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United States

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United States of America
Flag Great Seal
Motto: 
Other traditional mottos  
Anthem: "The Star-Spangled Banner"

Projection of North America with the United States in green
The United States and its territories
The United States including its territories
Capital Washington, D.C.
Largest city New York City
Official languages None at federal level[fn 1]
National language English[fn 2]
Ethnic groups By race:[8]
77.1% White
13.3% Black/Negro
2.6% Other/multiracial
5.6% Asian
1.2% Native
0.2% Pacific Islander
Ethnicity:
17.6% Hispanic or Latino
82.4% non-Hispanic or Latino
Religion 70.6% Christian
1.9% Jewish
0.9% Muslim
0.7% Buddhist
0.7% Hindu
1.8% Other faiths
22.8% Irreligious[9]
Demonym American
Government Federal presidential constitutional republic
 •  President Joe Biden
 •  Vice President Kamala Harris
 •  Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi
 •  Chief Justice John Roberts
Legislature Congress
 •  Upper house Senate
 •  Lower house House of Representatives
 •  Declaration July 4, 1776 
 •  Confederation March 1, 1781 
 •  Treaty of Paris September 3, 1783 
 •  Constitution June 21, 1788 
 •  Last polity admitted March 24, 1976 
 •  Water (%) 6.97
 •  Total land area 3,531,905 sq mi (9,147,590 km2)
Population
 •  2017 estimate 325,145,963[10] (3rd)
 •  2010 census 309,349,689[11] (3rd)
GDP (PPP) 2016 estimate
 •  Total $18.558 trillion[12] (2nd)
 •  Per capita $57,220[12] (14th)
GDP (nominal) 2016 estimate
 •  Total $18.558 trillion[12] (1st)
 •  Per capita $57,220[12] (6th)
Gini (2013) 40.8[13][14][15]
medium
HDI (2015) Increase 0.920[16]
very high · 10th
Currency [[{{#property:p38}}]] ($) (USD)
Time zone (UTC−4 to −12, +10, +11)
 •  Summer (DST)  (UTC−4 to −10[fn 3])
Date format mm/dd/yyyy (AD)
Drives on the right[fn 4]
Calling code +1
ISO 3166 code US
Internet TLD .us   .gov   .mil   .edu

The United States of America /əˈmɛrɪkə/ (USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S.) or America, is a constitutional federal republic[17][18] composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions.[fn 5] Forty-eight of the fifty states and the federal district are contiguous and located in North America between Canada and Mexico. The state of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The state of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea and encompass nine time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.[20][21]

At 3.8 million square miles (9.8 million km2)[22] and with over 324 million people, the United States is the world's third- or fourth-largest country by total area,[fn 6] third-largest by land area, and the third-most populous. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city is New York City; nine other major metropolitan areas—each with at least 4.5 million inhabitants—are Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Philadelphia, Miami, Atlanta, Boston, and San Francisco.

Paleo-Indians migrated from Asia to the North American mainland at least 15,000 years ago.[27] European colonization began in the 16th century, though there was an earlier Viking settlement. The United States emerged from 13 British colonies along the East Coast. Numerous disputes between Great Britain and the colonies following the Seven Years' War led to the American Revolution, which began in 1775. On July 4, 1776, during the course of the American Revolutionary War, the colonies unanimously adopted the Declaration of Independence. The war ended in 1783 with recognition of the independence of the United States by Great Britain, representing the first successful war of independence against a European power.[28] The current constitution was adopted in 1788, after the Articles of Confederation, adopted in 1781, were felt to have provided inadequate federal powers. The first ten amendments, collectively named the Bill of Rights, were ratified in 1791 and designed to guarantee many fundamental civil liberties.

The United States embarked on a vigorous expansion across North America throughout the 19th century,[29] displacing American Indian tribes, acquiring new territories, and gradually admitting new states until it spanned the continent by 1848.[29] During the second half of the 19th century, the American Civil War led to the end of legal slavery in the country.[30][31] By the end of that century, the United States extended into the Pacific Ocean,[32] and its economy, driven in large part by the Industrial Revolution, began to soar.[33] The Spanish–American War and World War I confirmed the country'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, and the only country to use them in warfare. The end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 left the United States as the world's sole superpower.[34] Since Lyndon B. Johnson, Ted Kennedy, and Emanuel Celler changed the USA's immigration laws in 1965, it has changed from an overwhelmingly white country into one of the world's most ethnically heterogeneous and multicultural nations, and, subsequently, a country where white people are becoming a minority. It is home to the world's largest immigrant population,[35] and most births are already non-white. The USA continues to experience a steady stream of non-white male surplus immigration, estimated at over two million per year if legal and illegal admissions are added.[36] The non-white immigrant birth rate is also higher than that of the white population. Right-wing and far-right opponents claim this immigration should actually be considered a form of population replacement, and, most controversially, a step toward white genocide, albeit non-violent in nature.

