In the second half of the 16th century the colonization of North America began.
The first to land were the Spaniards and the French who immediately conquered vast territories. Then came the Dutch who founded the city New Amsterdam (later New York), in a bay of the Atlantic Ocean. Last came the British who founded many colonies along the entire Atlantic coast. The first among them were 89 men and 17 women who settled in Virginia in 1585.
In the following years there were other isolated expeditions but only after 1600 the influx was much more nourished as many citizens, persecuted religious, left England; among these the famous Protestant “Pilgrim Fathers”, in 1620, founded the colony of Massachusetts. They had faced a very perilous journey, continually thrown by the waves, on an old sailing ship, the “Mayflower”.
In 1632 a group of Catholics founded the colony of Maryland and in 1681 a group of Quaker Protestants founded that of Pennsylvania.
In the following years the descendants of these pioneers occupied the other territories: Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island up to the number of thirteen colonies. These were under the direct rule of the King of England who arranged for the appointment of various governors and the sending of troops for the garrisons.
In 1664 the British snatched the city of New Amsterdam from the Dutch and called it New York.
The relations between the colonies and the mother country remained good until 1763 when with the peace of Paris France ceded all its American possessions to England. Thus began the discontent that became open revolt when England, to make up for the war expenses incurred, imposed harsh taxes on the settlers of America.
On the night of December 16, 1773, men dressed as Indians boarded three British ships anchored in the port of Boston. After immobilizing the crews, they began to throw all the crates piled on the deck into the sea. They were full of tea. The operation continued until all the crates were in the sea.
This punitive expedition, organized by some Boston youth, was a protest against England that had imposed a new tea tax on its colonies in America. But this was not the only revolt; in those years many others occurred.
Meanwhile, England, to punish the rebel colonists, had sent numerous soldiers. The delegates of the 13 states, meeting in Philadelphia in 1774, decided to form their own army and entrusted their command to George Washington. And while the army fought, the delegates met again in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776, and voted on the “Declaration of Independence”.
The colonies took the name of “United States of America” and adopted a flag made up of 13 white and red stripes and thirteen white stars on a blue background. Each star and each stripe represented a colony. The capital was Philadelphia. The thirteen original states were:
– New Hampshire
– Rhode Island
– New York
– New Jersey
– North Carolina
– South Carolina
And while General Washington was victoriously waging war, another great American, Benjamin Franklin was asking for and getting help across Europe.
Two were the most brilliant and decisive American victories: that of Saratoga of 1777 and that of Yorktown of 1781.
In 1783 England recognized the independence of the colonies and the Americans developed their Constitution which became operative in 1790. The first president it was George Washington.
Now independent, the United States began its internal expansion. In 1980 they purchased Louisiana from Napoleon, Mexico from Texas and Florida from Spain. Then they continued their march towards the “Far West”, that is, taking away from the Indians the lands they invaded, until they reached and occupied California. Each time a new territory was annexed, a star was added to the flag.
Thus, from conquest to conquest, it came to 1861 when some southern states rebelled against the Union causing a civil war that lasted until 1865.
Already in 1857, however, there had been the first signs of discontent in the south because the supremacy of the north was too vast in all sectors of the economy.
Then in December 1860 South Carolina rebelled against the central government of the Union by declaring itself independent. In January 1861, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia and Texas followed. They founded the Confederation of Southern States with their own president. Various, however, were the causes that decreed this new state of affairs; certainly the different wealth of the north which alone was sufficient to create rivalry between the two populations. See Countryaah for population and country facts about United States. The north was heavily industrialized while the south lived almost exclusively on its cotton plantations. The north, to extend its plantations, had gone considerably to the south but the income from the crops went completely to the north. Here, in fact, there were the railways, the ports of embarkation for goods, the banks that bought whole crops at low prices and the industries that worked the raw material. Furthermore, the southern states, which were almost completely agricultural, were forced to buy all industrial products in the north, bringing more and more wealth there.
The abolition of slavery had to be added to this state of affairs in those years. The black slaves in the south represented the whole workforce because no white man could resist the tropical heat and the immense efforts of the cotton plantations. Southern planters were forced to buy black slaves for their production and these in the south were now almost 4 million while in the north there were very few.
