural economy depended on slave labor to work its cotton plantations. The North was more heavily industrialized, and slavery was outlawed in northern states. After a series of failed compromises, the South broke away to form the Confederate States of America, following the election of President Abraham Lincoln of the new Republican Party in the election of 1860. Four long years of war ended in the spring of 1865 with the surrenders of Confederate generals Robert E. Lee at Appomattox, Virginia and Joseph E. Johnston at Durham, North Carolina.

America Acquires an Empire

In 1867, the U.S. purchased Alaska from Russia. It became a state in 1959.

Hawaii became an independent republic in 1894 and voluntarily joined the U.S. in 1898, becoming a state in 1960.

As a result of the Spanish-American War, the United States took control of the Philippines and annexed Puerto Rico and Guam. The Philippines became independent in 1946, after the U.S. reconquered the islands from Japan in World War II. Puerto Rico has occasionally held referendum that ratified its continuing unique "Commonwealth" status as part of the United States. The residents of Puerto Rico are U.S. citizens. Guam continues as a U.S. owned territory with full citizenship for its inhabitants. The people of Puerto Rico and Guam have a vote in presidential primaries and a voice, but not a vote, in Congress.

The Constitution and Politics in the United States

The drafting committee presenting the Declaration of Independence to the Continental Congress, painted by John Trumbull 1817–1819.

Between 1776 and 1788, the United States was governed according to the Articles of Confederation. The Founding Fathers formally established the current structure of the United States by ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1788. Since 1789, that constitution has been the basic governing document. America's Founding Fathers understood that a democracy is always in flux and given to “mob rule,”[6] while a republic is fixed and stable, resting on “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” Because of the uncertainty of democracy, Benjamin Rush — a signer of the Declaration of Independence — wrote: “A simple democracy is one of the greatest of evils.”[7]

Sovereignty in America comes from the citizenry, and the basic political values are called "republicanism," (not to be confused with the Republican Party,) especially the commitment to civic virtue and civic duty, and opposition to corruption and aristocracy. Popular political parties emerged in the United States in the 1790s; currently the two major political parties are the Democratic Party, and the Republican Party. Minor parties are of little importance overall but can be useful in pushing certain topics to the public eye.

The Role of Religion in Government

For a more detailed treatment, see Religion and U.S. Government.

Government

For a more detailed treatment, see United States Federal Government.

The White House, the official home and workplace of the President of the United States of America.

Executive Branch

  • Chief of state: The President of the United States is both the chief of state and head of government
  • Head of government: President of the United States; Vice President of the United States
  • Cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president with Senate approval
  • Elections: The president and vice president serve four-year terms (eligible for a second term)

Legislative Branch

The United States legislative branch of government is a bicameral Congress, which consists of the Senate (100 seats, 2 members are elected from each state by popular vote to serve six-year terms; one-third are elected every two years) and the House of Representatives (435 seats; members are directly elected by popular vote to serve two-year terms).

Judicial Branch

For a more detailed treatment, see Supreme Court of the United States.

The United States Supreme Court consists of nine justices, nominated by the president and confirmed with the advice and consent of the Senate. The judicial branch also includes the United States Circuit Courts of Appeal, and the United States District Courts. Article III, Section 1, of the U.S. Constitution provides that judges serve "during good Behavior," i.e., until they resign, die, or are impeached. The Supreme Court's decision in Marbury v. Madison established judicial review, whereby the federal courts have the power to declare federal and state laws and actions of the executive branch of the federal or a state government unconstitutional.

Economy

The US has the largest and most technologically powerful economy in the world, with a per capita GDP of $47,400. In this market-oriented economy, private individuals and business firms make most of the decisions, and the federal and state governments buy needed goods and services predominantly in the private marketplace. US business firms enjoy greater flexibility than their counterparts in Europe and Japan in decisions to expand capital plant, to lay off surplus workers, and to develop new products. At the same time, they face higher barriers to enter their rivals' home markets than foreign firms face entering US markets. US firms are at or near the forefront in technological advances, especially in computers and in medical, aerospace, and military equipment; their advantage has narrowed since the end of World War II.

