The History of the United States

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The History of the United States

The United States of America has been an independent state for nearly 250 years now. In its relatively short existence, the U.S. has developed as one of the most influential nations in the world, from our system of government and military, down to our sports leagues and pop culture. Even much of our food brands have been adopted in other countries. In many ways, America has become the center of the world. 

But how did all of these things come to fruition so quickly? The U.S.’ rapid succession is marked by an unrelenting desire by Americans to expand and grow. The moment the first people landed in the Americas, a dream was formed; to create a new and improved state that gave freedom to its citizens. 

In a time when monarchies were the main system of government, many people felt shackled by the laws of their state, especially in Great Britain. Religious groups like Catholics and certain kinds of Protestants were being oppressed heavily in European nations like Britain. Many British citizens were also limited in economic opportunities. 

The chance for a new life emerged in 1607, when a joint venture company called The Virginia Company began sponsoring citizens to live in England’s first American settlement, Jamestown. 

From the moment that Columbus landed in the Caribbean and reported back his experience with the lands, Native Americans, and outlandish creatures that he saw, interest in what lay across the Atlantic continued to grow. The purpose of The Virginia Company was to set up a permanent colony in the Americas that would eventually become profitable. Little did they know that they were about to birth one of the most prominent and powerful nations in world history. 

American Colonies

Twenty years before, a group of English settlers attempted to build the nation’s first colony in the New World, called Roanoke. However, they disappeared and were never heard from again. 

Some of the first colonists came to North America to escape religious persecution. Some of the most well-known of these are the pilgrims, who established a settlement at Plymouth. Others came for economic prosperity in the form of gold. And still others came to America to establish themselves as accomplished explorers. Whatever their reasoning was, English colonists were traveling to America in search of a better life. 

Thirteen English colonies were built during the 17th and early 18th centuries on what is now considered the East Coast of the United States. They started out in groups of hundreds and eventually had grown to about 2.5 million, and they spanned from New England, through Maryland, and down to Georgia. British settlements had spread way across the entire Appalachian Mountains by the time of the American Revolution. They faced some early struggles, mainly due to disease and lack of food, but quickly began to multiply in number. 

The large plots of land available encouraged colonists to build large families. Bachelors and unmarried women wouldn’t be able to live comfortably alone, so most people married early. Even widows and widowers remarried as fast as possible because they needed partners to help maintain their homes. Due to this trend, families often had ten or more children. 

The colonists’ population increased significantly as more people from Britain immigrated to the Americas and from other nations in Europe. Many people in Europe saw the Americas as a land of promise and opportunity. The governments of many European nations were actually encouraging their citizens to emigrate, sometimes even offering incentives to do so. 

For governments, the Americas were also a land of promise. There was considerable money and power to be gained from expansion. Moreover, a race was developing between the European nations to see who could dominate the Americas first. Among the top competitors were Spain, France, and Great Britain. Whoever could seize as much land as possible could potentially become the strongest nation in the world. 

The race had become so hectic that nations were even sending people to the Americas against their will; convicted criminals, political prisoners, enslaved Africans, and more. The population in the Americas was growing exponentially because of this push. 

The Declaration of Independence

Eventually, the relationship between the English settlers and mother Britain would start to sour. The two parties were frequently getting into disputes over taxation and the overall treatment of colonists. The colonists were aggravated that they had no representation in the British government. 

In April of 1775, this tension would become too much to handle, as the first shots of the Revolutionary War were fired at Lexington and Concord, near Boston. After a verbal altercation, several British redcoats were killed by colonists, sparking an all-out war between the colonists and Great Britain. Thus, the Declaration was born. 

In June of 1776, a full year after the start of the Revolution, Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of The Declaration of Independence, along with a few other founding fathers. He borrowed ideas from old documents like the Virginia Declaration of Rights and implemented certain values of the Enlightenment era. Jefferson says he wanted the words to reflect the “expression of the American mind.” 

The next month, Congress voted to ratify the document and declare independence from Britain. Though King George III of Britain scoffed at the idea of independence, the document served as a motivator for the American people for the duration of the war. It offered hope for a new future. 

