History of the United States (U.S.A./USA)
Brief history of the United States summarized
A brief summary of the history of the United States (USA/USA), in a clear and structured way.
The first colonies in North America
The first Europeans to establish colonies in North America were the Spanish. In 1526 a Spaniard named Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón tried to found a colony in Carolina (he also brought the first black slaves to North America).
However, the attempt failed. Many Spaniards died of disease and the survivors left the colony. In 1565 Pedro Menéndez de Avilés founded a settlement in St. Augustine, Florida, the first permanent European settlement in what is now the United States.
The first English attempt to colonize North America was made by a man named Sir Humphrey Gilbert. In 1578, Queen Elizabeth granted him permission to establish a colony there. In 1583 Gilbert sailed with a small fleet of ships to Newfoundland. However, Gilbert soon left the company. Gilbert got lost on the journey home.
However, his half brother, Walter Raleigh, made another attempt to found a colony. In 1584 he sent two ships to explore the coast. They found what they thought was a suitable place for a colony. In January 1585 Queen Elizabeth the ‘Virgin Queen’ allowed him to name the place Virginia, in her honor.
In April 1585 an expedition led by Richard Grenville was dispatched. They arrived in July 1585. Grenville left men on Roanoke Island, then went to England to get more men and supplies. However, during his absence, the settlers ran out of supplies. In 1586 the colonists left Virginia and returned to England.
In 1587 another attempt to found a colony was made by a man named John White. He led an expedition of men, women, and children to Virginia. However, White returned to England to seek more support for the colony.
Due to a war between England and Spain, he was unable to return to Virginia until 1590. When he did, he found the colony deserted. The fate of the settlers is unknown.
Jamestown and Virginia
The first attempts to found a colony in North America were made by adventurous gentlemen. Success only came when a group of men banded together and pooled their resources to found a colony. The Virginia Company was founded in 1606. They sent two expeditions to North America. Raleigh Gilbert (son of Sir Humphrey Gilbert) directed one of them.
They landed in Maine but soon gave up. They returned to England in 1609. The second expedition founded Jamestown on May 14, 1607.
More settlers arrived in 1609. However, food shortages, disease, and conflict with the natives caused many deaths among the settlers. By 1610 the survivors were about to leave. They were only dissuaded from doing so when more ships arrived from England.
In 1611 Sir Thomas Dale became the colony’s governor. He introduced a strict discipline with a code of laws called ‘Laws, Divine, Moral and Martial’. The penalties for disobedience were severe.
In 1612 a man named John Rolfe began farming tobacco. In 1614 the first Virginian tobacco was sold in England. Tobacco exports soon became the mainstay of Virginia’s economy.
Little by little the colony expanded. In 1618 the Company offered 50 acres of land to anyone who could pay the cost of their voyage across the Atlantic. If they couldn’t pay, they could become indentured servants. When they arrived they were not free.
They had to work for the company for several years to pay the cost of their ticket. In 1619 the first slaves arrived in Virginia. Also in 1619, the first representative government in North America was created when the House of Burgesses met.
In 1624 the Virginia Company was dissolved and the Crown took over the colony. In 1660 the population of Virginia was 27,000. By 1710 it had increased to 78,000. However, in 1699, Virginia’s seat of government was moved from Jamestown to Middle Plantation (Williamsburg). Then Jamestown went into decline.
The Pilgrim Fathers and New England
Another English colony was founded in 1620. In England, the so-called separatists were highly critical of the Church of England and did not want to belong to it. They faced persecution in England, so in 1608 a group of them fled to Holland, where they were allowed to practice their religion.
However, they were dissatisfied and a London joint-stock company agreed to finance a voyage across the Atlantic. The settlers set out on a ship called the Mayflower and arrived in Plymouth in December 1620. Many of the settlers did not survive the first winter. However, a Native American taught them how to farm. Another colony was founded at Salem in 1628.
The Massachusetts Bay Company was formed in 1629. Beginning in 1630, large numbers of settlers were transported to New England and its population grew. In addition, English colonists spread along the coast of North America.