When the newly elected president Abraham Lincoln decreed the abolition of slavery, the Southern States, feeling threatened in their only resource for living, rebelled and declaring their independence, started the Secession War.
The Confederates lowered the Union flag and the same thing was ordered to all barracks and military garrisons. And everyone obeyed one minus: the Fort Sumter garrison did not obey. The troops of the Confederation besieged the Fort with the conviction that soon there would be its capitulation. Instead the Fort Sumter resisted and then the Confederate troops bombed it with the field artillery. This triggered the war.
The United States of America split into two large opposing factions: on the one hand, all the northern states, President
A. Lincoln, and some in the south remained loyal to the Union. A total of 23 states with a population of around 22 million inhabitants. On the other side, the first Southern States, President Jefferson Davis, capital of Richmond, to which Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennessee joined, for a total of 11 states with 9 million inhabitants.
So the north had the preponderance of the number of men, commanded by generals Ulisses Grant and William Sherman, as well as the wealth of means of all kinds, while the south had a well-trained army in command of a very brave supreme chief: General Robert E Lee.
This war took place mainly in the states of the east coast, on the sea and in the Mississippi valley.
The States of the Union had a clear prevalence since they had a well-equipped fleet with which they garrisoned all ports, thus closing the passage to ships from Europe loaded with weapons and aid and preventing cotton loads from leaving for other markets.
The ground combat had alternate phases: in the first 2 years the great skill of General Lee gave the Southerners many successes.
But at the end of 1862 even the Northerners, masterfully led by General Grant, rejected on several occasions southerners.
In 1863 the most important victories of the Northerners occurred; with the combined forces of the two generals, Grant and Sherman, there were important episodes such as the occupation of the vital railway junction of Vicksburg, the victory of Chattanooga and the surrender of Atlanta, the capital of Georgia. Throughout 1864 they fought with ups and downs but with greater luck for the Northerners.
At the beginning of l865 the Confederation of the Southern States was reduced to three states: the two Caroline and Virginia, in the spring the Northerners attacked the capital of the Confederacy, Richmond, which was conquered by General Grant on April 3. General. Lee retired with a few survivors to a village near Richmond put up a further strenuous resistance but, surrounded on all sides, had to surrender: it was April 9, 1865. The American Secession War was over.
For four years the United States was devastated by the two armies: there were numerous human victims and significant economic damage caused by this civil war. Which also had another mournful epilogue. A few days after the end of the war, on April 14, 1865, during a theatrical performance, Abraham Lincoln was killed by the fanatic southerner artist John Booth, who was shot on April 26. Lincoln was one of the most popular men in the United States; the one who had been able to bring the states of the union to victory and who had decreed the abolition of slavery in all American states, freeing them from one of the worst shame of humanity.
Peace returned, the United States continued its progress. In the vast territory it gave abundant agriculture products; mines and deposits of all kinds were discovered; wherever factories and industrial plants stood.
Between the late 1800s and early 1900s, millions of Europeans left their lands to seek fortune in America, where there was work for everyone.
Meanwhile other territories were annexed to the Union, thus increasing the number of stars on the flag: Alaska was purchased from Russia and then some Pacific islands, Hawaii, occupied in 1892 joined. In 1898, defeated Spain, the USA they had Cuba to which they recognized independence in 1902. Two years later, in 1904 the US took possession of the Panama Canal, paying $ 200 million to the homonymous company.
In 1914 Tommaso Woodrow Wilson was elected president; twenty-eighth to assume this position, professor of law and rector of the University of Princetown. He favored the intervention of the US in the First World War. At the end of the war, his work for the restoration of peace did not go beyond the ideological limit, that is, from the formulation of the known 14 points of the Constitution (first of all: nationality, self-determination of peoples, freedom of the seas, collective security). He conceived the League of Nations. He withdrew from Versailles before the 1st Peace Treaty was signed between all allies (minus the US of America) and Germany. The American Senate did not want to sanction the Treaty of Versailles or join the League of Nations.
In 1914 the US had also had a conflict with the United States of Mexico and had occupied Vera Cruz. In 1916 the conflict ended.
