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Role of States

Updated on September 28, 2009

The United States of America is a federal republic made up of fifty states and a federal district. It was was founded by the original thirteen colonies of Great Britain. The thirteen original colonies were Pennysylvania, North Carolina, Delaware, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland, South Carolina, New York, New Jersey,  New Hampshire, Massachussets, Virginia and Georgia  (McGraw-Hill's GED, Mulcrone, 2002).

            These former colonies issued the Declaration of Independence on July 7, 1776, declaring themselves as states. They defeated Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War which was the first colonial war of independence.  The current United States constitution was adopted by a federal convention on September 17, 1787. The ratification of the constitution the following year made the states part of a single republic (McGraw-Hill's GED, Mulcrone, 2002).

            The nation began to expand heading to the west side soon after the constitution was effected by the use of the Manifest Density philosophy which encouraged expansion. The tensions over the contentious issue of Black slavery caused the country to be divided along geographical lines and ended up with the Civil and South War between 1861 and 1865. The remaining part of the 19th century was a period of  expansion, industrialization and the influx of many immigrants (McGraw-Hill's GED, Mulcrone, 2002).

            One of the reasons for the coming of the English settlers to the colonies was the chance to own land. New economic opportunities opened up because of the vast expense of land that was available for farming. In the northern colonies, the abundance of natural resources permitted the development of trades such as ship building and iron mining. Fur trading and fishing also played a significant role in the colonial economy (McGraw-Hill's GED, Mulcrone, 2002).

            The Revolutionary War was a long and costly conflict for both sides. The fighting ended in 1781 when the British army under General Charles Cornwallis was sorrounded by American troops and their ally, the French fleet, at Yorktown. The Treaty of Paris which marked the end of the war was signed in 1783. In addition to granting, U.S independence, the treaty gave the new nation all the land that England had won in the Indian and French wars; West to the Mississippi River, north to the Great Lakes and South to Florida (McGraw-Hill's GED, Mulcrone, 2002).

            The first U.S central government, under the Article of Confederation, was deliberately weak inorder to prevent the abuses the colonies suffered under the king. Within the framework of this new system of government, each of the thirteen states was determined to maintain its sovereignty. This posed a serious problem for the new nation because it limited the powers of the central government in dealing with major issues. Government leaders called a convention to amend the Articles of Confederation in May 1787. This convention eventually created the constitution, the document by which the United States has been governed for more than 200 years (McGraw-Hill's GED, Mulcrone, 2002).

            The challenge facing the constitutional convention was to develop a written  document that would give the central government more power while allowing the states to retain their sovereignty. To accomplish this, the constitution was written to create a federal system of government. The convention was an exercise in nation building. It is significant that the constitution gave the federal government exclusive authority over money, foreign and interstate commerce. These powers and their exclusivity were given the credibility by the simultaneous creation of a federal executive branch and an independent judiciary to enforce the constiution (McGraw-Hill's GED, Mulcrone, 2002).

            At the same time, however, U.S expansion was defined as anticolonial rather than colonial, republican rather than monarchial, the New World rather than the old European order. The consolidation of the sovereignty of the national market based on federal transfers of land to private ownership laid the basis for the later development of a mass society (McGraw-Hill's GED, Mulcrone, 2002).

            Concentrating on political and social developments during the 19th century, the cities began to work out their new mode of providing services, acting positively  in local affairs and doing so as competitive entrepreneurs. The U.S national development was special in many ways and possibly non-reproducible. During this period, the United States remained content to have religious liberty within its borders. This underpinning of political culture in the United States resuluted from the fact that some of the founders of the original 13 colonies had fled to the New World seeking freedom from religious persecution in Europe. Today, the American citizens enjoy religious freedom (McGraw-Hill's GED, Mulcrone, 2002).

            In the midst of the chaos of the 1780s, there were developments that lay the basis for the events of the 19th century. The first of these was market for land. Although land sales and land speculation had long been features of American colonial life, these activities were freshly activated when the new state constitutions swept away most remaining land. The new clarity with respect to property rights in land encouraged investments in land schemes to raise land values. The subsequent development of the U.S.A was in part an indirect continuation of the process of European expansion into the non- European world, both imperial and globalizing  (McGraw-Hill's GED, Mulcrone, 2002).

            The original thirteen colonies are important for the fact that their actions of rebellion led to the independence of United States of America. Their actions also the basis through which the constitution and the resulting federal system of government was made. It is through their intial brave acts that the United States is enjoying its current freedom and economic developments.


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