United States

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See also: National Parks and Monuments (table)National Parks and Monuments

National Parks
Name Type1 Location Year authorized Size
acres (hectares)
Acadia NP SE Maine 1919 49,075 (19,868) Mountain and coast scenery.
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, Presidents of the United States (table)Presidents of the United States
President Political Party Dates in Office Vice President(s)
George Washington   1789–97 John Adams
John Adams Federalist 1797–1801 Thomas Jefferson
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United States,

officially United States of America, republic (2015 est. pop. 319,929,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and in area. It consists of 50 states and a federal district. The conterminous (excluding Alaska and Hawaii) United States stretches across central North America from the Atlantic Ocean on the east to the Pacific Ocean on the west, and from Canada on the north to Mexico and the Gulf of Mexico on the south. The state of Alaska is located in extreme NW North America between the Arctic and Pacific oceans and is bordered by Canada on the east. The state of HawaiiHawaii
, 50th state of the United States, comprising a group of eight major islands and numerous islets in the central Pacific Ocean, c.2,100 mi (3,380 km) SW of San Francisco. Facts and Figures

Area, 6,450 sq mi (16,706 sq km). Pop.
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, an island chain, is situated in the E central Pacific Ocean c.2,100 mi (3,400 km) SW of San Francisco. Washington, D.C.Washington, D.C.,
capital of the United States, coextensive (since 1878, when Georgetown became a part of Washington) with the District of Columbia (2000 pop. 572,059), on the Potomac River; inc. 1802. The city is the center of a metropolitan area (1990 pop.
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, is the capital of the United States, and New YorkNew York,
city (1990 pop. 7,322,564), land area 304.8 sq mi (789.4 sq km), SE N.Y., largest city in the United States and one of the largest in the world, on New York Bay at the mouth of the Hudson River.
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 is its largest city.

The outlying territories and areas of the United States include: in the Caribbean Basin, Puerto RicoPuerto Rico
, island (2015 est. pop. 3,674,000), 3,508 sq mi (9,086 sq km), West Indies, c.1,000 mi (1,610 km) SE of Miami, Fla. Officially known as the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (a self-governing entity in association with the United States), it includes the offshore islands
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 (a commonwealth associated with the United States) and the Virgin IslandsVirgin Islands,
group of about 100 small islands, West Indies, E of Puerto Rico. The islands are divided politically between the United States and Great Britain. Although constituting the westernmost part of the Lesser Antilles, the Virgin Islands form a geological unit with
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 of the United States (purchased from Denmark in 1917); in the Pacific Ocean, GuamGuam
, Chamorro Guåhan, officially Territory of Guam, the largest, most populous, and southernmost of the Mariana Islands (see also Northern Mariana Islands), an unincorporated territory of the United States (2015 est. pop. 162,000), 209 sq mi (541 sq km), W Pacific.
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 (ceded by Spain after the Spanish-American War), the Northern Mariana IslandsNorthern Mariana Islands
, officially Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, a self-governing entity in association with the United States (2015 est. pop. 55,000), c.
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 (a commonwealth associated with the United States), American SamoaAmerican Samoa,
officially Territory of American Samoa, unincorporated territory of the United States (2015 est. pop. 56,000), comprising the eastern half of the Samoa island chain in the South Pacific.
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, Wake IslandWake Island,
atoll with three islets (Wake, Wilkes, and Peale), 3 sq mi (7.8 sq km), central Pacific, between Hawaii and Guam. It is a U.S. military base and scientific research center under the jurisdiction of the Dept. of the Interior and the U.S. Air Force.
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, and several other islands. The United States also has compacts of free association with the Republic of the Marshall IslandsMarshall Islands,
officially Republic of the Marshall Islands, independent nation (2015 est. pop. 53,000), in the central Pacific. The Marshalls extend over a 700-mi (1,130-km) area and comprise two major groups: the Ratak Chain in the east, and the Ralik Chain in the west, with
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, the Republic of PalauPalau
, officially Republic of Palau, independent nation (2015 est. pop. 21,000), c.192 sq mi (497 sq km), W Pacific, in the W Caroline Islands. Belau, the indigenous name for Palau, is sometimes used.
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, and the Federated States of MicronesiaMicronesia, Federated States of,
independent nation (2015 est. pop. 104,000), c.271 sq mi (702 sq km), an island group in the W Pacific Ocean. It comprises four states: Kosrae, Pohnpei (formerly Ponape), Chuuk (formerly Truk), and Yap.
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Political Geography

The conterminous United States may be divided into several regions: the New England states (MaineMaine,
largest of the New England states of the NE United States. It is bordered by New Hampshire (W), the Canadian provinces of Quebec (NW) and New Brunswick (NE), the Bay of Fundy (E), and the Atlantic Ocean (the Gulf of Maine; SE).
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, New HampshireNew Hampshire,
one of the New England states of the NE United States. It is bordered by Massachusetts (S), Vermont, with the Connecticut River forming the boundary (W), the Canadian province of Quebec (NW), and Maine and a short strip of the Atlantic Ocean (E).
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, VermontVermont
[Fr.,=green mountain], New England state of the NE United States. It is bordered by New Hampshire, across the Connecticut River (E), Massachusetts (S), New York, with Lake Champlain forming almost half the border (W), and the Canadian province of Quebec (N).
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, MassachusettsMassachusetts
, most populous of the New England states of the NE United States. It is bordered by New York (W), Vermont and New Hampshire (N), the Atlantic Ocean (E, SE), and Rhode Island and Connecticut (S).
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, Rhode IslandRhode Island,
smallest state in the United States, located in New England; bounded by Massachusetts (N and E), the Atlantic Ocean (S), and Connecticut (W). Facts and Figures

Area, 1,214 sq mi (3,144 sq km). Pop. (2010) 1,052,567, a .
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, and ConnecticutConnecticut
, southernmost of the New England states of the NE United States. It is bordered by Massachusetts (N), Rhode Island (E), Long Island Sound (S), and New York (W). Facts and Figures

Area, 5,009 sq mi (12,973 sq km). Pop.
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), the Middle Atlantic states (New YorkNew York,
Middle Atlantic state of the United States. It is bordered by Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Atlantic Ocean (E), New Jersey and Pennsylvania (S), Lakes Erie and Ontario and the Canadian province of Ontario (NW), and the province of Quebec (N).
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, New JerseyNew Jersey,
Middle Atlantic state of the E United States. It is bordered by New York State (N and, across the Hudson River and New York Harbor, E), the Atlantic Ocean (E), Delaware, across Delaware Bay and River (SW), and Pennsylvania, across the Delaware River (W).
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, PennsylvaniaPennsylvania
, one of the Middle Atlantic states of the United States. It is bordered by New Jersey, across the Delaware River (E), Delaware (SE), Maryland (S), West Virginia (SW), Ohio (W), and Lake Erie and New York (N).
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, DelawareDelaware
, one of the Middle Atlantic states of the United States, the country's second smallest state (after Rhode Island). It is bordered by Maryland (W, S), and there is a short border with Pennsylvania (N); New Jersey (E) is across the Delaware Bay and Delaware River
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, MarylandMaryland
, one of the Middle Atlantic states of the United States. It is bounded by Delaware and the Atlantic Ocean (E), the District of Columbia (S), Virginia and West Virginia, largely across the Potomac River (S, W), and Pennsylvania (N).
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, VirginiaVirginia,
state of the S Middle-Atlantic United States. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean (E), North Carolina and Tennessee (S), Kentucky and West Virginia (W), and Maryland and the District of Columbia, largely across the Potomac River (N and NE).
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, and West VirginiaWest Virginia,
E central state of the United States. It is bordered by Pennsylvania and Maryland (N, NE), Virginia (E and S), Kentucky (W) and, across the Ohio River, Ohio (NW). Facts and Figures

Area, 24,181 sq mi (62,629 sq km). Pop.
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), the Southeastern states (North CarolinaNorth Carolina,
state in the SE United States. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean (E), South Carolina and Georgia (S), Tennessee (W), and Virginia (N). Facts and Figures

Area, 52,586 sq mi (136,198 sq km). Pop. (2010) 9,535,483, an 18.
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, South CarolinaSouth Carolina,
state of the SE United States. It is bordered by North Carolina (N), the Atlantic Ocean (SE), and, across the Savannah River, Georgia (SW). Facts and Figures

Area, 31,055 sq mi (80,432 sq km). Pop. (2010) 4,625,364, a 15.
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, GeorgiaGeorgia
, state in the SE United States, the last of the Thirteen Colonies to be founded. It is bordered by Florida (S), Alabama (W), Tennessee and North Carolina (N), and South Carolina (across the Savannah River) and the Atlantic Ocean (E).
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, FloridaFlorida
, state in the extreme SE United States. A long, low peninsula between the Atlantic Ocean (E) and the Gulf of Mexico (W), Florida is bordered by Georgia and Alabama (N). Facts and Figures

Area, 58,560 sq mi (151,670 sq km). Pop.
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, AlabamaAlabama
, state in the SE United States. It is bordered by Tennessee (N), Georgia (E), Florida and the Gulf of Mexico (S), and Mississippi (W). Facts and Figures

Area, 51,609 sq mi (133,677 sq km). Pop. (2010) 4,779,736, a 7.
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, MississippiMississippi
, one of the Deep South states of the United States. It is bordered by Alabama (E), the Gulf of Mexico (S), Arkansas and Louisiana, with most of that border formed by the Mississippi River (W), and Tennessee (N).
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, LouisianaLouisiana
, state in the S central United States. It is bounded by Mississippi, with the Mississippi River forming about half of the border (E), the Gulf of Mexico (S), Texas (W), and Arkansas (N). Facts and Figures

Area, 48,523 sq mi (125,675 sq km). Pop.
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, ArkansasArkansas
, state in the south-central United States. It is bordered by Tennessee and Mississippi, across the Mississippi River (E), Louisiana (S), Texas and Oklahoma (W), and Missouri (N). Facts and Figures

Area, 53,104 sq mi (137,539 sq km). Pop.
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, TennesseeTennessee
, state in the SE central United States. It is bordered by Kentucky and Virginia (N), North Carolina (E), Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi (S), and, across the Mississippi River, Arkansas and Missouri (W).
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, and KentuckyKentucky
, state of the SE central United States. It is bordered by West Virginia and Virginia (E); Tennessee (S); the Mississippi River, across which lies Missouri (SW); and Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, all across the Ohio River (W, N).
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), the states of the Midwest (OhioOhio,
midwestern state in the Great Lakes region of the United States. It is bordered by Pennsylvania (NE), West Virginia (SE) and Kentucky (S) across the Ohio River, Indiana (W), and Michigan and Lake Erie (N).
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, IndianaIndiana,
midwestern state in the N central United States. It is bordered by Lake Michigan and the state of Michigan (N), Ohio (E), Kentucky, across the Ohio River (S), and Illinois (W). Facts and Figures

Area, 36,291 sq mi (93,994 sq km). Pop.
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, IllinoisIllinois,
midwestern state in the N central United States. It is bordered by Lake Michigan and Indiana (E); Kentucky, across the Ohio River (SE); Missouri and Iowa, across the Mississippi River (W); and Wisconsin (N).
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, MichiganMichigan
, upper midwestern state of the United States. It consists of two peninsulas thrusting into the Great Lakes and has borders with Ohio and Indiana (S), Wisconsin (W), and the Canadian province of Ontario (N,E).
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, WisconsinWisconsin
, upper midwestern state of the United States. It is bounded by Lake Superior and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, from which it is divided in part by the Menominee River (N); Lake Michigan (E); Illinois (S); and Iowa and Minnesota (W), with the Mississippi River
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, MinnesotaMinnesota
, upper midwestern state of the United States. It is bordered by Lake Superior and Wisconsin (E), Iowa (S), South Dakota and North Dakota (W), and the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Ontario (N).
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, IowaIowa
, midwestern state in the N central United States. It is bounded by the Mississippi River, across which lie Wisconsin and Illinois (E); Missouri (S); Nebraska and South Dakota, from which it is separated by the Missouri and the Big Sioux rivers, respectively (W); and
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, and MissouriMissouri
, one of the midwestern states of the United States. It is bordered by Illinois, Kentucky, and Tennessee, across the Mississippi River (E), Arkansas (S), Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska (W), and Iowa (N).
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), the Great Plains states (North DakotaNorth Dakota,
state in the N central United States. It is bordered by Minnesota, across the Red River of the North (E), South Dakota (S), Montana (W), and the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba (N).
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, South DakotaSouth Dakota
, state in the N central United States. It is bordered by North Dakota (N), Minnesota and Iowa (E), Nebraska (S), and Wyoming and Montana (W). Facts and Figures

Area, 77,047 sq mi (199,552 sq km). Pop. (2010) 814,180, a 7.
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, NebraskaNebraska
, Great Plains state of the central United States. It is bordered by Iowa and Missouri, across the Missouri River (E), Kansas (S), Colorado (SW), Wyoming (NW), and South Dakota (N). Facts and Figures

Area, 77,227 sq mi (200,018 sq km). Pop.
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, and KansasKansas
, midwestern state occupying the center of the coterminous United States. It is bordered by Missouri (E), Oklahoma (S), Colorado (W), and Nebraska (N). Facts and Figures

Area, 82,264 sq mi (213,064 sq km). Pop. (2010) 2,853,118, a 6.
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), the Mountain states (MontanaMontana
, Rocky Mt. state in the NW United States. It is bounded by North Dakota and South Dakota (E), Wyoming (S), Idaho (W), and the Canadian provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan (N).
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, IdahoIdaho
, one of the Rocky Mt. states in the NW United States. It is bordered by Montana and Wyoming (E), Utah and Nevada (S), Oregon and Washington (W), and the Canadian province of British Columbia (N). Facts and Figures

Area, 83,557 sq mi (216,413 sq km).
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, WyomingWyoming
, least populous state in the United States, one of the Rocky Mt. states of the West. It is bordered by South Dakota and Nebraska (E), Colorado and Utah (S), Idaho (W), and Montana (N). Facts and Figures

Area, 97,914 sq mi (253,597 sq km). Pop.
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, ColoradoColorado
, state, W central United States, one of the Rocky Mt. states. It is bordered by Wyoming (N), Nebraska (N, E), Kansas (E), Oklahoma and New Mexico (S), and Utah (W); it touches Arizona (SW) in the Four Corners region.
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, and UtahUtah
, Rocky Mt. state of the W United States. It is bordered by Idaho and Wyoming (N), Colorado (E), Arizona (S), and Nevada (W), and touches New Mexico in the SE, at the Four Corners.
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), the Southwestern states (OklahomaOklahoma
, state in SW United States. It is bordered by Missouri and Arkansas (E); Texas, partially across the Red River (S, W); New Mexico, across the narrow edge of the Oklahoma Panhandle (W); and Colorado and Kansas (N).
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, TexasTexas
, largest state in the coterminous United States. It is located in the south-central part of the country and is bounded by Oklahoma, across the Red River except in the Texas panhandle (N); Arkansas (NE); Louisiana, across the Sabine River (E); the Gulf of Mexico (SE);
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, New MexicoNew Mexico,
state in the SW United States. At its northwestern corner are the so-called Four Corners, where Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah meet at right angles; New Mexico is also bordered by Oklahoma (NE), Texas (E, S), and Mexico (S).
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, and ArizonaArizona
, state in the SW United States. It is bordered by Utah (N), New Mexico (E), Mexico (S), and, largely across the Colorado River, Nevada and California (W); it touches Colorado (NE) in the Four Corners region.
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), and the states of the Far West (WashingtonWashington,
state in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. It is bordered by Idaho (E); Oregon, with the Columbia River marking much of the boundary (S); the Pacific Ocean (W); and the Canadian province of British Columbia (N).
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, OregonOregon
, state in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. It is bordered by Washington, largely across the Columbia River (N), Idaho, partially across the Snake River (E), Nevada and California (S), and the Pacific Ocean (W).
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, CaliforniaCalifornia
, most populous state in the United States, located in the Far West; bordered by Oregon (N), Nevada and, across the Colorado River, Arizona (E), Mexico (S), and the Pacific Ocean (W). Facts and Figures

Area, 158,693 sq mi (411,015 sq km). Pop.
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, and NevadaNevada
, far western state of the United States. It is bordered by Utah (E), Arizona (SE), California (SW, W), and Oregon and Idaho (N). Facts and Figures

Area, 110,540 sq mi (286,299 sq km). Pop. (2000) 2,700,551, a 35.
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, largest in area of the United States but one of the smallest in population, occupying the northwest extremity of the North American continent, separated from the coterminous United States by W Canada.
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 is the largest state in area (656,424 sq mi/1,700,578 sq km), and Rhode Island is the smallest (1,545 sq mi/4,003 sq km). California has the largest population (2000 pop. 33,871,648), while Wyoming has the fewest people (2000 pop. 493,782). In the late 20th cent., Nevada, Arizona, Florida, Colorado, Utah, Georgia, and Texas experienced the fastest rates of population growth, while California, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Arizona, and North Carolina gained the greatest number of residents. West Virginia, North Dakota, and the District of Columbia experienced population decreases over the same period. The largest U.S. cities are New York, Los AngelesLos Angeles
, city (1990 pop. 3,485,398), seat of Los Angeles co., S Calif.; inc. 1850. A port of entry on the Pacific coast, with a fine harbor at San Pedro Bay, it is the second largest U.S. city in population and one of the largest in area.
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, ChicagoChicago
, city (1990 pop. 2,783,726), seat of Cook co., NE Ill., on Lake Michigan; inc. 1837. The third largest city in the United States and the heart of a metropolitan area of over 8 million people, it is the commercial, financial, industrial, and cultural center for a vast
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, HoustonHouston,
city (1990 pop. 1,630,553), seat of Harris co., SE Tex., a deepwater port on the Houston Ship Channel; inc. 1837. Economy

The fourth largest city in the nation and the largest in the entire South and Southwest, Houston is a port of entry; a great
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, and PhiladelphiaPhiladelphia,
city (1990 pop. 1,585,577), coextensive with Philadelphia co., SE Pa., on the Delaware River c.100 mi (160 km) upstream at the influx of the Schuylkill River; chartered 1701.
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. Among the other major cities are BostonBoston,
city (1990 pop. 574,283), state capital and seat of Suffolk co., E Mass., on Boston Bay, an arm of Massachusetts Bay; inc. 1822. The city includes former neighboring towns—Roxbury, West Roxbury, Dorchester, Charlestown, Brighton, and Hyde Park—annexed in the
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, PittsburghPittsburgh
, city (1990 pop. 369,879), seat of Allegheny co., SW Pa., at the confluence of the Allegheny and the Monongahela rivers, which there form the Ohio River; inc. 1816. A major inland port of entry, it is located at the junction of east-west transportation arteries.
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, BaltimoreBaltimore,
city (1990 pop. 736,014), N central Md., surrounded by but politically independent of Baltimore co., on the Patapsco River estuary, an arm of Chesapeake Bay; inc. 1745.
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, Washington, D.C., RichmondRichmond.
1 City (1990 pop. 87,425), Contra Costa co., W Calif., on San Pablo Bay, an inlet of San Francisco Bay; inc. 1905. It is a deepwater commercial port and an industrial center with oil refineries and railroad repair shops.
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, Virginia BeachVirginia Beach,
resort city (1990 pop. 393,069), independent and in no county, SE Va., on the Atlantic coast; inc. 1906. In 1963, Princess Anne co. and the former small town of Virginia Beach were merged, giving the present city an area of 302 sq mi (782 sq km).
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, CharlotteCharlotte,
city (1990 pop. 395,934), seat of Mecklenburg co., S N.C.; inc. 1768. The largest city in the state and the commercial and industrial leader of the Piedmont region, Charlotte is the third-ranking U.S.
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, AtlantaAtlanta
, city (1990 pop. 394,017), state capital and seat of Fulton co., NW Ga., on the Chattahoochee R. and Peachtree Creek, near the Appalachian foothills; inc. 1847. It is Georgia's largest city and one of the leading cities of the South.
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, JacksonvilleJacksonville.
1 City (1990 pop. 29,101), Pulaski co., central Ark., inc. 1941. The city has varied industries, including printing and publishing and the manufacture of electronic equipment, ordnance, and plastic and metal products.
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, TampaTampa
, city (1990 pop. 280,015), seat of Hillsborough co., W Fla., a port of entry with an impressive harbor on Tampa Bay; inc. 1855. The third largest city in the state, Tampa has long been a shipping and manufacturing hub on the Gulf Coast.
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, MiamiMiami
. 1 City (1990 pop. 358,548), seat of Dade co., SE Fla., on Biscayne Bay at the mouth of the Miami River; inc. 1896. The region of Greater Miami encompasses all of Dade co., including Miami, Miami Beach, Coral Gables, Hialeah, and many smaller communities.
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, ClevelandCleveland.
1 City (1990 pop. 505,616), seat of Cuyahoga co., NE Ohio, on Lake Erie at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River; laid out (1796) by Moses Cleaveland, chartered as a city 1836.
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, ColumbusColumbus.
1 City (1990 pop. 178,681), seat of Muscogee co., W Ga., at the head of navigation on the Chattahoochee River; settled and inc. 1828 on the site of a Creek village.
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, CincinnatiCincinnati
, city (1990 pop. 364,040), seat of Hamilton co., extreme SW Ohio, on the Ohio River opposite Newport and Covington, Ky.; inc. as a city 1819. The third largest city in the state, Cincinnati is the industrial, commercial, and cultural center for an extensive area
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, DetroitDetroit
, city (1990 pop. 1,027,974), seat of Wayne co., SE Mich., on the Detroit River and between lakes St. Clair and Erie; inc. as a city 1815. Michigan's largest city and the tenth largest in the nation, Detroit is a major Great Lakes shipping and rail center.
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, IndianapolisIndianapolis
, city (1990 pop. 731,327), state capital and seat of Marion co., central Ind., on the White River; selected 1820 as the site of the state capital (which was moved there in 1825), inc. 1847.
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, MilwaukeeMilwaukee
, city (1990 pop. 628,088), seat of Milwaukee co., SE Wis., at the point where the Milwaukee, Menominee, and Kinnickinnic rivers enter Lake Michigan; inc. 1846.
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, MinneapolisMinneapolis
, city (1990 pop. 368,383), seat of Hennepin co., E Minn., at the head of navigation on the Mississippi River, at St. Anthony Falls; inc. 1856. The largest city in the state and a port of entry, it is a major industrial and rail hub. With adjacent St.
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, Saint LouisSaint Louis
, city (1990 pop. 396,685), independent and in no county, E Mo., on the Mississippi River below the mouth of the Missouri; inc. as a city 1822. St. Louis has long been a major industrial and transportation hub.
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, NashvilleNashville,
city (1990 pop. 487,969), state capital, coextensive with Davidson co., central Tenn., on the Cumberland River, in a fertile farm area; inc. as a city 1806, merged with Davidson co. 1963. It is a port of entry and an important commercial and industrial center.
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, MemphisMemphis
, city (1990 pop. 610,337), seat of Shelby co., SW Tenn., on the Fourth, or Lower, Chickasaw Bluff above the Mississippi, at the mouth of the Wolf River; inc. 1826.
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, New OrleansNew Orleans
, city (2006 pop. 187,525), coextensive with Orleans parish, SE La., between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain, 107 mi (172 km) by water from the river mouth; founded 1718 by the sieur de Bienville, inc. 1805.
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, Kansas CityKansas City,
two adjacent cities of the same name, one (1990 pop. 149,767), seat of Wyandotte co., NE Kansas (inc. 1859), the other (1990 pop. 435,146), Clay, Jackson, and Platte counties, NW Mo. (inc. 1850).
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, Oklahoma CityOklahoma City
(1990 pop. 444,719), state capital, and seat of Oklahoma co., central Okla., on the North Canadian River; inc. 1890. The state's largest city, it is an important livestock market, a wholesale, distribution, industrial, and financial center, and a farm trade and
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, DallasDallas,
city (1990 pop. 1,006,877), seat of Dallas co., N Tex., on the Trinity River near the junction of its three forks; inc. 1871. The second largest Texas city, after Houston, and the eighth largest U.S. city, Dallas is a commercial, industrial, and financial center.
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Fort WorthFort Worth,
city (1990 pop. 447,619), seat of Tarrant co., N Tex., on the Trinity River 30 mi (48 km) W of Dallas; settled 1843, inc. 1873. An army post was established on the site in 1847, and after the Civil War became an Old West cow town.
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, AustinAustin.
1 City (1990 pop. 21,907), seat of Mower co., SE Minn., on the Cedar River, near the Iowa line; inc. 1868. The commercial and industrial center of a rich farm region, it is noted as home to the Hormel meatpacking company, whose Spam Town museum draws tourists.
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, San AntonioSan Antonio
, city (1990 pop. 935,933), seat of Bexar co., S central Tex., at the source of the San Antonio River; inc. 1837. The third largest city in Texas, it is one of the nation's largest military centers; Joint Base San Antonio amalgamates Fort Sam Houston and the nearby
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, El PasoEl Paso
, city (1990 pop. 515,342), seat of El Paso co., extreme W Tex., on the Rio Grande opposite Juárez, Mex.; inc. 1873. In a region of cattle ranches and cotton and vegetable farms (irrigated from the Elephant Butte Reservoir), the city is a port of entry and a
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, AlbuquerqueAlbuquerque
, city (1990 pop. 384,736), seat of Bernalillo co., W central N.Mex., on the upper Rio Grande; inc. 1890. The largest city in the state, it is the commercial, industrial, and transportation center for a rich timber, livestock, and farm area.
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, DenverDenver,
city (1990 pop. 467,610), alt. 5,280 ft (1,609 m), state capital, coextensive with Denver co., N central Colo., on a plateau at the foot of the Front Range of the Rocky Mts., along the South Platte River where Cherry Creek meets it; est. 1858 and named after James W.
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, Salt Lake CitySalt Lake City,
city (1990 pop. 159,936), alt. c.4,330 ft (1,320 m), state capital and seat of Salt Lake co., N central Utah, on the Jordan River and near the Great Salt Lake, at the foot of the Wasatch Range; inc. 1851.
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, PhoenixPhoenix,
city (1990 pop. 983,403), state capital and seat of Maricopa co., S Ariz., on the Salt River; inc. 1881. It is the largest city in Arizona, the hub of the rich agricultural region of the Salt River valley, and an important center for research and development,
..... Click the link for more information.
, TucsonTucson
, city (1990 pop. 405,390), seat of Pima co., SE Ariz.; inc. 1877. Situated in a desert plain surrounded by mountains, Tucson is an important and growing transportation and tourist center; its dry, sunny, and hot climate attracts vacationers and health seekers.
..... Click the link for more information.
, Las VegasLas Vegas
, city (1990 pop. 258,295), seat of Clark co., S Nev.; inc. 1911. It is the largest city in Nevada and the center of one of the fastest-growing urban areas in the United States.
..... Click the link for more information.
, SeattleSeattle
, city (1990 pop. 516,259), seat of King co., W Wash., built on seven hills, between Elliott Bay of Puget Sound and Lake Washington; inc. 1869. Seattle, the largest city in the Pacific Northwest, is the region's commercial, financial, transportation, and industrial hub
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, PortlandPortland.
1 City (1990 pop. 64,358), seat of Cumberland co., SW Maine, situated on a small peninsula and adjacent land, with a large, deepwater harbor on Casco Bay; settled c.1632, set off from Falmouth and inc. 1786.
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, SacramentoSacramento
, city (1990 pop. 369,365), state capital and seat of Sacramento co., central Calif., on the Sacramento River at its confluence with the American River; settled 1839, inc. 1850.
..... Click the link for more information.
, San FranciscoSan Francisco
, city (1990 pop. 723,959), coextensive with San Francisco co., W Calif., on the tip of a peninsula between the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay, which are connected by the strait known as the Golden Gate; inc. 1850.
..... Click the link for more information.
, San JoseSan Jose
, city (1990 pop. 782,248), seat of Santa Clara co., W central Calif.; founded 1777, inc. 1850. Along with San Francisco and Oakland the city comprises the fourth largest metropolitan area in the United States.
..... Click the link for more information.
, FresnoFresno
, city (1990 pop. 354,202), seat of Fresno co., S central Calif.; inc. 1885. Settled in 1872 as a station on the Central Pacific RR, Fresno profited from irrigated farming as early as the 1880s. Extensive and sophisticated agribusiness in the San Joaquin valley (Fresno co.
..... Click the link for more information.
, Long BeachLong Beach.
1 City (1990 pop. 429,433), Los Angeles co., S Calif., on San Pedro Bay; est. 1882 as Willmore City, inc. 1888 as Long Beach. Having an excellent harbor, it serves as one of Los Angeles's two ports—it is one of the world's largest container
..... Click the link for more information.
, San DiegoSan Diego
, city (1990 pop. 1,110,549), seat of San Diego co., S Calif., on San Diego Bay; inc. 1850. San Diego includes the unincorporated communities of La Jolla and Spring Valley. Coronado is across the bay.
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, and HonoluluHonolulu
, city (1990 pop. 365,272), capital of the state of Hawaii and seat of Honolulu co., on the southeast coast of the island of Oahu. The city and county are legally coextensive, and both are governed by the same mayor and council. With ship and air connections to the U.S.
..... Click the link for more information.

Physical Geography

The conterminous United States may be divided into seven broad physiographic divisions: from east to west, the Atlantic–Gulf Coastal Plain; the Appalachian Highlands; the Interior Plains; the Interior Highlands; the Rocky Mountain System; the Intermontane Region; and the Pacific Mountain System. An eighth division, the Laurentian Uplands, a part of the Canadian ShieldCanadian Shield
or Laurentian Plateau
, U-shaped region of ancient rock, the nucleus of North America, stretching N from the Great Lakes to the Arctic Ocean. Covering more than half of Canada, it also includes most of Greenland and extends into the United States as the
..... Click the link for more information.
, dips into the United States from Canada in the Great Lakes region. It is an area of little local relief, with an irregular drainage system and many lakes, as well as some of the oldest exposed rocks in the United States.

The terrain of the N United States was formed by the great continental ice sheets that covered N North America during the late Cenozoic Era. The southern edge of the ice sheet is roughly traced by a line of terminal moraines extending west from E Long Island and then along the course of the Ohio and Missouri rivers to the Rocky Mts.; land north of this line is covered by glacial material. Alaska and the mountains of NW United States had extensive mountain glaciers and were heavily eroded. Large glacial lakes (see Lake Bonneville under Bonneville Salt FlatsBonneville Salt Flats
, desert area in Tooele co., NW Utah, c.14 mi (22.5 km) long and 7 mi (11.2 km) wide. The smooth salt surface of the Flats is ideal for auto racing, and several world land speed records have been set there.
..... Click the link for more information.
; Lahontan, LakeLahontan, Lake
, extinct lake of W Nev. and NE Calif. It was formed by heavy precipitation caused by the Pleistocene glaciers and with Lake Bonneville (see under Bonneville Salt Flats) occupied a part of the Great Basin region.
..... Click the link for more information.
) occupied sections of the Basin and Range province; the Great Salt Lake and the other lakes of this region are remnants of the glacial lakes.

