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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, among others.

George Washington


 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).

 John Adams

 John 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

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. 

Thomas Jefferson

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 Purchase.



Updated: 20 May 2008

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