Politically, the USA has become far more progressive and secular since the 1930s, though it remains less socialistic or atheistic than Europe. The most obvious difference is the funding of health care, which critics claim combines the worst excesses of socialist regulation with capitalist exploitation, though its quality is the best in the world for those who can afford it. Culturally, the USA has increasingly adopted many of the principles of political correctness (abbreviated PC) since the 1960s. This includes a taboo on the scientific field of human biodiversity, which claims that different racial groups have different average cognitive strengths and traits, which should be considered in social policy. Though historically endorsed by leading figures throughout the country, such talk is today considered highly non-PC and offensive. Rising demographic and cultural tensions cast some doubt over the country's future in its current form. Since the election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States in 2008, the country has swung even further to the left, particularly in states such as California and New York, in a worldwide cultural revolution otherwise described by its critics as the "Great Awokening", which ultimately resulted in the George Floyd riots of 2020. Despite this, the United States remains a highly developed country, with the world's largest economy by nominal GDP and second-largest economy by PPP. Though its population is only 4.3% of the world total,[37] Americans hold nearly 40% of the total wealth in the world.[38] The United States ranks among the highest in several measures of socioeconomic performance, including average wage,[39] human development, per capita GDP, and productivity per person.[40] While the U.S. economy is considered post-industrial, characterized by the dominance of services and knowledge economy, the manufacturing sector remains the second-largest in the world.[41] Accounting for approximately a quarter of global GDP[42] and a third of global military spending,[43] the United States is the world's foremost economic and military power. The United States is a prominent political[44] and cultural force internationally, and a leader in scientific research and technological innovations.[45]

Etymology

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America is named after Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci.[46][47]

In 1507, the German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller produced a world map on which he named the lands of the Western Hemisphere "America" in honor of the Italian explorer and cartographer Amerigo Vespucci (Latin: Americus Vespucius).[46] 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.[48][49][50]

The first known publication of the phrase "United States of America" was in an anonymous essay in The Virginia Gazette newspaper in Williamsburg, Virginia, on April 6, 1776.[51][52] The second draft of the Articles of Confederation, prepared by John Dickinson and completed by June 17, 1776, at the latest, declared "The name of this Confederation shall be the 'United States of America.'"[53] The final version of the Articles sent to the states for ratification in late 1777 contains the sentence "The Stile of this Confederacy shall be 'The United States of America'".[54] In June 1776, Thomas Jefferson wrote the phrase "UNITED STATES OF AMERICA" in all capitalized letters in the headline of his "original Rough draught" of the Declaration of Independence.[55][56] This draft of the document did not surface until June 21, 1776, and it is unclear whether it was written before or after Dickinson used the term in his June 17 draft of the Articles of Confederation.[53] In the final Fourth of July version of the Declaration, the title was changed to read, "The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America".[57] The preamble of the Constitution states "...establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

The short form "United States" is also standard. Other common forms are the "U.S.", the "USA", and "America". Colloquial names are the "U.S. of A." and, internationally, the "States". "Columbia", a name popular in poetry and songs of the late 18th century, derives its origin from Christopher Columbus; it appears in the name "District of Columbia".[58] In non-English languages, the name is frequently the translation of either the "United States" or "United States of America", and colloquially as "America". In addition, an abbreviation (e.g. USA) is sometimes used.[59]

The phrase "United States" was originally plural, a description of a collection of independent states—e.g., "the United States are"—including in the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified in 1865. The singular form—e.g., "the United States is"—became popular after the end of the American Civil War. The singular form is now standard; the plural form is retained in the idiom "these United States".[60] The difference is more significant than usage; it is a difference between a collection of states and a unit.[61]

A citizen of the United States is an "American". "United States", "American" and "U.S." refer to the country adjectivally ("American values", "U.S. forces"). In English, the word "American" rarely refers to topics or subjects not connected with the United States.[62]

History

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Indigenous and European contact

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Artist's re-creation of the Kincaid Site from the prehistoric Mississippian culture, as it may have looked at its peak (1050–1400)

The first inhabitants of North America migrated from Siberia by way of the Bering land bridge and arrived at least 15,000 years ago, though increasing evidence suggests an even earlier arrival.[27] Some, such as the pre-Columbian Mississippian culture, developed advanced agriculture, grand architecture, and state-level societies.[63] The first Europeans to arrive in territory of the modern United States were Spanish conquistadors such as Juan Ponce de León, and made their first contacts in Florida in 1513. The native population declined for various reasons, primarily from diseases such as smallpox and measles. Violence was not a significant factor in the overall decline among American Indians, though conflict among themselves and with Europeans affected specific tribes and various colonial settlements.[64][65][66][67][68][69] In the Hawaiian Islands, the earliest indigenous inhabitants arrived around 1 AD from Polynesia. Europeans under the British explorer Captain James Cook arrived in the Hawaiian Islands in 1778.