The East and the Gulf Coast

The Atlantic–Gulf Coastal Plain extends along the east and southeast coasts of the United States from E Long Island to the Rio Grande; Cape Cod and the islands off SE Massachusetts are also part of this region. Although narrow in the north, the Atlantic Coastal Plain widens in the south, merging with the Gulf Coastal Plain in Florida. The Atlantic and Gulf coasts are essentially coastlines of submergence, with numerous estuaries, embayments, islands, sandspits, and barrier beaches backed by lagoons. The northeast coast has many fine natural harbors, such as those of New York BayNew York Bay,
arm of the Atlantic Ocean at the mouth of the Hudson River, SE N.Y. and NE N.J., enclosed by the shores of NE New Jersey, E Staten Island, S Manhattan, and W Long Island (Brooklyn) and opening on the SE to the Atlantic Ocean between Sandy Hook, N.J.
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 and Chesapeake BayChesapeake Bay,
inlet of the Atlantic Ocean, c.200 mi (320 km) long, from 3 to 30 mi (4.8–48 km) wide, and 3,237 sq mi (8,384 sq km), separating the Delmarva Peninsula from mainland Maryland. and Virginia.
..... Click the link for more information.
, but south of the great capes of the North Carolina coast (Fear, Lookout, and Hatteras) there are few large bays. A principal feature of the lagoon-lined Gulf Coast is the great delta of the MississippiMississippi,
river, principal river of the United States, c.2,350 mi (3,780 km) long, exceeded in length only by the Missouri, the chief of its numerous tributaries. The combined Missouri-Mississippi system (from the Missouri's headwaters in the Rocky Mts.
..... Click the link for more information.

The Atlantic Coastal Plain rises in the west to the rolling Piedmont (the falls along which were an early source of waterpower), a hilly transitional zone leading to the Appalachian MountainsAppalachian Mountains
, mountain system of E North America, extending in a broad belt c.1,600 mi (2,570 km) SW from the Gaspé Peninsula in Quebec prov., Canada, to the Gulf coastal plain in Alabama. Main sections in the system are the White Mts., Green Mts.
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. These ancient mountains, a once towering system now worn low by erosion, extend southwest from SE Canada to the Gulf Coastal Plain in Alabama. In E New England, the Appalachians extend in a few places to the Atlantic Ocean, contributing to a rocky, irregular coastline. The Appalachians and the Adirondack MountainsAdirondack Mountains
, mountain mass, NE N.Y., between the St. Lawrence valley in the north and the Mohawk valley in the south; rising to 5,344 ft (1,629 m) at Mt. Marcy, the highest point in the state.
..... Click the link for more information.
 of New York (which are geologically related to the Canadian Shield) include all the chief highlands of E United States; Mt. MitchellMitchell, Mount,
peak, 6,684 ft (2,037 m) high, W N.C., in the Black Mts. of the Appalachian system; highest peak E of the Mississippi River.
..... Click the link for more information.
 (6,684 ft/2,037 m high), in the Black Mts. of North Carolina, is the highest point of E North America.

The Plains and Highlands of the Interior

Extending more than 1,000 mi (1,610 km) from the Appalachians to the Rocky Mts. and lying between Canada (into which they extend) in the north and the Gulf Coastal Plain in the south are the undulating Interior Plains. Once covered by a great inland sea, the Interior Plains are underlain by sedimentary rock. Almost all of the region is drained by one of the world's greatest river systems—the Mississippi-Missouri. The Interior Plains may be divided into two sections: the fertile central lowlands, the agricultural heartland of the United States; and the Great PlainsGreat Plains,
extensive grassland region on the continental slope of central North America. They extend from the Canadian provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba south through W central United States into W Texas.
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, a treeless plateau that gently rises from the central lowlands to the foothills of the Rocky Mts. The Black HillsBlack Hills,
rugged mountains, c.6,000 sq mi (15,540 sq km), enclosed by the Belle Fourche and Cheyenne rivers, SW S.Dak. and NE Wyo., and rising c.2,500 ft (760 m) above the surrounding Great Plains; Harney Peak, 7,242 ft (2,207 m) above sea level, is the highest point in the
..... Click the link for more information.
 of South Dakota form the region's only upland area.

The Interior Highlands are located just W of the Mississippi River between the Interior Plains and the Gulf Coastal Plain. This region consists of the rolling Ozark Plateau (see OzarksOzarks, the,
or Ozark Plateau,
upland region, actually a dissected plateau, c.50,000 sq mi (129,500 sq km), chiefly in S Mo. and N Ark., but partly in Oklahoma and Kansas, between the Arkansas and Missouri rivers.
..... Click the link for more information.
) to the north and the Ouachita MountainsOuachita Mountains,
range of east-west ridges between the Arkansas and Red rivers, extending c.200 mi (320 km) from central Ark. into SE Okla. Magazine Mt. (c.2,800 ft/850 m high) is the tallest peak. The Ouachita Mts. are geologically considered outlier of the Appalachian Mts.
..... Click the link for more information.
, which are similar in structure to the ridge and valley section of the Appalachians, to the east.

The Western Mountains and Great Basin

West of the Great Plains are the lofty Rocky MountainsRocky Mountains,
major mountain system of W North America and easternmost belt of the North American cordillera, extending more than 3,000 mi (4,800 km) from central N.Mex. to NW Alaska; Mt. Elbert (14,431 ft/4,399 m) in Colorado is the highest peak.
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. This geologically young and complex system extends into NW United States from Canada and runs S into New Mexico. There are numerous high peaks in the Rockies; the highest is Mt. ElbertElbert, Mount,
peak, 14,433 ft (4,399 m) high, central Colo.; highest point in the state and tallest peak in the U.S. Rocky Mts.
..... Click the link for more information.
 (14,433 ft/4,399 m). The Rocky Mts. are divided into four sections—the Northern Rockies, the Middle Rockies, the Wyoming (Great Divide) Basin, and the Southern Rockies. Along the crest of the Rockies is the Continental DivideContinental Divide,
the "backbone" of a continent. In North America, from N Alaska to New Mexico, it moves along the crest of the Rocky Mts., which separates streams with outlets to the west of the divide from those with outlets to the east.
..... Click the link for more information.
, separating Atlantic-bound drainage from that heading for the Pacific Ocean.

Between the Rocky Mts. and the ranges to the west is the Intermontane Region, an arid expanse of plateaus, basins, and ranges. The Columbia PlateauColumbia Plateau,
physiographic region of North America, c.100,000 sq mi (259,000 sq km), NW United States, between the Rocky Mts. and the Cascade Range in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho.
..... Click the link for more information.
, in the north of the region, was formed by volcanic lava and is drained by the ColumbiaColumbia,
river, c.1,210 mi (1,950 km) long, rising in Columbia Lake, SE British Columbia, Canada. It flows first NW in the Rocky Mt. Trench, then hooks sharply about the Selkirk Mts.
..... Click the link for more information.
 River and its tributary the SnakeSnake,
river, 1,038 mi (1,670 km) long, NW United States, the chief tributary of the Columbia; once called the Lewis River. The Snake rises in NW Wyoming, in Yellowstone National Park, flows through Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park, then S and W into Idaho and northwest
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 River, both of which have cut deep canyons into the plateau. The enormous Colorado PlateauColorado Plateau,
physiographic region of SW North America, c.150,000 sq mi (388,500 sq km), in Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico, including the "Four Corners" area. It is characterized by broad plateaus, ancient volcanic mountains at elevations of c.
..... Click the link for more information.
, an area of sedimentary rock, is drained by the ColoradoColorado
. 1 Great river of the SW United States, 1,450 mi (2,334 km) long, rising in the Rocky Mts. of N Colo., and flowing generally SW through Colo., Utah, Ariz., between Nev. and Ariz., and Ariz. and Calif.
..... Click the link for more information.
 River and its tributaries; there the Colorado River has entrenched itself to form the Grand CanyonGrand Canyon,
great gorge of the Colorado River, one of the natural wonders of the world; c.1 mi (1.6 km) deep, from 4 to 18 mi (6.4–29 km) wide, and 217 mi (349 km) long, NW Ariz.
..... Click the link for more information.
, one of the world's most impressive scenic wonders. West of the plateaus is the Basin and Range province, an area of extensive semidesert.

The lowest point in North America, in Death ValleyDeath Valley,
SE Calif. and SW Nev., a deep, arid basin, 140 mi (225 km) long, bordered on the W by the Panamint Range and on the E by the Amargosa Range. In summer the valley has recorded some of the world's highest air temperatures (134°F;/56.
..... Click the link for more information.
 (282 ft/86 m below sea level), is there. The largest basin in the region is the Great BasinGreat Basin,
semiarid, N section of the Basin and Range province, the intermontane plateau region of W United States and N Mexico. Lying mostly in Nevada and extending into California, Oregon, Idaho, and Utah, it is bordered by the Sierra Nevada on the west, the Columbia Plateau
..... Click the link for more information.
, an area of interior drainage (the HumboldtHumboldt,
river, c.300 mi (480 km) long, rising in several branches in the mountains of NE Nev. It meanders generally west to disappear in Humboldt Sink, W Nevada. Along with its tributaries, the Humboldt drains most of N Nevada.
..... Click the link for more information.
 River is the largest stream) and of numerous salt lakes, including the Great Salt LakeGreat Salt Lake,
shallow body of saltwater, NW Utah, between the Wasatch Range on the east and the Great Salt Lake Desert on the west; largest salt lake in North America.
..... Click the link for more information.
. Between the Intermontane Region and the Pacific Ocean is the Pacific Mountain System, a series of ranges generally paralleling the coast, formed by faulting and volcanism. The Cascade RangeCascade Range,
mountain chain, c.700 mi (1,130 km) long, extending S from British Columbia to N Calif., where it becomes the Sierra Nevada; it parallels the Coast Ranges, 100–150 mi (161–241 km) inland from the Pacific Ocean.
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, with its numerous volcanic peaks extends S from SW Canada into N California, and from there is continued south by the Sierra NevadaSierra Nevada
, mountain range, c.400 mi (640 km) long and from c.40 to 80 mi (60–130 km) wide, mostly in E Calif. It rises to 14,495 ft (4,418 m) in Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the United States outside Alaska.
..... Click the link for more information.
, a great fault block. Mt. WhitneyWhitney, Mount,
peak, 14,494 ft (4,418 m) high, E Calif., in the Sierra Nevada at the eastern border of Sequoia National Park; the highest peak in the contiguous 48 states (Denali [Mt. McKinley], Alaska, is the highest peak in the United States).
..... Click the link for more information.
 (14,495 ft/4,418 m), in the Sierra Nevada, is the highest peak in the conterminous United States.

The Pacific Coast, Alaska, and Hawaii

West of the Cascades and the Sierra Nevada and separated from them by a structural trough are the Coast RangesCoast Ranges,
series of mountain ranges along the Pacific coast of North America, extending from SE Alaska to Baja California; from 2,000 to 20,000 ft (610–6,100 m) high. The ranges include the St. Elias Mts.
..... Click the link for more information.
, which extend along the length of the U.S. Pacific coast. The Central Valley in California, the Willamette Valley in Oregon, and the Puget Sound lowlands in Washington are part of the trough. The San Andreas Fault, a fracture in the earth's crust, parallels the trend of the Coast Ranges from San Francisco Bay SE to NW Mexico; earthquakes are common along its entire length. The Pacific Coastal Plain is narrow, and in many cases the mountains plunge directly into the sea. A coastline of emergence, it has few islands, except for California's Channel IslandsChannel Islands
or Santa Barbara Islands
, chain of eight rugged islands and many islets, extending c.150 mi (240 km) along the S Calif. coast from Point Conception to San Diego.
..... Click the link for more information.
 and those in Puget Sound; there are few good harbors besides Puget SoundPuget Sound
, arm of the Pacific Ocean, NW Wash., connected with the Pacific by Juan de Fuca Strait, entered through the Admiralty Inlet and extending in two arms c.100 mi (160 km) S to Olympia.
..... Click the link for more information.
, San Francisco BaySan Francisco Bay,
50 mi (80 km) long and from 3 to 13 mi (4.8–21 km) wide, W Calif.; entered through the Golden Gate, a strait between two peninsulas. The bay is as deep as 100 ft (30 m) in spots, with a channel 50 ft (15 m) deep maintained through the sandbar off the
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, and San Diego Bay.

Alaska may be divided into four physiographic regions; they are, from north to south, the Arctic Lowlands, the coastal plain of the Arctic Ocean; the Rocky Mountain System, of which the Brooks RangeBrooks Range,
mountain chain, northernmost part of the Rocky Mts., extending about 600 mi (970 km) from east to west across N Alaska. Mt. Chamberlin, 9,020 ft (2,749 m) high, near the Canadian border, is the highest peak.
..... Click the link for more information.
 is the northernmost section; the Central Basins and Highlands Region, which is dominated by the YukonYukon
, river, c.2,000 mi (3,220 km) long, rising in Atlin Lake, NW British Columbia, Canada, and receiving numerous headwater streams; one of the longest rivers of North America.
..... Click the link for more information.
 River basin; and the Pacific Mountain System, which parallels Alaska's southern coast and which rises to 20,310 ft (6,190 m) at DenaliDenali,
formerly Mount McKinley,
peak, 20,310 ft (6,190 m) high, S central Alaska, in the Alaska Range; highest point in North America. Permanent snowfields cover more than half the mountain and feed numerous glaciers.
..... Click the link for more information.
 (Mt. McKinley), the highest peak of North America. The islands of SE Alaska and those of the Aleutian IslandsAleutian Islands
, chain of rugged, volcanic islands curving c.1,200 mi (1,900 km) west from the tip of the Alaska Peninsula and approaching Russia's Komandorski Islands.
..... Click the link for more information.
 chain are partially submerged portions of the Pacific Mountain System and are frequently subjected to volcanic activity and earthquakes. These islands, like those of Hawaii, are the tops of volcanoes that rise from the floor of the Pacific Ocean. Mauna KeaMauna Kea
, dormant volcano, 13,796 ft (4,205 m) high, in the south central part of the island of Hawaii. It is the loftiest peak in the Hawaiian Islands and the highest island mountain in the world, rising c.32,000 ft (9,750 m) from the Pacific Ocean floor.
..... Click the link for more information.
 and Mauna LoaMauna Loa
, volcano, 13,680 ft (4,170 m) high, in the S central part of the island of Hawaii, in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the largest active volcano in the world. Its several craters and cones include Mokuaweoweo, one of the world's largest active calderas.
..... Click the link for more information.
 on Hawaii are active volcanoes; the other Hawaiian islands are extinct volcanoes.

Major Rivers and Lakes

The United States has an extensive inland waterway system, much of which has been improved for navigation and flood control and developed to produce hydroelectricity and irrigation water by such agencies as the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the Tennessee Valley AuthorityTennessee Valley Authority
(TVA), independent U.S. government corporate agency, created in 1933 by act of Congress; it is responsible for the integrated development of the Tennessee River basin.
..... Click the link for more information.
. Some of the world's larger dams, artificial lakes, and hydroelectric power plants are on U.S. rivers. The Mississippi-Missouri river system (c.3,890 mi/6,300 km long), is the longest in the United States and the second longest in the world. With its hundreds of tributaries, chief among which are the Red RiverRed River.
1 River, 1,222 mi (1,967 km) long, southernmost of the large tributaries of the Mississippi River. It rises in two branches in the Texas Panhandle and flows SE between Texas and Oklahoma and between Texas and Arkansas to Fulton, Ark.
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, the OhioOhio,
river, 981 mi (1,579 km) long, formed by the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers in SW Pa., at Pittsburgh; it flows northwest, then generally southwest to enter the Mississippi River at Cairo, Ill.
..... Click the link for more information.
, and the ArkansasArkansas
, river, c.1,450 mi (2,330 km) long, rising in the Rocky Mts., central Colo., and flowing generally SE across the plains to the Mississippi River, SE Ark.; drains 160,500 sq mi (415,700 sq km). The Canadian and Cimarron rivers are its main tributaries.
..... Click the link for more information.
, the Mississippi basin drains more than half of the nation. The Yukon, Columbia, Colorado, and Rio GrandeRio Grande
, river, c.1,885 mi (3,000 km) long, rising in SW Colo. in the San Juan Mts. and flowing south through the middle of N.Mex., past Albuquerque, then coursing generally southeast as the border between Texas and Mexico, making a big bend (see Big Bend National Park), and
..... Click the link for more information.
 also have huge drainage basins. Other notable river systems include the ConnecticutConnecticut,
longest river in New England, 407 mi (655 km) long, rising in the Connecticut Lakes, N N.H., near the Quebec border, and flowing S along the Vt.-N.H. line, then across Mass. and Conn. to enter Long Island Sound at Old Saybrook, Conn.; drains c.
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, HudsonHudson,
river, c.315 mi (510 km) long, rising in Lake Tear of the Clouds, on Mt. Marcy in the Adirondack Mts., NE N.Y., and flowing generally S to Upper New York Bay at New York City; the Mohawk River is its chief tributary.
..... Click the link for more information.
, DelawareDelaware
, river, c.280 mi (450 km) long, rising in the Catskill Mts., SE N.Y., in east and west branches, which meet at Hancock. It flows SE along the New York–Pennsylvania border to Port Jervis, N.Y.
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, SusquehannaSusquehanna
, river, 444 mi (715 km) long, rising in Otsego Lake, at Cooperstown, N.Y., and zigzagging SE and SW through E central Pa. to Chesapeake Bay near Havre de Grace, Md. The bay is the drowned lower course of the river. The West Branch (c.
..... Click the link for more information.
, PotomacPotomac
, river, 285 mi (459 km) long, formed SE of Cumberland, Md., by the confluence of its North and South branches and flowing generally SE to Chesapeake Bay. It forms part of the boundary between Maryland and West Virginia and then separates Virginia from both Maryland and
..... Click the link for more information.
, JamesJames.
1 Unnavigable river, 710 mi (1,143 km) long, rising in central N.Dak. and flowing across S.Dak. to the Missouri River at Yankton, S.Dak. Jamestown Dam on the river is an irrigation and flood control unit of the Missouri River basin project of the U.S.
..... Click the link for more information.
, AlabamaAlabama,
river, 315 mi (507 km) long, formed in central Ala. by the confluence of the Coosa and Tallapoosa rivers N of Montgomery, Ala., and flowing SW to Mobile, Ala., where it joins the Tombigbee to form the Mobile River; drains c.22,600 sq mi (58,500 sq km).
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, TrinityTrinity,
river rising in N Texas in three forks; the Clear Fork runs into the West Fork at Fort Worth, and the Elm Fork joins the West Fork at Dallas. The Trinity then flows c.510 mi (820 km) SE to Trinity Bay, an arm of Galveston Bay.
..... Click the link for more information.
, San JoaquinSan Joaquin
, river, c.320 mi (510 km) long, rising in the Sierra Nevada, E Calif., and flowing W then N through the S Central Valley to form a large delta with the Sacramento River near Suisun Bay, an arm of San Francisco Bay. The San Joaquin is navigable c.
..... Click the link for more information.
, and SacramentoSacramento,
longest river of Calif., c.380 mi (610 km) long, rising near Mt. Shasta, N Calif., and flowing generally SW to Suisun Bay, an arm of San Francisco Bay, where it forms a large delta with the San Joaquin River.
..... Click the link for more information.

The Great Salt Lake and Alaska's IliamnaIliamna
, lake, c.1,000 sq mi (2,590 sq km), 75 mi (121 km) long and up to 22 mi (35 km) wide, SW Alaska, at the base of the Alaska Peninsula; largest lake in Alaska and the second largest freshwater lake wholly within the United States.
..... Click the link for more information.
 are the largest U.S. lakes outside the Great LakesGreat Lakes,
group of five freshwater lakes, central North America, creating a natural border between the United States and Canada and forming the largest body of freshwater in the world, with a combined surface area of c.95,000 sq mi (246,050 sq km).
..... Click the link for more information.
 and Lake of the WoodsLake of the Woods,
1,485 sq mi (3,846 sq km), c.70 mi (110 km) long, on the U.S.-Canada border in the pine forest region of N Minn., SE Man., and SW Ont. More than two thirds of the lake is in Canada.
..... Click the link for more information.
, which are shared with Canada (Lake Michigan and Iliamna are the largest freshwater lakes entirely within the United States). The Illinois WaterwayIllinois Waterway,
336 mi (541 km) long, linking Lake Michigan with the Mississippi River, N Ill.; an important part of the waterway connecting the Great Lakes with the Gulf of Mexico.
..... Click the link for more information.
 connects the Great Lakes with the Mississippi River, and the New York State Canal SystemNew York State Canal System,
waterway system, 524 mi (843 km) long, traversing New York state and connecting the Great Lakes with the Finger Lakes, the Hudson River, and Lake Champlain.
..... Click the link for more information.
 links them with the Hudson. The Intracoastal WaterwayIntracoastal Waterway,
c.3,000 mi (4,827 km) long, partly natural, partly artificial, providing sheltered passage for commercial and leisure boats along the U.S. Atlantic coast from Boston, Mass. to Key West, S Fla., and along the Gulf of Mexico coast from Apalachee Bay, NW Fla.
..... Click the link for more information.
 provides sheltered passage for shallow draft vessels along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts.


The United States has a broad range of climates, varying from the tropical rain-forest of Hawaii and the tropical savanna of S Florida (where the EvergladesEverglades,
marshy, low-lying subtropical savanna area, c.4,000 sq mi (10,000 sq km), S Fla., extending from Lake Okeechobee S to Florida Bay. Characterized by water, sawgrass, hammocks (islandlike masses of vegetation), palms, pine and mangrove forests, and solidly packed black
..... Click the link for more information.
 are found) to the subarctic and tundra climates of Alaska. East of the 100th meridian (the general dividing line between the dry and humid climates) are the humid subtropical climate of SE United States and the humid continental climate of NE United States. Extensive forests are found in both these regions. West of the 100th meridian are the steppe climate and the grasslands of the Great Plains; trees are found along the water courses.

In the SW United States are the deserts of the basin and range province, with the hottest and driest spots in the United States. Along the Pacific coast are the Mediterranean-type climate of S California and, extending north into SE Alaska, the marine West Coast climate. The Pacific Northwest is one of the wettest parts of the United States and is densely forested. The Rocky Mts., Cascades, and Sierra Nevada have typical highland climates and are also heavily forested. In addition to the Grand Canyon in Arizona and Great Salt Lake in Utah, widely publicized geographic marvels of the United States include Niagara FallsNiagara Falls,
in the Niagara River, W N.Y. and S Ont., Canada; one of the most famous spectacles in North America. The falls are on the international line between the cities of Niagara Falls, N.Y., and Niagara Falls, Ont.
..... Click the link for more information.
, on the New York–Canada border; the pink cliffs of Bryce Canyon National ParkBryce Canyon National Park,
35,835 acres (14,513 hectares), SW Utah; est. 1924. The Pink Cliffs of the Paunsaugunt Plateau, c.2,000 ft (610 m) high, were formed by water, frost, and wind action on alternate strata of softer and harder limestone; the result is colorful and unique
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, in Utah; and the geysers of Yellowstone National ParkYellowstone National Park,
2,219,791 acres (899,015 hectares), the world's first national park (est. 1872), NW Wyo., extending into Montana and Idaho. It lies mainly on a broad plateau in the Rocky Mts., on the Continental Divide, c.
..... Click the link for more information.
, primarily in Wyoming (for others, see National Parks and MonumentsNational Parks and Monuments

National Parks
Name Type1 Location Year authorized Size
acres (hectares)
Acadia NP SE Maine 1919 49,075 (19,868) Mountain and coast scenery.
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, table).


More than 79% of the United States population are urban (and more than 50% are estimated to be suburban, a not strictly defined category that can be taken as a subset of urban), and the great majority of the inhabitants are of European descent. According to the U.S. census, as of 2000 the largest minority were Hispanics, who, at 35,305,818 people, accounted for 12.5% of the population; this figure includes people of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, and many other origins (who may be any race). The African-American population numbered 34,658,190, or 12.3% of the population, although an additional 0.6% of the population were of African-American descent in part. The Asian population totaled 10,242,998 in 2000, or 3.6%, and consisted predominantly of people of Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, or Japanese origin; an additional 0.6% of the population had a mixed-race background that was partially Asian. The Native American population of the United States, which included natives of Alaska such as EskimosEskimo
, a general term used to refer to a number of groups inhabiting the coastline from the Bering Sea to Greenland and the Chukchi Peninsula in NE Siberia. A number of distinct groups, based on differences in patterns of resource exploitation, are commonly identified,
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 and AleutsAleut
, native inhabitant of the Aleutian Islands and W Alaska. Like the Eskimo, the Aleuts are racially similar to Siberian peoples. Their language is a member of the Eskimo-Aleut family.
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, was 2,475,956, or 0.9%, but an additional 0.6% were of partial Native American descent. Roughly a third of Native Americans lived on reservations, trust lands, territories, or other lands under Native American jurisdiction. Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders numbered 398,835 in 2000, or 0.1% of the population; an additional 0.2% were of partial Pacific Island descent. Persons who defined themselves as being of mixed racial background constituted 2.4% of the population in 2000, but the number of people with a mixed racial background, especially in the African-American and Hispanic populations, was in fact much higher. About 82% of the people speak English and about 11% speak Spanish as their first language. There are large numbers of speakers of many other Indo-European and Asian languages, and most languages of the world are spoken somewhere in the United States.

In addition to the original group of British settlers in the colonies of the Atlantic coast, numerous other national groups were introduced by immigration. Large numbers of Africans were transported in chains under abysmal conditions to work as slaves, chiefly on the plantations of the South. When the United States was developing rapidly with the settlement of the West (where some earlier groups of French and Spanish settlers were absorbed), immigrants from Europe poured into the land. An important early group was the Scotch-Irish. Just before the middle of the 19th cent., Irish and German immigrants were predominant. A little later the Scandinavian nations supplied many settlers.

After the Civil War, the immigrants came mainly from the nations of S and E Europe: from Italy, Greece, Russia, the part of Poland then in Russia, and from Austria-Hungary and the Balkans. During this period, there were also large numbers of immigrants from China. During the peak years of immigration between 1890 and 1924 more than 15 million immigrants arrived in the United States. After the immigration law of 1924 (see immigrationimmigration,
entrance of a person (an alien) into a new country for the purpose of establishing permanent residence. Motives for immigration, like those for migration generally, are often economic, although religious or political factors may be very important.
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), immigration was heavily restricted until the mid-1960s. Since the 1980s, large numbers of new immigrants have arrived. U.S. Census Bureau figures indicate that the proportion of foreign-born people in the U.S. population reached 11.1% in 2000, the highest it had been since the 1930 census; more than 40% of the more than 31 million foreign born had arrived since 1990. More than half of all foreign-born persons in the United States are from Latin America, and more than a quarter are from Asia.

Religion and Education

There is religious freedom in the United States, and the overwhelming majority of Americans are Christians. In turn, the majority of Christians are Protestants, but of many denominations. The largest single Christian group embraces members (some 61 million in 1999) of the Roman Catholic Church; the Orthodox Eastern Church is also represented. In addition, roughly 2.5% of Americans adhere to Judaism, and some 1%–2% are Muslims. Education in the United States is administered chiefly by the states. Each of the 50 states has a free and public primary and secondary school system. There are also in the United States more than 3,500 institutions of higher learning, both privately supported and state supported (see separate articles on individual colleges and universities).


The mineral and agricultural resources of the United States are tremendous. Although the country was virtually self-sufficient in the past, increasing consumption, especially of energy, continues to make it dependent on certain imports. It is, nevertheless, the world's largest producer of both electrical and nuclear energy. It leads all nations in the production of liquid natural gas, aluminum, sulfur, phosphates, and salt. It is also a leading producer of copper, gold, coal, crude oil, nitrogen, iron ore, silver, uranium, lead, zinc, mica, molybdenum, and magnesium. Although its output has declined, the United States is among the world leaders in the production of pig iron and ferroalloys, steel, motor vehicles, and synthetic rubber. Agriculturally, the United States is first in the production of cheese, corn, soybeans, and tobacco. The United States is also one of the largest producers of cattle, hogs, cow's milk, butter, cotton, oats, wheat, barley, and sugar; it is the world's leading exporter of wheat and corn and ranks third in rice exports. In 1995, U.S. fisheries ranked fifth in the world in total production.

Major U.S. exports include aircraft, motor vehicles and parts, food, iron and steel products, electric and electronic equipment, industrial and power-generating machinery, organic chemicals, transistors, telecommunications equipment, pharmaceuticals, and consumer goods. Leading imports include ores and metal scraps, petroleum and petroleum products, machinery, transportation equipment (especially automobiles), food, clothing, computers, and paper and paper products. The major U.S. trading partners are Canada (in the world's largest bilateral trade relationship), Mexico, China, Japan, Great Britain, Germany, and South Korea. Despite the steady growth in imports, the gross domestic product also has continued to rise, and in 2006 it was easily the largest in the world at about $13 trillion. The development of the economy has been spurred by the growth of a complex network of communications not only by railroad, highways, inland waterways, and air but also by telephone, radio, television, computer (including the InternetInternet, the,
international computer network linking together thousands of individual networks at military and government agencies, educational institutions, nonprofit organizations, industrial and financial corporations of all sizes, and commercial enterprises (called gateways
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), and fax machine. This infrastructure has fostered not only agricultural and manufacturing growth but has also contributed to the leading position the United States holds in world tourism revenues and to the ongoing shift to a service-based economy. In 1996 some 74% of Americans worked in service industries, a proportion matched, among major economic powers, only by Canada.


The government of the United States is that of a federal republic set up by the Constitution of the United StatesConstitution of the United States,
document embodying the fundamental principles upon which the American republic is conducted. Drawn up at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, the Constitution was signed on Sept.
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, adopted by the Constitutional ConventionConstitutional Convention,
in U.S. history, the 1787 meeting in which the Constitution of the United States was drawn up. The Road to the Convention

The government adopted by the Thirteen Colonies in America (see Confederation, Articles of, and Continental
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 of 1787. There is a division of powers between the federal government and the state governments. The federal government consists of three branches: the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. The executive power is vested in the President and, in the event of the President's incapacity, the Vice President. (For a chronological list of all the presidents and vice presidents of the United States, including their terms in office and political parties, see the table entitled Presidents of the United StatesPresidents of the United States
President Political Party Dates in Office Vice President(s)
George Washington   1789–97 John Adams
John Adams Federalist 1797–1801 Thomas Jefferson
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.) The executive conducts the administrative business of the nation with the aid of a cabinet composed of the Attorney General and the Secretaries of the Departments of State; Treasury; Defense; Interior; Agriculture; Commerce; Labor; Health and Human Services; Education; Housing and Urban Development; Transportation; Energy; and Veterans' Affairs.

