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United States

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This article is semi-protected indefinitely in response to an ongoing high risk of vandalism.

This article is about the United States of America. For other uses of terms redirecting here, see US (disambiguation), USA (disambiguation), and United States (disambiguation).

United States of America

 

MottoIn God We Trust  (official)
E Pluribus Unum  (traditional)
(Latin: Out of Many, One)

Anthem"The Star-Spangled Banner"

Capital

Washington, D.C.
38°53′N 77°01′W / 38.883°N 77.017°W / 38.883; -77.017

Largest city

New York City

Official language(s)

None at federal level[a]

National language

English (de facto)[b]

Demonym

American

Government

Federal constitutional republic

 - 

President

Barack Obama (D)

 - 

Vice President

Joe Biden (D)

 - 

Speaker of the House

Nancy Pelosi (D)

 - 

Chief Justice

John Roberts

Independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain

 - 

Declared

July 4, 1776 

 - 

Recognized

September 3, 1783 

 - 

Current constitution

June 21, 1788 

Area

 - 

Total

9,826,675 km2 [1][c](3rd/4th)
3,794,101 sq mi 

 - 

Water (%)

6.76

Population

 - 

2010 estimate

308,699,000[2] (3rd[d])

 - 

2000 census

281,421,906[3] 

 - 

Density

32/km2 (178th)
83/sq mi

GDP (PPP)

2008 estimate

 - 

Total

$14.441 trillion[4] (1st)

 - 

Per capita

$47,440[4] (6th)

GDP (nominal)

2008 estimate

 - 

Total

$14.441 trillion[4] (1st)

 - 

Per capita

$47,440[4] (17th)

Gini (2007)

45.0[1] (44th)

HDI (2007)

0.956[5] (very high) (13th)

Currency

United States dollar ($) (USD)

Time zone

(UTC-5 to -10)

 - 

Summer (DST)

 (UTC-4 to -10)

Date formats

m/d/yy (AD)

Drives on the

right

Internet TLD

.us .gov .mil .edu

Calling code

+1

^ a. English is the official language of at least 28 states—some sources give a higher figure, based on differing definitions of "official".[6] English and Hawaiian are both official languages in the state of Hawaii.

^ b. English is the de facto language of American government and the sole language spoken at home by 80% of Americans age five and older. Spanish is the second most commonly spoken language.

^ c. Whether the United States or the People's Republic of China is larger is disputed. The figure given is from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency's World Factbook. Other sources give smaller figures. All authoritative calculations of the country's size include only the 50 states and the District of Columbia, not the territories.

^ d. The population estimate includes people whose usual residence is in the fifty states and the District of Columbia, including noncitizens. It does not include either those living in the territories, amounting to more than 4 million U.S. citizens (most in Puerto Rico), or U.S. citizens living outside the United States.

The United States of America (commonly referred to as the United States, the U.S., the USA, or America) is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district. The country is situated mostly in central North America, where its forty-eight contiguous states and Washington, D.C., the capital district, lie between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, bordered by Canada to the north and Mexico to the south. The state of Alaska is in the northwest of the continent, with Canada to the east and Russia to the west across the Bering Strait. The state of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific. The country also possesses several territories in the Caribbean and Pacific.

At 3.79 million square miles (9.83 million km2) and with about 309 million people, the United States is the third or fourth largest country by total area, and the third largest both by land area and population. It is one of the world's most ethnically diverse and multicultural nations, the product of large-scale immigration from many countries.[7] The U.S. economy is the largest national economy in the world, with an estimated 2008 gross domestic product (GDP) of US $14.4 trillion (a quarter of nominal global GDP and a fifth of global GDP at purchasing power parity).[4][8]

Indigenous peoples, probably of Asian origin, have inhabited what is now the mainland United States for many thousands of years. This Native American population was greatly reduced by disease and warfare after European contact. The United States was founded by thirteen British colonies located along the Atlantic seaboard. On July 4, 1776, they issued the Declaration of Independence, which proclaimed their right to self-determination and their establishment of a cooperative union. The rebellious states defeated Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War, the first successful colonial war of independence.[9] The Philadelphia Convention adopted the current United States Constitution on September 17, 1787; its ratification the following year made the states part of a single republic with a strong central government. The Bill of Rights, comprising ten constitutional amendments guaranteeing many fundamental civil rights and freedoms, was ratified in 1791.

