The first residents of what is now the United States emigrated from Asia over 15,000 years ago by crossing Beringia into what is now present-day Alaska then headed south. Archaeological evidence of these people, the ancestors of the Native Americans, dates back to 14,000 years ago, although there is evidence to support an earlier date for a human population in North America.
ChristopherColumbus was the first European to land in the territory of what is now the United States when he arrived in Puerto Rico in 1493. Numerous explorers and sailors were to follow; they left behind deadly new diseases (such as smallpox and measles) that decimated the Indians before the settlers arrived around 1600, the start of the colonial history of the United States. The Thirteen English colonies thatwould become the original US states were founded along the east coast beginning in 1607. Spain founded important settlements in New Mexico and California that became part of the U.S., as did to a lesser extent France and the Netherlands.
The population of the Thirteen Colonies grew rapidly, reaching 50,000 by 1650, 250,000 by 1700, and 2.5 million by 1775. High birth rates and low death rateswere augmented by steady flows of immigrants from Europe and black slaves from the West Indies. Occasional small-scale wars involved the French and Indians to the north, and the Spanish and Indians to the south. Religion was a powerful influence on many immigrants, especially the Puritans in New England and the German sects in Pennsylvania, with boosts from the revivals of the First GreatAwakening. The colonies by the 1750s had achieved a standard of living about as high as Britain, with far more self-government than anywhere else. Most free men owned their own farms and could vote in elections for the colonial legislatures, while local judges and local juries dispensed justice. Royal soldiers were rarely seen.
The colonists were not allowed any representation in the Parliament inLondon, giving rise to the slogan "No taxation without representation"; they complained they were being denied their constitutional rights as Englishmen whenever parliament tried to tax them. For many years, the home government permitted wide latitude to local colonial governments. Beginning in the 1760s London demanded the colonists pay taxes; the main issue was not the money (the taxes involvedwere quite low) but the issue of who was in control. The new taxes on stamps in 1765 and later the tax on tea ignited a firestorm of opposition. The British responded with military force in Massachusetts, and shut down the system of local self government in what the colonists called the Intolerable Acts. All 13 colonies now form the Committees of Correspondence, which in effect became a shadowgovernment. They sent delegates to the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia in 1774, presenting a united front against the British.
After fighting broke out in April 1775, the Patriots set up their own governments, which were led from Philadelphia by the Continental Congress and its commander in chief, General George Washington. The American Revolution escalated into all-out war. The newnation declared independence in July 1776 as the United States of America. After Americans captured the British invasion army in 1777, France became a military ally, and the war became a major international war with evenly balanced forces. With the capture of a second British invasion army at Yorktown in 1781, the British agreed to the Treaty of Paris in 1783 that proved highly favorable to the newnation.
The new national government proved too weak, so a Constitutional Convention was called in 1787 to create an alternative. The resulting Constitution of the United States created a federal government based on the ideology of republicanism, equal rights, and civic duty. The first ten amendments known as the Bill of Rights quickly followed, guaranteeing many individual rights from federal...
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