The Congress of the United StatesCongress of the United States,
the legislative branch of the federal government, instituted (1789) by Article 1 of the Constitution of the United States, which prescribes its membership and defines its powers.
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, the legislative branch, is bicameral and consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The judicial branch is formed by the federal courts and headed by the U.S. Supreme CourtSupreme Court, United States,
highest court of the United States, established by Article 3 of the Constitution of the United States. Scope and Jurisdiction
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. The members of the Congress are elected by universal suffrage (see electionelection,
choosing a candidate for office in an organization by the vote of those enfranchised to cast a ballot. General History

In ancient Greek democracies (e.g., Athens) public officials were occasionally elected but more often were chosen by lot.
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) as are the members of the electoral collegeelectoral college,
in U.S. government, the body of electors that chooses the president and vice president. The Constitution, in Article 2, Section 1, provides: "Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the
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, which formally chooses the President and the Vice President.


European Exploration and Settlement

Exploration of the area now included in the United States was spurred after Christopher ColumbusColumbus, Christopher,
Ital. Cristoforo Colombo , Span. Cristóbal Colón , 1451–1506, European explorer, b. Genoa, Italy. Early Years
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, sailing for the Spanish monarchy, made his voyage in 1492. John CabotCabot, John,
fl. 1461–98, English explorer, probably b. Genoa, Italy. He became a citizen of Venice in 1476 and engaged in the Eastern trade of that city. This experience, it is assumed, was the stimulus of his later explorations.
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 explored the North American coast for England in 1498. Men who were important explorers for Spain in what now constitutes the United States include Ponce de LeónPonce de León, Juan
, c.1460–1521, Spanish explorer, first Westerner to reach Florida. He served against the Moors of Granada, and in 1493 he accompanied Columbus on his second voyage to America.
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, Cabeza de VacaCabeza de Vaca, Álvar Núñez
, c.1490–c.1557, Spanish explorer. Cabeza de Vaca [cow's head] was not actually a surname but a hereditary title in his mother's family; he is frequently called simply Álvar Núñez.
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, Hernando De SotoDe Soto, Hernando
, c.1500–1542, Spanish explorer. After serving under Pedro Arias de Ávila in Central America and under Francisco Pizarro in Peru, the dashing young conquistador was made governor of Cuba by Emperor Charles V, with the right to conquer Florida
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, and CoronadoCoronado, Francisco Vásquez de
, c.1510–1554, Spanish explorer. He went to Mexico with Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza and in 1538 was made governor of Nueva Galicia.
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; important explorers for France were Giovanni da VerrazzanoVerrazzano, Giovanni da
, c.1480–1527?, Italian navigator and explorer, in the service of France, possibly the first European to enter New York Bay. Sailing west to reach Asia, Verrazzano explored (1524) the North American coast probably from North Carolina to Maine.
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, Samuel de ChamplainChamplain, Samuel de
, 1567–1635, French explorer, the chief founder of New France.

After serving in France under Henry of Navarre (King Henry IV) in the religious wars, Champlain was given command of a Spanish fleet sailing to the West Indies, Mexico, and the
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, Louis JollietJolliet or Joliet, Louis
, 1645–1700, French explorer, joint discoverer with Jacques Marquette of the upper Mississippi River, b. Quebec prov., Canada.
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, Jacques MarquetteMarquette, Jacques
, 1637–75, French missionary and explorer in North America, a Jesuit priest. He was sent to New France in 1666 and studied Native American languages under a missionary at Trois Rivières.
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, and La SalleLa Salle, Robert Cavelier, sieur de
, 1643–87, French explorer in North America, one of the most celebrated explorers and builders of New France.

He entered a Jesuit novitiate as a boy but later left the religious life.
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. These three nations—England, Spain, and France—were the chief nations to establish colonies in the present United States, although others also took part, especially the Netherlands in the establishment of New NetherlandNew Netherland,
territory included in a commercial grant by the government of Holland to the Dutch West India Company in 1621. Colonists were settled along the Hudson River region; in 1624 the first permanent settlement was established at Fort Orange (now Albany, N.Y.).
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 (explored by Henry HudsonHudson, Henry,
fl. 1607–11, English navigator and explorer. He was hired (1607) by the English Muscovy Company to find the Northeast Passage to Asia. He failed, and another attempt (1608) to find a new route was also fruitless.
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), which became New York, and Sweden in a colony on the Delaware River (see New SwedenNew Sweden,
Swedish colony (1638–55), on the Delaware River; included parts of what are now Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. With the support of Swedish statesman Axel Oxenstierna, Admiral Klas Fleming (a Finn), and Peter Minuit (a Dutchman), the New Sweden Company
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The first permanent settlement in the present United States was Saint AugustineSaint Augustine
, city (1990 pop. 11,692), seat of St. Johns co., NE Fla.; inc. 1824. Located on a peninsula between the Matanzas and San Sebastian rivers, it is separated from the Atlantic Ocean by Anastasia Island; the Intracoastal Waterway passes through the city. St.
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 (Florida), founded in 1565 by the Spaniard Pedro Menéndez de AvilésMenéndez de Avilés, Pedro
, 1519–74, Spanish naval officer and colonizer, founder of Saint Augustine, Fla. He went to sea as a youth and so distinguished himself that by the time he was 35 he held the captain generalcy of the Indies fleet, which convoyed
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. Spanish control came to be exercised over Florida, West Florida, Texas, and a large part of the Southwest, including California. For the purposes of finding precious metals and of converting heathens to Catholicism, the Spanish colonies in the present United States were relatively unfruitful and thus were never fully developed. The French established strongholds on the St. Lawrence River (Quebec and Montreal) and spread their influence over the Great Lakes country and along the Mississippi; the colony of Louisiana was a flourishing French settlement. The French government, like the Spanish, tolerated only the Catholic faith, and it implanted the rigid and feudalistic seignorial system of France in its North American possessions. Partly for these reasons, the French settlements attracted few colonists.

The English settlements, which were on the Atlantic seaboard, developed in patterns more suitable to the New World, with greater religious freedom and economic opportunity. The first permanent English settlement was made at JamestownJamestown.
1 City (1990 pop. 34,681), Chautauqua co., W N.Y., on Chautauqua Lake; founded c.1806, inc. as a city 1886. It is the business and financial center of a dairy, livestock, and vineyard area.
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 (Virginia) in 1607. The first English settlements in Virginia were managed by a chartered commercial company, the Virginia Company; economic motives were paramount to the company in founding the settlements. The Virginia colony early passed to control by the crown and became a characteristic type of English colony—the royal colony. Another type—the corporate colony—was initiated by the settlement of the PilgrimsPilgrims,
in American history, the group of separatists and other individuals who were the founders of Plymouth Colony. The name Pilgrim Fathers is given to those members who made the first crossing on the Mayflower.
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 at Plymouth ColonyPlymouth Colony,
settlement made by the Pilgrims on the coast of Massachusetts in 1620. Founding

Previous attempts at colonization in America (1606, 1607–8) by the Plymouth Company, chartered in 1606 along with the London Company (see Virginia Company), were
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 in 1620 and by the establishment of the more important Massachusetts Bay colony by the Puritans in 1630.

Religious motives were important in the founding of these colonies. The colonists of Massachusetts Bay brought with them from England the charter and the governing corporation of the colony, which thus became a corporate one, i.e., one controlled by its own resident corporation. The corporate status of the Plymouth Colony, evinced in the Mayflower CompactMayflower Compact,
in U.S. colonial history, an agreement providing for the temporary government of Plymouth Colony. The compact was signed (1620) on board the Mayflower
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, was established by the purchase (1626) of company and charter from the holders in England. Connecticut and Rhode Island, which were offshoots of Massachusetts, owed allegiance to no English company; their corporate character was confirmed by royal charters, granted to Connecticut in 1662 and to Rhode Island in 1663. A third type of colony was the proprietary, founded by lords proprietors under quasi-feudal grants from the king; prime examples are Maryland (under the Calvert family) and Pennsylvania (under William PennPenn, William,
1644–1718, English Quaker, founder of Pennsylvania, b. London, England; son of Sir William Penn. Early Life

He was expelled (1662) from Oxford for his religious nonconformity and was then sent by his father to the Continent to overcome his
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The religious and political turmoil of the Puritan Revolution in England, as well as the repression of the Huguenots in France, helped to stimulate emigration to the English colonies. Hopes of economic betterment brought thousands from England as well as a number from Germany and other continental countries. To obtain passage across the Atlantic, the poor often indentured themselves to masters in the colonies for a specified number of years. The colonial population was also swelled by criminals transported from England as a means of punishment. Once established as freedmen, former bondsmen and transportees were frequently allotted land with which to make their way in the New World.

Colonial America

The colonies were subject to English mercantilismmercantilism
, economic system of the major trading nations during the 16th, 17th, and 18th cent., based on the premise that national wealth and power were best served by increasing exports and collecting precious metals in return.
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 in the form of Navigation ActsNavigation Acts,
in English history, name given to certain parliamentary legislation, more properly called the British Acts of Trade. The acts were an outgrowth of mercantilism, and followed principles laid down by Tudor and early Stuart trade regulations.
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, begun under Cromwell and developed more fully after the Stuart Restoration. As shown by C. M. Andrews, G. L. Beer, and later historians, the colonies at first benefited by these acts, which established a monopoly of the English market for certain colonial products. Distinct colonial economies emerged, reflecting the regional differences of climate and topography. Agriculture was of primary importance in all the regions.

In New England many crops were grown, corn being the closest to a staple, and agricultural holdings were usually of moderate size. Fur tradefur trade,
in American history. Trade in animal skins and pelts had gone on since antiquity, but reached its height in the wilderness of North America from the 17th to the early 19th cent.
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 was at first important, but it died out when the New England ConfederationNew England Confederation,
union for "mutual safety and welfare" formed in 1643 by representatives of the colonies of Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth, Connecticut, and New Haven.
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 defeated Philip in King Philip's WarKing Philip's War,
1675–76, the most devastating war between the colonists and the Native Americans in New England. The war is named for King Philip, the son of Massasoit and chief of the Wampanoag. His Wampanoag name was Pumetacom, Metacom, or Metacomet.
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 and the Native Americans were dispersed. Fishing and commerce gained in importance, and the economic expansion of Massachusetts encouraged the founding of other New England colonies.

In the middle colonies small farms abounded, interspersed with occasional great estates, and diverse crops were grown, wheat being most important. Land there was almost universally held through some form of feudal grant, as it was also in the South. Commerce grew quickly in the middle colonies, and large towns flourished, notably Philadelphia and New York.

By the late 17th cent. small farms in the coastal areas of the South were beginning to give way to large plantations; these were developed with the slave labor of Africans, who were imported in ever-increasing numbers. During the 18th cent. some 1.5 million African slaves were transported to the colonies, more than three times the number of free immigrants. Plantations were almost exclusively devoted to cultivation of the great Southern staples—tobacco, rice, and, later, indigo. Fur trade and lumbering were long important. Although some towns developed, the Southern economy remained the least diversified and the most rural in colonial America.

In religion, too, the colonies developed in varied patterns. In Massachusetts the religious theocracy of the Puritan oligarchy flourished. By contrast, Rhode Island allowed full religious freedom; there Baptists were in the majority, but other sects were soon in evidence. New Jersey and South Carolina also allowed complete religious liberty, and such colonies as Maryland and Pennsylvania established large measures of toleration. Maryland was at first a haven for Catholics, and Pennsylvania similarly a haven for Quakers, but within a few decades numerous Anglicans had settled in those colonies. Anglicans were also much in evidence further south, as were Presbyterians, most of them Scotch-Irish.

Politically, the colonies developed representative institutions, the most important being the vigorous colonial assemblies. Popular participation was somewhat limited by property qualifications. In the proprietary colonies, particularly, the settlers came into conflict with the executive authority. Important points of difference arose over the granting of large estates to a few, over the great power of the proprietors, over the failure of the proprietors (who generally lived in England) to cope with problems of defense, and over religious grievances, frequently stemming from a struggle for dominance between Anglicans and other groups. In corporate Massachusetts religious grievances were created by the zealous Puritan demand for conformity.

These conflicts, together with England's desire to coordinate empire defenses against France and to gain closer control of the colonies' thriving economic life, stimulated England to convert corporate and proprietary colonies into royal ones. In general, royal control brought more orderly government and greater religious toleration, but it also focused the colonists' grievances on the mother country. The policies of the governors, who were the chief instruments of English will in the colonies, frequently met serious opposition. The colonial assemblies clashed with the governors—notably with Edmund AndrosAndros, Sir Edmund
, 1637–1714, British colonial governor in America, b. Guernsey. As governor of New York (1674–81) he was bitterly criticized for his high-handed methods, and he was embroiled in disputes over boundaries and duties (see New Jersey), going so far as
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 and Francis NicholsonNicholson, Francis,
1655–1728, British colonial administrator in North America. Lieutenant governor under Sir Edmund Andros, he fled (1689) to England during the revolt in New York led by Jacob Leisler.
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—especially over matters of taxation. The assemblies successfully resisted royal demands for permanent income to support royal policies and used their powers over finance to expand their own jurisdiction.

As the 18th cent. progressed, colonial grievances were exacerbated. The British mercantile regulations, beneficial to agriculture, impeded the colonies' commercial and industrial development. However, economic and social growth continued, and by the mid-18th cent. there had been created a greater sense of a separate, thriving, and distinctly American, albeit varied, civilization. In New England, Puritan values were modified by the impact of commerce and by the influence of the Enlightenment, while in the South the planter aristocracy developed a lavish mode of life. Enlightenment ideals also gained influential adherents in the South. Higher education flourished in such institutions as Harvard, William and Mary, and King's College (now Columbia Univ.). The varied accomplishments of Benjamin FranklinFranklin, Benjamin,
1706–90, American statesman, printer, scientist, and writer, b. Boston. The only American of the colonial period to earn a European reputation as a natural philosopher, he is best remembered in the United States as a patriot and diplomat.
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 epitomized colonial common sense at its most enlightened and productive level.

A religious movement of importance emerged in the revivals of the Great AwakeningGreat Awakening,
series of religious revivals that swept over the American colonies about the middle of the 18th cent. It resulted in doctrinal changes and influenced social and political thought. In New England it was started (1734) by the rousing preaching of Jonathan Edwards.
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, stimulated by Jonathan EdwardsEdwards, Jonathan,
1703–58, American theologian and metaphysician, b. East Windsor (then in Windsor), Conn. He was a precocious child, early interested in things scientific, intellectual, and spiritual.
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; the movement ultimately led to a strengthening of MethodismMethodism,
the doctrines, polity, and worship of those Protestant Christian denominations that have developed from the movement started in England by the teaching of John Wesley.
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. Also inherent in this movement was egalitarian sentiment, which progressed but was not to triumph in the colonial era. One manifestation of egalitarianism was the long-continued conflict between the men of the frontiers and the wealthy Eastern oligarchs who dominated the assemblies, a conflict exemplified in the Regulator movementRegulator movement,
designation for two groups, one in South Carolina, the other in North Carolina, that tried to effect governmental changes in the 1760s. In South Carolina, the Regulator movement was an organized effort by backcountry settlers to restore law and order and
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. Colonial particularism, still stronger than national feeling, caused the failure of the Albany CongressAlbany Congress,
1754, meeting at Albany, N.Y., of commissioners representing seven British colonies in North America to treat with the Iroquois, chiefly because war with France impended.
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 to achieve permanent union. However, internal strife and disunity remained a less urgent issue than the controversy with Great Britain.

The States in Union

After the British and colonial forces had combined to drive the French from Canada and the Great Lakes region in the French and Indian War (1754–60; see under French and Indian WarsFrench and Indian Wars,
1689–1763, the name given by American historians to the North American colonial wars between Great Britain and France in the late 17th and the 18th cent.
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), the colonists felt less need of British protection; but at this very time the British began colonial reorganization in an effort to impose on the colonists the costs of their own defense. Thus was set off the complex chain of events that united colonial sentiment against Great Britain and culminated in the American RevolutionAmerican Revolution,
1775–83, struggle by which the Thirteen Colonies on the Atlantic seaboard of North America won independence from Great Britain and became the United States. It is also called the American War of Independence.
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 (1775–83; the events are described under that heading).

The Revolution resulted in the independence of the Thirteen Colonies: Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia; their territories were recognized as extending north to Canada and west to the Mississippi River. The Revolution also broadened representation in government, advanced the movement for separation of church and state in America, increased opportunities for westward expansion, and brought the abolition of the remnants of feudal land tenure. The view that the Revolution had been fought for local liberty against strong central control reinforced the particularism of the states and was reflected in the weak union established under the Articles of Confederation (see Confederation, Articles ofConfederation, Articles of,
in U.S. history, ratified in 1781 and superseded by the Constitution of the United States in 1789. The imperative need for unity among the new states created by the American Revolution and the necessity of defining the relative powers of the
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Before ratification of the Articles (1781), conflicting claims of states to Western territories had been settled by the cession of Western land rights to the federal government; the Ordinance of 1787Ordinance of 1787,
adopted by the Congress of Confederation for the government of the Western territories ceded to the United States by the states. It created the Northwest Territory and is frequently called the Northwest Ordinance.
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 established a form of government for territories and a method of admitting them as states to the Union. But the national government floundered. It could not obtain commercial treaties or enforce its will in international relations, and, largely because it could not raise adequate revenue and had no executive authority, it was weak domestically. Local economic depressions bred discontent that erupted in Shays's RebellionShays's Rebellion,
1786–87, armed insurrection by farmers in W Massachusetts against the state government. Debt-ridden farmers, struck by the economic depression that followed the American Revolution, petitioned the state senate to issue paper money and to halt foreclosure
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, further revealing the weakness of the federal government.

Advocates of strong central government bitterly attacked the Articles of Confederation; supported particularly by professional and propertied groups, they had a profound influence on the Constitution drawn up by the Constitutional Convention of 1787. The Constitution created a national government with ample powers for effective rule, which were limited by "checks and balances" to forestall tyranny or radicalism. Its concept of a strong, orderly Union was popularized by the Federalist papers (see Federalist, TheFederalist, The,
series of 85 political essays, sometimes called The Federalist Papers, written 1787–88 under the pseudonym "Publius." Alexander Hamilton initiated the series with the immediate intention of persuading New York to approve the Federalist Constitution.
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) of Alexander HamiltonHamilton, Alexander,
1755–1804, American statesman, b. Nevis, in the West Indies. Early Career

He was the illegitimate son of James Hamilton (of a prominent Scottish family) and Rachel Faucett Lavien (daughter of a doctor-planter on Nevis and the estranged
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, James MadisonMadison, James,
1751–1836, 4th President of the United States (1809–17), b. Port Conway, Va. Early Career

A member of the Virginia planter class, he attended the College of New Jersey (now Princeton), graduating in 1771.
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, and John JayJay, John,
1745–1829, American statesman, 1st chief justice of the United States, b. New York City, grad. King's College (now Columbia Univ.), 1764. He was admitted (1768) to the bar and for a time was a partner of Robert R. Livingston.
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, which played an important part in winning ratification of the Constitution by the separate states.

Washington, Adams, and Jefferson

The first person to be elected President under the Constitution was the hero of the Revolution, George WashingtonWashington, George,
1732–99, 1st President of the United States (1789–97), commander in chief of the Continental army in the American Revolution, called the Father of His Country. Early Life

He was born on Feb. 22, 1732 (Feb. 11, 1731, O.S.
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. Washington introduced many government practices and institutions, including the cabinet. Jay's TreatyJay's Treaty,
concluded in 1794 between the United States and Great Britain to settle difficulties arising mainly out of violations of the Treaty of Paris of 1783 and to regulate commerce and navigation.
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 (1794) allayed friction with Great Britain. Hamilton, as Washington's Secretary of the Treasury, promulgated a strong state and attempted to advance the economic development of the young country by a neomercantilist program; this included the establishment of a protective tariff, a mint, and the first Bank of the United StatesBank of the United States,
name for two national banks established by the U.S. Congress to serve as government fiscal agents and as depositories for federal funds; the first bank was in existence from 1791 to 1811 and the second from 1816 to 1836.
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 as well as assumption of state and private Revolutionary debts. The controversy raised by these policies bred divisions along factional and, ultimately, party lines.

Hamilton and his followers, who eventually formed the Federalist partyFederalist party,
in U.S. history, the political faction that favored a strong federal government. Origins and Members

In the later years of the Articles of Confederation there was much agitation for a stronger federal union, which was crowned with success when the
..... Click the link for more information.
, favored wide activity by the federal government under a broad interpretation of the Constitution. Their opponents, who adhered to principles laid down by Thomas JeffersonJefferson, Thomas,
1743–1826, 3d President of the United States (1801–9), author of the Declaration of Independence, and apostle of agrarian democracy. Early Life

Jefferson was born on Apr. 13, 1743, at "Shadwell," in Goochland (now in Albemarle) co.
..... Click the link for more information.
 and who became the Democratic Republican or Democratic partyDemocratic party,
American political party; the oldest continuous political party in the United States. Origins in Jeffersonian Democracy

When political alignments first emerged in George Washington's administration, opposing factions were led by Alexander Hamilton
..... Click the link for more information.
, favored narrow construction—limited federal jurisdiction and activities. To an extent these divisions were supported by economic differences, as the Democrats largely spoke for the agrarian point of view and the Federalists represented propertied and mercantile interests.

Extreme democrats like Thomas PainePaine, Thomas,
1737–1809, Anglo-American political theorist and writer, b. Thetford, Norfolk, England. The son of a working-class Quaker, he became an excise officer and was dismissed from the service after leading (1772) agitation for higher salaries.
..... Click the link for more information.
 had ebullient faith in popular government and popular mores; Joel BarlowBarlow, Joel
, 1754–1812, American writer and diplomat, b. Redding, Conn., grad. Yale, 1778. He was one of the Connecticut Wits and a major contributor to their satirical poem The Anarchiad (1786–87).
..... Click the link for more information.
, too, envisioned a great popular culture evolving in America. From such optimists came schemes for broad popular education and participation in government. Men like John AdamsAdams, John,
1735–1826, 2d President of the United States (1797–1801), b. Quincy (then in Braintree), Mass., grad. Harvard, 1755. John Adams and his wife, Abigail Adams, founded one of the most distinguished families of the United States; their son, John Quincy
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 had mixed views on the good sense of the masses, and many more conservative thinkers associated the "people" with vulgarity and ineptitude. The Federalists generally represented a pessimistic and the Democrats an optimistic view of man's inherent capacity to govern and develop himself; in practice, however, the values held by these two groups were often mixed. That a long road to democracy was still to be traveled is seen in the fact that in the late 18th cent. few but the economically privileged took part in political affairs.

The Federalists were victorious in electing John Adams to the presidency in 1796. Federalist conservatism and anti-French sentiment were given vent in the Alien and Sedition ActsAlien and Sedition Acts,
1798, four laws enacted by the Federalist-controlled U.S. Congress, allegedly in response to the hostile actions of the French Revolutionary government on the seas and in the councils of diplomacy (see XYZ Affair), but actually designed to destroy Thomas
..... Click the link for more information.
 of 1798 and in other acts. Deteriorating relations with France were seen in the XYZ AffairXYZ Affair,
name usually given to an incident (1797–98) in Franco-American diplomatic relations. The United States had in 1778 entered into an alliance with France, but after the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars was both unable and unwilling to lend aid.
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 and the "half war" (1798–1800), in which U.S. warships engaged French vessels in the Caribbean. The so-called Revolution of 1800 swept the Federalists from power and brought Jefferson to the presidency. Jefferson did bring a plainer and more republican style to government, and under him the Alien and Sedition Acts and other Federalist laws were allowed to lapse or were repealed.

Jefferson moved toward stronger use of federal powers, however, in negotiating the Louisiana PurchaseLouisiana Purchase,
1803, American acquisition from France of the formerly Spanish region of Louisiana. Reasons for the Purchase

The revelation in 1801 of the secret agreement of 1800, whereby Spain retroceded Louisiana to France, aroused uneasiness in the United
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 (1803). In foreign policy he steered an officially neutral course between Great Britain and France, resisting the war sentiment roused by British impressmentimpressment,
forcible enrollment of recruits for military duty. Before the establishment of conscription, many countries supplemented their militia and mercenary troops by impressment.
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 of American seamen and by both British and French violations of American shipping. He fostered the drastic Embargo Act of 1807Embargo Act of 1807,
passed Dec. 22, 1807, by the U.S. Congress in answer to the British orders in council restricting neutral shipping and to Napoleon's restrictive Continental System. The U.S.
..... Click the link for more information.
 in an attempt to gain recognition of American rights through economic pressure, but the embargo struck hardest against the American economy, especially in New England.

Madison, Monroe, and Adams

Under Jefferson's successor, James MadisonMadison, James,
1751–1836, 4th President of the United States (1809–17), b. Port Conway, Va. Early Career

A member of the Virginia planter class, he attended the College of New Jersey (now Princeton), graduating in 1771.
..... Click the link for more information.
, the continued depredations of American shipping, combined with the clamor of American "war hawks" who coveted Canada and Florida, led to the War of 1812War of 1812,
armed conflict between the United States and Great Britain, 1812–15. It followed a period of great stress between the two nations as a result of the treatment of neutral countries by both France and England during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars,
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, which was, however, opposed in New England (see Hartford ConventionHartford Convention,
Dec. 15, 1814–Jan. 4, 1815, meeting to consider the problems of New England in the War of 1812; held at Hartford, Conn. Prior to the war, New England Federalists (see Federalist party) had opposed the Embargo Act of 1807 and other government measures;
..... Click the link for more information.
). The Treaty of Ghent (see Ghent, Treaty ofGhent, Treaty of,
1814, agreement ending the War of 1812 between the United States and Great Britain. It was signed at Ghent, Belgium, on Dec. 24, 1814, and ratified by the U.S. Senate in Feb., 1815. The American commissioners were John Q. Adams, James A.
..... Click the link for more information.
) settled no specific issues of the war, but did confirm the independent standing of the young republic. Politically, the period that followed was the so-called era of good feeling. The Federalists had disintegrated under the impact of the country's westward expansion and its new interests and ideals. Democrats of all sections had by now adopted a Federalist approach to national development and were temporarily in agreement on a nationalist, expansionist economic policy. This policy was implemented in 1816 by the introduction of internal improvements, a protective tariff, and the second Bank of the United States.

The same policies were continued under James MonroeMonroe, James,
1758–1831, 5th President of the United States (1817–25), b. Westmoreland co., Va. Early Life

Leaving the College of William and Mary in 1776 to fight in the American Revolution, he served in several campaigns and was wounded (Dec.
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. The Monroe DoctrineMonroe Doctrine,
principle of American foreign policy enunciated in President James Monroe's message to Congress, Dec. 2, 1823. It initially called for an end to European intervention in the Americas, but it was later extended to justify U.S.
..... Click the link for more information.
 (1823), which proclaimed U.S. opposition to European intervention or colonization in the American hemisphere, introduced the long-continuing U.S. concern for the integrity of the Western Hemisphere. Domestically, the strength of the federal government was increased by the judicial decisions of John MarshallMarshall, John,
1755–1835, American jurist, 4th chief justice of the United States (1801–35), b. Virginia. Early Life

The eldest of 15 children, John Marshall was born in a log cabin on the Virginia frontier (today in Fauquier co., Va.
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, who had already helped establish the power of the U.S. Supreme Court. By 1820, however, sectional differences were arousing political discord. The sections of the country had long been developing along independent lines.

In the North, merchants, manufacturers, inventors, farmers, and factory hands were busy with commerce, agricultural improvements, and the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution. In the South, Eli Whitney's cotton gin had brought in its wake a new staple; cotton was king, and the new states of Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi were the pride of the cotton kingdom. The accession of Florida (1819) further swelled the domain of the South. The American West was expanding as the frontier rapidly advanced. Around the turn of the century settlement of territory W of the Appalachians had given rise to the new states of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio. Settlers continued to move farther west, and the frontier remained a molding force in American life.

The Missouri CompromiseMissouri Compromise,
1820–21, measures passed by the U.S. Congress to end the first of a series of crises concerning the extension of slavery.

By 1818, Missouri Territory had gained sufficient population to warrant its admission into the Union as a state.
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 (1820) temporarily resolved the issue of slavery in new states, but under the presidency of John Quincy AdamsAdams, John Quincy,
1767–1848, 6th President of the United States (1825–29), b. Quincy (then in Braintree), Mass.; son of John Adams and Abigail Adams and father of Charles Francis Adams (1807–86).
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 sectional differences were aggravated. Particular friction, leading to the nullificationnullification,
in U.S. history, a doctrine expounded by the advocates of extreme states' rights. It held that states have the right to declare null and void any federal law that they deem unconstitutional.
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 movement, was created by the tariff of 1828, which was highly favorable to Northern manufacturing but a "Tariff of Abominations" to the agrarian South. In the 1820s and 30s the advance of democracy brought manhood suffrage to many states and virtual direct election of the President, and party nominating conventions replaced the caucus. Separation of church and state became virtually complete.

Jackson to the Mexican War

An era of political vigor was begun with the election (1828) of Andrew JacksonJackson, Andrew,
1767–1845, 7th President of the United States (1829–37), b. Waxhaw settlement on the border of South Carolina and North Carolina (both states claim him). Early Career

A child of the backwoods, he was left an orphan at 14.
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 to the presidency. If Jackson was not, as sometimes represented, the incarnation of frontier democracy, he nonetheless symbolized the advent of the common man to political power. He provided powerful executive leadership, attuned to popular support, committing himself to a strong foreign policy and to internal improvements for the West. His stand for economic individualism and his attacks on such bastions of the moneyed interests as the Bank of the United States won the approval of the growing middle class. Jackson acted firmly for the Union in the nullification controversy. But the South became increasingly dissident, and John C. CalhounCalhoun, John Caldwell
, 1782–1850, American statesman and political philosopher, b. near Abbeville, S.C., grad. Yale, 1804. He was an intellectual giant of political life in his day. Early Career

Calhoun studied law under Tapping Reeve at Litchfield, Conn.
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 emerged as its chief spokesman with his states' rightsstates' rights,
in U.S. history, doctrine based on the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, which states, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
..... Click the link for more information.

Opponents of Jackson's policies, including both Northern and Southern conservative propertied interests, amalgamated to form the Whig partyWhig party,
one of the two major political parties of the United States in the second quarter of the 19th cent. Origins

As a party it did not exist before 1834, but its nucleus was formed in 1824 when the adherents of John Quincy Adams and Henry Clay joined forces
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, in which Henry ClayClay, Henry,
1777–1852, American statesman, b. Hanover co., Va. Early Career

His father died when he was four years old, and Clay's formal schooling was limited to three years.
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 and Daniel WebsterWebster, Daniel,
1782–1852, American statesman, lawyer, and orator, b. Salisbury (now in Franklin), N.H. Early Career

He graduated (1801) from Dartmouth College, studied law, and, after an interval as a schoolmaster, was admitted (1805) to the bar.
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 were long the dominant figures. Jackson's successor, Martin Van BurenVan Buren, Martin,
1782–1862, 8th President of the United States (1837–41), b. Kinderhook, Columbia co., N.Y. Early Career

He was reared on his father's farm, was educated at local schools, and after reading law was admitted (1803) to the bar.
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, attempted to perpetuate Jacksonian policies, but his popularity was undermined by the panic of 1837. In 1840, in their "Log Cabin and Hard Cider" campaign, the conservative Whigs adopted and perfected the Democratic party's techniques of mass appeal and succeeded in electing William Henry HarrisonHarrison, William Henry,
1773–1841, 9th President of the United States (Mar. 4–Apr. 4, 1841), b. "Berkeley," Charles City co., Va.; son of Benjamin Harrison (1726?–1791) and grandfather of Benjamin Harrison (1833–1901).
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 as President. The West was winning greater attention in American life, and in the 1840s expansion to the Pacific was fervently proclaimed as the "manifest destiny" of the United States.