The onrush of technology largely explains the gradual development of a "two-tier labor market" in which those at the bottom lack the education and the professional/technical skills of those at the top and, more and more, fail to get comparable pay raises, health insurance coverage, and other benefits. Unfortunately, China remains both the banker and salesman to the United State's role as buyer, and debtor. This will not end well for the United States, Republican president or not. Since 1975, practically all the gains in household income have gone to the top 20% of households. The war in March-April 2003 between a US-led coalition and Iraq, and the subsequent occupation of Iraq, required major shifts in national resources to the military. Soaring oil prices between 2005 and the first half of 2008 threatened inflation and unemployment, as higher gasoline prices ate into consumers' budgets. Imported oil accounts for about 60% of US consumption. Long-term problems include inadequate investment in economic infrastructure, rapidly rising medical and pension costs of an aging population, sizable trade deficits and budget deficits, and stagnation of family income in the lower economic groups.

"American Progress," painting by John Gast, 1872.

The merchandise trade deficit reached a record $840 billion in 2008 before shrinking to $506 billion in 2009, and ramping back up to $630 billion in 2010. The global economic downturn, the sub-prime mortgage crisis, investment bank failures, falling home prices, and tight credit pushed the United States into a recession by mid-2008. GDP contracted until the third quarter of 2009, making this the deepest and longest downturn since the Great Depression. To help stabilize financial markets, the US Congress established a $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) in October 2008. The government used some of these funds to purchase equity in US banks and other industrial corporations, much of which had been returned to the government by early 2011.

In January 2009 the US Congress passed and President Barack Obama signed a bill providing an additional $787 billion fiscal stimulus to be used over 10 years - two-thirds on additional spending and one-third on tax cuts - to create jobs and to help the economy recover. Approximately two-thirds of these funds were injected into the economy by the end of 2010. In March 2010, President Obama signed a health insurance reform bill into law that will extend coverage to an additional 32 million American citizens by 2016, through private health insurance for the general population and Medicaid for the impoverished. In July 2010, the president signed the DODD-FRANK Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, a bill designed to promote financial stability by protecting consumers from financial abuses, ending taxpayer bailouts of financial firms, dealing with troubled banks that are "too big to fail," and improving accountability and transparency in the financial system - in particular, by requiring certain financial derivatives to be traded in markets that are subject to government regulation and oversight.

In November 2010, in an attempt to keep interest rates from rising and snuffing out the nascent recovery, the US Federal Reserve Bank (The Fed) announced that it would purchase $600 billion worth of US Government bonds by June 2011.

The United States is the leading industrial power in the world, highly diversified and technologically advanced; petroleum, steel, motor vehicles, aerospace, telecommunications, chemicals, electronics, food processing, consumer goods, lumber, mining. [8]

Flag Description

For a more detailed treatment, see Flag of the United States of America.

Thirteen equal horizontal stripes of red (top and bottom) alternating with white; there is a blue rectangle in the upper hoist-side corner bearing 50 small, white, five-pointed stars arranged in nine offset horizontal rows of six stars (top and bottom) alternating with rows of five stars; the 50 stars represent the 50 states, the 13 stripes represent the 13 original colonies; known as Old Glory; the design and colors have been the basis for a number of other flags, including Chile, Liberia, Malaysia, and Puerto Rico.

References

  1. (conventional short form: United States; abbreviation: US or USA; sometimes also referred to as the States or simply as America)
  2. IN CONGRESS, JULY 4, 1776. The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, ushistory.org, (Accessed August 2010).
  3. CIA - The World Factbook.
  4. Illegal immigrants in the US: How many are there?
  5. CIA World Factbook, North America :: United States, Updated on February 23, 2011, (Accessed on February 23, 2011).
  6. Michelle Malkin. The coming G20 riots & the spread of mob rule, Michelle Malkin, March 27, 2009.
  7. AWR Hawkins. America: A Republic, Not a Democracy, Pajamas Media, September 03, 2009.
  8. CIA - The world Factbook

See also

The Migration of the Negro by Jacob Lawrence, 1940-1941.

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