The Creation Of The USA

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The Creation Of The USA

The continent that was named after a Florentine merchant, Amerigo Vespucci, was first colonized by people who crossed the Bering Sea from Asia via a land bridge about 25 000 years ago. They were the ancestors of the 'Indians' of South and North America and of the Inuit (Eskimos).

Amerigo Vespucci
The Creation Of The USA

North America was sighted and briefly settled by Norsemen in the 10th and 11th centuries, Christopher Columbus never saw the northern mainland, but John Cabot did in 1497. Thereafter, it became host to a multiplicity of peoples.

In 1565, the Spanish founded St. Augustine in Florida, the first stable European settlement in North America; a century later, the French began exploring the lower Mississippi valley, naming the entire area LOUISIANA after King Louis XIV. But it was the British, the Dutch and, later, the Germans who were the most enthusiastic colonizers of the North American territories, Some fled poverty or religious persecution, others came in search of fortune or adventure. JAMESTOWN, the first permanent British colony, was founded in VIRGINIA in 1607, and 13 years later the Mayflower landed the Pilgrim Fathers at PLYMOUTH in MASSACHUSETTS. With them they brought the Puritan work ethic that still underlies American industriousness and ambition today. The southern colonies were found to be ideal for growing cotton, tobacco and other warm climate crops, and from 1619 African slaves were brought in increasing numbers to work on the plantations, founding today's population of black Americans.

The colonists' steady determination to control their own destiny led, in 1773, to the celebrated BOSTON Tea Party, in which a band of patriots, dressed as Red Indians, threw 342 chests of the British East India Company's tea into Boston harbor - a double protest against attempted British monopolies and British taxation. This act was one of the opening moves of the War of Independence which played out on a larger scale what the Tea Party had implied: the former colonists were now and forever On July 4, 1776, the 13 American colonies, through the Declaration of Independence, pronounced themselves to be the United States of America. After a long and hard-fought conflict, the infant republic drove the British into capitulation at YORKTOWN in 1781.

The 1781 Articles of Confederation, which bound the 13 states to one another, provided the steppingstone for the 1787 Constitution and, in 1 791, for the first ten amendments to it, known as the Bill of Rights. The Constitution established the federal republic with a system of checks and balances so that no arm of government could hold sway over the others, and divided power between three branches of authority: the executive (the government), the legislature (the law makers), and the judiciary (the courts). In 1789 George Washington became the first Chief Executive, or President.

With further amendments from time to time, the Constitution has proved remarkably far-sighted and durable. Elected every fourth year, the American President is undoubtedly the most powerful man in the country, able to initiate and veto legislation and - perhaps more crucially - to guide the national mood. He is also commander in chief of the armed forces. His power can never be absolute, how ever, since it is restrained y the other two branches of government the legislative Congress, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives, and the judicial Supreme Court, whose nine justices are appointed for life and can overturn any executive or legislative ruling that it finds contrary to the spirit of the Constitution.

It took nearly 180 years for the original 13 states to become 50, in which time the area comprising the USA grew from 2301692 to 9372614 km2 (888685 to 3618772 sq miles). The most important steps were the purchase of the Mississippi basin from France in 1803 - the Louisiana Purchase - and the acquisition of the southwest (including California) after the Mexican War (l846-8).

Next: The Expansion Of The USA

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