Annexation of the Republic of Texas (which had won its own independence from Mexico), long delayed primarily by controversy over its slave-holding status, was accomplished by Harrison's successor, John TylerTyler, John,
1790–1862, 10th President of the United States, b. Charles City co., Va. Early Career

Educated at the College of William and Mary, he studied law under his father, John Tyler (1747–1813), governor of Virginia from 1808 to 1811, and was
..... Click the link for more information.
, three days before the expiration of his term. Tyler's action was prompted by the surprising victory of his Democratic successor, James K. PolkPolk, James Knox
, 1795–1849, 11th President of the United States (1845–49), b. Mecklenburg co., N.C. Early Career

His family moved (1806) to the Duck River valley in Tennessee and there, after graduating from the Univ.
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, who had campaigned on the planks of "reoccupation of Oregon" and "reannexation of Texas." The annexation of Texas precipitated the Mexican WarMexican War,
1846–48, armed conflict between the United States and Mexico. Causes

While the immediate cause of the war was the U.S. annexation of Texas (Dec., 1845), other factors had disturbed peaceful relations between the two republics.
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; by the Treaty of Guadalupe HidalgoGuadalupe Hidalgo, Treaty of,
1848, peace treaty between the United States and Mexico that ended the Mexican War. Negotiations were carried on for the United States by Nicholas P. Trist. The treaty was signed on Feb.
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 the United States acquired two fifths of the territory then belonging to Mexico, including California and the present American Southwest. In 1853 these territories were rounded out by the Gadsden PurchaseGadsden Purchase
, strip of land purchased (1853) by the United States from Mexico. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848) had described the U.S.-Mexico boundary vaguely, and President Pierce wanted to insure U.S.
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. Although in the dispute with Great Britain over the Columbia River country (see OregonOregon
, state in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. It is bordered by Washington, largely across the Columbia River (N), Idaho, partially across the Snake River (E), Nevada and California (S), and the Pacific Ocean (W).
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), Americans demanded "Fifty-four forty or fight," under President Polk a peaceful if more modest settlement was reached. Thus the United States gained its Pacific Northwest, and "manifest destiny" was virtually fulfilled.

In California the discovery of gold in 1848 brought the rush of forty-niners, swelling population and making statehood for California a pressing question. The westward movement was also stimulated by many other factors. The great profits from open-range cattle ranching brought a stream of ranchers to the area (this influx was to reach fever pitch after the Civil War). The American farmer, with his abundant land, was often profligate in its cultivation, and as the soil depleted he continued to move farther west, settling the virgin territory. Soil exhaustion was particularly rapid in the South, where a one-crop economy prevailed, but because cotton profits were frequently high the plantation system quickly spread as far west as Texas. Occupation of the West was also sped by European immigrants hungry for land.

Slavery, Civil War, and Reconstruction

By the mid-19th cent. the territorial gains and westward movement of the United States were focusing legislative argument on the extension of slavery to the new territories and breaking down the Missouri Compromise of 1820. The Wilmot ProvisoWilmot Proviso,
1846, amendment to a bill put before the U.S. House of Representatives during the Mexican War; it provided an appropriation of $2 million to enable President Polk to negotiate a territorial settlement with Mexico.
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 illustrated Northern antislavery demands, while Southerners, too, became increasingly intransigent. Only with great effort was the Compromise of 1850Compromise of 1850.
The annexation of Texas to the United States and the gain of new territory by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo at the close of the Mexican War (1848) aggravated the hostility between North and South concerning the question of the extension of slavery into the
..... Click the link for more information.
 achieved, and it was to be the last great compromise between the sections. The new Western states, linked in outlook to the North, had long since caused the South to lose hold of the House of Representatives, and Southern parity in the Senate was threatened by the prospective addition of more free states than slaveholding ones. The South demanded stronger enforcement of fugitive slave lawsfugitive slave laws,
in U.S. history, the federal acts of 1793 and 1850 providing for the return between states of escaped black slaves. Similar laws existing in both North and South in colonial days applied also to white indentured servants and to Native American slaves.
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 and, dependent on sympathetic Presidents, obtained it from Millard FillmoreFillmore, Millard,
1800–1874, 13th President of the United States (July, 1850–Mar., 1853), b. Locke (now Summer Hill), N.Y. Because he was compelled to work at odd jobs at an early age to earn a living his education was irregular and incomplete.
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 and especially from Franklin PiercePierce, Franklin,
1804–69, 14th President of the United States (1853–57), b. Hillsboro, N.H., grad. Bowdoin College, 1824. Admitted to the bar in 1827, he entered politics as a Jacksonian Democrat, like his father, Benjamin Pierce, who was twice elected governor of
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 and James BuchananBuchanan, James,
1791–1868, 15th President of the United States (1857–61), b. near Mercersburg, Pa., grad. Dickinson College, 1809. Early Career

Buchanan studied law at Lancaster, Pa.
..... Click the link for more information.

The passage of the Kansas-Nebraska ActKansas-Nebraska Act,
bill that became law on May 30, 1854, by which the U.S. Congress established the territories of Kansas and Nebraska. By 1854 the organization of the vast Platte and Kansas river countries W of Iowa and Missouri was overdue.
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 (1854), which repealed the Missouri Compromise, led to violence between factions in "bleeding Kansas" and spurred the founding of the new Republican partyRepublican party,
American political party. Origins and Early Years

The name was first used by Thomas Jefferson's party, later called the Democratic Republican party or, simply, the Democratic party.
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. Although there was sentiment for moderation and compromise in both North and South, it became increasingly difficult to take a middle stand on the slavery issue, and extremists came to the fore on both sides. Southerners, unable to accept the end of slavery, upon which their entire system of life was based, and fearful of slave insurrection (especially after the revolt led by Nat TurnerTurner, Nat,
1800–1831, American slave, leader of the Southampton Insurrection (1831), b. Southampton co., Va. Deeply religious from childhood, Turner was a natural preacher and possessed some influence among local slaves.
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 in 1831), felt threatened by the abolitionistsabolitionists,
in U.S. history, particularly in the three decades before the Civil War, members of the movement that agitated for the compulsory emancipation of the slaves.
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, who regarded themselves as leaders in a moral crusade. Southerners attempted to uphold slavery as universally beneficial and biblically sanctioned, while Northerners were increasingly unable to countenance the institution.

Vigorous antislavery groups like the Free-Soil partyFree-Soil party,
in U.S. history, political party that came into existence in 1847–48 chiefly because of rising opposition to the extension of slavery into any of the territories newly acquired from Mexico.
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 had already arisen, and as the conflict became more embittered it rent the older parties. The Whig party was shattered, and its Northern wing was largely absorbed in the new antislavery Republican party. The Democrats were also torn, and the compromise policies of Stephen A. DouglasDouglas, Stephen Arnold,
1813–61, American statesman, b. Brandon, Vt. Senatorial Career

He was admitted to the bar at Jacksonville, Ill., in 1834. After holding various state and local offices he became a U.S.
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 were of dwindling satisfaction to a divided nation. Moderation could not withstand the impact of the decision in the Dred Scott CaseDred Scott Case,
argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1856–57. It involved the then bitterly contested issue of the status of slavery in the federal territories. In 1834, Dred Scott, a black slave, personal servant to Dr. John Emerson, a U.S.
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, which denied the right of Congress to prohibit slavery in the territories, or the provocation of John Brown's raid on Harpers FerryHarpers Ferry,
town (1990 pop. 308), Jefferson co., easternmost W Va., at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac rivers; inc. 1763. The town is a tourist attraction, known for its history and its scenic beauty. John Brown's seizure of the U.S. arsenal there on Oct.
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 (1859). The climax came in 1860 when the Republican Abraham LincolnLincoln, Abraham
, 1809–65, 16th President of the United States (1861–65). Early Life

Born on Feb. 12, 1809, in a log cabin in backwoods Hardin co., Ky. (now Larue co.), he grew up on newly broken pioneer farms of the frontier.
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 defeated three opponents to win the presidency.

Southern leaders, feeling there was no possibility of fair treatment under a Republican administration, resorted to secession from the Union and formed the ConfederacyConfederacy,
name commonly given to the Confederate States of America
(1861–65), the government established by the Southern states of the United States after their secession from the Union.
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. The attempts of the seceding states to take over federal property within their borders (notably Fort Sumter in Charleston, S.C.) precipitated the Civil WarCivil War,
in U.S. history, conflict (1861–65) between the Northern states (the Union) and the Southern states that seceded from the Union and formed the Confederacy.
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 (1861–65), which resulted in a complete victory for the North and the end of all slavery. The ensuing problems of ReconstructionReconstruction,
1865–77, in U.S. history, the period of readjustment following the Civil War. At the end of the Civil War, the defeated South was a ruined land. The physical destruction wrought by the invading Union forces was enormous, and the old social and economic
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 in the South were complicated by bitter struggles, including the impeachment of President Andrew JohnsonJohnson, Andrew,
1808–75, 17th President of the United States (1865–69), b. Raleigh, N.C. Early Life

His father died when Johnson was 3, and at 14 he was apprenticed to a tailor.
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 in 1868. Military rule in parts of the South continued through the administrations of Ulysses S. GrantGrant, Ulysses Simpson,
1822–85, commander in chief of the Union army in the Civil War and 18th President (1869–77) of the United States, b. Point Pleasant, Ohio. He was originally named Hiram Ulysses Grant.
..... Click the link for more information.
, which were also notable for their outrageous corruption. A result of the disputed election of 1876, in which the decision was given to Rutherford B. HayesHayes, Rutherford Birchard,
1822–93, 19th President of the United States (1877–81), b. Delaware, Ohio, grad. Kenyon College, 1843, and Harvard law school, 1845. He became a moderately successful lawyer in Cincinnati and was made (1858) city solicitor.
..... Click the link for more information.
 over Samuel J. TildenTilden, Samuel Jones,
1814–86, American political figure, Democratic presidential candidate in 1876, b. New Lebanon, N.Y. Admitted to the bar in 1841, Tilden was an eminently successful lawyer, with many railroad companies as clients.
..... Click the link for more information.
, was the end of Reconstruction and the reentry of the South into national politics.

The Late Nineteenth Century

The remainder of the 19th cent. was marked by railroad building (assisted by generous federal land grants) and the disappearance of the American frontier. Great mineral wealth was discovered and exploited, and important technological innovations sped industrialization, which had already gained great impetus during the Civil War. Thus developed an economy based on steel, oil, railroads, and machines, an economy that a few decades after the Civil War ranked first in the world. Mammoth corporations such as the Standard Oil trust were formed, and "captains of industry" like John D. RockefellerRockefeller, John Davison,
1839–1937, American industrialist and philanthropist, b. Richford, N.Y. He moved (1853) with his family to a farm near Cleveland and at age 16 went to work as a bookkeeper.
..... Click the link for more information.
 and financiers like J. P. Morgan (see under MorganMorgan,
American family of financiers and philanthropists.

Junius Spencer Morgan, 1813–90, b. West Springfield, Mass., prospered at investment banking. As a boy he became a dry-goods clerk in Boston; later he entered a brokerage house in New York City.
..... Click the link for more information.
, family) controlled huge resources.

In the latter part of the 19th cent. rapid industrialization had made the United States the world's largest, most productive, and most technically advanced nation, and the era saw the rise of the modern American city. These urban areas attracted huge numbers of people from foreign countries as well as rural America. The widespread use of steel and electricity allowed innovations that transformed the urban landscape. Electric lighting made cities viable at night as well as during the day. Electricity was also used to power streetcarsstreetcar,
small, self-propelled railroad car, similar to the type used in rapid-transit systems, that operates on tracks running through city streets and is used to carry passengers.
..... Click the link for more information.
, elevated railways, and subways. The growth of mass transitmass transit,
public transportation systems designed to move large numbers of passengers. Types and Advantages

Mass transit refers to municipal or regional public shared transportation, such as buses, streetcars, and ferries, open to all on a nonreserved basis.
..... Click the link for more information.
 allowed people to live further away from work, and was therefore largely responsible for the demise of the "walking city." With the advent of skyscrapersskyscraper,
modern building of great height, constructed on a steel skeleton. The form originated in the United States. Development of the Form

Many mechanical and structural developments in the last quarter of the 19th cent. contributed to its evolution.
..... Click the link for more information.
, which utilized steel construction technology, cities were able to grow vertically as well as horizontally.

Into the "land of promise" poured new waves of immigrants; some acquired dazzling riches, but many others suffered in a competitive and unregulated economic age. Behind the facade of the "Gilded Age," with its aura of peace and general prosperity, a whole range of new problems was created, forcing varied groups to promulgate new solutions. In the 1870s the expanding Granger movementGranger movement,
American agrarian movement taking its name from the National Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry, an organization founded in 1867 by Oliver H. Kelley and six associates. Its local units were called granges and its members grangers.
..... Click the link for more information.
 attempted to combat railroad and marketing abuses and to achieve an element of agrarian cooperation; this movement stimulated some regulation of utilities on the state level. Labor, too, began to combine against grueling factory conditions, but the opposition of business to unions was frequently overpowering, and the bulk of labor remained unorganized.

Some strike successes were won by the Knights of LaborKnights of Labor,
American labor organization, started by Philadelphia tailors in 1869, led by Uriah S. Stephens. It became a body of national scope and importance in 1878 and grew more rapidly after 1881, when its earlier secrecy was abandoned.
..... Click the link for more information.
, but this union, discredited by the Haymarket Square riotHaymarket Square riot,
outbreak of violence in Chicago on May 4, 1886. Demands for an eight-hour working day became increasingly widespread among American laborers in the 1880s.
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, was succeeded in prominence by the less divisive American Federation of Labor (see American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial OrganizationsAmerican Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations
(AFL-CIO), a federation of autonomous labor unions in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Panama, and U.S.
..... Click the link for more information.
). Massachusetts led the way (1874) with the first effective state legislation for an eight-hour day, but similar state and national legislation was sparse (see labor lawlabor law,
legislation dealing with human beings in their capacity as workers or wage earners. The Industrial Revolution, by introducing the machine and factory production, greatly expanded the class of workers dependent on wages as their source of income.
..... Click the link for more information.
), and the federal government descended harshly on labor in the bloody strike at Pullman, Ill., and in other disputes. Belief in laissez faire and the influence of big business in both national parties, especially in the Republican party, delayed any widespread reform.

The Presidents of the late 19th cent. were generally titular leaders of modest political distinction; however, they did institute a few reforms. Both Hayes and his successor, James A. GarfieldGarfield, James Abram,
1831–81, 20th President of the United States (Mar.–Sept., 1881). Born on a frontier farm in Cuyahoga co., Ohio, he spent his early years in poverty. As a youth he worked as farmer, carpenter, and canal boatman.
..... Click the link for more information.
, favored civil servicecivil service,
entire body of those employed in the civil administration as distinct from the military and excluding elected officials. The term was used in designating the British administration of India, and its first application elsewhere was in 1854 in England.
..... Click the link for more information.
 reforms, and after Garfield's death Chester A. ArthurArthur, Chester Alan,
1829–86, 21st President of the United States (1881–85), b. Fairfield, Vt. He studied law and before the Civil War practiced in New York City. In the war he was (1861–63) quartermaster general of New York State.
..... Click the link for more information.
 approved passage of a civil service act; thus the vast, troublesome presidential patronage system gave way to more regular, efficient administration. In 1884 a reform group, led by Carl SchurzSchurz, Carl
, 1829–1906, American political leader, b. Germany. He studied at the Univ. of Bonn and participated in the revolutionary uprisings of 1848–49 in Germany.
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, bolted from the Republicans and helped elect Grover ClevelandCleveland, Grover
(Stephen Grover Cleveland), 1837–1908, 22d (1885–89) and 24th (1893–97) President of the United States, b. Caldwell, N.J.; son of a Presbyterian clergyman.
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, the first Democratic President since before the Civil War. Under President Benjamin HarrisonHarrison, Benjamin,
1833–1901, 23d President of the United States (1889–93), b. North Bend, Ohio, grad. Miami Univ. (Ohio), 1852; grandson of William Henry Harrison.
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 the Sherman Antitrust ActSherman Antitrust Act,
1890, first measure passed by the U.S. Congress to prohibit trusts; it was named for Senator John Sherman. Prior to its enactment, various states had passed similar laws, but they were limited to intrastate businesses.
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 was passed (1890).

The attempt of the Greenback partyGreenback party,
in U.S. history, political organization formed in the years 1874–76 to promote currency expansion. The members were principally farmers of the West and the South; stricken by the Panic of 1873, they saw salvation in an inflated currency that would wipe out
..... Click the link for more information.
 to combine sponsorship of free coinage of silver (see free silverfree silver,
in U.S. history, term designating the political movement for the unlimited coinage of silver. Origins of the Movement

Free silver became a popular issue soon after the Panic of 1873, and it was a major issue in the next quarter century.
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) and other aids to the debtor class with planks favorable to labor failed, but reform forces gathered strength, as witnessed by the rise of the Populist partyPopulist party,
in U.S. history, political party formed primarily to express the agrarian protest of the late 19th cent. In some states the party was known as the People's party.
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. The reform movement was spurred by the economic panic of 1893, and in 1896 the Democrats nominated for President William Jennings BryanBryan, William Jennings
, 1860–1925, American political leader, b. Salem, Ill. Although the nation consistently rejected him for the presidency, it eventually adopted many of the reforms he urged—the graduated federal income tax, popular election of senators, woman
..... Click the link for more information.
, who had adopted the Populist platform. He orated eloquently for free silver, but was defeated by William McKinleyMcKinley, William,
1843–1901, 25th president of the United States (1897–1901), b. Niles, Ohio. He was educated at Poland (Ohio) Seminary and Allegheny College. After service in the Union army in the Civil War, he returned to Ohio and became a lawyer at Canton.
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, who gained ardent support from big business.

Expansionists and Progressives

By the 1890s a new wave of expansionist sentiment was affecting U.S. foreign policy. With the purchase of Alaska (1867) and the rapid settlement of the last Western territory, Oklahoma, American capital and attention were directed toward the Pacific and the Caribbean. The United States established commercial and then political hegemony in the Hawaiian Islands and annexed them in 1898. In that year expansionist energy found release in the Spanish-American WarSpanish-American War,
1898, brief conflict between Spain and the United States arising out of Spanish policies in Cuba. It was, to a large degree, brought about by the efforts of U.S. expansionists.
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, which resulted in U.S. acquisition of Puerto Rico, the Philippine Islands, and Guam, and in a U.S. quasi-protectorate over Cuba.

American ownership of the Philippines involved military subjugation of the people, who rose in revolt when they realized that they would not be granted their independence; the Philippine Insurrection (1899–1901) cost more American lives and dollars than the Spanish-American War. Widening its horizons, the United States formulated the Open DoorOpen Door,
maintenance in a certain territory of equal commercial and industrial rights for the nationals of all countries. As a specific policy, it was first advanced by the United States, but it was rooted in the typical most-favored-nation clause of the treaties concluded
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 policy (1900), which expressed its interest in China. Established as a world power with interests in two oceans, the United States intervened in the Panama revolution to facilitate construction of the Panama CanalPanama Canal,
waterway across the Isthmus of Panama, connecting the Atlantic (by way of the Caribbean Sea) and Pacific oceans, built by the United States (1904–14, on territory leased from the republic of Panama) and expanded by Pamana (2007–16).
..... Click the link for more information.
; this was but one of its many involvements in Latin American affairs under Theodore RooseveltRoosevelt, Theodore,
1858–1919, 26th President of the United States (1901–9), b. New York City. Early Life and Political Posts

Of a prosperous and distinguished family, Theodore Roosevelt was educated by private tutors and traveled widely.
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 and later Presidents.

By the time of Roosevelt's administration (1901–9), the progressive reform movement had taken definite shape in the country. Progressivism was partly a mode of thought, as witnessed by the progressive educationprogressive education,
movement in American education. Confined to a period between the late 19th and mid-20th cent., the term "progressive education" is generally used to refer only to those educational programs that grew out of the American reform effort known as the
..... Click the link for more information.
 program of John DeweyDewey, John,
1859–1952, American philosopher and educator, b. Burlington, Vt., grad. Univ. of Vermont, 1879, Ph.D. Johns Hopkins, 1884. He taught at the universities of Minnesota (1888–89), Michigan (1884–88, 1889–94), and Chicago (1894–1904) and at
..... Click the link for more information.
; as such it was a pragmatic attempt to mold modern institutions for the benefit of all. Progressives, too, were the muckrakersmuckrakers,
name applied to American journalists, novelists, and critics who in the first decade of the 20th cent. attempted to expose the abuses of business and the corruption in politics.
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, who attacked abuse and waste in industry and in society. In its politics as shaped by R. M. La FolletteLa Follette, Robert Marion
, 1855–1925, American political leader, U.S. Senator from Wisconsin (1906–25), b. Primrose, Wis. Early Career

Admitted (1880) to the Wisconsin bar, he practiced in Madison, Wis.
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 and others, progressivism adopted many Populist planks but promoted them from a more urban and forward-looking viewpoint. Progressivism was dramatized by the magnetic Roosevelt, who denounced "malefactors of great wealth" and demanded a "square deal" for labor; however, in practice he was a rather cautious reformer. He did make some attacks on trusts, and he promoted regulation of interstate commerce as well as passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act (1906) and legislation for the conservation of natural resourcesconservation of natural resources,
the wise use of the earth's resources by humanity. The term conservation came into use in the late 19th cent. and referred to the management, mainly for economic reasons, of such valuable natural resources as timber, fish, game, topsoil,
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Roosevelt's hand-picked successor, William H. TaftTaft, William Howard,
1857–1930, 27th President of the United States (1909–13) and 10th chief justice of the United States (1921–30), b. Cincinnati. Early Career

After graduating (1878) from Yale, he attended Cincinnati Law School.
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, continued some reforms but in his foreign policy and in the Payne-Aldrich Tariff ActPayne-Aldrich Tariff Act,
1909, passed by the U.S. Congress. It was the first change in tariff laws since the Dingley Act of 1897; the issue had been ignored by President Theodore Roosevelt.
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, passed in his administration, favored big business. Taft's conservatism antagonized Roosevelt, who split with the Republican party in 1912 and ran for the presidency on the ticket of the Progressive partyProgressive party,
in U.S. history, the name of three political organizations, active, respectively, in the presidential elections of 1912, 1924, and 1948. Election of 1912
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 (see also InsurgentsInsurgents,
in U.S. history, the Republican Senators and Representatives who in 1909–10 rose against the Republican standpatters controlling Congress, to oppose the Payne-Aldrich tariff and the dictatorial power of House speaker Joseph G. Cannon.
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). But the presidency was won by the Democratic reform candidate, Woodrow WilsonWilson, Woodrow
(Thomas Woodrow Wilson), 1856–1924, 28th President of the United States (1913–21), b. Staunton, Va. Educator

He graduated from Princeton in 1879 and studied law at the Univ. of Virginia.
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. Wilson's "New Freedom" brought many progressive ideas to legislative fruition. The Federal Reserve SystemFederal Reserve System,
central banking system of the United States. Established in 1913, it began to operate in Nov., 1914. Its setup, although somewhat altered since its establishment, particularly by the Banking Act of 1935, has remained substantially the same.
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 and the Federal Trade CommissionFederal Trade Commission
(FTC), independent agency of the U.S. government established in 1915 and charged with keeping American business competition free and fair. The FTC has no jurisdiction over banks and common carriers, which are under the supervision of other governmental
..... Click the link for more information.
 were established, and the Adamson Act and the Clayton Antitrust ActClayton Antitrust Act,
1914, passed by the U.S. Congress as an amendment to clarify and supplement the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890. It was drafted by Henry De Lamar Clayton.
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 were passed. Perhaps more than on the national level, progressivism triumphed in the states in legislation beneficial to labor, in the furthering of education, and in the democratization of electoral procedures. Wilson did not radically alter the aggressive Caribbean policy of his predecessors; U.S. marines were sent to Nicaragua, and difficulties with Mexico were capped by the landing of U.S. forces in the city of Veracruz and by the campaign against Francisco (Pancho) VillaVilla, Francisco
, c.1877–1923, Mexican revolutionary, nicknamed Pancho Villa.
His real name was Doroteo Arango.

When Villa came of age, he declared his freedom from the peonage of his parents and became notorious as a bandit in Chihuahua and Durango.
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World War I

The nation's interest in world peace had already been expressed through participation in the Hague ConferencesHague Conferences,
term for the International Peace Conference of 1899 (First Hague Conference) and the Second International Peace Conference of 1907 (Second Hague Conference). Both were called by Russia and met at The Hague, the Netherlands.
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, and when World War I burst upon Europe, Wilson made efforts to keep the United States neutral; in 1916 he was reelected on a peace platform. However, American sympathies and interests were actively with the Allies (especially with Great Britain and France), and although Britain and Germany both violated American neutral rights on the seas, German submarine attacks constituted the more dramatic provocation. On Apr. 6, 1917, the United States entered the war on the side of the Allies and provided crucial manpower and supplies for the Allied victory. Wilson's Fourteen PointsFourteen Points,
formulation of a peace program, presented at the end of World War I by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson in an address before both houses of Congress on Jan. 8, 1918.
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 to insure peace and democracy captured the popular imagination of Europe and were a factor in Germany's decision to seek an armistice; however, at the Paris Peace Conference after the war, Wilson was thwarted from fully implementing his program.

In the United States, isolationist sentiment against participation in the League of NationsLeague of Nations,
former international organization, established by the peace treaties that ended World War I. Like its successor, the United Nations, its purpose was the promotion of international peace and security.
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, an integral part of the Treaty of Versailles (see Versailles, Treaty ofVersailles, Treaty of,
any of several treaties signed in the palace of Versailles, France. For the Treaty of Versailles of 1783, which ended the American Revolution, see Paris, Treaty of, 1783.
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), was led by Senator William E. BorahBorah, William Edgar
, 1865–1940, U.S. Senator (1907–40), b. near Fairfield, Ill. Admitted to the bar in Kansas in 1887, after 1890 he became prominent in law and politics at Boise, Idaho.
..... Click the link for more information.
 and other "irreconcilables." The majority of Republican Senators, led by Henry Cabot LodgeLodge, Henry Cabot,
1850–1924, U.S. senator (1893–1924), b. Boston. He was admitted to the bar in 1876. Before beginning his long career in the U.S. Senate he edited (1873–76) the North American Review,
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, insisted upon amendments that would preserve U.S. sovereignty, and although Wilson fought for his original proposals, they were rejected. Isolationist sentiment prevailed during the 1920s, and while the United States played a major role in the naval conferencesnaval conferences,
series of international assemblies, meeting to consider limitation of naval armaments, settlement of the rules of naval war, and allied issues. The London Naval Conference
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 for disarmament and in the engineering of the Kellogg-Briand PactKellogg-Briand Pact
, agreement, signed Aug. 27, 1928, condemning "recourse to war for the solution of international controversies." It is more properly known as the Pact of Paris. In June, 1927, Aristide Briand, foreign minister of France, proposed to the U.S.
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, which outlawed war, its general lack of interest in international concerns was seen in its highly nationalistic economic policies, notably its insistence (later modified) on collecting the war debtswar debts.
This article discusses the obligations incurred by foreign governments for loans made to them by the United States during and shortly after World War I. For international obligations arising out of World War II, see lend-lease.
..... Click the link for more information.
 of foreign countries and the passage of the Hawley-Smoot Tariff ActHawley-Smoot Tariff Act,
1930, passed by the U.S. Congress; it brought the U.S. tariff to the highest protective level yet in the history of the United States. President Hoover desired a limited upward revision of tariff rates with general increases on farm products and
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From Prosperity to Depression

The country voted for a return to "normalcy" when it elected Warren G. HardingHarding, Warren Gamaliel
, 1865–1923, 29th President of the United States (1921–23), b. Blooming Grove (now Corsica), Ohio. After study (1879–82) at Ohio Central College, he moved with his family to Marion, Ohio, where he devoted himself to journalism.
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 President in 1920, but the ensuing period was a time of rapid change, and the old normalcy was not to be regained. The Republican governments of the decade, although basically committed to laissez faire, actively encouraged corporate mergers and subsidized aviation and the merchant marine. Harding's administration, marred by the Teapot DomeTeapot Dome,
in U.S. history, oil reserve scandal that began during the administration of President Harding. In 1921, by executive order of the President, control of naval oil reserves at Teapot Dome, Wyo., and at Elk Hills, Calif., was transferred from the Navy Dept.
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 scandal, gave way on his death to the presidency of Calvin CoolidgeCoolidge, Calvin,
1872–1933, 30th President of the United States (1923–29), b. Plymouth, Vt. John Calvin Coolidge was a graduate of Amherst College and was admitted to the bar in 1897. He practiced (1897–1919) law in Northampton, Mass.
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, and the nation embarked on a spectacular industrial and financial boom. In the 1920s the nation became increasingly urban, and everyday life was transformed as the "consumer revolution" brought the spreading use of automobiles, telephones, radios, and other appliances. The pace of living quickened, and mores became less restrained, while fortunes were rapidly accumulated on the skyrocketing stock market, in real estate speculation, and elsewhere. To some it seemed a golden age. But agriculture was not prosperous, and industry and finance became dangerously overextended.