Many precious lives were lost during the Revolution. If you’re looking for a way to remember and honor our heroic forefathers, consider checking out Printed Kicks’ online store. We offer several different clothing pieces and accessories that pay homage to the Revolutionary War. 

U.S. Constitution

Following the colonists’ victory over Great Britain, the United States were formed. At last, the settlers had achieved complete freedom from England. However, they now had a slew of new issues to deal with; how were they going to run their government? 

Here comes the Constitution! After a few years of struggling to balance the power between the federal government and state governments, it became apparent that a new system would be required. 

In May of 1787, representatives from each state came together at a convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to discuss a new system. After four months of delegation, the Constitution was created, a four-page outline detailing exactly how the federal government can interact with the states and its people. It created the three branches of government: Executive, Legislative (Congress), and Judicial (the Supreme Court).

The Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution, was added months later. The document guarantees specific human rights for individuals and lists certain prohibitions of the government. Today, there are 27 Constitutional amendments in total. 

The First President

After several years in America without any designated political leaders, the country held its first election for the President of the United States. George Washington, the commander of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, was unanimously elected by all 69 presidential electors who cast a vote. 

John Adams of Massachusetts was elected as vice president. He received 34 votes. The electors represented 10 of the 11 states that had ratified the U.S. Constitution. They were selected four weeks before the election by popular vote, legislative appointment, or a combination of both.

It surprised nobody that Washington won so emphatically. He established himself as a hero during the Revolution, leading a ragtag band of militiamen to victory over one of the world’s strongest militaries. Washington was in command when the British surrendered at Yorktown in 1781. 

Washington rejected with abhorrence a suggestion by one of his officers that he use his preeminence to assume a military dictatorship. He would not subvert the very principles for which so many Americans had fought and died, he replied, and soon after, he surrendered his military commission to the Continental Congress and retired to his Mount Vernon estate in Virginia. And for an interesting fun fact, did you know that New York City was the capital of the newly formed United States at this point?

Louisiana Purchase

The Louisiana Purchase of 1803 was one of the most impactful moments in American history. This acquisition would change the landscape of America forever, bringing in about 828,000 square miles of territory from France. This purchase nearly doubled the size of the U.S in the 19th century.

It is believed that France offered the U.S. the area to buy because of the turmoil they were in at the time; economic hardships, a failure to put down a slave revolution in Haiti, and a potential war with Britain all contributed to the offer. 

The U.S. paid $11,250,000 for the territory and paid off claims of American citizens toward France for a total of $3,750,000. The treaty was signed in May of that year. 

That wouldn't be the last large piece of land that the United States acquired in order to become the great nation today that spans from sea to shining sea. In later years, California, Texas, and many other territories would be acquired.

Conclusion

It has taken quite a lot of effort for America to become what it is today—and we haven't even considered the Civil War, World War I, or World War II, among the many other events that have shaped our country. And there are the conflicts that we hear about less often in history class, like the Spanish-American War, the War of 1812, and the Korean War. Countless lives were lost, and immense sacrifices were taken by our forefathers to lay down a foundation for the future. 

We've faced struggles beyond explicit war, too—just think of the Great Depression, the Cold War, and even now, the current coronavirus pandemic. But through it all, America has remained strong, beautiful, and free. 

We've had 46 presidents, from Roosevelt to Reagan, and many more brave people who have served our nation without fortune or fame. From time to time, it is important to remember these brave ancestors and what they’ve done for us as a nation. Without them, who knows if the U.S. would even exist today? We are forever indebted to them.  

For all your American clothing needs, visit Printed Kicks! We’re an all-American brand that offers a plethora of apparel and accessories related to the culture and history of our country. From t-shirts to hoodies to tumblers and mugs, we’ve got you covered! 

 

Sources

George Washington unanimously elected first U.S. president | History 

US History and Historical Documents | usa.gov 

The Declaration of Independence: How Did it Happen? | archives.gov 

The American Colonies | Britannica


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