But to return to World War I, the United States had sent materials and men in such quantity to hasten its end. All this also hoping to enjoy the fruits of victory. So it was not because of diplomatic errors that President Wilson had not been able to control. Hence his abandonment of the negotiating table. Then the United States negotiated separate peace with Germany and Hungary and other European states. Nor did they attach too much importance to the League of Nations, even if constituted by Wilson, and in 1921, the newly elected president WG Harding, found an agreement with Europe and Asia by convening (1921-1922) the Conference for Disarmament.
However, the US later renounced any direct European collaboration policy.
Harding died suddenly on August 2, 1923; Calvino Coolidge was elected president on March 4, 1925; he intensified this isolation, which was then maintained by the subsequent President Herbert Hoover (39th) in office from 1929 to 1933. The 40th President Franklin Delano Roosvelt instead, wanted to recover foreign markets; then began a policy of rebirth of the national economy by starting the policy of the “White House” in the same direction as that of Great Britain, to develop Anglo-Saxon interests in the world, linking American influence to them.
Roosevelt revisited three times his candidacy: in 1936, in 1940 and in 1944.
During the year 1937 he tried in vain to get some reforms of the Supreme Court; it favored the organization of workers’ unions which progressed in a short time until they could enter into collective agreements with the main industrial companies on the significant improvements in wages.
As for international issues, he managed to change a law from provisional to definitive about the embargo on weapons and various materials to belligerent countries. And in fact this law was applied immediately on the occasion of the civil war in Spain.
For relations with other American powers he always developed the policy of “good neighborliness”, while for those with European states, having shown on more than one occasion his hostility towards dictatorial regimes, under his third presidency the US entered the 2nd World War against the Tripartite, despite the neutrality laws then in force.
To push the US towards war was the attack that the Japanese suddenly led, on December 7, 1941, to Pearl Harbor, and the immediate subsequent declarations of war from Germany and Italy.
The United States had many victims in that war more than the French and Italian ones put together. And if the death toll was, albeit high, quite limited, it was due to penicillin, plasma and other medical science discoveries.
The population of all states found solidarity with the government; the young men did not contest the call to arms and the women were enrolled in auxiliary departments that helped a lot even in the areas of operation.
The Americans silently suffered the necessary restrictions, although, for the sake of truth, they were not as drastic as the European ones.
Those were years of internal strife and strife between nationalist isolationists and Roosevelt’s supporters and when he suddenly died in April 1945, the government passed to Harry S. Truman, who then inherited the resolute crisis of the war. The capitulation of Germany, which took place after the Italian one long ago, was not followed by the Japanese capitulation whose resistance could only be broken with the atomic bomb.
Immediately Truman had several plans for aid to Europe completed and many funds were allocated for the reconstruction of the liberated countries.
In foreign policy, the very different concept of democracy between Marxists and Western democrats, led to many conflicts between the US and the USSR. To prevent the Communists, after having imposed themselves in Eastern European countries, from expanding to Greece and Turkey, General GC Marshall inspired a plan, which he named after him, aimed at bringing adequate aid to those two states.
The presidential elections of November 2, 1948 saw the confirmation of Harry Truman who continued the policy undertaken.
General Marshall, who had been ill for some time, resigned and was replaced by Dean Acheson who continued the structure of the “Plan” and also led the negotiations for the Atlantic Pact, signed in Washington on April 4, 1949.
Meanwhile, in February 1949, due to persistent international tension, General Dwight Eisenhower, the architect of the famous Normandy landings, had been called as “temporary president of the armed forces, with the consequent liberation of France from the Germans.
Truman’s economic policy went on between victories and defeats but managed to obtain that American aid was distributed not only to the countries under reconstruction but also to the underdeveloped ones so that the faster transformation of their economies was an indispensable weapon for the struggle anticommunist.
This increased its importance when it was known that the USSR was also in possession of atomic weapons, removing the exclusivity from the US. This provoked a state of alarm in American public opinion that began to see communist sympathizers even among government members, also setting up espionage trials that had absolutely no reason to exist. And so, when on June 27, 1950, Communist troops from North Korea invaded the southern part, which the Americans had recently evacuated, Truman immediately dispatched US armed forces, commanded by General D. MacArthur.
The North Koreans had considerable help from the Chinese Communists, and in order to settle the controversy with hard efforts, at the beginning of 1951, a border line was established between the two territories, just north of the previous one.