In 1929 there began the Great DepressionGreat Depression,
in U.S. history, the severe economic crisis generally considered to have been precipitated by the U.S. stock-market crash of 1929. Although it shared the basic characteristics of other such crises (see depression), the Great Depression was unprecedented in its
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, which reached worldwide proportions. In 1931, President Herbert HooverHoover, Herbert Clark,
1874–1964, 31st President of the United States (1929–33), b. West Branch, Iowa. Wartime Relief Efforts

After graduating (1895) from Stanford, he worked as a mining engineer in many parts of the world.
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 proposed a moratorium on foreign debts, but this and other measures failed to prevent economic collapse. In the 1932 election Hoover was overwhelmingly defeated by the Democrat Franklin D. RooseveltRoosevelt, Franklin Delano
, 1882–1945, 32d President of the United States (1933–45), b. Hyde Park, N.Y. Early Life

Through both his father, James Roosevelt, and his mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt, he came of old, wealthy families.
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. The new President immediately instituted his New DealNew Deal,
in U.S. history, term for the domestic reform program of the administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt; it was first used by Roosevelt in his speech accepting the Democratic party nomination for President in 1932.
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 with vigorous measures. To meet the critical financial emergency he instituted a "bank holiday." Congress, called into special session, enacted a succession of laws, some of them to meet the economic crisis with relief measures, others to put into operation long-range social and economic reforms. Some of the most important agencies created were the National Recovery AdministrationNational Recovery Administration
(NRA), in U.S. history, administrative bureau established under the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933. In response to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's congressional message of May 17, 1933, Congress passed the National Industrial
..... Click the link for more information.
, the Agricultural Adjustment AdministrationAgricultural Adjustment Administration
(AAA), former U.S. government agency established (1933) in the Dept. of Agriculture under the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933 as part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal program.
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, the Public Works AdministrationPublic Works Administration
(PWA), in U.S. history, New Deal government agency established (1933) by the Congress as the Federal Administration of Public Works, pursuant to the National Industrial Recovery Act.
..... Click the link for more information.
, the Civilian Conservation CorpsCivilian Conservation Corps
(CCC), established in 1933 by the U.S. Congress as a measure of the New Deal program. The CCC provided work and vocational training for unemployed single young men through conserving and developing the country's natural resources.
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, and the Tennessee Valley AuthorityTennessee Valley Authority
(TVA), independent U.S. government corporate agency, created in 1933 by act of Congress; it is responsible for the integrated development of the Tennessee River basin.
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. This program was further broadened in later sessions with other agencies, notably the Securities and Exchange CommissionSecurities and Exchange Commission
(SEC), agency of the U.S. government created by the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and charged with protecting the interests of the public and investors in connection with the public issuance and sale of corporate securities.
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 and the Works Progress Administration (later the Work Projects AdministrationWork Projects Administration
(WPA), former U.S. government agency, established in 1935 by executive order of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt as the Works Progress Administration; it was renamed the Work Projects Administration in 1939, when it was made part of the Federal
..... Click the link for more information.

Laws also created a social securitysocial security,
government program designed to provide for the basic economic security and welfare of individuals and their dependents. The programs classified under the term social security differ from one country to another, but all are the result of government legislation
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 program. The program was dynamic and, in many areas, unprecedented. It created a vast machinery by which the state could promote economic recovery and social welfare. Opponents of these measures argued that they violated individual rights, besides being extravagant and wasteful. Adverse decisions on several of the measures by the U.S. Supreme CourtSupreme Court, United States,
highest court of the United States, established by Article 3 of the Constitution of the United States. Scope and Jurisdiction
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 tended to slow the pace of reform and caused Roosevelt to attempt unsuccessfully to revise the court. Although interest centered chiefly on domestic affairs during the 1930s, Roosevelt continued and expanded the policy of friendship toward the Latin American nations which Herbert Hoover had initiated; this full-blown "good-neighbor" policy proved generally fruitful for the United States (see Pan-AmericanismPan-Americanism,
movement toward commercial, social, economic, military, and political cooperation among the nations of North, Central, and South America. In the Nineteenth Century
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). Roosevelt was reelected by an overwhelming majority in 1936 and won easily in 1940 even though he was breaking the no-third-term tradition.

World War II

The ominous situation abroad was chiefly responsible for Roosevelt's continuance at the national helm. By the late 1930s the Axis nations (Germany and Italy) in Europe as well as Japan in East Asia had already disrupted world peace. As wars began in China, Ethiopia, and Spain, the United States sought at first to bulwark its insular security by the Neutrality ActNeutrality Act,
law passed by the U.S. Congress and signed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Aug., 1935. It was designed to keep the United States out of a possible European war by banning shipment of war matériel to belligerents at the discretion of the President
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. As Axis aggression led to the outbreak of the European war in Sept., 1939, the United States still strove to stay out of it, despite increasing sympathy for the Allies. But after the fall of France in June, 1940, the support of the United States for beleaguered Britain became more overt. In Mar., 1941, lend-leaselend-lease,
arrangement for the transfer of war supplies, including food, machinery, and services, to nations whose defense was considered vital to the defense of the United States in World War II. The Lend-Lease Act, passed (1941) by the U.S.
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 aid was extended to the British and, in November, to the Russians. The threat of war had already caused the adoption of selective serviceselective service,
in U.S. history, term for conscription.

Conscription was established (1863) in the U.S. Civil War, but proved unpopular (see draft riots). The law authorized release from service to anyone who furnished a substitute and, at first, to those who paid $300.
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 to build the armed strength of the nation. Hemisphere defense was enlarged, and the United States drew closer to Great Britain with the issuance of the Atlantic CharterAtlantic Charter
, joint program of peace aims, enunciated by Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Great Britain and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt of the United States on Aug. 14, 1941.
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In Asian affairs the Roosevelt government had vigorously protested Japan's career of conquest and its establishment of the "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere." After the Japanese takeover of French Indochina (July, 1941), with its inherent threat to the Philippines, the U.S. government froze all Japanese assets in the United States. Diplomatic relations grew taut, but U.S.-Japanese discussions were still being carried on when, on Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese bombs fell on Pearl HarborPearl Harbor,
land-locked harbor, on the southern coast of Oahu island, Hawaii, W of Honolulu; one of the largest and best natural harbors in the E Pacific Ocean. In the vicinity are many U.S. military installations, including Joint Base Pearl Harbor–Hickam (a merger of U.
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. The United States promptly declared war, and four days later Germany and Italy declared war on the United States. (For an account of military and naval events, see World War IIWorld War II,
1939–45, worldwide conflict involving every major power in the world. The two sides were generally known as the Allies and the Axis. Causes and Outbreak
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The country efficiently mobilized its vast resources, transforming factories to war plants and building a mighty military force which included most able-bodied young men and many young women. The creation of a great number of government war agencies to control and coordinate materials, transportation, and manpower brought unprecedented government intervention into national life. Rationing, price controls, and other devices were instituted in an attempt to prevent serious inflation or dislocation in the civilian economy.

The war underscored the importance of U.S. resources and the prestige and power of the United States in world affairs. A series of important conferences outlined the policies for the war and the programs for the peace after victory; among these were the Moscow ConferencesMoscow Conferences,
meetings held between 1941 and 1947 at Moscow, USSR. At a conference in Sept.–Oct., 1941, American and British representatives laid the basis for lend-lease aid to the USSR in World War II. In Aug., 1942, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and W.
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, the Casablanca ConferenceCasablanca Conference,
Jan. 14–24, 1943, World War II meeting of U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill at Casablanca, French Morocco.
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, the Cairo ConferenceCairo Conference,
Nov. 22–26, 1943, World War II meeting of U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek of China at Cairo, Egypt.
..... Click the link for more information.
, the Tehran ConferenceTehran Conference,
Nov. 28–Dec. 1, 1943, meeting of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Premier Joseph Stalin at Tehran, Iran.
..... Click the link for more information.
, and the Yalta ConferenceYalta Conference,
meeting (Feb. 4–11, 1945), at Yalta, Crimea, USSR, of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin.
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, at which Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Joseph Stalin planned for postwar settlement. Roosevelt was also a key figure in the plans for the United NationsUnited Nations
(UN), international organization established immediately after World War II. It replaced the League of Nations. In 1945, when the UN was founded, there were 51 members; 193 nations are now members of the organization (see table entitled United Nations Members).
..... Click the link for more information.

After Roosevelt's sudden death in Apr., 1945, Harry S. TrumanTruman, Harry S.,
1884–1972, 33d President of the United States, b. Lamar, Mo. Early Life and Political Career

He grew up on a farm near Independence, Mo., worked at various jobs, and tended the family farm.
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 became President. A month later the European war ended when Germany surrendered on May 7, 1945. Truman went to the Potsdam ConferencePotsdam Conference,
meeting (July 17–Aug. 2, 1945) of the principal Allies in World War II (the United States, the USSR, and Great Britain) to clarify and implement agreements previously reached at the Yalta Conference.
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 (July–August), where various questions of the peacetime administration of Europe were settled, many on an ad interim basis, pending the conclusion of peace treaties. Before the war ended with the defeat of Japan, the United States developed and used a fateful and revolutionary weapon of war, the atomic bombatomic bomb
or A-bomb,
weapon deriving its explosive force from the release of nuclear energy through the fission (splitting) of heavy atomic nuclei. The first atomic bomb was produced at the Los Alamos, N.Mex., laboratory and successfully tested on July 16, 1945.
..... Click the link for more information.
. The Japanese surrender, announced Aug. 14, 1945, and signed Sept. 2, brought the war to a close.

Peacetime readjustment was successfully effected. The government's "G.I. Bill" enabled many former servicemen to obtain free schooling, and millions of other veterans were absorbed by the economy, which boomed in fulfilling the demands for long-unobtainable consumer goods. The shortening of the postwar factory work week and the proportionate reduction of wages precipitated a rash of strikes, causing the government to pass the Taft-Hartley Labor ActTaft-Hartley Labor Act,
1947, passed by the U.S. Congress, officially known as the Labor-Management Relations Act. Sponsored by Senator Robert Alphonso Taft and Representative Fred Allan Hartley, the act qualified or amended much of the National Labor Relations (Wagner) Act of
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 (1947). Some inflation occurred by 1947 as wartime economic controls were abandoned. Congress passed a host of Truman's measures relating to minimum wages, public housing, farm surpluses, and credit regulation; thus was instituted acceptance of comprehensive government intervention in times of prosperity. The nation's support of Truman's policies was signified when it returned him to the presidency in 1948 in an upset victory over Thomas E. Dewey.

The United States in a Divided World

The most striking postwar development was America's new peacetime involvement in international affairs. U.S. support for the United Nations symbolized its desire for peace and order in international relations. However, relations between the United States and the Soviet Union worsened during the late 1940s. In addition, a serious human problem was presented by Europe, prostrated and near starvation after years of war. The Truman Doctrine attempted to thwart Soviet expansion in Europe; massive loans, culminating in the Marshall PlanMarshall Plan
or European Recovery Program,
project instituted at the Paris Economic Conference (July, 1947) to foster economic recovery in certain European countries after World War II. The Marshall Plan took form when U.S. Secretary of State George C.
..... Click the link for more information.
, were vital in reviving European economies and thus in diminishing the appeal of Communism.

As the cold warcold war,
term used to describe the shifting struggle for power and prestige between the Western powers and the Communist bloc from the end of World War II until 1989. Of worldwide proportions, the conflict was tacit in the ideological differences between communism and
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 intensified, the United States took steps (1948) to nullify the Soviet blockade of BerlinBerlin
, city (1994 pop. 3,475,400), capital of Germany, coextensive with Berlin state (341 sq mi/883 sq km), NE Germany, on the Spree and Havel rivers. Formerly divided into East Berlin (156 sq mi/404 sq km) and West Berlin (185 sq mi/479 sq km), the city was reunified along
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 and played the leading role in forming a new alliance of Western nations, the North Atlantic Treaty OrganizationNorth Atlantic Treaty Organization
(NATO), established under the North Atlantic Treaty (Apr. 4, 1949) by Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, and the United States.
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 (NATO). In the Korean WarKorean War,
conflict between Communist and non-Communist forces in Korea from June 25, 1950, to July 27, 1953. At the end of World War II, Korea was divided at the 38th parallel into Soviet (North Korean) and U.S. (South Korean) zones of occupation.
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, U.S. forces played the chief part in combating the North Korean and Chinese attack on South Korea. Thus the United States cast off its traditional peacetime isolationism and accepted its position as a prime mover in world affairs.

International policy had significant repercussions at home. The fear of domestic Communism and subversion almost became a national obsession, culminating in such sensational events as the Alger HissHiss, Alger
, 1904–96, American public official, b. Baltimore. After serving (1929–30) as secretary to Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Hiss practiced law in Boston and New York City.
..... Click the link for more information.
 case and the trial and execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (see Rosenberg CaseRosenberg Case,
in U.S. history, a lengthy and controversial espionage case. In 1950, the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested Julius Rosenberg (1918–53), an electrical engineer who had worked (1940–45) for the U.S.
..... Click the link for more information.
). Security measures and loyalty checks in the government and elsewhere were tightened, alleged Communists were prosecuted under the Smith Act of 1940, and employees in varied fields were dismissed for questionable political affiliations, past or present. The most notorious prosecutor of alleged Communists was Senator Joseph McCarthyMcCarthy, Joseph Raymond,
1908–57, U.S. senator from Wisconsin (1947–57), b. near Appleton, Wis. He practiced law in Wisconsin and became (1940) a circuit judge. He served with the U.S. marines in the Pacific in World War II, achieving the rank of captain.
..... Click the link for more information.
, whose extreme methods were later recognized as threats to freedom of speech and democratic principles.

Two decades of Democratic control of the White House came to an end with the presidential election of 1952, when Dwight D. EisenhowerEisenhower, Dwight David
, 1890–1969, American general and 34th President of the United States, b. Denison, Tex.; his nickname was "Ike." Early Career

When he was two years old, his family moved to Abilene, Kans., where he was reared.
..... Click the link for more information.
 was swept into office over the Democratic candidate, Adlai E. StevensonStevenson, Adlai Ewing,
1900–1965, American statesman, b. Los Angeles; grandson of Adlai Ewing Stevenson (1835–1914). A graduate (1922) of Princeton, he received his law degree from Northwestern Univ., was admitted (1926) to the bar, and practiced law in Chicago.
..... Click the link for more information.
. Although it did not try to roll back the social legislation passed by its Democratic predecessors, the Eisenhower administration was committed to a laissez-faire domestic policy. By the mid-1950s, America was in the midst of a great industrial boom, and stock prices were skyrocketing. In foreign affairs the Eisenhower administration was internationalist in outlook, although it sternly opposed Communist power and threatened "massive retaliation" for Communist aggression. Some antagonism came from the neutral nations of Asia and Africa, partly because of the U.S. association with former colonial powers and partly because U.S. foreign aid more often than not had the effect of strengthening ruling oligarchies abroad.

In the race for technological superiority the United States exploded (1952) the first hydrogen bomb, but was second to the USSR in launching (Jan. 31, 1958) an artificial satellite and in testing an intercontinental guidedmissile. However, spurred by Soviet advances, the United States made rapid progress in space explorationspace exploration,
the investigation of physical conditions in space and on stars, planets, and other celestial bodies through the use of artificial satellites (spacecraft that orbit the earth), space probes (spacecraft that pass through the solar system and that may or may not
..... Click the link for more information.
 and missile research. In the crucial domestic issue of racial integrationintegration,
in U.S. history, the goal of an organized movement to break down the barriers of discrimination and segregation separating African Americans from the rest of American society.
..... Click the link for more information.
, the U.S. Supreme Court in a series of decisions supported the efforts of African-American citizens to achieve full civil rights. In 1959, Alaska and Hawaii became the 49th and 50th states of the Union. Despite hopes for "peaceful coexistence," negotiations with the USSR for nuclear disarmament failed to achieve accord, and Berlin remained a serious source of conflict.

In 1961, the older Eisenhower gave way to the youngest President ever elected, John F. KennedyKennedy, John Fitzgerald,
1917–63, 35th President of the United States (1961–63), b. Brookline, Mass.; son of Joseph P. Kennedy. Early Life

While an undergraduate at Harvard (1936–40) he served briefly in London as secretary to his father, who was
..... Click the link for more information.
, who defeated Republican candidate Richard M. NixonNixon, Richard Milhous,
1913–94, 37th President of the United States (1969–74), b. Yorba Linda, Calif. Political Career to 1968

A graduate of Whittier College and Duke law school, he practiced law in Whittier, Calif.
..... Click the link for more information.
. President Kennedy called for "new frontiers" of American endeavor, but had difficulty securing Congressional support for his domestic programs (integration, tax reform, medical benefits for the aged). Kennedy's foreign policy combined such humanitarian innovations as the Peace CorpsPeace Corps,
agency of the U.S. government, whose purpose is to assist underdeveloped countries in meeting their needs for trained manpower. The Peace Corps was established in 1961 by executive order of President Kennedy; Congress approved it as a permanent agency within the
..... Click the link for more information.
 and the Alliance for ProgressAlliance for Progress,
Span. Alianza para el Progreso, U.S. assistance program for Latin America begun in 1961 during the presidency of John F. Kennedy. It was created principally to counter the appeal of revolutionary politics, such as those adopted in Cuba (see Fidel
..... Click the link for more information.
 with the traditional opposition to Communist aggrandizement.

After breaking relations with Cuba, which, under Fidel Castro, had clearly moved within the Communist orbit, the United States supported (1961) an ill-fated invasion of Cuba by anti-Castro forces. In 1962, in reaction to the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba, the United States blockaded Soviet military shipments to Cuba and demanded the dismantling of Soviet bases there. The two great powers seemed on the brink of war, but within a week the USSR acceded to U.S. demands. In the meantime, the United States achieved an important gain in space exploration with the orbital flight around the earth in a manned satellite by Col. John H. GlennGlenn, John Herschel, Jr.,
1921–2016, American astronaut and politician, b. Cambridge, Ohio. On Feb. 20, 1962, he became the first American and the third person to orbit the earth, circling the globe three times in Friendship 7,
..... Click the link for more information.
. The tensions of the cold war eased when, in 1963, the United States and the Soviet Union reached an accord on a limited ban of nuclear testing.

The Great Society and the Vietnam War

On Nov. 22, 1963, President Kennedy was assassinated while riding in a motorcade in Dallas, Tex. His successor, Lyndon B. JohnsonJohnson, Lyndon Baines,
1908–73, 36th President of the United States (1963–69), b. near Stonewall, Tex. Early Life

Born into a farm family, he graduated (1930) from Southwest Texas State Teachers College (now Southwest Texas State Univ.), in San Marcos.
..... Click the link for more information.
, proclaimed a continuation of Kennedy's policies and was able to bring many Kennedy measures to legislative fruition. Significant progress toward racial equality was achieved with a momentous Civil Rights Act (1964), a Voting Rights Act (1965), and the 24th Amendment to the Constitution, which abolished the poll tax. Other legislation, reflecting Johnson's declaration of a "war on poverty" and his stated aim of creating a "Great Society," included a comprehensive Economic Opportunity Act (1964) and bills providing for tax reduction, medical care for the aged, an increased minimum wage, urban rehabilitation, and aid to education.

Public approval was given in the landslide victory won by Johnson over his Republican opponent, Senator Barry GoldwaterGoldwater, Barry Morris,
1909–98, U.S. senator (1953–65, 1969–87), b. Phoenix, Ariz. He studied at the Univ. of Arizona, but left in 1929 to enter his family's department-store business.
..... Click the link for more information.
, in the 1964 presidential election. The victory also represented voter reaction against Senator Goldwater's aggressive views on foreign policy. Ironically, international problems dominated Johnson's second term, and Johnson himself pursued an aggressive course, dispatching (Apr., 1965) troops to the Dominican Republic during disorders there and escalating American participation in the Vietnam WarVietnam War,
conflict in Southeast Asia, primarily fought in South Vietnam between government forces aided by the United States and guerrilla forces aided by North Vietnam. The war began soon after the Geneva Conference provisionally divided (1954) Vietnam at 17° N lat.
..... Click the link for more information.
. Authorization for the latter was claimed by Johnson to have been given (Aug., 1964) by Congress in the Tonkin Gulf resolutionTonkin Gulf resolution,
in U.S. history, Congressional resolution passed in 1964 that authorized military action in Southeast Asia. On Aug. 4, 1964, North Vietnamese torpedo boats in the Gulf of Tonkin were alleged to have attacked without provocation U.S.
..... Click the link for more information.
, which was passed after two U.S. destroyers were allegedly attacked by North Vietnamese PT boats in the Gulf of Tonkin. The federal military budget soared, and inflation became a pressing problem.

The Vietnam War provoked increasing opposition at home, manifested in marches and demonstrations in which casualties were sometimes incurred and thousands of people were arrested. An impression of general lawlessness and domestic disintegration was heightened by serious race riots that erupted in cities across the nation, most devastatingly in the WattsWatts,
residential section of south central Los Angeles. Named after C. H. Watts, a Pasadena realtor, the section became part of Los Angeles in 1926. Artist Simon Rodia's celebrated Watts Towers are there.
..... Click the link for more information.
 district of Los Angeles (1965) and in Detroit and Newark (1967), and by various racial and political assassinations, notably those of Martin Luther KingKing, Martin Luther, Jr.,
1929–68, American clergyman and civil-rights leader, b. Atlanta, Ga., grad. Morehouse College (B.A., 1948), Crozer Theological Seminary (B.D., 1951), Boston Univ. (Ph.D., 1955).
..... Click the link for more information.
, Jr., and Senator Robert F. KennedyKennedy, Robert Francis,
1925–68, American politician, U.S. Attorney General (1961–64), b. Brookline, Mass., younger brother of President John F. Kennedy and son of Joseph P. Kennedy.

A graduate of Harvard (1948) and the Univ.
..... Click the link for more information.
 (1968). Other manifestations of social upheaval were the increase of drug use, especially among youths, and the rising rate of crime, most noticeable in the cities. Opposition to American involvement in the Vietnam War so eroded Johnson's popularity that he chose not to run again for President in 1968.

The Nixon Years

Johnson's position as leader of the Democratic party had been seriously challenged by Senator Eugene McCarthyMcCarthy, Eugene Joseph,
1916–2005, U.S. political leader, b. Watkins, Minn. He served (1942–46) as a technical assistant for military intelligence during World War II and then taught (1946–49) at the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn.
..... Click the link for more information.
, who ran as a peace candidate in the primary elections. Antiwar forces in the Democratic party received a setback with the assassination of Senator Kennedy, also a peace candidate, and the way was opened for the nomination of Vice President Hubert H. HumphreyHumphrey, Hubert Horatio,
1911–78, U.S. Vice President (1965–69), b. Wallace, S.Dak. After practicing pharmacy for several years, Humphrey taught political science and became involved in state politics.
..... Click the link for more information.
, a supporter of Johnson's policies, as the Democratic candidate for President. Violence broke out during the Democratic national convention in Chicago when police and national guardsmen battled some 3,000 demonstrators in what a national investigating committee later characterized as "a police riot." The Republican candidate, Richard M. Nixon, ran on a platform promising an end to the Vietnam War and stressing the need for domestic "law and order"; he won a narrow victory, receiving 43.4% of the popular vote to Humphrey's 42.7%. A third-party candidate, Gov. George C. WallaceWallace, George Corley,
1919–98, governor of Alabama (1963–67, 1971–79, 1983–87), b. Clio, Ala. Admitted to the bar in 1942, he was active in the Alabama Democratic party, serving in the state assembly (1947–53) and as a district court judge
..... Click the link for more information.
 of Alabama, carried five Southern states. The Congress remained Democratic.

Pronouncing the "Nixon doctrine"—that thenceforth other countries would have to carry more of the burden of fighting Communist domination, albeit with substantial American economic aid—Nixon began a slow withdrawal of American troops from Vietnam. Criticism that he was not moving fast enough in ending the war increased and massive antiwar demonstrations continued, and when Nixon in the spring of 1970 ordered U.S. troops into neutral Cambodia to destroy Communist bases and supply routes there, a wave of demonstrations, some of them violent, swept American campuses. Four students were killed by national guardsmen at Kent State Univ. in Ohio, and 448 colleges and universities temporarily closed down. Antiwar activity declined, however, when American troops were removed from Cambodia after 60 days.

The institution of draft reform, the continued withdrawal of U.S. soldiers from Vietnam, and a sharp decrease in U.S. casualties all contributed toward dampening antiwar sentiment and lessening the war as an issue of public debate. Racial flare-ups abated after the tumult of the 1960s (although the issue of the busing of children to achieve integration continued to arouse controversy). The growing movement of women demanding social, economic, and political equality with men also reflected the changing times. A dramatic milestone in the country's space program was reached in July, 1969, with the landing of two men on the moon, the first of several such manned flights. Significant unmanned probes of several of the planets followed, and in 1973 the first space station was orbited.

In domestic policy Nixon appeared to favor an end to the many reforms of the 1960s. He was accused by civil-rights proponents of wooing Southern support by seeking delays in the implementation of school integration. Such actions by his administration were overruled by the Supreme Court. Nixon twice attempted to appoint conservative Southern judges to the U.S. Supreme Court and was twice frustrated by the Senate, which rejected both nominations. In an attempt to control the spiraling inflation inherited from the previous administration, Nixon concentrated on reducing federal spending. He vetoed numerous appropriations bills passed by Congress, especially those in the social service and public works areas, although he continued to stress defense measures, such as the establishment of an antiballistic missiles (ABM) system, and foreign aid.

Federal budget cuts contributed to a general economic slowdown but failed to halt inflation, so that the country experienced the unprecedented misfortune of both rising prices and rising unemployment; the steady drain of gold reserves after almost three decades of enormous foreign aid programs, a new balance-of-trade deficit, and the instability of the dollar in the international market also affected the economy. In Aug., 1971, Nixon resorted to the freezing of prices, wages, and rents; these controls were continued under an ensuing, more flexible but comprehensive program known as Phase II. Another significant move was the devaluation of the dollar in Dec., 1971; it was further devalued in 1973 and again in 1974.

In keeping with his announced intention of moving the United States from an era of confrontation to one of negotiation, Nixon made a dramatic visit to the People's Republic of China in Feb., 1972, ending more than 20 years of hostility between the two countries and opening the way for a normalization of relations. A trip to Moscow followed in the spring, culminating in the signing of numerous agreements between the United States and the Soviet Union, the most important being two strategic arms limitations accords, reached after lengthy talks begun in 1969. The attainment of a degree of friendly relations with China and the USSR was especially surprising in view of the provocative actions that the United States was taking at that time against North Vietnam. Although U.S. ground troops were being steadily withdrawn from Vietnam, U.S. bombing activity was increasing. Finally Congress halted the bombing and limited Nixon's power to commit troops. A cease-fire in Vietnam was not achieved until Jan., 1973.

In the presidential election of 1972, the Democratic party reforms that increased the power of women and minority groups in the convention resulted in the nomination of Senator George S. McGovernMcGovern, George Stanley
, 1922–2012, U.S. senator from South Dakota (1963–81), b. Avon, S.Dak. He was a decorated B-24 bomber pilot during World War II. He later obtained degrees from Dakota Wesleyan Univ. (B.A., 1946) and Northwestern (Ph.D.
..... Click the link for more information.
 for President. Senator McGovern called for an immediate end to the Vietnam War and for a drastic cut in defense spending and a guaranteed minimum income for all citizens. His candidacy was damaged by the necessity to replace his original choice for Vice President and by the continuing perception of McGovern as a radical. Nixon was reelected (Nov., 1972) in a landslide, losing only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia.

But Nixon's second term was marred, and finally destroyed, by the Watergate affairWatergate affair,
in U.S. history, series of scandals involving the administration of President Richard M. Nixon; more specifically, the burglarizing of the Democratic party national headquarters in the Watergate apartment complex in Washington, D.C.
..... Click the link for more information.
, which began when five men (two of whom were later discovered to be direct employees of Nixon's reelection committee) were arrested after breaking into the Democratic party's national headquarters at the Watergate apartment complex in Washington, D.C. Nixon resigned on Aug. 9, the first president in the history of the republic to be driven from office under the threat of impeachment.

Ford and Carter

Nixon was succeeded by Vice President Gerald R. FordFord, Gerald Rudolph,
1913–2006, 38th president of the United States (1974–77), b. Omaha, Nebr. He was originally named Leslie Lynch King, Jr., but his parents were divorced when he was two, and when his mother remarried he assumed the name of his stepfather.
..... Click the link for more information.
. (Nixon's first Vice President, Spiro T. AgnewAgnew, Spiro Theodore
, 1918–96, 39th Vice President of the United States (1969–73), b. Baltimore. Admitted to the bar in 1949, he entered politics as a Republican and was elected (1961) chief executive of Baltimore co.
..... Click the link for more information.
, had resigned in Oct., 1973, after being charged with income tax evasion.) Ford promised to continue Nixon's foreign policy, particularly the improvement of relations with China and the USSR (in his last days in office, Nixon had made trips to the Middle East and the Soviet Union to promote peace).

In domestic affairs, the United States was hurt by skyrocketing fuel prices due to an Arab oil embargo. The embargo was imposed (1973) in retaliation for U.S. support of Israel in the Yom Kippur War (see Arab-Israeli WarsArab-Israeli Wars,
conflicts in 1948–49, 1956, 1967, 1973–74, and 1982 between Israel and the Arab states. Tensions between Israel and the Arabs have been complicated and heightened by the political, strategic, and economic interests in the area of the great powers.
..... Click the link for more information.
). Ford attempted to formulate new policies to stem the ever-increasing inflation rate, which by late 1974 had reached the most severe levels since the period following World War II. He was also confronted with mounting unemployment and with the threat of a devastating world food crisis. Ford's popularity suffered a sharp setback when he granted Nixon a complete and unconditional pardon for any crimes that Nixon may have committed during his term as President. The public disapproval of this decision, along with the deteriorating economy, contributed to a sharp reversal in Republican fortunes in the elections of 1974.

In Dec., 1974, Nelson A. RockefellerRockefeller, Nelson Aldrich,
1908–79, U.S. public official, governor of New York (1959–73), Vice President of the United States (1974–77), b. Bar Harbor, Maine; grandson of John D. Rockefeller.
..... Click the link for more information.
, a former governor of New York, was sworn in as Vice President following extensive hearings before Congressional committees. Thus, neither the President nor the Vice President had been popularly elected, both having been chosen under the terms of the Twenty-fifth Amendment. Ford's tenure as President was hindered by difficult economic times and an inability to work with the Democrat-controlled Congress. Ford vetoed dozens of bills, many of which were overridden by Congress to provide funding for social programs. Ford also lacked broad support within his own party, as former California governor (and future President) Ronald ReaganReagan, Ronald Wilson
, 1911–2004, 40th president of the United States (1981–89), b. Tampico, Ill. In 1932, after graduation from Eureka College, he became a radio announcer and sportscaster.
..... Click the link for more information.
 made a strong challenge for the Republican presidential nomination.

The Democratic contender in the 1976 presidential election, former Georgia governor James E. "Jimmy" CarterCarter, Jimmy
(James Earl Carter, Jr.), 1924–, 39th President of the United States (1977–81), b. Plains, Ga, grad. Annapolis, 1946.

Carter served in the navy, where he worked with Admiral Hyman G. Rickover in developing the nuclear submarine program.
..... Click the link for more information.
, ran a brilliant and tireless campaign based on populist appeals to honesty and morality. His position as a newcomer to national politics was considered an asset by an untrusting nation in the wake of the Watergate scandal. In spite of a late surge by Ford, Carter narrowly won the election. The day after being sworn in as President, Carter pardoned thousands of draft evaders from the Vietnam War. In domestic affairs, Carter focused a great deal of attention on energy issues, creating the Department of Energy in 1977 and insisting on the necessity of nuclear energy as an alternative to fossil fuel consumption. However, nuclear energy in the United States suffered a severe setback in 1979 when an accident at the Three Mile IslandThree Mile Island,
site of a nuclear power plant 10 mi (16 km) south of Harrisburg, Pa. On Mar. 28, 1979, failure of the cooling system of the No. 2 nuclear reactor led to overheating and partial melting of its uranium core and production of hydrogen gas, which raised fears of
..... Click the link for more information.
 power facility near Harrisburg, Penn. resulted in the partial meltdown of the reactor core.