In the 19th century, the United States acquired land from France, Spain, the United Kingdom, Mexico, and Russia, and annexed the Republic of Texas and the Republic of Hawaii. Disputes between the agrarian South and industrial North over states' rights and the expansion of the institution of slavery provoked the American Civil War of the 1860s. The North's victory prevented a permanent split of the country and led to the end of legal slavery in the United States. By the 1870s, the national economy was the world's largest.[10] The Spanish–American War and World War I confirmed the country's status as a military power. It emerged from World War II as the first country with nuclear weapons and a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. The end of the Cold War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union left the United States as the sole superpower. The country accounts for nearly one half of global military spending and is the leading economic, political, and cultural force in the world.[11]

Contents

[hide]

Etymology

See also: Names for U.S. citizens

In 1507, German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller produced a world map on which he named the lands of the Western Hemisphere "America" after Italian explorer and cartographer Amerigo Vespucci.[12] The former British colonies first used the country's modern name in the Declaration of Independence, the "unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America" adopted by the "Representatives of the united States of America" on July 4, 1776.[13] The current name was finalized on November 15, 1777, when the Second Continental Congress adopted the Articles of Confederation, which states, "The Stile of this Confederacy shall be 'The United States of America.'" The short form the United States is also standard. Other common forms include the U.S., the USA, and America. Colloquial names include the U.S. of A. and the States. Columbia, a once popular name for the United States, was derived from Christopher Columbus. It appears in the name "District of Columbia".

The standard way to refer to a citizen of the United States is as an American. Though United States is the formal adjective, American and U.S. are the most common adjectives used to refer to the country ("American values," "U.S. forces"). American is rarely used in English to refer to people not connected to the United States.[14]

The phrase "the United States" was originally treated as plural—e.g., "the United States are"—including in the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified in 1865. It became common to treat it as singular—e.g., "the United States is"—after the end of the Civil War. The singular form is now standard; the plural form is retained in the idiom "these United States".[15]

Geography, climate, and environment

Main articles: Geography of the United States, Climate of the United States, and Environment of the United States

Satellite image showing topography of the contiguous United States

The land area of the contiguous United States is approximately 1.9 billion acres (770 million hectares). Alaska, separated from the contiguous United States by Canada, is the largest state at 365 million acres (150 million hectares). Hawaii, occupying an archipelago in the central Pacific, southwest of North America, has just over 4 million acres (1.6 million hectares).[16] After Russia and Canada, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest nation by total area, ranking just above or below China. The ranking varies depending on how two territories disputed by China and India are counted and how the total size of the United States is calculated: the CIA World Factbook gives 3,794,101 square miles (9,826,675 km2),[1] the United Nations Statistics Division gives 3,717,813 sq mi (9,629,091 km2),[17] and the Encyclopedia Britannica gives 3,676,486 sq mi (9,522,055 km2).[18] Including only land area, the United States is third in size behind Russia and China, just ahead of Canada.[19]

The Teton Range, part of the Rocky Mountains

The coastal plain of the Atlantic seaboard gives way further inland to deciduous forests and the rolling hills of the Piedmont. The Appalachian Mountains divide the eastern seaboard from the Great Lakes and the grasslands of the Midwest. The MississippiMissouri River, the world's fourth longest river system, runs mainly north–south through the heart of the country. The flat, fertile prairie of the Great Plains stretches to the west, interrupted by a highland region in the southeast. The Rocky Mountains, at the western edge of the Great Plains, extend north to south across the country, reaching altitudes higher than 14,000 feet (4,300 m) in Colorado. Farther west are the rocky Great Basin and deserts such as the Mojave. The Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges run close to the Pacific coast. At 20,320 feet (6,194 m), Alaska's Mount McKinley is the tallest peak in the country and in North America. Active volcanoes are common throughout Alaska's Alexander and Aleutian Islands, and Hawaii consists of volcanic islands. The supervolcano underlying Yellowstone National Park in the Rockies is the continent's largest volcanic feature.[20]

