North American History
The history of the United States of America is brief when compared to many other countries. However, the country’s history is filled with important events, including:
• The discovery by Christopher Columbus
• The arrival of the Mayflower Pilgrims
• The American Revolutionary War
• The War of 1812
• The Civil War
• The abolition of slavery
When Christopher Columbus first arrived in the area currently known as North America in 1492, humans had inhabited the land for as many as 30,000 years. A land bridge, Beringia, once connected Syria to what is now known as Alaska, likely allowing humans to cross, settle, and eventually become Native Americans.
Following Columbus’s discovery, Europeans began to establish settlements in the area. Explorers from Spain, France, the Netherlands, and other countries came to see what the land had to offer. England, however, was the first country to send citizens to live there, establishing the first colony at Jamestown in 1607.
More colonies were soon established, particularly following the arrival of the Mayflower pilgrims, who established Plymouth Colony in 1620. This group consisted mainly of Puritans seeking the freedom to practice their religion without interference from the British king, while other members of the colony sought the wide-open space that was available.
In 1630, Puritans formed the much larger Massachusetts Bay Colony; by 1733, the thirteen original colonies had been established. Each colony was governed differently and was ruled by a governor who was chosen in England. England provided military forces to help the colonies fight off invasions by Spanish, French, and other forces. Meanwhile, the colonies paid heavy taxes to England.
The colonists soon decided these taxes were too high and began to desire complete independence from England. The people began to protest and boycott British trade, highlighted by events like the Boston Tea Party in 1773, when citizens of Massachusetts destroyed tea from three British ships. This act and others like it helped the co
The American Revolutionary War began in 1775, with the colonies officially declaring their independence in 1776 as the United States of America. The war ended in 1783 when British troops finally retreated to England, leaving the United States as a free country. The United States Constitution was then adopted in 1787.
In 1789 George Washington became the country’s first president after serving as Commander-in-Chief during the war. Washington immediately helped to unite the country by assuming each state’s debts, creating the Bank of the United States, and imposing a system of taxes to secure income.
The nation quickly began to expand west by acquiring new territories and states, and the Bill of Rights was instituted in 1791. This introduced the first ten amendments to the Constitution and gave citizens freedom of speech among other rights.
Two political parties were formed: the Federalist Party and the Republican Party. In 1796 citizens elected John Adams (a Federalist) over Thomas Jefferson (a Republican) to follow Washington as the next president.
Although slavery had been common before the Revolutionary War, the northern states began to abolish slavery near the end of the 18th century. As a result, slavery increased in the south and a national divide began to form.
Americans battled Britain again in the War of 1812 and were once again successful, thanks to the leadership of Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. Peace with England was restored, and the U.S. Congress soon passed the Indian Removal Act, which forced Native American tribes further west following their support of
As slavery continued in the South, tensions rose in the 1840s. The nation was unable to reach a compromise by the time Abraham Lincoln was elected president in 1860. As Lincoln vowed to enforce civil rights, Southern states began to secede from the union. The two sides finally went to war in 1861.
The American Civil War lasted until 1865, with more than 600,000 Americans killed during the four-year event. However, due to the North’s victory, slavery was officially abolished and the nation eventually returned to peace.
America entered the 20th Century as one of the most progressive and advanced nations in the world, producing artists, scientists, military officials, and many others who were leaders within their fields. While the country participated in two World Wars and suffered through the Great Depression in the first half of the century, the freedoms offered in the United States continued to lure immigrants from all over the world. Even today, families travel to America with hopes of establishing a better life and a better future, supported by the idea of freedom.