States with large energy industries such as Texas, Louisiana, Wyoming, and Colorado all benefited from extremely high energy prices throughout the 1970s. Alaska's economy also boomed as the Alaska pipeline began transporting oil in 1977. Soaring oil prices as well as increased foreign competition dealt a severe blow to American industry, especially heavy industries such as automobile and steel manufacturing located in America's Rust BeltRust Belt
or Rustbelt,
economic region in the NE quadrant of the United States, focused on the Midwestern (see Midwest) states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio, as well as Pennsylvania.
..... Click the link for more information.
. Central cities in the United States experienced great hardship in the 1960s and 70s. Rising crime rates and racial unrest during the 1960s accelerated the outmigration of people and businesses to the suburbssuburb,
a community in an outlying section of a city or, more commonly, a nearby, politically separate municipality with social and economic ties to the central city. In the 20th cent.
..... Click the link for more information.
. By the late 1970s, many large cities had lost their middle class core populations and suffered severe budgetary problems.

Inflation continued to rise dramatically as it had during Ford's administration and eventually reached a 30-year high in 1979. Efforts to control inflation such as raising interest rates plunged the economy into recession. In 1977 Carter signed the Panama CanalPanama Canal,
waterway across the Isthmus of Panama, connecting the Atlantic (by way of the Caribbean Sea) and Pacific oceans, built by the United States (1904–14, on territory leased from the republic of Panama) and expanded by Pamana (2007–16).
..... Click the link for more information.
 Treaty and a year later Congress voted to turn over the canal to Panama in 1999. Carter's greatest achievement in foreign policy came in 1978 when he mediated unprecedented negotiations between Egypt and Israel at Camp David, Md. The talks led to the signing of a peace treaty (see Camp David accordsCamp David accords,
popular name for the peace treaty forged in 1978 between Israel and Egypt at the U.S. presidential retreat at Camp David, Md. The official agreement was signed on Mar. 26, 1979, in Washington, D.C.
..... Click the link for more information.
) by Egyptian president Anwar al-SadatSadat, Anwar al-
, 1918–81, Egyptian political leader and president (1970–81). He entered (1936) Abbasia Military Academy, where he became friendly with Gamal Abdal Nasser and other fellow cadets committed to Egyptian nationalism.
..... Click the link for more information.
 and Israeli prime minister Menachem BeginBegin, Menachem
, 1913–92, Zionist leader and Israeli prime minister (1977–83), b. Russia. He became (1938) leader of a Zionist youth movement in Poland, where he also earned a law degree.
..... Click the link for more information.
 in 1979. Also in that year the United States resumed official diplomatic relations with China and Carter entered into a second round of Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT II) with the Soviet Union.

Carter's pledge to stand against nations that abused human rights resulted in a grain and high-technology embargo of the Soviet Union in response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Carter also organized a boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics. His decision in 1979 to allow Muhammad Reza Shah PahleviMuhammad Reza Shah Pahlevi
, 1919–80, shah of Iran (1941–79). Educated in Switzerland, he returned (1935) to Iran to attend the military academy in Tehran. He ascended the throne in 1941 after his father, Reza Shah Pahlevi, suspected of collaboration with the
..... Click the link for more information.
, the deposed leader of Iran, to receive medical treatment in the United States inflamed the already passionate anti-American sentiment in that nation. On Nov. 4, 1979, a group of militants seized the U.S. embassy in Iran, taking 66 hostages. The Iran hostage crisisIran hostage crisis,
in U.S. history, events following the seizure of the American embassy in Tehran by Iranian students on Nov. 4, 1979. The overthrow of Muhammad Reza Shah Pahlevi of Iran by an Islamic revolutionary government earlier in the year had led to a steady
..... Click the link for more information.
 destroyed Carter's credibility as a leader and a failed rescue attempt (1980) that killed eight Americans only worsened the situation. (The hostages were only released on Jan. 20, 1981, the day Carter left office.) With the hostage crisis omnipresent in the media and the nation's economy sliding deeper into recession, Carter had little to run on in the 1980 presidential election. Republican nominee Ronald Reagan promised to restore American supremacy both politically and economically.

The Reagan Years

The nation enthusiastically responded to Ronald Reagan's neoconservative message as he soundly defeated Carter and third-party candidate John Anderson to become, at the age of 70, the oldest man to be elected president. Reagan's coattails proved to be long as the Republicans made large gains in the House of Representatives and won control of the Senate for the first time since 1954, ushering in a new wave of conservatism. His program of supply-side economicssupply-side economics,
economic theory that concentrates on influencing the supply of labor and goods as a path to economic health, rather than approaching the issue through such macroeconomic concerns as gross national product.
..... Click the link for more information.
 sought to increase economic growth through reduced taxes which would in turn create even greater tax revenue. Critics argued that his tax cuts only benefited corporations and wealthy individuals. Reagan drastically cut spending on social programs as part of his vow to balance the federal budget.

In labor disputes, Reagan was decidedly antiunion. This was never more evident than in 1981 when he fired 13,000 striking air traffic controllers. In Mar., 1981, Reagan was wounded in an assassination attempt but fully recovered, dispelling doubts regarding his age and health. The U.S. economy continued to worsen; in 1983 the unemployment rate reached its highest point since the Great Depression at almost 11%. By the end of that year, however, oil prices began to drop, slowing the inflation rate and helping the economy to begin a recovery. Reagan's deregulaton of the banking, airline, and many other industries spurred enormous amounts of economic activity. In 1984 the unemployment rate fell and the dollar was strong in foreign markets. With the economy recovering, Reagan was unstoppable in the 1984 presidential election.

Democratic nominee Walter F. MondaleMondale, Walter Frederick
(Fritz Mondale), 1928–, Vice President of the United States (1977–81), b. Ceylon, Minn., LL.B., Univ. of Minn., 1956. A liberal Democrat, he was active in the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party and served as state attorney general (1960–64).
..... Click the link for more information.
 chose U.S. Representative Geraldine FerraroFerraro, Geraldine Anne
, 1935–2011, American political leader, b. Newburgh, N.Y., grad. Marymount College (1956), Fordham Law School (1960). A Democrat from Queens, N.Y., she began her career as a criminal prosecutor and later served three terms in the U.S.
..... Click the link for more information.
 as his running mate; she was the first woman to gain a major party's vice presidential nomination. Reagan scored an overwhelming victory, carrying 49 states and winning a record 525 electoral votes. Economic recovery did not last, however; while Reagan was cutting government funding for social programs the defense budget skyrocketed to levels not seen since World War II. The federal budget deficit also soared and in 1987, Reagan submitted the first trillion-dollar budget to Congress. In addition, the deregulated economy proved extremely volatile; financial scandals were prevalent and the trade imbalance grew. Finally in 1987 the stock market crashed, falling a record 508 points in a single day.

Reagan's foreign policy was aggressively anti-Communist as he discarded the policy of détente employed by Nixon, Ford, and Carter. He revived cold war rhetoric, referring to the Soviet Union as the "evil empire" and used increased defense spending to enlarge the U.S. nuclear arsenal and fund the Strategic Defense InitiativeStrategic Defense Initiative
(SDI), former U.S. government program responsible for research and development of a space-based system to defend the nation from attack by strategic ballistic missiles (see guided missile).
..... Click the link for more information.
, a plan popularly known as "Star Wars." In 1981, Reagan imposed sanctions against Poland after the establishment of a military government in that country. Reagan also sought aid for the Contras—counterrevolutionaries seeking to overthrow the Marxist-oriented Sandanista government in Nicaragua. At the same time the United States was secretly mining Nicaraguan harbors.

In 1983 241 U.S. marines stationed in Beirut, Lebanon as part of a UN peacekeeping force were killed by terrorists driving a truck laden with explosives in a suicide mission. Later that year Reagan ordered the invasion of the tiny Caribbean nation of Grenada; the action was roundly criticized by the world community, but succeeded in toppling the pro-Cuban regime. In 1986 the space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after liftoff, killing the entire seven-person crew, including six astronauts and a civilian schoolteacher. Reagan's aggressive policies in the Middle East worsened already bad relations with Arab nations; he ordered (1986) air strikes against Libya in retaliation for the Libyan-sponsored terrorist attack in West Berlin that killed two American servicemen.

Although the president had vowed never to negotiate with terrorists, members of his administration did just that in the Iran-contra affairIran-contra affair,
in U.S. history, secret arrangement in the 1980s to provide funds to the Nicaraguan contra rebels from profits gained by selling arms to Iran. The Iran-contra affair was the product of two separate initiatives during the administration of President Ronald
..... Click the link for more information.
. Against the wishes of the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense, Reagan officials arranged the illegal sale of arms to Iran in exchange for the release of American hostages in the Middle East. The profits from the sales were then diverted to the Contra rebels in Nicaragua. Reagan improved his image before he left office, however, by agreeing to a series of arms reduction talks initiated by Soviet president Mikhail GorbachevGorbachev, Mikhail Sergeyevich
, 1931–, Soviet political leader. Born in the agricultural region of Stavropol, Gorbachev studied law at Moscow State Univ., where in 1953 he married a philosophy student, Raisa Maksimovna Titorenko (1932?–99).
..... Click the link for more information.
. Reagan was also able leave a powerful legacy by appointing three conservative Supreme Court justices, including Sandra Day O'ConnorO'Connor, Sandra Day,
1930–, U.S. lawyer and associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1981–2006), b. El Paso, Tex. Graduating from Stanford law school (1952), she returned to practice in her home state of Arizona.
..... Click the link for more information.
, the first woman to serve on the high court.

Bush, Clinton, and Bush

Reagan had groomed his Vice President, George H. W. BushBush, George Herbert Walker,
1924–2018, 41st President of the United States (1989–93), b. Milton, Mass., B.A., Yale Univ., 1948. Career in Business and Government
..... Click the link for more information.
, to succeed him. The presidential election of 1988 was characterized by negative campaigning, low voter turnout, and a general disapproval of both candidates. The mudslinging especially hurt the Democratic nominee, Massachusetts governor Michael DukakisDukakis, Michael Stanley
, 1933–, American political leader, b. Brookline, Mass. He was a Democratic member of the Massachusetts house of representatives (1963–70) and was twice elected governor of Massachusetts (1975–79; 1983–91).
..... Click the link for more information.
, who rapidly lost his lead in the polls and eventually lost by a substantial margin. Bush vowed a continuation of Reagan's policies and in foreign affairs he was as aggressive as his predecessor. In 1989, after a U.S.-backed coup failed to oust Panamanian President Manuel NoriegaNoriega, Manuel Antonio
, 1934–2017, Panamanian general. Commander of the Panamanian Defense Forces from 1983, when he promoted himself to full general, Noriega consolidated the strong-armed rule inherited from Gen.
..... Click the link for more information.
, Bush ordered the invasion of Panama by U.S. troops. Noriega was eventually captured in early 1990 and sent to Miami, Fla. to stand trial for drug trafficking (see PanamaPanama
, Span. Panamá, officially Republic of Panama, republic (2015 est. pop. 3,657,000), 29,760 sq mi (77,081 sq km), occupying the Isthmus of Panama, which connects Central and South America.
..... Click the link for more information.

Bush's major military action, however, was the Persian Gulf WarPersian Gulf Wars,
two conflicts involving Iraq and U.S.-led coalitions in the late 20th and early 21st cent.

The First Persian Gulf War, also known as the Gulf War, Jan.–Feb.
..... Click the link for more information.
. After Iraq invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990, Bush announced the commencement of Operation Desert Shield, which included a naval and air blockade and the steady deployment of U.S. military forces to Saudi Arabia. In November the United Nations Security Council approved the use of all necessary force to remove Iraq from Kuwait and set Jan. 15, 1991, as the deadline for Iraq to withdraw. A few days before the deadline Congress narrowly approved the use of force against Iraq. By this time the United States had amassed a force of over 500,000 military personnel as well as thousands of tanks, airplanes, and personnel carriers. Less than one day after the deadline, the U.S.-led coalition began Operation Desert Storm, beginning with massive air attacks on Baghdad. Iraqi troops were devastated by continual air and naval bombardment, to the point that it took only 100 hours for coalition ground forces to recapture Kuwait. On Feb. 27, with the Iraqi army routed, Bush declared a cease-fire.

The quick, decisive U.S. victory, combined with an extremely small number of American casualties, gave President Bush the highest public approval rating in history. Mounting domestic problems, however, made his popularity short-lived. When Bush took office, he announced a plan to bail out the savings and loansavings and loan association
(S&L), type of financial institution that was originally created to accept savings from private investors and to provide home mortgage services for the public.

The first U.S. S&L was founded in 1831.
..... Click the link for more information.
 industry, which had collapsed after deregulation during the Reagan administration. In 1996 it was determined that the savings and loan crisis had cost the U.S. government some $124 billion.

The United States went through a transitional period during the 1980s and early 90s, economically, demographically, and politically. The severe decline of traditional manufacturing which began in the 1970s forced a large-scale shift of the economy to services and other sectors. States with large service, trade, and high-technology industries (such as many Sun Belt states) grew in population and thrived economically. Meanwhile, states heavily dependent on manufacturing, including much of the Midwest, suffered severe unemployment and outmigration. Midwestern states grew less than 5% during the 1980s while Sun Belt states grew between 15% and 50%.

In addition, the end of the cold war, precipitated by the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the collapse of Soviet Communism, resulted in a reduction of the U.S. armed forces as well as the opening of new markets in an increasingly global economy. In Apr., 1992, after the severe police beating of an African American, one of the worst race riots in recent U.S. history erupted in Los Angeles, killing 58, injuring thousands, and causing approximately $1 billion in damage. Smaller disturbances broke out in many U.S. cities. After the Persian Gulf War the nation turned its attention to the domestic problems of recession and high unemployment. Bush's inability to institute a program for economic recovery made him vulnerable in the 1992 presidential election to the Democratic nominee, Arkansas governor Bill ClintonClinton, Bill
(William Jefferson Clinton), 1946–, 42d President of the United States (1993–2001), b. Hope, Ark. His father died before he was born, and he was originally named William Jefferson Blythe 4th, but after his mother remarried, he assumed the surname of his
..... Click the link for more information.

Clinton won the election, gaining 43% of the popular vote and 370 electoral votes. Incumbent Bush won 38% of the popular vote and 168 electoral votes. Although independent candidate H. Ross PerotPerot, H. Ross
(Henry Ross Perot), 1930–2019, American business executive and political leader, b. Texarkana, Tex., as Henry Ray Perot, grad. Annapolis, 1953. In 1957 he resigned his naval commission and became a salesman for IBM.
..... Click the link for more information.
 did not win a single electoral vote, he made a strong showing with 19% of the popular vote, after a populist campaign in which he vowed to eliminate the $3.5 trillion federal deficit. Clinton, generally considered a political moderate, was particularly successful in appealing to voters (especially in the Midwest and West) who had previously abandoned the Democratic party to vote for Reagan. Bush, for his part, was unable to convince voters that he could transform his success in international affairs into domestic recovery. One of his last actions as president was to send (Dec., 1992) U.S. troops to Somalia as part of a multinational peacekeeping force administering famine relief.

The economy gradually improved during Clinton's first year in office, and this, along with a tax increase and spending cuts, caused some easing of the budget deficit. The North American Free Trade AgreementNorth American Free Trade Agreement
(NAFTA), accord establishing a free-trade zone in North America; it was signed in 1992 by Canada, Mexico, and the United States and took effect on Jan. 1, 1994.
..... Click the link for more information.
, signed by the United States, Canada, and Mexico in 1992 and designed to make its participants more competitive in the world marketplace, was ratified in 1993 and took effect Jan. 1, 1994.

During his first two years in office, Clinton withdrew U.S. troops from Somalia after they had suffered casualties in an ill-defined mission; he also sent troops to Haiti to help in reestablishing democratic rule there. The president proposed a major overhaul of the way American health care is financed, but it died in Congress. Clinton's problems with Congress were exacerbated in 1994 after the Republicans won control of both the Senate and the House and attempted, largely unsuccessfully, to enact a strongly conservative legislative program, dubbed the "Contract with America." There were prolonged stalemates as the president and Congress clashed over the federal budget; in Apr., 1996, a fiscal 1995 budget was agreed upon after seven months of stopgap spending measures and temporary government shutdowns.

In Apr., 1995, in the worst act of terrorism ever on American soil, a bomb was exploded at the federal building in Oklahoma City, Okla., killing 169 people. Late in 1995, the antagonists in the Yugoslavian civil war (see Bosnia and HerzegovinaBosnia and Herzegovina
, Serbo-Croatian Bosna i Hercegovina, country (2015 est. pop. 3,536,000), 19,741 sq mi (51,129 sq km), on the Balkan peninsula, S Europe. It is bounded by Croatia on the west and north, Serbia on the northeast, and Montenegro on the southeast.
..... Click the link for more information.
; CroatiaCroatia
, Croatian Hrvatska, officially Republic of Croatia, republic (2015 est. pop. 4,236,000), 21,824 sq mi (56,524 sq km), in the northwest corner of the Balkan Peninsula.
..... Click the link for more information.
) accepted a U.S.-brokered peace plan, which U.S. troops were sent to help monitor. U.S. efforts also contributed to Arab-Israeli acceptance of agreements to establish limited Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza.

By 1996, President Clinton had improved his standing in the polls by confronting House Republicans over the federal budget, and he subsequently adopted a number of Republican proposals, such as welfare reform, as his own, while opposing the more conservative aspects of those proposals. Clinton won his party's renomination unopposed and then handily defeated Republican Bob DoleDole, Bob
(Robert Joseph Dole), 1923–, American political leader, b. Russell, Kan.; husband of Elizabeth Hanford Dole. While serving in World War II, he was seriously wounded and required several years of convalescence. After obtaining his law degree from Washburn Univ.
..... Click the link for more information.
 and Reform party candidate Ross PerotPerot, H. Ross
(Henry Ross Perot), 1930–2019, American business executive and political leader, b. Texarkana, Tex., as Henry Ray Perot, grad. Annapolis, 1953. In 1957 he resigned his naval commission and became a salesman for IBM.
..... Click the link for more information.
 in the November election.

As his second term began, Clinton's foes in and out of Congress pursued investigation of WhitewaterWhitewater,
popular name for a failed 1970s Arkansas real estate venture by the Whitewater Development Corp., in which Gov. (later President) Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, were partners; the name is also used for the political ramifications of this scheme.
..... Click the link for more information.
 and other alleged improprieties or abuses by the president. By late 1997 independent prosecutor Kenneth StarrStarr, Kenneth Winston,
1946–, American public official, b. Vernon, Tex., grad. George Washington Univ. (B.A., 1968), Brown (M.A., 1969), Duke (J.D., 1973). After clerking for Chief Justice Warren Burger and working in the Justice Dept.
..... Click the link for more information.
 had been given information that led to the Lewinsky scandalLewinsky scandal
, sensation that enveloped the presidency of Bill Clinton in 1998–99, leading to his impeachment by the U.S. House of Representatives and acquittal by the Senate.
..... Click the link for more information.
, which burst on the national scene in early 1998. Battle lines formed and remained firm through Clinton's impeachmentimpeachment,
in Great Britain and United States, formal accusation issued by a legislature against a public official charged with crime or other serious misconduct. In a looser sense the term is sometimes applied also to the trial by the legislature that may follow.
..... Click the link for more information.
 (Oct., 1998), trial (Jan., 1999), and acquittal (Feb., 1999), with a core of conservative Republicans on one side and almost all Democrats on the other. The American people seemed to regard the impeachment as largely partisan in intent. Lying behind their attitude, however, was probably the sustained economic boom, a period of record stock-market levels, relatively low unemployment, the reduction of the federal debt, and other signs of well-being (although critics noted that the disparity between America's rich and poor was now greater than ever). This, combined with the afterglow of "victory" in the cold war, continued through the end of the 1990s.

In foreign affairs, the United States (as the only true superpower) enjoyed unprecendented international influence in the late 1990s, and in some areas it was able to use this influence to accomplish much. There was steady, if sometimes fitful, progress toward peace in the Middle East, and George Mitchell, a U.S. envoy, brokered what many hoped was a lasting peace in Northern Ireland. On the other hand, America had little influence on Russian policy in ChechnyaChechnya
or Chechen Republic
, republic (1990 est. pop. 1,300,000, with neighboring Ingushetia), c.6,100 sq mi (15,800 sq km), SE European Russia, in the N Caucasus. Grozny is the capital. Prior to 1992 Chechnya and Ingushetia comprised the Checheno-Ingush Republic.
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, and it remained locked in a contest of wills with Iraq's President Saddam Hussein nine years after the end of the Persian Gulf War. The reluctance of the Congress to pay the country's UN dues nearly led to the embarrassment of the loss of the American General Assembly vote in 1999 even as Secretary-General Kofi Annan expressed a desire for greater American involvement in the organization.

Meanwhile, in KosovoKosovo
, Albanian Kosova, Serbian Kosovo i Metohija and Kosmet, officially Republic of Kosovo, republic (2015 est. pop. 1,871,000), 4,126 sq mi (10,686 sq km), SE Europe, a former province of Serbia that unilaterally declared its independence in 2008.
..... Click the link for more information.
 the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, led by the United States, was unable to prevent a Yugoslav campaign against Kosovar Albanians but ultimately forced the former Yugoslavia to cede contral of the province; U.S. and other troops were sent into Kosovo as peacekeepers. That conflict showed that the United States was again reluctant to commit military forces, such as its army, that were likely to suffer significant casualties, although it would use its airpower, where its great technological advantages enabled it strike with less risk to its forces.

Negotiations in the Middle East, which continued in 2000, broke down, and there was renewed violence in Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank late in the year. The Clinton administration worked to restart the negotiations, but the issues proved difficult to resolve. In the United States, the NASDAQ Internet and technology stock bubble, which had begun its rise in 1999, completely deflated in the second half of 2000, as the so-called new economy associated with the Internet proved to be subject to the rules of the old economy. Signs of a contracting economy also appeared by year's end.

The George W. Bush Presidency, 9/11, and Iraq

The 2000 presidential election, in which the American public generally appeared uninspired by the either major-party candidate (Vice President Al GoreGore, Albert Arnold, Jr.,
1948–, Vice President of the United States (1993–2001), b. Washington, D.C., grad. Harvard, 1969. After serving in the army in Vietnam and working as a reporter, he was elected (1976) to the U.S.
..... Click the link for more information.
 and the Republican governor of Texas, George W. BushBush, George Walker,
1946–, 43d President of the United States (2001–9), b. New Haven, Conn. The eldest son of President George H. W. Bush, he was was raised in Texas and, like his father, attended Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass., and Yale, graduating in 1968.
..... Click the link for more information.
) ended amid confusion and contention not seen since the Hayes-Tilden election in 1876. On election night, the television networks called and then retracted the winner of Florida twice, first projecting Gore the winner there, then projecting Bush the winner there and in the race at large. The issue of who would win Florida and its electoral votes became the issue of who would win the presidency, and the determination of the election dragged on for weeks as Florida's votes were recounted. Gore, who trailed by several hundred votes (out of 6 million) in Florida but led by a few hundred thousand nationally, sought a manual recount of strongly Democratic counties in Florida, and the issue ended up being fought in the courts and in the media. Ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court called a halt to the process, although its split decision along ideological lines was regarded by many as tarnishing the court. Florida's electoral votes, as certified by the state's Republican officials, were won by Bush, who secured a total of 271 electoral votes (one more than needed) and 48% of the popular vote (Gore had 49% of the popular vote). Bush thus became the first person since Benjamin Harrison in 1888 to win the presidency without achieving a plurality in the popular vote.

The slowing economy entered a recession in Mar., 2001, and unemployment rose, leading to continued interest rate reductions by the Federal Reserve Board. The Bush administration moved quickly to win Congressional approval of its tax-cut program, providing it with an early legislative victory, but other proposed legislation moved more slowly. The resignation of Senator Jeffords of Vermont from the Republican party cost it control of the Senate, a setback due in part to administration pressure on him to adhere to the party line. Internationally, the United States experienced some friction with its allies, who were unhappy with the Bush administration's desire to abandon both the Kyoto Protocol (designed to fight global warmingglobal warming,
the gradual increase of the temperature of the earth's lower atmosphere as a result of the increase in greenhouse gases since the Industrial Revolution. Global warming and its effects, such as more intense summer and winter storms, are also referred to as climate
..... Click the link for more information.
) and the Antiballistic Missile Treaty (in order to proceed with developing a ballistic missile defense system). Relations with China were briefly tense in Apr., 2001, after a Chinese fighter and U.S. surveillance plane collided in mid-air, killing the Chinese pilot.

The politics and concerns of the first eight months of 2001 abruptly became secondary on Sept. 11, when terrorists hijacked four planes, crashing two into the World Trade CenterWorld Trade Center,
former building complex in lower Manhattan, New York City, consisting of seven buildings and a shopping concourse on a 16-acre (6.5-hectare) site; it was destroyed by a terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001.
..... Click the link for more information.
, which was destroyed, and one into the PentagonPentagon, the,
building accommodating the U.S. Dept. of Defense. Located in Arlington, Va., across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., the Pentagon is a vast five-sided building designed by Los Angeles architect G. Edwin Bergstrom.
..... Click the link for more information.
; the fourth crashed near ShanksvilleShanksville,
borough (1990 pop. 235), Somerset co., SW Pa., on the Stonycreek River, which is spanned by an 1881 covered bridge. It is situated in an agricultural area where corn, oats, and livestock are raised; there also are dairy farms and windpower facilities.
..... Click the link for more information.
, Pa. Some 3,000 persons were killed or missing as a result of the attacks. Insisting that no distinction would be made between terrorists and those who harbored them, Bush demanded that Afghanistan's TalibanTaliban
or Taleban
, Islamic fundamentalist militia of Afghanistan and later Pakistan, originally consisting mainly of Sunni Pashtun religious students from Afghanistan who were educated and trained in Pakistan.
..... Click the link for more information.
 government turn over Osama bin Ladenbin Laden, Osama or Usama
, 1957?–2011, Saudi-born leader of Al Qaeda, a terrorist organization devoted to uniting all Muslims and establishing a transnational, strict-fundamentalist Islamic state.
..... Click the link for more information.
, a Saudi-born Islamic militant whose Al QaedaAl Qaeda
or Al Qaida
[Arab.,=the base], Sunni Islamic terrorist organization with the stated goals of uniting all Muslims and establishing a transnational, strict-fundamentalist Islamic state.
..... Click the link for more information.
 group was behind the attacks. The U.S. government sought to build an international coalition against Al Qaeda and the Taliban and, more broadly, against terrorism, working to influence other nations to cut off sources of financial support for terrorists.

In October, air strikes and then ground raids were launched against Afghanistan by the United States, with British aid. Oman, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan permitted the use of their airspace and of bases within their borders for various operations. The United States also provided support for opposition forces in Afghanistan, and by December the Taliban government had been ousted and its and Al Qaeda's fighters largely had been routed. Bin Laden, however, remained uncaptured, and a force of U.S. troops was based in Afghanistan to search for him and to help with mopping-up operations.

The terrorist attacks stunned Americans and amplified the effects of the recession in the fall. Events had a severe impact on the travel industry, particularly the airlines, whose flights were temporarily halted; the airlines subsequently suffered a significant decrease in passengers. Congress passed several bills designed to counter the economic effects of the attacks, including a $15 billion aid and loan package for the airline industry. A new crisis developed in October, when cases of anthraxanthrax
, acute infectious disease of animals that can be secondarily transmitted to humans. It is caused by a bacterium (Bacillus anthracis) that primarily affects sheep, horses, hogs, cattle, and goats and is almost always fatal in animals.
..... Click the link for more information.
 and anthrax exposure resulted from spores that had been mailed to media and government offices in bioterror attacks.

Although consumer spending and the stock market rebounded by the end of the year from their low levels after September 11, unemployment reached 5.8% in Dec., 2001. Nonetheless, the economy was recovering, albeit slowly, aided in part by increased federal spending. In early 2002 the Bush administration announced plans for a significant military buildup; that and the 2001 tax cuts were expected to result in budget deficits in 2002–4. Prompted by a number of prominent corporate scandals involving fraudulent or questionable accounting practices, some of which led to corporate bankruptcies, Congress passed legislation that overhauled securities and corporate laws in July, 2002.

The fighting in Afghanistan continued, with U.S. forces there devoted mainly to mopping up remnants of Taliban and Al Qaeda forces. U.S. troops were also based in Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan to provide support for the forces in Afghanistan. In the Philippines, U.S. troops provided support and assistance to Philippine forces fighting guerrillas in the Sulu Archipelago that had been linked to Al Qaeda, and they also trained Georgian and Yemeni forces as part of the war on terrorism.

During 2002 the Bush administration became increasingly concerned by the alleged Iraqi development and possession of weapons of mass destruction, and was more forceful in its denunciations of Iraq for resisting UN arms inspections. In March, Arab nations publicly opposed possible U.S. military operations against Iraq, but U.S. officials continued to call for the removal of Saddam Hussein. President Bush called on the United Nations to act forcefully against Iraq or risk becoming "irrelevant." In November the Security Council passed a resolution offering Iraq a "final opportunity" to cooperate on arms inspections, this time under strict guidelines, and inspections resumed late in the month, although not with full Iraqi cooperation. Meanwhile, the U.S. Congress voted to authorize the use of the military force against Iraq, and the United States continued to build up its forces in the Middle East.

The November election resulted in unexpected, if small, gains for the Republicans, giving them control of both houses of Congress. After the election, Congress voted to establish a new Department of Homeland SecurityHomeland Security, United States Department of
(DHS), executive department of the federal government charged with protecting the security of the American homeland as its main responsibility.
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, effective Mar., 2003. The department regrouped most of the disparate agencies responsible for domestic security under one cabinet-level official; the resulting government reorganization was the largest since the Department of Defense was created in the late 1940s.

Dec., 2002, saw the negotiation of a free-trade agreement with Chile (signed in June, 2003), regarded by many as the first step in the expansion of NAFTA to include all the countries of the Americas. President Bush ordered the deployment of a ballistic missile defense system, to be effective in 2004; the system would be designed to prevent so-called rogue missile attacks. In advance of this move the United States had withdrawn from the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty with Russia in June. North Korea, often described as one of the nations most likely to launch a rogue attack, had admitted in October that it had a program for developing nuclear weapons, and the United States and other nations responded by ending fuel shipments and reducing food aid. In the subsequent weeks North Korea engaged in a series of well-publicized moves to enable it to resume the development of nuclear weapons, including withdrawing from the nuclear nonproliferation treaty. The United States, which had first responded by refusing to negotiate in any way with North Korea, adopted a somewhat less confrontational approach in 2003.

