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History Archive - United States Collection

The United States is a federal republic in North America, composed of fifty states, as well as territories and districts on the continent, of insular dependencies and possessions in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. Washington, D.C., is the capital. Officially the name is "The United States of America," but "The United States" has become the accepted name.

The United States was originally thirteen British colonies who banded together in order to fight a war of rebellion against their colonial masters with assistance from competing foreign colonial empires. Chief grievances against King George were draconian punishments, taxation without representation and also the mercantile policies of the British which restricted manufacturing of goods in the colonies and relegated them to consumer states.

The early story of the United States naturally falls into three parts. These are the colonial period, the revolutionary epoch and the era of union. The first extends from 1576 to 1763; the second to 1789; and the third to the early 1900s and the modern era. However, the first period overlaps the second, because the revolution began while the United States was colonies; and the third runs back into the second, because American nationality and federal union began in revolution.

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Colonial History

The American nation owes its origin to colonizing activities in which the British, Dutch, Swedes, French and Spaniards bore a share, and which were continued during a period of more than two centuries at the beginning of the modern era. The settlements of the Dutch and Swedes (New Netherland and New Sweden) were soon merged in those of the British, and of the territory colonized by Frenchmen and Spaniards the United States, as it was in 1783, included only certain outlying regions (Florida and certain posts on the Great Lakes and in the Mississippi Valley).

All the European nations which were interested in colonization shared in the enterprise, and the population of the region was therefore cosmopolitan from the outset. But the British, especially after 1660, secured a controlling influence, to such an extent that the history of the period can properly be regarded as the record of an experiment in British colonization.

Permanent settlements on the Atlantic seaboard were first made in the early years of the 17th century, and they continued steadily to increase until after 1680. Relatively speaking, that was the period of settlement, but population continued slowly to advance westward. In the 18th century occurred a large immigration of Germans and Scottish-Irish, who settled in Pennsylvania and New York and thence overflowed into the western parts of Virginia and the Carolinas. The only colony which was founded in the 18th century was Georgia (1732), by means of which British outposts on the Florida frontier were strengthened.


The continental United States, excluding Alaska, occupies the central area of North America. It lies between the Atlantic on the east, the Gulf of Mexico and Mexico on the south, the Pacific on the west and Canada on the north. It extends approximately from 67&172; W. to 125&172; W. in longitude and from. 24&172; 30? N. to 49&172; N. in latitude. Its longest line, east and west, is 3,100 miles; north and south, 1,780. Its continental area, including Alaska, is 3,617,673 square miles. (That of Alaska is 590,884.)

But the republic's total territory, when the area of Guam, Guantanamo, Hawaii, the Philippines, Porto Rico (with Culebra and Vieques), the Panama zone, five Samoan islands and many other small American islands in the Pacific is included, comprises over 3,750,700 square miles. (See articles on each.) Part of the northern boundary runs through Lakes Superior, Huron, Erie and Ontario and their connecting waters and through St. Lawrence, St. John and St. Croix Rivers, while the Rio Grande forms part of the southern boundary.

The Canadian boundary extends 3,700 miles, the Mexican 2,105, and the entire boundary stretches 11,075 miles. The continental United States and Alaska almost equal all Europe in size, and the entire territory of the republic is surpassed in extent only by that of the British Empire, of Russia and of China. When the sun is setting on Porto Rico and Maine, it is rising on the Samoan and the Philippine Islands; and the American flag dominates the Arctic Ocean of Alaska and the tropical South Sea of Tutuila.

Colonial Period (to 1760).

Among general histories, which cover not only this period but others or the whole course of American history, the student should consult The American Commonwealth Series and the works of Bancroft, Bryant and Gay, Gilman, Higginson, Hildreth, McMaster, Rhodes, Schouler, Von Hoist and Winsor. Histories that deal specially with the colonies consist, among others, of Dodge's English Colonies, Doyle's English Colonies, John Fiske's works (named in the article on Fiske), Lodge's English Colonies, Marshall's History of the Colonies, Neill's English Colonization, Palfrey's History of New England and Parkman's works. The articles in this work on the separate states of the Union often mention books of reference. Nor should American chapters in The Cambridge Modern History be forgotten.

Revolutionary Era (to 1789).

Channing and Hart's Guide to the Study of American History is helpful to start the study of the Revolution. Other helps are Fiske's American Revolution and Critical Period of American History; Carrington's Battles of the Revolution; Chalmers' Revolt of the Colonies; Dunning's Political Theories; Frothingham's Rise of the Republic; Hamilton's Federalist; Ludlow's War of Independence; Merriam's American Theories; Scott's Constitutional Liberty; Story's Commentaries; Sullivan's Antecedents of the Declaration; Willoughby's Nature of the State; and Winsor's Reader's Handbook. Lecky's History of England and Trevelyan's American Revolution give the English views.

The National Era (to 1900s).

Consult Bancroft (Geo.): History of the Constitution; Bancroft (H. H.): The Pacific States; Benton: Thirty Years' View; Blaine: Twenty Years of Congress; Bryce: The American Commonwealth (student's edition); Curtis: History of the Constitution; Davis, Jefferson: The Rise of the Confederate Government; Ely: The Labor Movement; Fiske: American Political Ideas; Foster: A Century of American Diplomacy; Hart: Foundations of American Foreign Policy; Jameson: The Constitutional Convention; Johnston (A.): American Politics; Kent: Commentaries; Lamphere: American Government; Macy: Civil Government, Institutional Beginnings, Our Government and Political Parties; Morse: Citizenship; Richardson: Messages and Papers of the Presidents; Roosevelt: Naval History and The Winning of the West; Stephens, A. C.: The War Between the States; Taussig: Protection; The Century Co.: Battles and Leaders of the Civil War; and Wilson, H. H.: The Rise and Fall of the Slave-Power. The American Statesmen Series also should be consulted; the writings of public men, as Grant or Washington; and public or official documents as well as such statistical works of private individuals as The Statesman's Year-Book.


The New Student's Reference Work (1914) pg 1967-1984

1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica, Volume 27. pg 663-735

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