In 1634 the people of Massachusetts founded the town of Wethersfield in Connecticut. In 1636 a group of people left the Massachusetts Bay Colony and settled in Rhode Island. The first settlement was in Providence.
Meanwhile, a fishing settlement was founded in New Hampshire in 1623. In 1629 the area between the Merrimack River and the Piscataqua River was given to a man named Mason. It was called New Hampshire. Portsmouth, New Hampshire was founded in 1630. Officially, New Hampshire was part of Massachusetts until 1679.
Unlike the southern states, which were overwhelmingly agricultural, New England developed a partially mercantile economy. Fishing was an important industry. Exports of wood and barrels were also important. There was also a shipbuilding industry in New England.
The Europeans introduced many diseases to which the natives had little or no resistance. As a result, many natives died and their numbers drastically decreased. As the British colonies grew, they inevitably came into conflict with the natives.
The Pequot War was fought in 1637-1638 and ended in the destruction of the Pequot tribe. Another desperate fight took place in 1675-1676. The colonists’ harsh treatment of the natives led to King Philip’s War. King Philip was actually a native named Metacom and the war ended with his death.
Although great damage was done on both sides, the defeat of the natives effectively meant that the colonists now had dominion over New England.
In 1692 twenty people died as a result of the Salem Witch Trials
New York and New Jersey
In 1624 the Dutch West India Company founded a colony called New Holland. The first settlement was at Fort Orange (Albany). In 1638 the Swedes formed a colony at Fort Christina (Wilmington). The Dutch captured this colony in 1655 and made it part of New Holland.
The British captured New Netherland in 1664 and renamed it New York after the king’s brother, the Duke of York. King Carlos II granted the colony to his brother. In turn, he granted the land between the Delaware and the Hudson to two men, Lord John Berkeley (1607-1678) and Sir George Carteret (1615-1680).
Carteret came from the island of Jersey in the English Channel and named it New Jersey after his home. In 1676 the colony was divided into East and West Jersey. Carteret kept Jersey East. In 1681 his widow sold it to William Penn and 11 other Quakers. Penn hoped to turn this new colony into a haven of religious toleration for Quakers and others.
In 1682 the area now called the Delaware was ceded to William Penn. In 1704 he was allowed his own assembly. However, until the revolution, Delaware and Pennsylvania shared a governor. Meanwhile, East and West Jersey were reunited in 1702.
Maryland was founded as a haven for Catholics (although by no means all of the early settlers were Catholic, some were Protestant). A man named Cecil Calvert was granted territory north of the Potomac River.
His brother Leonard led 200 settlers to found a colony in 1634. It was named Maryland after the king’s wife, Henrietta Maria. In 1640 there were about 500 people in Maryland. It soon became another tobacco growing colony.
Caroline and Georgia
Charleston, South Carolina was founded in 1670. Carolina settlers came from Caribbean islands as well as Virginia and New England. However, beginning in the late 17th century, many African slaves were transported to work on plantations. In the early 18th century, the African slave population in North America increased rapidly.
In 1701 Carolina was divided into North Carolina and South Carolina. Georgia was founded in 1732 when George II gave it a charter. They put his name on it. The first settlement in Georgia was Savannah, founded in 1733.
The great awakening
In the mid-eighteenth century there was a great religious revival in the American colonies. (It was later given the name ‘The Great Awakening’).
The main figures in the revival were William Tennent 1673-1745, a Scottish -Presbyterian preacher, Jonathan Edwards 1703-1758. English preacher George Whitefield 1714-1770 also visited the colonies and won many converts.
Conflict with Great Britain
As the American colonies grew, tension with Great Britain was inevitable. The British considered that the colonies existed for the benefit of the mother country and this attitude was bound to cause resentment. As early as 1651 the British Parliament passed a Navigation Act.
He declared that any merchandise grown or manufactured outside of Europe must be transported to England on English ships. Other Navigation Acts followed. The Navigation Act of 1660 established that certain goods (cotton, indigo, sugar and tobacco) could only be exported from the colonies to England or to other colonies.