President Bush continued to press for Iraqi disarmament in 2003, and expressed impatience with what his administration regarded as the lack of Iraqi compliance. In Feb, 2003, however, the nation's attention was pulled away from the growing tension over Iraq by the breakup of the space shuttle Columbia as it returned to earth. Seven astronauts were killed in this second shuttle mishap, and focus was once again directed toward the issues of the safety of the space shuttle and the dynamics of the decision-making process at NASA.

Despite vocal opposition to military action from many nations, including sometimes rancorous objections from France, Germany, and Russia, the United States and Great Britain pressed forward in early 2003 with military preparations in areas near Iraq. Although Turkey, which the allies hoped to use as a base for opening a northern front in Iraq, refused to allow use of its territory as a staging area, the bulk of the forces were nonetheless in place by March. After failing to win the explicit UN Security Council approval desired by Britain (because the British public were otherwise largely opposed to war), President Bush issued an ultimatum to Iraqi president Saddam Hussein on March 17th, and two days later the war began with an air strike against Hussein and the Iraqi leadership. Ground forces invaded the following day, and by mid-April the allies were largely in control of the major Iraqi cities and had turned their attention to the rebuilding of Iraq and the establishment of a new Iraqi government. No weapons of mass destruction, however, were found by allied forces during the months after the war, and sporadic guerrilla attacks on the occupying forces occurred during the same time period, mainly in Sunni-dominated central Iraq.

The cost of the military campaign as well as of the ongoing U.S. occupation in Iraq substantially increased what already had been expected to be a record-breaking U.S. deficit in 2003 to around $374 billion. The size of the deficit, the unknown ultimate cost of the war, and the continued weak U.S. economy (the unemployment rate rose to 6.4% in June despite some improvement in other areas) were important factors that led to the scaling back of a tax cut, proposed by President Bush, by more than half to $350 billion.

In Aug., 2003, a massive electrical blackout affected the NE United States. Much of New York and portions of Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and neighboring Ontario, Canada, lost power, in many cases for a couple days. The widespread failure appeared to be due in part to strains placed on the transmission system, its safeguards, and its operators by the increased interconnectedness of electrical generation and transmission facilities and the longer-distance transmission of electricity. An investigation into the event, however, laid the primary blame on the Ohio utility where it began, both for inadequate system maintenance and for failing to take preventive measures when the crisis began.

The economy improved in the latter half of the 2003. Although the unemployment rate inched below 6% and job growth was modest, overall economic growth was robust, particularly in the last quarter. A major Medicare overhaul was enacted and signed in December, creating a prescription drug benefit for the first time. The same month the Central American Free Trade Agreement was finalized by the United States, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, and in early 2004, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic agreed to become parties to the accord. The United States also reached free-trade agreements with Australia and Morocco.

U.S. weapons inspectors reported in Jan., 2004, that they had failed to find any evidence that Iraq had possessed biological or chemical weapons stockpiles prior to the U.S. invasion. The assertion that such stockpiles existed was a primary justification for the invasion, and the report led to pressure for an investigation of U.S. intelligence prior to the war. In February, President Bush appointed a bipartisan commission to review both U.S. intelligence failures in Iraq and other issues relating to foreign intelligence; the commission's 2005 report criticized intelligence agencies for failing to challenge the conventional wisdom about Iraq's weapon systems, and called for changes in how U.S. intelligence gathering is organized and managed. The Senate's intelligence committee, reviewing the situation separately, concluded in its 2004 report that much of the CIA's information on and assessment of Iraq prior to the war was faulty.

Also in February, U.S., French, and Canadian forces were sent into Haiti to preserve order. Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide had resigned under U.S.-French pressure after rebel forces had swept through most of the country and threatened to enter the capital. U.S. forces withdrew from Haiti in June when Brazil assumed command of a UN peacekeeping force there.

By March, John KerryKerry, John Forbes,
1943–, U.S. politician, b. Denver, grad. Yale, 1966, Boston College law school, 1976. A decorated navy veteran who served two tours in Vietnam after graduating from Yale, Kerry won national notice as an outspoken opponent of the war when he returned
..... Click the link for more information.
 had all but secured the Democrat nomination for president. With both major party nominees clear, the focus of the political campaigns quickly shifted to the November election. Both Bush and Kerry had elected not to accept government funding, enabling them each to raise record amounts of campaign funding, and the post-primary advertising campaign began early. In July, Kerry chose North Carolina senator John EdwardsEdwards, John Reid
(Johnny Reid Edwards), 1953–, U.S. politician, b. Seneca, S.C., grad. North Carolina State Univ. (B.A., 1974), Univ. of North Carolina (J.D., 1977).
..... Click the link for more information.
, who had opposed him in the primaries, as his running mate.

U.S. forces engaged in intense fighting in Iraq in Apr., 2004, as they attempted to remove Sunni insurgents from the town of Falluja. The battling there was the fiercest since the end of the invasion, and ultimately U.S. forces broke off without clearing the fighters from the city, a goal that was not achieved until after similar fighting in November. Guerrilla attacks by Sunni insurgents continued throughout the year. Also in April a radical cleric attempted to spark a Shiite uprising, and there was unrest and fighting in a number of other Iraqi cities. By mid-April the Shiite militia was in control only in the region around An Najaf, but the militia did not abandon its hold there until after intense battling in August. At the end of June, Paul Bremer, the head of the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority, turned over sovereignty to an Iraqi interim government. Nonetheless, the unrest called into question the degree to which Iraq had been pacified, and the 160,000 U.S.-led troops still in Iraq were, for the time being, the true guarantor of Iraqi security. Meanwhile, the prestige of the U.S. military had been damaged by revelations, in May, that it had abused Iraqis held in the Abu Ghraib prison during 2003–4.

In July, 2004, the U.S. commission investigating the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, criticized especially U.S. intelligence agencies for failings that contributed to the success of the attacks, and called for a major reorganization of those agencies, leading to the passage of legislation late in the year. In the following months the country's focus turned largely toward the November presidential election, as the campaigns of President Bush and Senator Kerry and their surrogates escalated their often sharp political attacks. In a country divided over the threat of terrorism and the war in Iraq, over the state of the economy and the state of the nation's values, election spending reached a new peak despite recent campaign financing limitations, and fueled a divisive and sometimes bitter mood. Ultimately, the president appeared to benefit from a slowly recovering economy and the desire of many voters for continuity in leadership while the nation was at war. Amid greatly increased voter turnout, Bush secured a clear majority of the popular vote, in sharp contrast to the 2000 election that first made him president. Republicans also increased their margins of control in both houses of Congress, largely through victories in the more conservative South.

The very active 2005 hurricane season saw several significant storms make landfall on the U.S. coast. In August, Hurricane Katrina devastated the Mississippi and SE Louisiana coasts, flooded much of New Orleans for several weeks, and caused extensive destruction inland in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, making it the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history. The following month, Hurricane Rita caused devastation along the SW Louisiana coast and widespread destruction in inland Louisiana and SE Texas.

Katrina displaced many Louisiana residents, some permanently, to other parts of the state and other states, particularly Texas. Some 200,000 persons were left at least temporarily unemployed, reversing job gains that had been made in the preceding months. The storm had a noticeable effect on the economy, driving up the already higher prices of gasoline, heating oil, and natural gas (as a result of well and refinery damage) to levels not seen before, and causing inflation to rise and industrial output to drop by amounts not seen in more than two decades.

The striking ineffectiveness of federal, state, and local government in responding to Hurricane Katrina, particularly in flooded New Orleans but also in other areas affected by the storm, raised questions about the ability of the country to respond to major disasters of any kind. President Bush—and state and local officials—were criticized for responding, at least initially, inadequately to Katrina, but the Federal Emergency Management Agency in particular seemed overwhelmed by the disaster's scale and incapable of managing the federal response in subsequent weeks. Many Americans wondered if the lessons of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and the changes in the federal government that followed had resulted in real improvements or if those very changes and their emphasis on terror attacks had hindered the ability of the United States to respond to natural disasters.

The perceived failings in the federal response to Katrina seemed to catalyze public dissatisfaction with President Bush, as Americans became increasingly unsettled by the ongoing war in Iraq, the state of the U.S. economy, and other issues less than a year after Bush had been solidly reelected. Congress, meanwhile, passed a $52 billion emergency spending bill to deal with the effects of Katrina, but did not make any significant spending cuts or reductions in tax cuts to compensate for the additional outlays until Feb., 2006, when Congress passed a bill cutting almost $40 billion from a variety of government benefit programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, and student loans.

Internationally and domestically, the United States government was the subject of condemnation from some quarters for aspects of its conduct of the "war on terror" in the second half of 2005. In Aug., 2005, Amnesty International (AI) denounced the United States for maintaining secret, underground CIA prisons abroad. Subsequent news reporting indicated that there were prisons in eight nations in E Europe and Asia, and in December the United States acknowledged that the International Committee of the Red Cross had not been given access to all its detention facilities. (A year after the AI report the U.S. for the first time acknowledged that the CIA had maintained a group of secret prisons.) A Swiss investigator for the Council of Europe indicated (Dec., 2005) that reports that European nations and the United States had been involved in the abduction and extrajudicial transfer of individuals to other nations were credible, and he accused (Jan., 2006) the nations of "outsourcing" torture. In Jan., 2006, the New York–based Human Rights Watch accused the U.S. government of a deliberate policy of mistreating terror suspects. The U.S. policy toward terror suspects was subsequently denounced in 2006 by the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Committee on Torture, and the European Parliament.

In Dec., 2005, the National Security Agency was revealed to be wiretapping some international communications originating in the United States without obtaining the legally required warrants. The practice had begun in 2002, at the president's order. The administration justified it by asserting that the president's powers to defend the United States under the Constitution were not subject to Congressional legislation and that the legislation authorizing the president to respond to the Sept., 2001, terror attacks implicitly also authorized the wiretapping. Many politicians, former government officials, and legal scholars, however, criticized the practice as illegal or unconstitutional. The revelations and assertions did not derail the renewal of most nonpermanent parts of the USA PATRIOT Act, a sometimes criticized national security law originally enacted in 2001 after the Sept. 11th attacks; with only minor adjustments most of the law was made permanent in Mar., 2006. President Bush subsequently agreed (July, 2006) to congressional legislation that would authorize the administration's domestic eavesdropping program while placing a few limitations on it, but House and Senate Republicans disagreed over aspects of the proposed law, and it was not passed before the November elections. Meanwhile, in August, a federal judge declared the program illegal, a decision that the Justice Dept. appealed. In Jan., 2007, however, the Bush administration indicated the eavesdropping program would be overseen by the secret federal court responsible for issuing warrants for foreign intelligence surveillance.

The administation's position on the president's powers had been implicitly criticized by the Supreme Court when it ruled in June, 2006, that military commissions that had not been authorized by Congress could not be used to try the foreign terror suspects held at Guantánamo Bay. The Court also ruled that the Geneva Conventions applied to the suspects, who had been taken prisoner in Afghanistan; that ruling was a defeat for the administration, which had also come under increasing foreign government criticism for holding the suspects without trying them. As a result of the ruling, the Bush administration won the passage (Sept., 2006) of legislation that established special military tribunals to try foreign terror suspects, such as those held at Guantánamo, but the law was criticized by human rights advocates and others for stripping suspects of habeas corpushabeas corpus
[Lat.,=you should have the body], writ directed by a judge to some person who is detaining another, commanding him to bring the body of the person in his custody at a specified time to a specified place for a specified purpose.
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 and other rights long enshrined as part of American law.

Illegal immigration also became a contentious political topic in 2006. While the House of Representatives, dominated by conservative Republicans, sought to require greater government efforts to restrict illegal immigration and greater penalities for illegally entering the United States, the Bush administration and the Senate emphasized developing a guest-worker program and allowing some long-term illegal immigrants the opportunity to become citizens as well as increasing border security. The differences between the houses of Congresses stalled legislative action on illegal immigration while maintaining it as a political issue as the 2006 congressional elections approached; ultimately the only legislation passed on the issue was a Oct., 2006, law that called for adding 700 mi (1,100 km) of fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border. A new attempt at passing an immigration overhaul in 2007 died in Congress in June.

In the 2006 congressional elections the Republicans suffered significant reversals, losing control of both the Senate and the House, although the some of the seats lost in the Senate were the result of very narrow Democratic wins. Congressional corruption and sex scandals during 2006 appeared to loom large with many voters, as did the ongoing lack of significant progress in the fighting in Iraq. The president had hoped to benefit from improvement in the economy—the national unemployment rate had gradually dropped during 2005–6 and high oil prices earlier in the year had fallen—but some polls indicated the economy was a significant issue mainly in areas where voters felt that they had not benefited from the broad national trends.

Iraq, where 3,000 U.S. military personnel had died by the end of 2006, remained the nation's focus into early 2007. The congressionally commissioned Iraq Study Group, headed by James BakerBaker, James Addison, 3d,
1930–, U.S. political leader, b. Houston, Tex. After graduating from Princeton, he served in the U.S. Marines and earned a law degree from the Univ. of Texas.
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 and including prominent Republicans and Democrats, recommended a number of changes in U.S. efforts relating to Iraq, including greatly diminishing the role of U.S. combat forces and replacing them with Iraqi troops, making diplomatic overtures to Syria and Iran to gain their support for a resolution of the fighting in Iraq, and attempting to bring peace to Iraq as part of a broader Middle East peace initiative. Military aspects of the plan were received with skepticism by U.S. military experts, but the president ultimately choose to increase U.S. forces in Iraq temporarily, beginning in Jan., 2007, an attempt to control sectarian strife and increase security, principally in Baghdad. The president's decision was not well received in Congress, both by the newly empowered Democrats and some Republicans, but congressional opponents of the course pursued by the administration in Iraq lacked both the numbers and the unanimity necessary to confront the president effectively, as was demonstrated when a war funding bill was passed (May, 2007) without any binding troop withdrawal deadlines. By the mid-2008, when the "surge" in U.S. forces in Iraq had ended, it, along with a change in counterinsurgency tactics and other factors, appeared to have been successful in reducing violence and helping to establish control over some parts of Iraq.

The second half of 2007 saw the economy become a significant concern as problematic mortgage lending involving adjustable rate mortgages and, often, borrowers of marginal creditworthiness roiled U.S. and international financial markets and companies as a result of the securitization of mortgages, which both had hidden the risk involved in such mortgages and distributed that risk among many financial companies and investors. Concerns over creditworthiness issues led to a contraction in mortgage lending and housing construction and also led to some difficulties in commercial lendings. By the end of 2007, it was clear that a housing bubble that had contributed significantly to economic growth since 2001 had burst, and many banks and financial firms suffered significant losses as a result. That, dramatic increases in crude oil prices, and other worsening economic conditions contributed to the beginning of a recession by year's end.

In early 2008 the economic slowdown led to job losses and increased unemployment, while credit uncertainties contributed to the near-collapse of a major Wall Street investment firm; mortgage deliquencies also rose. The deteriorating economy led to the passage of a federal economic stimulus package, government measures designed to increase the availability of federally insured mortgages, lower interest rates, and moves by the Federal Reserve Board to assure the availability of credit and shore up the financial markets. In July, 2008, the president also signed a housing bill designed to help shore up the U.S. corporations that guarantee most American mortgages and also to provide mortgage relief to some homeowners, but ongoing problems with mortgage defaults led to increasing losses at those corporations and resulted in a government takeover of the institutions in September.

The deterioration of financial and economic conditions in the country and the world accelerated in mid-September, forcing the government and the Federal Reserve to intervene still more actively. The government also took over insurance giant AIG, whose financial health been undermined by credit default swaps it had sold (credit default swaps are contracts that pay, in return for a fee, compensation if a bond, loan, or the like goes into default). The nation also experienced its largest bank failure ever as the FDIC took over and sold Washington Mutual. By the end of the month the four remaining major Wall Street investment banks had disappeared through bankruptcy, merger, or conversion to bank holding companies, and banks had become unusually reluctant to lend. The economic crisis, which was the most severe since the early 1980s, also became increasingly international in scope, with particularly dramatic consequences in such diverse nations as Iceland, Russia, and Argentina.

Congress passed a $700 billion financial institution rescue package in early October, giving the Treasury secretary broad leeway in using government funds to restore financial stability, but the unsettling economic situation led stock prices to erode daily in early October, compounding the nation's financial difficulties and anxieties. The government subsequently moved to recapitalize the banking system in an attempt to restart lending, and the Federal Reserve began buying commercial paper (short-term debt with which companies finance their day-to-day operations), becoming the lender of last resort not just for the banking system but the economy at large. The Federal Reserve also lowered its federal funds interest rate target to below .25% by Dec., 2008; it did not raise the rate to .5% until Dec., 2015.

The effects of housing price drops, mortgage difficulties, the credit crunch, and other problems meanwhile slowed consumer spending, which contributed to a decrease in the GDP in the third and fourth quarters of 2008. By October unemployment had increased to 6.5% (and rose to 7.2% by the end of the year), and the economy had become a major factor in the presidential election campaign. Democrat Barack ObamaObama, Barack
(Barack Hussein Obama 2d), , 1961–, 44th president of the United States (2009–17), b. Honolulu, grad. Columbia (B.A. 1983), Harvard Law School (J.D. 1991).
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 handily defeated Republican John McCainMcCain, John Sidney, 3d,
1936–2018, U.S. politician, b. Panama Canal Zone. A much decorated navy veteran, he was born into a career naval family and attended the U.S. Naval Academy, graduating in 1958.
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 in Nov., 2008, to become the first African American to be elected to the presidency, and Democrats also increased their majorities in the U.S. Congress. Although the inauguration of President Obama in Jan., 2009, was acknowledged by most Americans as a historic watershed, the economic difficulties and international conflicts confronting the United States were sobering and had all but forced Obama to name his cabinet and highest advisers as quickly as possible once he became president-elect.

The economy continued in recession in 2009, with unemployment reaching 9.8% in September. The Obama administration continued and expanded the previous administration's antirecessionary measures, winning passage of a $787 billion stimulus package and offering aid especially to the U.S. financial industry; the automobile industry, with Chrysler and General Motors forced into bankruptcy and reorganized by July, 2009; and (to a more limited extent) to homeowners. Those and other measures were expected to result in a series of budget deficits that, as a percentage of GDP, were the largest since World War II. By mid-2010 congressional anxiety about voter reaction to the deficit made it difficult to pass additional jobs measures.

In October, when the administration announced the 2009 deficit was $1.4 trillion (roughly triple that of the year before), it appeared clear that a depression had been avoided, and subsequently there were signs of a likely end to the recession, with the economy reported to have expanded moderately in the third quarter and significantly in the last quarter of 2009. Housing, however, remained in the doldrums at best at year's end and into 2010, and the unemployment rate increased to 10% in the last months of 2009 and diminished only a little by mid-2010. Also in 2009, Obama announced that U.S. forces in Afghanistan would increase in 2010 by 30,000 combat and training troops in an escalation designed to counteract Taliban gains.

In Mar., 2010, the Obama administration secured passage of health insurance legislation that was intended to increase the number of Americans covered by such insurance. The most significant piece of social welfare legislation since the 1960s, it called for a combination of expanding Medicaid, providing subsidies to low- and middle-income families, and tax increases on high-income families in addition to other measures to achieve that goal. Passage of the legislation proved the most difficult and divisive achievement of Obama's presidency to date, with Republicans in Congress strongly opposed and many conservatives participating in public protests against it. The law was challenged in the courts, but largely upheld (2012) by the U.S. Supreme Court. Russia and the United States signed the New START treaty in Apr., 2010. Replacing the START I nuclear disarmament treaty that had expired at the end of 2009, it established lower levels for deployed nuclear warheads. In August, U.S. combat operations in Iraq officially ended.

In July, 2010, Congress enacted legislation overhauling the U.S. financial regulatory system; the law gave expanded tools to regulators to respond to crises similar to the those that occurred in 2008 and also provided for increased consumer protections. The second half of the year saw the Federal Reserve Board resume its measures to stimulate the economy, which remained in a lackluster recovery with persistent high unemployment, a situation that did not show much improvement until the end of 2011. Those economic conditions coupled with an invigorated conservative movement that at times was unhappy even with conservative Republicans contributed to a Republican resurgence in the 2010 midterm elections. The party won control of the U.S. House of Representatives and also made gains in the U.S. Senate and many statehouses. Obama nonetheless won passage of additional legislation, with varying degrees of Republican support, in the post-election lame-duck session of Congress.

In Jan., 2011, a Democratic congresswoman, Gabrielle Giffords, and 13 others were injured and 6 persons killed in a shooting in Tucson, Ariz. Although the attack on Giffords and those at her constituent event did not appear politically motivated, it focused attention on the rancor that had marked the election year of 2010 and, for a time at least, subdued the political rhetoric and the nation's mood. Weeks later, however, partisan disagreements over cutting the budget threatened to stall the budget's passage and force a federal government shutdown, but that was avoided (Apr., 2011) with a last minute agreement on $38.5 billion in reductions. The normally routine approval of an increase in the national debt ceiling was delayed in mid-2011 by renewed partisan conflicts over the budget and debt; those conflicts subsequently affected bills concerned with disaster aid, jobs creation, and other issues into 2012. The last U.S. forces in Iraq were withdrawn in Dec., 2011, ending all U.S. military operations there.

Economic conditions in general gradually improved beginning in 2011, but by the fall of 2012 unemployment had only returned to level it was at when Obama had been elected in 2008. In the summer of 2012 the country experienced the worst drought it had seen in roughly 50 years; some two thirds of the country was affected, and in some areas the drought continued into 2013. Despite the economic situation, Obama won reelection in Nov., 2012, defeating Mitt RomneyRomney, Mitt
(Willard Mitt Romney) , 1947–, American politician and business executive, b. Detroit, Mich., grad. Brigham Young Univ. (B.A., 1971), Harvard (M.B.A., 1975, J.D., 1975). Son of George W. Romney, he worked for Bain and Co.
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, his Republican challenger. With some attrition, the voters who had elected Obama in 2008—women, racial minorities, Hispanics, and younger voters—voted for him again. Democrats also made modest gains in the Congress and in the state houses, but Republicans retained control of the House.

In Dec., 2012, the country was horrified by the killings of 26 children and teachers at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school. The murders led President Obama to propose (Jan., 2013) an assault weapons ban and other gun-control measures, but passage of any measures in Congress proved impossible. In Mar., 2013, an across-the-board reduction in federal spending known as a sequester took effect under the debt ceiling legislation enacted in Aug., 2011; the failure to enact an alternative made the cuts automatic. The annual Boston Marathon, in April, was the target of a double bombing that killed three people and injured more than 260; it was the most serious terror attack against civilians in the United States since Sept., 2011.

June, 2013, saw the beginning of a series of revelations concerning the massive telecommunications data collection efforts of the National Security AgencyNational Security Agency
(NSA), an independent agency within the U.S. Dept. of Defense. Founded by presidential order in 1952, its primary functions are to collect and analyze communications intelligence information and data and to protect the security of U.S.
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, based on documents collected by a former agency employeee, Edward SnowdenSnowden, Edward Joseph,
1983–, American computer systems administrator and antigovernment activist, b. Elizabeth City, N.C. Snowden worked for the Central Intelligence Agency from 2007 and then (2009) for private contractors and for the National Security Agency.
..... Click the link for more information.
. The details of the data collection (which in some cases was generally known prior to the revelations and in some cases occurred in cooperation with U.S. allies) caused international controversy and created public difficulties with some U.S. allies. The revelations ultimately led, in June, 2015, to passage of changes to the USA PATRIOT Act that placed some restrictions on the mass collection of telecommunications data.

A chemical weapons attack in August that killed more than 1,400 in Damascus, Syria, was linked by Western governments to the Syrian government, and led to the threat of an attack from the United States, but it did not occur after President Obama decided to seek congressional approval first. Ultimately, however, the Syrian government agreed to the supervised destruction of its chemical weapons stockpile.

In the fall of 2013, conservative Republicans in the House of Representatives insisted on a defunding or delay of the 2010 health insurance legislation, which was begin to come into effect in Oct., 2013, as a condition for the passage of a new budget, a condition Democrats refused to agree to. The resulting failure to enact budget legislation led to a partial federal government shutdown in the first half of October, but the health-care legislation took effect unimpeded. (There were difficulties in late 2013 with the implementation of the law, but the situation appeared to have improved markedly by Apr., 2014.) In late 2013, the budget impasse grew into a threat to once again deny an increase in the national debt ceiling, potentially resulting in a more severe curtailment of government operations and debt payments as well as international financial difficulties (because of the role played by the dollar as a reserve currency). The threatened crisis was averted, but the agreement to continue federal funding and suspend the debt ceiling was temporary (until early 2014). In Dec., 2013, however, Congress agreed to a two-year budget deal, and a new, year-long debt limit suspension passed uneventfully in Feb., 2014.

The political crisis in Ukraine, which resulted in Feb., 2014, in the removal of President YanukovychYanukovych, Viktor Fedorovych
, 1950–, Ukrainian politician, president of Ukraine (2010–14). The graduate of a mining college and a polytechnic institute (1980), he was a mechanical engineer and member of the Soviet Communist party, and became manager of a
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, led to the worst tensions with Russia since the cold war after Russia occupied and annexed Ukraine's CrimeaCrimea
, Rus. and Ukr. Krym, peninsula and republic (1991 est. pop. 2,363,000), c.10,000 sq mi (25,900 sq km), SE Europe, linked with the mainland by the Perekop Isthmus. The peninsula is bounded on the S and W by the Black Sea.
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 region in March and then actively supported pro-Russian rebels in E Ukraine. In response to the annexation and Russian support for the rebels, the United States (and some other Western nations) imposed sanctions on Russia. In the second half of 2014 the United States also launched air strikes in Iraq and Syria aimed at thwarting the Islamic StateIslamic State
(IS), Sunni Islamic militant group committed to the establishment of an Islamic caliphate that would unite Muslims in a transnational, strict-fundamentalist Islamic state.
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, Sunni Islamist militants who sought to create a a transnational Islamic fundamentalist regime.

Late 2014 also saw an increase in racial tensions in the United States, sparked by a number of cases in which young black men were shot and killed by police officers, with the most notable incidents of protest and violence occurring in Ferguson, Mo., during August. A similar incident sparked rioting in Baltimore, Md., in Apr., 2015, and in June, 2015, the nation was stunned by the murder of African-American worshipers in Savannah, Ga., by a white supremacist. Two police shootings in July, 2016, in which black men died, sparked revenge killings of police officers that same month. Mass shootings in San Bernandino, Calif. (Dec., 2015), and Orlando, Fla. (June, 2016), were Islamist-inpsired; the latter, in which 50 died, was the worst in U.S. history.

The Nov., 2014, elections resulted in gains for the Republican party, which won a majority in the U.S. Senate, retained control of the House, and made gains at the state level as well. Following the elections the Obama administration announced a change in immigration policy that would avoid deporting law-abiding illegal aliens who were long-term U.S. residents and also had children who were U.S. citizens; the policy change was subsequently challenged in the courts. It also reached an agreement with Cuba on restoring diplomatic relations and easing some travel and commerce restrictions (the embargo was unaffected, though Obama called for Congress to consider ending it). There were new tensions over the passage of a budget in Dec., 2014, but a government shutdown was avoided.

In July, 2015, the United States signed multinational agreement with Iran that placed limits on its nuclear program in return for easing economic sanctions; Senate Democrats subsequently blocked Republican attempts to force a vote on the agreement. The agreement was implemented in Jan., 2016, and nuclear-related sanctions on Iran were lifted, but the same month the United States imposed new sanctions related to Iran's ballistic missile program as a result of a test launch that was said to violate UN Security Council resolutions. In Oct., 2015, the president announced that the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan would be slowed, and that several thousand troops would remain there into 2017. Also in October, the United States and 11 other Pacifc Rim nations agreed to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which would reduce or end trade tariffs on many goods. The agreement, which was formally signed in Feb., 2016, was criticized and denounced in the primary and general elections in 2016.

In the 2016 presidential election the gradual economic expansion was insufficient to secure Democrats a third presidential term. Republican businessman Donald TrumpTrump, Donald John,
1946–, 45th President of the United States (2017–21), b. New York City. Prior to his election as president in 2016, he was a business executive and television personality rather than a political leader. After attending Fordham Univ.
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, who ran contentious and controversial primary and general election campaigns, defeated the first woman major party nominee, Democrat Hillary ClintonClinton, Hillary Rodham
, 1947–, U.S. senator and secretary of state, wife of President Bill Clinton, b. Chicago, grad. Wellesley College (B.A. 1969), Yale Law School (LL.B., 1973). After law school she served on the House panel that investigated the Watergate affair.
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, after an often personal and socially divisive contest. Clinton was hurt by an FBI investigation into her use of an private server for official email while she was secretary of state; the FBI ultimately found no grounds for prosecution. Despite his electoral win, Trump lost the popular vote by the largest percentage since 1876, and the campaign aggravated race relations and provoked anxiety in many foreign allies. Although Republicans retained control of Congress, the party lost some seats in both houses.

Subsequently it was revealed that the CIA and FBI (and later the Senate) had concluded that Russia had used cyberwarfare and disinformation in support of Trump's campaign, in the primaries and general election. The Russia election and campaign revelations continued to be an issue into 2018. The new administration's national security adviser, Michael Flynn, was forced to resign after less than a month in office when it was learned that he had lied about postelection contacts with Russian official. The head of the FBI, James ComeyComey, James Brien, Jr.,
1960–, American law enforcement official, b. Yonkers, N.Y., grad. William and Mary, 1982, Univ. of Chicago Law School, 1985. He was assistant U.S.
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, was dismissed in May, 2017, because of the investigation into Russian intereference, and later accused President Trump of seeking a halt to the investigation. The criminal investigation continued under a special counsel, former FBI head Robert MuellerMueller, Robert Swan, 3d,
1944–, American law enforcement official, b. New York City, B.A. Princeton, 1966, M.A. New York Univ., 1967, J.D. Univ. of Virginia School of Law, 1973.
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, and several meetings between Russians and Americans associated with the Trump campaign or businesses subsequently came to light. From late 2017 Mueller indicted a number of people associated with Trump campaign and businesses, as well as Russians and Russian companies, on charges arising from his investigation. Subsequently, a number of prominent Trump associates pleaded guilty to various charges, many not related directly to Russia's attempted electoral interference.

After taking office, Trump withdrew (2017) the United States from the TPP and moved to limit the impact of the 2010 health insurance legislation, which he had pledged to replace. The conflicting goals of elected Republican officials, however, came into play, and Congress proved unable to pass a replacement for the Affordable Care Act. The administration then, among other moves to limit or undermine the law, ended (October) government subsidies to health insurance companies that reduced the cost of plans for lower-income enrollees.