The bald eagle, national bird of the United States since 1782

The United States, with its large size and geographic variety, includes most climate types. To the east of the 100th meridian, the climate ranges from humid continental in the north to humid subtropical in the south. The southern tip of Florida is tropical, as is Hawaii. The Great Plains west of the 100th meridian are semi-arid. Much of the Western mountains are alpine. The climate is arid in the Great Basin, desert in the Southwest, Mediterranean in coastal California, and oceanic in coastal Oregon and Washington and southern Alaska. Most of Alaska is subarctic or polar. Extreme weather is not uncommon—the states bordering the Gulf of Mexico are prone to hurricanes, and most of the world's tornadoes occur within the country, mainly in the Midwest's Tornado Alley.[21]

The U.S. ecology is considered "megadiverse": about 17,000 species of vascular plants occur in the contiguous United States and Alaska, and over 1,800 species of flowering plants are found in Hawaii, few of which occur on the mainland.[22] The United States is home to more than 400 mammal, 750 bird, and 500 reptile and amphibian species.[23] About 91,000 insect species have been described.[24] The Endangered Species Act of 1973 protects threatened and endangered species and their habitats, which are monitored by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. There are fifty-eight national parks and hundreds of other federally managed parks, forests, and wilderness areas.[25] Altogether, the government owns 28.8% of the country's land area.[26] Most of this is protected, though some is leased for oil and gas drilling, mining, logging, or cattle ranching; 2.4% is used for military purposes.[26]

History

Main article: History of the United States

Native Americans and European settlers

See also: Native Americans in the United States, European colonization of the Americas, and Thirteen Colonies

The indigenous peoples of the U.S. mainland, including Alaska Natives, are most commonly believed to have migrated from Asia. They began arriving at least 12,000 and as many as 40,000 years ago.[27] Some, such as the pre-Columbian Mississippian culture, developed advanced agriculture, grand architecture, and state-level societies. After Europeans began settling the Americas, many millions of indigenous Americans died from epidemics of imported diseases such as smallpox.[28]

The Mayflower transported Pilgrims to the New World in 1620, as depicted in William Halsall's The Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor, 1882

In 1492, Genoese explorer Christopher Columbus, under contract to the Spanish crown, reached several Caribbean islands, making first contact with the indigenous people. On April 2, 1513, Spanish conquistador Juan Ponce de León landed on what he called "La Florida"—the first documented European arrival on what would become the U.S. mainland. Spanish settlements in the region were followed by ones in the present-day southwestern United States that drew thousands through Mexico. French fur traders established outposts of New France around the Great Lakes; France eventually claimed much of the North American interior, down to the Gulf of Mexico. The first successful English settlements were the Virginia Colony in Jamestown in 1607 and the Pilgrims' Plymouth Colony in 1620. The 1628 chartering of the Massachusetts Bay Colony resulted in a wave of migration; by 1634, New England had been settled by some 10,000 Puritans. Between the late 1610s and the American Revolution, about 50,000 convicts were shipped to Britain's American colonies.[29] Beginning in 1614, the Dutch settled along the lower Hudson River, including New Amsterdam on Manhattan Island.

In 1674, the Dutch ceded their American territory to England; the province of New Netherland was renamed New York. Many new immigrants, especially to the South, were indentured servants—some two-thirds of all Virginia immigrants between 1630 and 1680.[30] By the turn of the century, African slaves were becoming the primary source of bonded labor. With the 1729 division of the Carolinas and the 1732 colonization of Georgia, the thirteen British colonies that would become the United States of America were established. All had local governments with elections open to most free men, with a growing devotion to the ancient rights of Englishmen and a sense of self-government stimulating support for republicanism. All legalized the African slave trade. With high birth rates, low death rates, and steady immigration, the colonial population grew rapidly. The Christian revivalist movement of the 1730s and 1740s known as the Great Awakening fueled interest in both religion and religious liberty. In the French and Indian War, British forces seized Canada from the French, but the francophone population remained politically isolated from the southern colonies. Excluding the Native Americans (popularly known as "American Indians"), who were being displaced, those thirteen colonies had a population of 2.6 million in 1770, about one-third that of Britain; nearly one in five Americans were black slaves.[31] Though subject to British taxation, the American colonials had no representation in the Parliament of Great Britain.

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