Acts of 1670 and 1673 followed. However, the British made little effort to enforce these laws and they were largely ignored by the colonists. (After 1763 the British tried to enforce them more rigorously, causing great resentment among the colonists.)
At the beginning of the 18th century the population of the North American colonies grew rapidly. It was probably about 300,000 at the end of the 17th century, but by 1760 it was over a million. By 1780 it had doubled. In the early 18th century the population was driven by immigrants from Northern Ireland (most of them descendants of Scottish Presbyterians).
There were also many immigrants from Scotland itself. Also in the early 18th century there were many German immigrants. Land was cheap in North America and attracted many people hoping for a better life.
The great proclamation
However, relations between the colonists and the mother country soured after 1763. The British had just finished the Seven Years’ War against France. They had won Canada, but the war was very expensive. The British were keen to avoid any war with the Native Americans, which could prove costly.
In 1763, a royal proclamation known as the Great Proclamation attempted to forbid any further westward expansion. It forbade people to settle on “any land beyond the heads or sources of any of the rivers which fall into the Atlantic Ocean from the West or Northwest.”
This proclamation was ignored by the colonists, but it also caused great resentment. The colonists objected to being told by the British government that they could not expand west.
No taxation without representation
Furthermore, in 1763 Americans paid few taxes, certainly less than the British. The British considered that the Americans should pay a greater contribution to the cost of their defense.
In 1764 the British Prime Minister, George Grenville, passed the Sugar Act (so called because it affected imports of molasses from the West Indies. Its proper name was the American Revenue Act.).
The law actually reduced customs duties on the molasses, but steps were taken to ensure that it was collected. (Smuggling was widespread.) The Sugar Act infuriated Americans and they were further alienated by the Currency Act of 1764.
The colonies were printing their own money due to a shortage of currency, but the law prohibited the issuance of paper money in the American colonies (which made trade difficult).
However, most of the offenses were caused by the Stamp Act of 1765, which imposed taxes on legal documents, newspapers, and playing cards.
It wasn’t just that Americans hated paying the tax, they felt it was a constitutional issue. They believed that since they were not represented in the British parliament, they had no right to tax them. In the immortal phrase ” There is no taxation without representation “.
The Stamp Act soon turned out to be unenforceable. Colonial assemblies denounced it, and in October 1765 several colonies sent delegates to a “Seal Acts Congress” to organize resistance. Imports of British goods were boycotted and debts to British merchants were suspended.
The rioters attacked the tax collectors and their property. Finally, in March 1766, the British were forced to repeal the Stamp Act. However, at the same time they passed the Declaratory Act, which said that Parliament was sovereign over all the American colonies. This stupid act simply annoyed the colonists.
In 1767, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Charles Townshend, imposed duties on lead, glass, paint, oil, and tea. Once again the colonists boycotted imports of British goods and once again the British government was forced to back down. In March 1770 all duties except tea were removed.
The Boston Massacre and the Tea Party
However, American public opinion was galvanized by the “Boston Massacre” of March 1770. A group of people in Boston threw stones at British soldiers. The soldiers opened fire, killing 5 people and wounding 6 of them.
Worse yet, all 6 of the 8 soldiers tried for the deaths were acquitted. Two were found guilty of manslaughter and branded on the thumbs. The fact that the British did not execute anyone for the massacre outraged American opinion.
Then, in 1773, the British East India Company shipped tea to the American colonies to sell. Three ships were sent to Boston with 298 cases of tea. However, Boston was a center of resistance to the British. On December 16, 1773, men dressed as Indians boarded the ships and threw the tea into the sea.
The British Prime Minister, Lord North, behaved very recklessly. In 1774 a series of laws called Coercive or Intolerable Laws were passed. The port of Boston was closed and the seat of government was moved to Salem. The Massachusetts charter was changed to give the royal governor more power.
Americans were also upset about the Quebec Act of 1774. This was an attempt by the British Parliament to make French Catholics loyal to the British Crown.
The Act extended the limits of Quebec to the south and to the west. The Americans feared that the king intended to settle the French-speaking Catholic faithful in the West to increase his own power in the region.