An executive order in January that restricted travel from some Muslim majority nations on national security grounds (revised and reissued in March; revised and expanded to some other nations in September) was challenged in the courts in both its initial and later forms, but was upheld by the Supreme Court in its final version. Beginning in late August the country experienced a series of a domestic traumas, as hurricanes wreaked devastation in Texas, the Virgin Islands, Florida, and Puerto Rico (August–September), one shooter killed 58 and wounded more than 500 at a concert in Las Vegas (Oct. 1) and another killed 27 at a rural Texas church (Nov. 5), and California experienced an outbreak of deadly, destructive wildfires (October and December).

The economy continued to experience the steady growth that had marked it in most of the 2010s, and in Dec., 2017, Trump and Congressional Republicans united to achieve their first major legislative victory, enactment of a tax overhaul that promised significant permanent tax reductions to many U.S. businesses. The passage of a budget (Mar., 2018) with greatly increased defense and domestic spending combined with the tax cuts led the Congressional Budget Office to predict trillion-dollar deficits by 2020.

Internationally, continued missile and nuclear weapons testing by North Korea in 2017 led to increased tensions with the United States that did not ease until 2018. Tensions further eased that June when the president met with North Korea's Kim Jong Un, who said North Korea would move toward complete denuclearization, but no timetable was agreed on. In Apr., 2017, a nerve gas attack in Syria by the Assad government provoked a retaliatory missile strike on the part of the United States and created tensions between the United States and Russia; a year later, another especially deadly poison gas attack also provoked U.S. retaliation. The Trump administration in June, 2017, announced it would withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate accord (effective 2020), and in October stopped certifying Iran's compliance with the multinational nuclear agreement; in 2018 the United States withdrew from the Iran agreement, leading to criticism from the U.S. allies who were party to the accord. Late in the year and and in following years the Trump administration imposed expanded U.S. economic sanctions on Iran, but an attempt in 2020 to have United Nations sanctions automatically reimposed on Iran were frustrated by administration's no longer being a party to the Iran agreement. The U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and 2019 recognition of Israel's annexation of the Golan Heights were broadly rejected by most U.S. allies; at the same time the Trump administration moved to reduce its contributions to the United Nations and its agencies.

In 2018, protective tariffs imposed or proposed by the Trump administration on a number of imported products, many of which were aimed at China, led to concerns about a possible trade war as China and most other affected nations (mainly U.S. allies) responded in kind. In mid-2018 and a year later the administration announced multibillion dollar emergency relief packages for U.S. farmers who lost access to markets as a result of the situaton. Later that year, the United States won Mexican and Canadian agreement to modifications to some aspects of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which was to be renamed the United States Mexico Canada Agreement once the changes entered into force; additional modifications were made during Congressional ratification.

In February, a school shooting in Parkland, Fla., in which 17 died resulted in renewed public outrage concerning gun violence and led in March to large demonstrations across the nation in favor of gun control; mass killings involving guns continued to recur during 2018, and an especially deadly one motivated by anti-Semitism occurred in October at a synagogue in Pittsburgh. Also in October a series of explosive devices were mailed to critics and political opponents of the president.

The country again experienced a spate of significant natural disasters in 2018. The wildfire season brought further devastation to California, as the state experienced some of the largest, deadliest, and most destructive wildfires in its history. A hurricane in September caused significant flooding in North and South Carolina, and areas in Florida's panhandle were devastated by another in October; that same month a typhoon also brought destruction to islands of the Northern Marianas in the Pacific.

The U.S. economy continued to grow during 2018, with the growth rate increasing to 2.9% (most likely as the result of the 2017 tax cut), but that did not figure prominently in the 2018 elections. Democrats tended to emphasize health care issues and the president, actively campaigning, focused on the security threat said to be posed by illegal immigration from Latin America, as represented by large numbers of migrants traveling in groups, many of whom were seeking asylum legally; Trump ordered U.S. troops to the border in support roles. At the polls, voters gave Democrats won control of the House of Representatives and some governorships, but Republicans retained control of the Senate.

Trump, having previously agreed to continuing funding for the government, demanded Congress provide funding for his proposed wall for the Mexican border and, when it did not, forced (Dec., 2018) a partial federal government shutdown that became the longest shutdown in U.S. history. Following the end of the shutdown in January, Trump declared (February) a national emergency over the border in a move to bypass Congress and transfer funds to construction of the border wall. Much of the funding was ultimately transferred from the Defense Dept. The administration subsequently took a harder line on immigration, and threatened to cut off aid to Central American nations the migrants came from, threatened Mexico with tariffs unless it halted the flow of those migrants, and sought to make them ineligible for asylum. Also in Feb. 2019, and then briefly in June, the president met again with North Korea's leader but no agreement resulted.

A redacted version of the report of the Mueller investigation, which ended in Mar., 2019, was publicly released in April. Mueller detailed repeated contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia as well as the campaign's hope to benefit from Russian interference in the election, but found that there was not sufficient evidence of conspiracy or coordination between the campaign and Russia. It also did not exonerate the president from obstruction of justice, noting a pattern of attempts by Trump to influence the investigation as well as that a number of aides refused to carry out orders from Trump that could have constituted obstruction. U.S. Attorney General William Barr determined (March) that obstruction of justice had not occurred, and subsequently sought several investigations into the investigation. The following year Barr suspended prosecution of Michael Flynn, and Trump commuted the sentence of Roger Stone, his former political consultant; both had been convicted of lying to investigators.

In Oct. 2019, Trump abruptly ordered U.S. forces serving with the Kurds in Syria to be pulled from areas bordering Turkey (and later from Syria, though subsequently that order was substantially reversed due to concerns about the Islamic State), allowing Turkey and its Syrian Arab allies to invade Kurdish-held territory. The sudden move sparked sharp Congressional criticism, and raised questions about U.S. commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq. Conflict in Iraq between Iranian-supported militias and U.S. forces in late 2019 led in Jan., 2020, to a drone attack in Iraq that killed Iran's Gen. Qasem SoleimaniSoleimani, Qasem,
or Qassem Suleimani
, 1957–2020, Iranian general. He joined the Revolutionary Guards following the 1979 revolution and was considered a hero of the Iran-Iraq War, during which he became a divisional commander.
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; Iran launched retaliatory missile attacks against U.S. bases in Iraq, and Iraq's parliament called for U.S. forces to be withdrawn from the country.

Meanwhile, the president and country confronted a new political crisis in September after it was revealed that Trump had pressured Ukraine to investigate unsubstantiated accusations that Ukraine colluded with the Democrats in 2016 and that Vice President Biden and his son had had corrupt dealings in Ukraine. The revelations led to the initiation of an impeachment investigation in Congress; Trump ordered U.S. officials not to testify, but many career officials did. The House voted to impeach Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of justice in Dec., 2019, on a largely party-line vote, and in Feb., 2020, the Senate voted to acquit him, also on a near party-line vote, after a trial in which no testimony was heard.

contagious viral disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, or SARS-CoV-2, a coronavirus that is genetically related to SARS-CoV, which causes SARS.
..... Click the link for more information.
 pandemic of 2020, in addition to being a significant health crisis in many parts of the country, created a nationwide economic crisis as entire sectors of the economy and society were shut down as the state governors and the federal government attempted to control its spread. The Trump administration, especially the president, often was at odds over the states over medical supplies, the use of stay-at-home orders and the speed at which they should be lifted, and other matters relating to the pandemic, complicating the governmental response. In many locations the disease, which soon totaled in the hundreds of thousands of cases and tens of thousands of deaths, threatened to overwhelm health care facilities.

Unemployment skyrocketed as a result of the shutdowns and, as the economy entered recession, Congress passed emergency legislation that provided trillions in aid for individuals and businesses. The Federal Reserve also employed on a wide range of economic mitigation measures similar to those of the financial crisis a decade earlier. The initial, most dramatic drops in economic activity and employment eased beginning in May, and were reversed to a sizable degree in the second half of 2020.

COVID-19 cases rose again in June and July, then eased, then began rising again in September and subsquently increasing steadily; each rise exceeded the last, and total reported cases exceeded 9 million in October as the disease spread more widely. Among the cases were the president himself and a number of White House officials. Deaths, however, did not spike as sharply as they had in the spring, but nonetheless exceeded 225,000. Additional federal economic aid proved impossible to agree on as the elections approached. As the pandemic worsened, the president increasingly blamed China (and the World Health Organization) for the spread of COVID-19, and China's South China Sea claims and imposition of controls on political activities in Hong Kong further worsened relations and left Chinese trade issues unresolved.

In May, meanwhile, the killing in Minneapolis of George Floyd, an African American who suffocated while a white police officer pressed a knee on his neck, provoked widespread outrage. Protests in many areas called for police reform and an end to racism; as the protests continued in subsequent weeks, heroic statues of Confederates and others were targeted. In some cases protests turned violent or police officers were accused of brutality. The president, who became stridently critical of the protestors and defended the symbols of the Confederacy, controversially sought to use federal forces to suppress local protests.

The second half of 2020 saw an extremely severe wildfire season in several states in the W United States, while an extremely active hurricane season hit the state of Louisiana especially hard. In the 2020 elections, the policies and personality of President Trump and the effects and handling of the COVID-19 pandemic were the most prominent issues, with the former most particularly dividing the supporters of the major party candidates. Ultimately, after a longer vote count than usual due to an unusually large mail-in vote as a result of the pandemic, Democrats Joseph Biden and Kamala HarrisHarris, Kamala Devi
, 1964–, Vice President of the United States (2021–), b. Oakland, Calif., B.A. Howard Univ., 1986, J.D. Univ. of California, Hastings, 1989.
..... Click the link for more information.
 easily won the popular vote and more narrowly secured a few of the states that guaranteed electoral vote victory; Harris became the first woman to be elected vice president. Two thirds of registered voters cast a ballot, the highest turnout by percentage since 1900; voters totaled 159.6 million, and Biden became the first presidential candidate to received more than 80 million votes. The Democrats lost some seats in the House, but secured an even split in the Senate after runoffs in Georgia in Jan., 2021.

Trump repeatedly denounced the results as a fraud without offering any evidence, and his associates and Republican officials sued repeatedly and unsuccessfully in state and federal courts to overturn Biden's victory. The Republican attorney general of Texas sought to have the Supreme Court toss Biden's wins in four swing states, a move the Court dismissed without hearing. The efforts by Trump and his allies continued up to Jan. 6, 2021, when Congress counted the electoral votes, provoking a mob to storm the Capitol and threaten legislators in an attempt to undo the election; Congress was forced into hiding until the Capitol was cleared. Despite events, most Republicans in the House then challenged the electoral results from several states Biden had won. The House soon impeached the president a second time, with the support of some Republicans. The inauguration of Biden, which Trump did not attend, was conducted under heavy guard after the FBI said that right-wing extremists had plans to disrupt it. By then, COVID-19 vaccinations had begun, but the disease had killed more than 400,000 Americans; more than 24 million were known to have contracted the disease.

Related Articles

There are a great number of articles on Americans of major importance, on the principal government agencies and departments, and on numerous topics of American history, e.g., Whiskey RebellionWhiskey Rebellion,
1794, uprising in the Pennsylvania counties W of the Alleghenies, caused by Alexander Hamilton's excise tax of 1791. The settlers, mainly Scotch-Irish, for whom whiskey was an important economic commodity, resented the tax as discriminatory and detrimental to
..... Click the link for more information.
, Ohio CompanyOhio Company,
organization formed (1747) to extend settlements of Virginia westward. The members were mostly Virginia planters interested in land speculation and the fur trade.
..... Click the link for more information.
, Independent Treasury SystemIndependent Treasury System,
in U.S. history, system for the retaining of government funds in the Treasury and its subtreasuries independently of the national banking and financial systems. In one form or another, it existed from the 1840s to 1921.
..... Click the link for more information.
, and Santa Fe TrailSanta Fe Trail,
important caravan route of the W United States, extending c.780 mi (1,260 km) from Independence, Mo., SW to Santa Fe, N.Mex. Independence and Westport, Mo., were the chief points where wagons, teams, and supplies were obtained.
..... Click the link for more information.
. There are also articles on more than 2,000 cities, towns, and villages in the United States. The state articles supply bibliographies for state history. Aspects of American culture are discussed under American architectureAmerican architecture,
the architecture produced in the geographical area that now constitutes the United States. Early History

American architecture properly begins in the 17th cent. with the colonization of the North American continent.
..... Click the link for more information.
, American artAmerican art,
the art of the North American colonies and of the United States. There are separate articles on American architecture, North American Native art, pre-Columbian art and architecture, Mexican art and architecture, Spanish colonial art and architecture, and Canadian
..... Click the link for more information.
, American literatureAmerican literature,
literature in English produced in what is now the United States of America. Colonial Literature

American writing began with the work of English adventurers and colonists in the New World chiefly for the benefit of readers in the mother country.
..... Click the link for more information.
, and jazzjazz,
the most significant form of musical expression of African-American culture and arguably the most outstanding contribution the United States has made to the art of music. Origins of Jazz

Jazz developed in the latter part of the 19th cent.
..... Click the link for more information.
. Many general articles (e.g., slaveryslavery,
historicially, an institution based on a relationship of dominance and submission, whereby one person owns another and can exact from that person labor or other services.
..... Click the link for more information.
; diplomatic servicediplomatic service,
organized body of agents maintained by governments to communicate with one another. Origins

Until the 15th cent. any formal communication or negotiation among nations was conducted either by means of ambassadors specially appointed for a
..... Click the link for more information.
) have useful material and bibliographies relating to the United States.


The writings on American history are voluminous. Useful bibliographies are F. Freidel and R. K. Showman, ed., Harvard Guide to American History (2 vol., rev. ed. 1974) and C. Fitzgerald, ed., American History: A Bibliographic Review (4 vol., 1986–89).

Major Historians and Works

Some of the classic works on American history are those of Henry AdamsAdams, Henry,
1838–1918, American writer and historian, b. Boston; son of Charles Francis Adams (1807–86). He was secretary (1861–68) to his father, then U.S. minister to Great Britain.
..... Click the link for more information.
, C. M. AndrewsAndrews, Charles McLean,
1863–1943, American historian, b. Wethersfield, Conn. He was associate professor at Bryn Mawr (1889–1907) and professor at Johns Hopkins (1907–10) and Yale (1910–31).
..... Click the link for more information.
, George BancroftBancroft, George,
1800–1891, American historian and public official, b. Worcester, Mass. He taught briefly at Harvard and then at the Round Hill School in Northampton, Mass., of which he was a founder and proprietor. He then turned definitively to writing. His article (Jan.
..... Click the link for more information.
, Charles A. BeardBeard, Charles Austin,
1874–1948, American historian, b. near Knightstown, Ind. A year at Oxford as a graduate student gave him an interest in English local government, and after further study at Cornell and Columbia universities he wrote, for his doctoral dissertation at
..... Click the link for more information.
, Carl L. BeckerBecker, Carl Lotus,
1873–1945, American historian, b. Blackhawk co., Iowa. He taught history at Dartmouth College (1901–2), at the Univ. of Kansas (1902–16), and at Cornell (1917–41).
..... Click the link for more information.
, G. L. BeerBeer, George Louis,
1872–1920, American historian, b. Staten Island, N.Y. He was a tobacco importer for 10 years but also lectured on European history at Columbia from 1893 to 1897.
..... Click the link for more information.
, Alfred Chandler, John FiskeFiske, John,
1842–1901, American philosopher and historian, b. Hartford, Conn. Born Edmund Fisk Green, he changed his name in 1855 to John Fisk, adding the final e in 1860. He opened a law practice in Boston but soon turned to writing.
..... Click the link for more information.
, Eugene Genovese, Herbert Gutman, J. B. McMasterMcMaster, John Bach,
1852–1932, American historian, b. Brooklyn, N.Y. Having practiced engineering in New York City and written two books, McMaster was appointed (1877) an instructor in civil engineering at the College of New Jersey (now Princeton).
..... Click the link for more information.
, H. L. OsgoodOsgood, Herbert Levi,
1855–1918, American historian, b. Canton, Maine. He taught at Worcester Academy (1877–79) and Brooklyn High School (1883–89). From 1890 to 1896 he was adjunct professor and, after 1896, professor of history at Columbia.
..... Click the link for more information.
, Francis ParkmanParkman, Francis,
1823–93, American historian, b. Boston. In 1846, Parkman started a journey along the Oregon Trail to improve his health and study the Native Americans. On his return to Boston he collapsed physically and moved to Brattleboro, Vt.
..... Click the link for more information.
, Vernon Louis ParringtonParrington, Vernon Louis,
1871–1929, American literary historian and scholar, b. Aurora, Ill. His cultural interpretation of American literature was an expression of his belief in democratic idealism. His Main Currents in American Thought (3 vol.
..... Click the link for more information.
, Ulrich B. PhillipsPhillips, Ulrich Bonnell,
1877–1934, American historian, an authority on the antebellum South, b. La Grange, Ga. After teaching at the Univ. of Wisconsin (1902–8), he was professor of history and political science at Tulane Univ.
..... Click the link for more information.
, James Ford RhodesRhodes, James Ford
, 1848–1927, American historian, b. Ohio City (now part of Cleveland). While studying in Europe he visited ironworks and steelworks in Germany and Great Britain, and upon his return he investigated for his father iron and coal deposits in Georgia, North
..... Click the link for more information.
, and Frederick Jackson TurnerTurner, Frederick Jackson,
1861–1932, American historian, b. Portage, Wis. He taught at the Univ. of Wisconsin from 1885 to 1910 except for a year spent in graduate study at Johns Hopkins.
..... Click the link for more information.

Other works of significance are by Bernard BailynBailyn, Bernard
, 1922–2020, U.S. historian, b. Hartford, Conn. After receiving his Ph.D. from Harvard (1953), he taught U.S. colonial history there, becoming a full professor in 1961 (emeritus from 1993).
..... Click the link for more information.
, S. F. BemisBemis, Samuel Flagg
, 1891–1973, American historian, b. Worcester, Mass. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1916 and taught history at various schools before becoming Farnum professor of diplomatic history at Yale (1935).
..... Click the link for more information.
, Ray Allan Billington, Daniel Boorstin, Bruce CattonCatton, Bruce,
1899–1978, American historian, b. Petoskey, Mich. He studied at Oberlin College and then entered upon a varied career as a journalist (1926–42) and public official (1942–52).
..... Click the link for more information.
, H. S. CommagerCommager, Henry Steele
, 1902–98, American historian, b. Pittsburgh, Pa. He received his Ph.D. from the Univ. of Chicago in 1928 and taught history at New York Univ. (1926–38), Columbia (1938–56), and Amherst (1956–94).
..... Click the link for more information.
, David DonaldDonald, David Herbert,
1920–2009, American historian, b. Goodman, Miss. After receiving his Ph.D. from the Univ. of Illinois in 1946, he taught at Columbia (1947–49; 1951–59), Smith (1949–51), Princeton (1959–62), Johns Hopkins (1962–1972),
..... Click the link for more information.
, D. S. FreemanFreeman, Douglas Southall
, 1886–1953, American editor and historian, b. Lynchburg, Va. He was editor of the Richmond News Leader from 1915 to 1949, when he retired to devote most of his time to historical writing.
..... Click the link for more information.
, L. H. GipsonGipson, Lawrence Henry
, 1880–1971, American historian, b. Greeley, Colo. A Rhodes scholar, he received his Ph.D. from Yale in 1918 and taught at several schools before becoming (1924) professor of history and head of the department of history and government at Lehigh Univ.
..... Click the link for more information.
, Richard HofstadterHofstadter, Richard
, 1916–70, American historian, b. Buffalo, N.Y. He received his Ph.D. from Columbia in 1942 and began teaching there in 1946, becoming full professor in 1952 and De Witt Clinton professor of American history in 1959.
..... Click the link for more information.
, John F. JamesonJameson, John Franklin,
1859–1937, American historian, b. Somerville, Mass. After teaching at Johns Hopkins, Brown, and the Univ. of Chicago he was director (1905–28) of the department of historical research of the Carnegie Institution, Washington, D.C.
..... Click the link for more information.
, Perry MillerMiller, Perry,
1905–63, U.S. historian, b. Chicago. He received his Ph.D. from the Univ. of Chicago in 1931 and taught at Harvard from 1931 until his death. A towering figure in the field of American intellectual history, Miller wrote extensively, especially about colonial
..... Click the link for more information.
, S. E. MorisonMorison, Samuel Eliot,
1887–1976, American historian, b. Boston. He received his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1912 and began teaching history there in 1915, becoming full professor in 1925 and Jonathan Trumbull professor of American history in 1941 before retiring in 1955.
..... Click the link for more information.
, R. B. MorrisMorris, Richard Brandon,
1904–89, American historian, b. New York City. He received his Ph.D. from Columbia in 1930, taught (1927–49) at the College of the City of New York, became a professor at Columbia in 1949, and was made Gouverneur Morris professor of history
..... Click the link for more information.
, Allan NevinsNevins, Allan,
1890–1971, American historian, b. Camp Point, Ill. After studying at the Univ. of Illinois, he followed a career in journalism until 1927. Teaching at Columbia from 1928, he became a full professor in 1931 and was made De Witt Clinton professor of American
..... Click the link for more information.
, A. M. SchlesingerSchlesinger, Arthur Meier
, 1888–1965, American historian, b. Xenia, Ohio. After teaching at Ohio State Univ. and the State Univ. of Iowa, he was a professor of history (1924–54) at Harvard and in 1928 became an editor of the New England Quarterly.
..... Click the link for more information.
, A. M. SchlesingerSchlesinger, Arthur Meier, Jr.,
1917–2007, American historian and public official, b. Columbus, Ohio, as Arthur Bancroft Schlesinger; son of Arthur Meier Schlesinger.
..... Click the link for more information.
, Jr., T. J. Wertenbaker, Gordon Wood, and C. Vann WoodwardWoodward, C. Vann
(Comer Vann Woodward), 1908–99, American historian, b. Vanndale, Ark. He graduated from Emory Univ. (1930), received his Ph.D. in history from the Univ.
..... Click the link for more information.

Standard reference works are R. B. Morris and H. S. Commager, ed., Encyclopedia of American History (rev. ed. 1970); H. S. Commager, ed., Documents of American History (8th ed. 1968); and the cooperative "New American Nation Series" (ed. by H. S. Commager and R. B. Morris, 1954–). Another cooperative work is the "History of the South" series (ed. by W. H. Stephenson and E. M. Coulter, 10 vol., 1947–67). See also U.S. Bureau of the Census, Statistical Abstract of the United States (latest ed.) and Susan B. Carter et al., ed., Historical Statistics of the United States (2006).

Brief general histories include D. J. Boorstin, The Americans (3 vol., 1958–73); H. J. Carman et al., A History of the American People (3d ed., 2 vol., 1967); S. E. Morison, The Oxford History of the American People (3 vol., 1972); S. E. Morison and H. S. Commager, The Growth of the American Republic (7th ed. 1980); H. Zinn, A People's History of the United States (1980); J. A. Garraty, A Short History of the American Nation (5th ed. 1988); P. Johnson, A History of the American People (1998); W. A. McDougall, Freedom Just around the Corner: A New American History: 1585–1828 (2004) and Throes of Democracy: The American Civil War Era, 1829–1877 (2008); D. Reynolds, America, Empire of Liberty (2009); S.-M. Grant, A Concise History of the United States of America (2012); J. Lepore, These Truths: A History of the United States (2018).

Specialized Topics in American History

Specialized topics are treated in such studies as M. Curti, The Growth of American Thought (3d ed. 1964); A. Heimert, Religion and the American Mind (1966); R. A. Billington and J. B. Hedges, Westward Expansion (3d ed. 1967); M. J. Frisch, ed., American Political Thought (1971); S. E. Ahlstrom, A Religious History of the United States (1972); R. E. Spiller et al., ed., Literary History of the United States (4th ed. rev., 2 vol., 1974); R. H. Ferrell, American Diplomacy: A History (3d ed. 1975); J. S. Adams, Contemporary Metropolitan America (4 vol., 1976); J. Garreau, The Nine Nations of North America (1981) and Edge City: Life on the New Frontier (1991); P. O. Muller, Contemporary Suburban America (1981); M. E. Armbruster, The Presidents of the United States and Their Administrations from Washington to Reagan (7th rev. ed. 1982); J. P. Greene, Encyclopedia of American Political History (3 vol., 1984); K. T. Jackson, Crabgrass Frontier (1985); J. Agnew, The United States in the World (1987); E. S. Gaustad, Faith of Our Fathers: Religion and the New Nation (1987), Historical Atlas of Religion in America (rev. ed. 2001), and with L. Schmidt, A Religious History of America (rev. ed. 2002); W. H. Frey and A. Speare, Regional and Metropolitan Growth and Decline in the United States (1988); J. Schlesinger, America at Century's End (1989); A. King, The New American Political System (1990); A. H. Kelly et al., The American Constitution (7th ed. 1991); C. Sellers, The Market Revolution: Jacksonian America, 1815–1846 (1991); H. F. Graff, ed., The Presidents (2d ed., 1996); J. J. Ellis, Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation (2000); N. F. Cott, No Small Courage: A History of Women in the United States (2001); A. Fairclough, Better Day Coming: Blacks and Equality, 1890–2000 (2001); A. Taylor, American Colonies (2001); L. M. Friedman, Law in America (2002) and History of American Law (3d ed. 2005); I. Berlin, Generations of Captivity: A History of African-American Slaves (2003); S. Wilentz, The Rise of American Democracy (2005); D. W. Howe, What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815–1848 (2007); D. S. Reynolds, Waking Giant: America in the Age of Jackson (2008); G. C. Herring, From Colony to Superpower: U.S. Foreign Relations since 1776 (2008); J. Lears, Rebirth of a Nation: The Making of Modern America, 1877–1920 (2009); G. S. Wood, Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789–1815 (2009); H. W. Brands, American Colossus (2010); D. Lacorne, Religion in America: A Political History (2011); D. K. Richter, Before the Revolution: America's Ancient Pasts (2011); B. Wineapple, Ecstatic Nation: Confidence, Crisis, and Compromise, 1848–1877 (2013); R. White, The Republic for Which It Stands: The United States during Reconstruction and the Gilded Age, 1865–1896 (2017).

Geographical Studies

Geographical works include N. M. Fenneman, Physiography of Western United States (1931) and Physiography of Eastern United States (1938); R. H. Brown, Historical Geography of the United States (1948); National Geographic Society, Atlas of North America: Space Age Portrait of a Continent (1985); David Clark, Post-Industrial America: A Geographical Perspective (1985); D. W. Meinig, The Shaping of America (1986); J. P. Allen and E. J. Turner, We the People: An Atlas of America's Ethnic Diversity (1987); P. L. Knox et al., The United States: A Contemporary Human Geography (1988); S. S. Birdsall and J. W. Florin, Regional Landscapes of the United States and Canada (4th rev. ed. 1992); Wilbur Zelinsky, The Cultural Geography of the United States (rev. ed. 1992); T. L. McKnight, Regional Geography of the United States and Canada (1992).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. www.cc.columbia.edu/cu/cup/

United States

Official name: United States of America

Capital city: Washington, D.C.

Internet country code: .us

Flag description: Thirteen equal horizontal stripes of red (top and bottom) alternating with white; there is a blue rectangle in the upper hoist-side corner bearing 50 small white five-pointed stars arranged in nine offset horizontal rows of six stars (top and bottom) alternating with rows of five stars; the 50 stars represent the 50 states, the 13 stripes represent the 13 original colonies; known as Old Glory; the design and colors have been the basis for a number of other flags, including Chile, Liberia, Malaysia, and Puerto Rico

National anthem: “The Star-Spangled Banner”

National bird: Bald eagle

National mottoes: E pluribus unum (Out of Many, One) and “In God We Trust”

Geographical description: North America, bordering both the North Atlantic Ocean and the North Pacific Ocean, between Canada and Mexico

Total area: 3,794,062 sq. mi. (9,826,630 sq. km.)

Climate: Mostly temperate, but tropical in Hawaii and Florida, arctic in Alaska, semiarid in the Great Plains west of the Mississippi River, and arid in the Great Basin of the southwest; low winter temperatures in the northwest are ameliorated occasionally in January and February by warm chinook winds from the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains

Nationality: noun: American(s); adjective: American

Population: 301,139,947 (July 2007 CIA est.)

Ethnic groups: European 81.7%, black 12.9%, Asian 4.2%, Amerindian and Alaska native 1%, native Hawaiian and other Pacific islander 0.2% (note: a separate listing for His­panic is not included because the United States Census Bureau considers Hispanic to mean a person of Latin American descent, including persons of Cuban, Mexican, or Puerto Rican origin, living in the U.S. who may be of any race or ethnic group - white, black, Asian, etc.)

Languages spoken: English 82.1%, Spanish 10.7%, other Indo-European 3.8%, Asian and Pacific island 2.7%, other 0.7%

Religions: Protestant 52%, Roman Catholic 24%, Mormon 2%, Jewish 1%, Muslim 1%, other 10%, none 10%

Legal Holidays:

ChristmasDec 25
Columbus DayOct 10, 2011; Oct 8, 2012; Oct 14, 2013; Oct 13, 2014; Oct 12, 2015; Oct 10, 2016; Oct 9, 2017; Oct 8, 2018; Oct 14, 2019; Oct 12, 2020; Oct 11, 2021; Oct 10, 2022; Oct 9, 2023
Independence DayJul 4
Labor DaySep 5, 2011; Sep 3, 2012; Sep 2, 2013; Sep 1, 2014; Sep 7, 2015; Sep 5, 2016; Sep 4, 2017; Sep 3, 2018; Sep 2, 2019; Sep 7, 2020; Sep 6, 2021; Sep 5, 2022; Sep 4, 2023
Martin Luther King Jr. BirthdayJan 17, 2011; Jan 16, 2012; Jan 21, 2013; Jan 20, 2014; Jan 19, 2015; Jan 18, 2016; Jan 16, 2017; Jan 15, 2018; Jan 21, 2019; Jan 20, 2020; Jan 18, 2021; Jan 17, 2022; Jan 16, 2023
Memorial DayMay 30, 2011; May 28, 2012; May 27, 2013; May 26, 2014; May 25, 2015; May 30, 2016; May 29, 2017; May 28, 2018; May 27, 2019; May 25, 2020; May 31, 2021; May 30, 2022; May 29, 2023
New Year's DayJan 1
Presidents' DayFeb 21, 2011; Feb 20, 2012; Feb 18, 2013; Feb 17, 2014; Feb 16, 2015; Feb 15, 2016; Feb 20, 2017; Feb 19, 2018; Feb 18, 2019; Feb 17, 2020; Feb 15, 2021; Feb 21, 2022; Feb 20, 2023
Thanksgiving DayNov 24, 2011; Nov 22, 2012; Nov 28, 2013; Nov 27, 2014; Nov 26, 2015; Nov 24, 2016; Nov 23, 2017; Nov 22, 2018; Nov 28, 2019; Nov 26, 2020; Nov 25, 2021; Nov 24, 2022; Nov 23, 2023
Veterans DayNov 11
Holidays, Festivals, and Celebrations of the World Dictionary, Fourth Edition. © 2010 by Omnigraphics, Inc.