Prior to independence in 1776, what was to become
the United States was composed of 13 British colonies, the first of
which was founded at Jamestown, Virginia in 1607. Throughout the
seventeenth century, English Puritans fled to America to escape
religious persecution in Europe, particularly persecution from the
Church of England. In 1620, they formed the Plymouth Colony in what is
today, Massachusetts. Colonists continued to come to America from other
European countries and, by 1733, all 13 colonies had been established
along the eastern coast. During this time, the rest of what is the
modern United States was controlled primarily by France and Spain.
The United States officially declared its
independence from Great Britain in 1776 through the Unanimous
Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America, commonly referred
to as the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of Independence
was written chiefly by Thomas Jefferson, and justified the decision on
the part of the Continental Congress to separate from British rule.
Following the Treaty of Paris in 1783, the United States of America was
officially internationally recognized as a new nation.
Over the next two centuries, 37 new states were
added to the original 13 as the nation expanded across the center of
North America. Two of the most difficult times in U.S. history were the
Civil War (1861-65) and the Great Depression of the 1930s. During the
Civil War, thousands of lives were lost, and the young nation
re-dedicated itself to the purposes upon which it was founded. After the
War, the South (Confederacy) and North (Union) were re-united and
slavery was abolished throughout the nation’s territory. The Great
Depression nearly 70 years later forced the United States to examine its
fiscal and monetary policies in light of emerging global trends and
external factors, such as the conflicts developing in Europe. During
this period, banks were closed, hundreds of thousands of citizens were
left destitute, and stabilization plans were quickly enacted. The First
and Second World Wars and the Cold War that followed helped propel the
U.S. into the emerging global economy. In just over 200 years, the
United States became one of the most powerful nations in the world.
* Source: Permanent Mission of
the United States to the OAS.
The United States of America’s “founding fathers”
refers to the men who served as dominant figures in the development of
the nation from the period prior to the Revolutionary War and the
drafting of the Constitution up through the early 19th
century. The prominent figures around the time of the American
Revolution, commonly referred to as the “founding fathers,” include
George Washington, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, and Thomas Jefferson,
George Washington is
commonly referred to as the father of the nation. Having led the
Continental Army to victory over Great Britain during the Revolutionary
War, he was shortly thereafter elected as the first President of the
United States (1789-1797).
Adams was a well-known political philosopher and diplomat that served
primarily during the Revolutionary War. Adams served as the country’s
first Vice President for two terms under George Washington (1789-1797),
and later the nation’s second President (1797-1801).
Alexander Hamilton, born in St. Kitts and Nevis (a
British colony at the time) was a renowned politician, statesman,
financier, and political theorist. He was one of the authors of the
Federalist Papers, the series of interpretive essays on the American
Constitution. Hamilton was also one of the principal leaders in the
calling of the Constitutional Convention in 1787. As Secretary of the
Treasury under President Washington, Hamilton laid the foundations for
the U.S. financial system of today.
Jefferson served as the United States’ third
President (1801-1809), and was one of the more prominent figures in U.S.
history for his writings on the ideal of Republicanism and political
Enlightenment. He was a primary author of the Declaration of
Independence (1776), and during his presidency, Jefferson contributed to
the territorial growth of the United States through the 1803 Louisiana