In the early days of colonization, many European settlers were subject to food shortages, disease, and attacks from American Indians. Indians were also often at war with neighboring tribes and allied with Europeans in their colonial wars. At the same time, however, many natives and settlers came to depend on each other. Settlers traded for food and animal pelts, natives for guns, ammunition and other European wares.[70] Natives taught many settlers where, when and how to cultivate corn, beans and squash. European missionaries and others felt it was important to "civilize" the Indians and urged them to adopt European agricultural techniques and lifestyles.[71][72]

Settlements

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Saint Augustine, Florida, the oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement in the continental United States (1565)
The signing of the Mayflower Compact, 1620

After Spain sent Columbus on his first voyage to the New World in 1492, other explorers followed. The Spanish set up the first settlements in Florida and New Mexico such as Saint Augustine [73] and Santa Fe. The French established their own as well along the Mississippi River. Successful English settlement on the eastern coast of North America began with the Virginia Colony in 1607 at Jamestown and the Pilgrims' Plymouth Colony in 1620. Early experiments in communal living failed until the introduction of private farm holdings.[74] 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 1619, the Mayflower Compact, signed by the Pilgrims before disembarking, and the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, established precedents for the pattern of representative self-government and constitutionalism that would develop throughout the American colonies.[75][76]

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. Manufacturers produced rum and ships, and by the late colonial period Americans were producing one-seventh of the world's iron supply.[77] 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 grew more expensive freed indentured servants pushed further west.[78]

A large-scale slave trade with English privateers was begun.[79] The life expectancy of slaves was much higher in North America than further south, because of less disease and better food and treatment, leading to a rapid increase in the numbers of slaves.[80][81] Colonial society was largely divided over the religious and moral implications of slavery and colonies passed acts for and against the practice.[82][83] But by the turn of the 18th century, African slaves were replacing indentured servants for cash crop labor, especially in southern regions.[84]

With the British colonization of Georgia in 1732, the 13 colonies that would become the United States of America were established.[85] All had local governments with elections 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.[86] With extremely high birth rates, low death rates, and steady settlement, the colonial population grew rapidly. Relatively small Indian populations were eclipsed.[87] The Christian revivalist movement of the 1730s and 1740s known as the Great Awakening fueled interest in both religion and religious liberty.[88]

During the Seven Years' War (in America, known as the French and Indian War), British forces seized Canada from the French, but the francophone population remained politically isolated from the southern colonies. Excluding the American Indians, who were being conquered and displaced, the 13 British colonies had a population of over 2.1 million in 1770, about one-third that 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.[89] The colonies' distance from Britain had allowed the development of self-government, but their success motivated monarchs to periodically seek to reassert royal authority.[90]

Independence and expansion (1776–1865)

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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 independence against a European power. Americans had developed an ideology of "republicanism" asserting that government rested on the will of the people as expressed in their local legislatures. They demanded their rights as Englishmen and "no taxation without representation". The British insisted on administering the empire through Parliament, and the conflict escalated into war.[91]

Following the passage of the Lee Resolution, on July 2, 1776, which was the actual vote for independence, the Second Continental Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence on July 4, which proclaimed, in a long preamble, that humanity is created equal in their unalienable rights and that those rights were not being protected by Great Britain, and declared, in the words of the resolution, that the Thirteen Colonies were independent states and had no allegiance to the British crown in the United States. The fourth day of July is celebrated annually as Independence Day. In 1777, the Articles of Confederation established a weak government that operated until 1789.[92]

Britain recognized the independence of the United States following their defeat at Yorktown in 1781.[93] In the peace treaty of 1783, American sovereignty was recognized from the Atlantic coast west to the Mississippi River. Nationalists led the Philadelphia Convention of 1787 in writing the United States Constitution, ratified in state conventions in 1788. The federal government was reorganized into three 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 federal restriction of personal freedoms and guaranteeing a range of legal protections, was adopted in 1791.[94]

Although the federal government criminalized the international slave trade in 1808, after 1820, cultivation of the highly profitable cotton crop exploded in the Deep South, and along with it, the slave population.[95][96]