The Continental Congress
Finally, in September 1774, a Continental Congress met to decide policy. They demanded the repeal of the Coercive Laws and the Quebec Law. Congress also denounced British interference in American affairs and affirmed the right of colonial assemblies to pass laws and raise taxes as they saw fit.
In September 1774 a man named Joseph Galloway submitted a compromise plan. The king could appoint the general president and the colonial assemblies would elect a grand council. However, Congress rejected his plan.
Furthermore, the British refused to engage with the Americans. In February 1775 they declared Massachusetts to be in a state of rebellion. British troops were given carte blanche to deal with it.
However, the American colonies had civilian militias and resisted the British. Fighting began on April 19, 1775 when British soldiers attempted to seize a colonial weapons dump near Concord. The militia were warned that the British were coming.
In Lexington the British were received by the militia. Meanwhile, the Americans had withdrawn the weapons. The British advanced to Concord and fired on the militia, but then withdrew.
They retreated back to Boston with the Americans shooting at them along the way. During the march the British lost 73 killed and 200 wounded or missing. The American Revolution had begun.
From April 1775 to March 1776 the British Army was besieged in Boston. They could be supplied by sea by the British Navy. However, they soon ran out of supplies. On May 25 the British were reinforced but could not break out. They were eventually evacuated by sea to Canada.
The Continental Congress met again in May 1775 and agreed to raise an army. George Washington was named his commander-in-chief. Congress hoped that they could force the British to negotiate, but George III refused to compromise. Instead, in August 1775 he declared that all the American colonies were in a state of rebellion.
Meanwhile, the government of the royal governor collapsed and the people demanded a government without royal interference. In May 1776 Congress decided that royal government should cease and that the government should be “under the authority of the people.” Later, the colonies wrote state constitutions to replace their statutes.
The fire was fanned by Tom Paine (1737-1809). In 1776 he published a pamphlet called Common Sense, which rejected any talk of negotiation with the British and demanded full independence. Common Sense became a bestseller.
On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee of the Virginia Assembly introduced resolutions to Congress declaring the independence of the colonies, calling for a confederation, and expressing the need to find foreign allies for a war against Great Britain. On June 11, the Continental Congress appointed a committee to draft a declaration of independence. It was adopted on July 4, 1776.
The beginnings of the United States
American War of Independence
At first glance, the British had many advantages. They were much more numerous than the Americans and had many more resources.
However, they were handicapped by the long lines of communication. (In those days, it took a sailing ship 6 to 8 weeks to cross the Atlantic.) The British won the Battle of Long Island in August 1776, and in September 1776 they captured New York. Washington was forced to withdraw.
However, Washington won victories at Trenton in December 1776 and at Princeton in January 1777. The Americans were defeated at Brandywine in September 1777, but won a decisive victory at Saratoga in October. A British force led by Burgoyne marched south from Canada, but was surrounded and forced to surrender.
Saratoga convinced the French that the Americans could win the war. In 1778 France joined the war. French naval activity in the Atlantic made it even more difficult for the British to supply their forces in America. Spain joined the war in 1779.
In addition, the Americans won victories at Kings Mountain in October 1780 and at Cowpens in January 1781. The British commander Cornwallis unwisely concentrated his forces on the coast at Yorktown, Virginia. However, the French navy blocked it while the Americans besieged it from land.
The British were forced to surrender. Yorktown was a catastrophic defeat for the British and ended any hope that they would end the war. However, it continued for two more years before the Treaty of Paris ended it in September 1783.
The founding of the United States of America
In 1777 the Articles of Confederation were written, uniting the states in an informal federation. They were adopted in 1781. However, the agreement turned out to be unsatisfactory. In 1787 each state sent delegates to a convention in Philadelphia to remedy this.
Between May and September 1787 they drafted a new constitution. The first Congress met in 1789 and George Washington became the first President. In 1791, ten amendments, known as the Bill of Rights, were ratified.
In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the population of the United States grew rapidly. Immigrants from Europe entered the country, many of them from Germany. Meanwhile, the US expanded westward. In 1791 Vermont was admitted to the union as the 14th state. Kentucky became the 15th state in 1792 and Tennessee the 16th in 1796. In 1803 Ohio became the 17th state.
