A brief history of the USAThe colonial era1A new nation2Slavery and The Civil War2The late 19th century3The progressive moment4War and peace4The great depression5World War II5The Cold War6Decades of change7Geography and regional characteristicsShort facts8Regional Variety10New England10Middle Atlantic11The South11The Midwest12The Southwest12The West13The Frontier Spirit13A responsive governmentThe constitution14Bill of Rights15Legislative Branch16Executive Branch16Juridical Branch16The court of last resort17Political parties and elections17
http://usinfo.state.gov/usa/infousa/facts/factover A brief history of the United States.
The first Europeans to reach North America were Icelandic Vikings, led by Leif Ericson, about the year 1000. Traces of their visit have been found in the Canadian province of Newfoundland, but the Vikings failed to establish a permanent settlement and soon lost contact with the new continent.
Five centuries later, the demand for Asian spices, textiles, and dyes spurred European navigators to dream of shorter routes between East and West. Acting on behalf of the Spanish crown, in 1492 the Italian navigator Christopher Columbus sailed west from Europe and landed on one of the Bahama Islands in the Caribbean Sea. Within 40 years, Spanish adventurers had carved out a huge empire in Central and South America.
THE COLONIAL ERA
The first successful English colony was founded at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607. A few years later, English Puritans came to America to escape religious persecution for their opposition to the Church of England. In 1620, the Puritans founded Plymouth Colony in what later became Massachusetts. Plymouth was the second permanent British settlement in North America and the first in New England.
In New England the Puritans hoped to build a "city upon a hill" -- an ideal community. Ever since, Americans have viewed their country as a great experiment, a worthy model for other nations to follow. The Puritans believed that government should enforce God's morality, and they strictly punished heretics, adulterers, drunks, and violators of the Sabbath. In spite of their own quest for religious freedom, the Puritans practiced a form of intolerant moralism. In 1636 an English clergyman named Roger Williams left Massachusetts and founded the colony of Rhode Island, based on the principles of religious freedom and separation of church and state, two ideals that were later adopted by framers of the U.S. Constitution.
Colonists arrived from other European countries, but the English were far better established in America. By 1733 English settlers had founded 13 colonies along the Atlantic Coast, from New Hampshire in the North to Georgia in the South. Elsewhere in North America, the French controlled Canada and Louisiana, which included the vast Mississippi River watershed. France and England fought several wars during the 18th century, with North America being drawn into every one. The end of the Seven Years' War in 1763 left England in control of Canada and all of North America east of the Mississippi.
Soon afterwards England and its colonies were in conflict. The mother country imposed new taxes, in part to defray the cost of fighting the Seven Years' War, and expected Americans to lodge British soldiers in their homes. The colonists resented the taxes and resisted the quartering of soldiers. Insisting that they could be taxed only by their own colonial assemblies, the colonists rallied behind the slogan "no taxation without representation."
All the taxes, except one on tea, were removed, but in 1773 a group of patriots responded by staging the Boston Tea Party. Disguised as Indians, they boarded British merchant ships and dumped 342 crates of tea into Boston harbor. This provoked a crackdown by the British Parliament, including the closing of Boston harbor to shipping. Colonial leaders convened the First Continental Congress in 1774 to discuss the colonies' opposition to British rule. War broke out on April 19, 1775, when British soldiers confronted colonial rebels in Lexington, Massachusetts. On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress adopted a Declaration of Independence.
At first the Revolutionary War went badly for the Americans. With few provisions and little training, American troops generally fought well, but were outnumbered and overpowered by the British. The turning point in the war came in 1777 when American soldiers defeated the British Army at Saratoga, New York. France had secretly been aiding the Americans, but was reluctant to ally itself openly until they had proved themselves in battle. Following the Americans' victory at Saratoga, France and America signed treaties of alliance, and France provided the Americans with troops and warships.
The last major battle of the American Revolution took place at Yorktown, Virginia, in 1781. A combined force of American and French troops surrounded the British and forced their surrender. Fighting continued in some areas for two more years, and the war officially ended with the Treaty of Paris in 1783, by which England recognized American independence.
A NEW NATION
The framing of the U.S. Constitution and the creation of the United States are covered in more detail in chapter 4. In essence, the Constitution alleviated Americans' fear of excessive central power by dividing government into three branches -- legislative (Congress), executive (the president and the federal agencies), and judicial (the federal courts) -- and by including 10 amendments known as the Bill of Rights to safeguard individual liberties. Continued uneasiness about the accumulation of power manifested itself in the differing political philosophies of two towering figures from the Revolutionary period. George Washington, the war's military hero and the first U.S. president, headed a party favoring a strong president and central government; Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the Declaration of Independence, headed a party preferring to allot more power to the states, on the theory that they would be more accountable to the people.
Jefferson became the third president in 1801. Although he had intended to limit the president's power, political realities dictated otherwise. Among other forceful actions, in 1803 he purchased the vast Louisiana Territory from France, almost doubling the size of the United States. The Louisiana Purchase added more than 2 million square kilometers of territory and extended the country's borders as far west as the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.
SLAVERY AND THE CIVIL WAR
In the first quarter of the 19th century, the frontier of settlement moved west to the Mississippi River and beyond. In 1828 Andrew Jackson became the first "outsider" elected president: a man from the frontier state of Tennessee, born into a poor family and outside the cultural traditions of the Atlantic seaboard.
Although on the surface the Jacksonian Era was one of optimism and energy, the young nation was entangled in a contradiction. The ringing words of the Declaration of Independence, "all men are created equal," were meaningless for 1.5 million slaves. (For more on slavery and its aftermath, see chapters 1 and 4.)
In 1820 southern and northern politicians debated the question of whether slavery would be legal in the western territories. Congress reached a compromise: Slavery was permitted in the new state of Missouri and the Arkansas Territory but barred everywhere west and north of Missouri. The outcome of the Mexican War of 1846-48 brought more territory into American hands -- and with it the issue of whether to extend slavery. Another compromise, in 1850, admitted California as a free state, with the citizens of Utah and New Mexico being allowed to decide whether they wanted slavery within their borders or not (they did not).
But the issue continued to rankle. After Abraham Lincoln, a foe of slavery, was elected president in 1860, 11 states left the Union and proclaimed themselves an independent nation, the Confederate States of America: South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina. The American Civil War had begun.
The Confederate Army did well in the early part of the war, and some of its commanders, especially General Robert E. Lee, were brilliant tacticians. But the Union had superior manpower and resources to draw upon. In the summer of 1863 Lee took a gamble by marching his troops north into Pennsylvania. He met a Union army at Gettysburg, and the largest battle ever fought on American soil ensued. After three days of desperate fighting, the Confederates were defeated. At the same time, on the Mississippi River, Union General Ulysses S. Grant captured the city of Vicksburg, giving the North control of the entire Mississippi Valley and splitting the Confederacy in two.
Two years later, after a long campaign involving forces commanded by Lee and Grant, the Confederates surrendered. The Civil War was the most traumatic episode in American history. But it resolved two matters that had vexed Americans since 1776. It put an end to slavery, and it decided that the country was not a collection of semi-independent states but an indivisible whole.
THE LATE 19TH CENTURY
Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, depriving America of a leader uniquely qualified by background and temperament to heal the wounds left by the Civil War. His successor, Andrew Johnson, was a southe