However, the US military political system was strengthened to be able to deal with any moves by the communists who in the meantime had been declared outlawed.
In September 1951 the definitive peace with Japan was signed; agreements were entered into with Australia and New Zealand, and in August 1952 Germany was admitted to NATO. Meanwhile, the US were able to manufacture a bomb more powerful than the atomic bomb, namely the “H bomb”.
In 1952 Puerto Rico was granted ample autonomy considering also that in 1950 Puerto Rican elements had carried out an attack on Truman.
In the presidential election of 1952, Republican party candidate General Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected.
The newly elected did not bring substantial changes to the policy of his predecessor. However, the already practiced cleaning of the corrupt and the communists continued. In 1953 a process was celebrated that had wide resonance around the world. It involved a married couple Ethel and Julius Rosemberg, who were sentenced to death for espionage and then executed. On this occasion, the death sentence was also definitively introduced for espionage in peacetime (1954).
The foreign policy developed by the then Secretary of State John Foster Dulles was aimed not only at containing communist expansionism but, where possible, at making it regress. And anyway, this problem was reduced to the death of Stalin. Peace was reached in Korea, the cold war eased, there was a peaceful coexistence between communist and capitalist regimes and, very importantly, with the Geneva Conference of July 1954 a truce was reached in Vietnam, where for some time bloody struggles occurred between the communist forces and the French.
In the Geneva Conference of the following year, Eisenhower proposed gradual mutual disarmament, naturally under the control of responsible bodies, but the Soviets raised difficulties such that an agreement was not reached. So between the SU and the USSR the missile war continued and, fortunately, at the same time the nightmare of a war went away.
In 1956 two important events required Eisenhower’s intervention: the attempted bloody revolution in Hungary, tamed by the USSR and the Suez crisis which saw the invasion of the Sinai Peninsula by Franco-Anglo-Israeli forces.
In the first case he had to merely deplore the ferocious Soviet intervention in words; in the second with some energy he forced the withdrawal from the area by the Anglo-French.
Within the US, the economy was progressing more and more, and especially the industrialization of the north-west began to create problems between whites and blacks.
The latter undertook vast mass movements from the south to look elsewhere for a more suitable job placement.
Eisenhower’s popularity declined when the USSR first launched an artificial satellite, the “Sputnik” in space in 1957, although in 1958 the US could also launch the “Explorer” and “Vanguard” in turn..
In 1959 two other states were annexed: Alaska and the Hawaiian Islands.
In the south, black segregation was the basis for episodes of violence. For the solution, the figure of a black Baptist pastor, Martin Luther King, arose in all his humanity, who sought with the application of nonviolence, in Gandhi’s way, to boycott public transport on which negroes were strictly forbidden to to go up.
Negroes were also forbidden from attending public schools and when Eisenhower called in federal troops to lift this veto, local authorities devised the closure of public schools and the parallel opening of private schools which, of course, could not be attended by the poor negroes because of the their high cost. Furthermore, the Negroes were not allowed to vote, especially in those southern states where with their overwhelming majority they could have given a very different political imprint from the current one. Negroes were prevented from voting because a certain degree of culture was required which they could not boast. Eisenhower did not have an easy life in that circumstance and even King himself suffered harassment and discrimination, especially in New Orleans,
In 1960 still concerns for the US by Fidel Castro, undisputed leader of the Cuban Revolution, who rose to government after the expulsion of Batista, expropriated large American real estate properties. Then with the declared sympathies towards the USSR, and accusing the US of wanting to hegemonize all Latin America, he tried to introduce his own revolutionary movement in all these states.
The 1960 elections had two young and energetic candidates: for the Republicans Richard Nixon, for the Democrats John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
The first tried to get the vote even of the liberals and asserted that it was necessary to continue to face the USSR power on a strictly military level, enhancing the prestige and well-being achieved by the US.
The second, however, argued that the best way to deal with the USSR was the economic and social one, capable of eradicating misery in the world and trying to end the cold war.
But Kennedy had a personal factor more than Nixon: he was a Catholic and the fact that no Catholic had been elected president of the US until then sounded to the electorate as an incentive to achieve particular results. Kennedy was elected but not with the overwhelming majority that could be expected. Nixon was defeated but with a minimal difference of votes (about 300,000).