The Louisiana Purchase
Also in 1803 the American territory was greatly increased with the purchase of Louisiana. France claimed a large amount of land in central North America around the Missouri and Arkansas rivers.
In 1803 Napoleon agreed to sell the lot for $15 million. Buying the French land meant that there was no longer any obstacle for the US to spread across the continent to the Pacific Ocean. Louisiana became the 18th state in the union in 1812.
The Anglo-American War of 1812
Meanwhile, the Americans and the British fought another war. This war occurred in part because, after 1807, the British navy blockaded European ports during the war with Napoleon and prevented American ships from delivering their cargoes. They also boarded American ships looking for deserters. Some of the men they arrested were not deserters at all.
Finally, some Americans wanted to invade Canadian territory. War was declared on June 18, 1812. The senators voted 19 to 13 in favor of war. However, not all Americans actively supported the war. Some were lukewarm in their support at best. This dissension weakened the American war effort.
On the other hand, American sailors were all volunteers, while many British navy sailors were forced to join press gangs. Volunteers were generally better than hard-pressed men, one of the reasons the United States was successful in naval battles.
However, an American attempt to invade Canada failed. However, the US Navy was more successful. They won a victory at Lake Erie in September 1813. However, Napoleon abdicated in April 1814, allowing the British to send more forces to North America.
In August 1814 a British expedition landed and captured Washington. They were removed after a few weeks. At the end of 1814 a peace treaty was signed. However, after the signing a great battle was fought. The British were severely defeated at the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815.
The growth of the United States
In 1804 Meriwether Lewis and William Clark set out to explore what is now the northwestern United States. In 1805 they followed the Missouri River to its source, then crossed the Rocky Mountains and reached the Pacific. They returned in 1806.
In 1810 the population of the US was over 7.2 million and growing rapidly. In 1820 it was more than 9.6 million and in 1840 it was more than 17 million. More and more states joined the union.
Indiana was admitted in 1816. Mississippi followed in 1817. Illinois became a state in 1818 and Alabama in 1819. Missouri became a state in 1821. Arkansas followed in 1836 and Michigan in 1837.
The US economy also grew rapidly. In the South, cotton expanded rapidly after Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin in 1793. It also grew because Britain was industrializing. There was a huge cotton industry in Britain in the early 19th century, which devoured cotton from the United States.
In the North, trade and commerce grew rapidly. In 1860, more than 60% of the world’s cotton was grown in the United States. In the decades after the War of 1812, the Northern States began to industrialize. The coal mining and manufacturing industries expanded by leaps and bounds.
In 1817 the New York legislature authorized a canal from the Hudson River to Lake Erie. The canal was completed in 1825 and reduced freight transportation costs. Also, the first railroad to be built in the US was built in 1828.
After 1814 there was fighting between the Seminole Indians of Florida and settlers from Georgia. The Seminoles also allowed runaway slaves to live among them, which annoyed the Americans. Finally, in 1818 Andrew Jackson led a force into Florida (although it was Spanish territory).
This was the first Seminole War. Spain ceded Florida to the United States in 1821. Florida became a state of the United States in 1845.
Texas joins the United States
In the 1820s, the Mexican government welcomed Americans who wished to settle in its sparsely populated territory of Texas. However, the American colonists soon fell out with their Mexican masters and in 1835 they started a rebellion.
On March 1, 1836, a convention met, and on March 2, 1836, they signed a Texas Declaration of Independence. Meanwhile, a force of Mexicans under Santa Anna besieged some 189 men at the Alamo fortress.
All the defenders were eventually killed and the Alamo became the stuff of legend. Aside from the American Scots who fought at the Alamo, so did the Irish and the English. There was also a Welshman and a Dane.
However, on April 21, 1836, Sam Houston’s Texian troops defeated Santa Anna’s Mexican army at the Battle of San Jacinto. Texas became independent and Sam Houston became its first president. In 1845 the United States annexed Texas and it became the 28th state of the United States.
However, the Mexicans never accepted the independence of Texas and were furious when the Americans annexed the territory. The annexation of