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Geography and Landscape

Geography

The United States of America, is a federal republic in North America, comprising the District of Columbia and 50 states, 49 of which are in mainland North America and one (Hawaii) in the Pacific Ocean. The total land area of the United States is 9,809,155 km², making it the largest country in the world after Russia and Canada.

USA by SattelitePhoto:public domain

The United States borders Canada to the north (8,893 km, including 2,477 km border with Alaska), Mexico to the south (3,141 km), the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. The land border with Mexico is half formed by the Rio Grande. The distance from New York to Los Angeles is almost 5000 kilometers.

Under the jurisdiction of the United States: the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico), the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, a number of small, often uninhabited islands in the Pacific, the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas (Northern Mariana Islands), in total approx. 11,155 km².

Part of California in the southwest is exactly on the St. Andreas fault. As a result, there is an increased risk of earthquakes in this area.

Landscape

On the eastern side of the American continent, the Appalachians stretch from Atlanta to Cape Gaspé in Canada. In the east this mountain consists of a low plateau, the Piedmont, and a steeply rising mountain ridge, the Blue Ridge with Mount Mitchell (2037 meters) as the highest point in the south. The central part consists of a number of parallel ridges between which there are wide valleys, the Valley and Ridge Region. The west side is closed off by a high steep edge, the Alleghany Mountains.

Mount Mitchell, highest point of the USA east of the Mississippi
Photo: Brian Stansberry, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported no changes made

The flat central part of the United States has been lifted but hardly folded due to the folding and lifting of the Rocky Mountains. This has created a landscape of a predominantly flat land that gradually rises to the foot of the Rocky Mountains. Giant prairies stretch from Ohio and Missouri to the east, through Illinois and Wisconson, Minnesota, Iowa, and northern Missouri, then spread into Central Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and eastern Nebraska and southern and North Dakota. The low part west of the Mississippi has almost completely turned into an agricultural area, the so-called "Corn Belt". The high part is a dry steppe at the foot of the Rocky Mountains at about 1500 kilometers. Large rivers such as Missouri, Platte River and Arkansas have cut wide valleys. This great plain is interrupted in the states of Missouri and Arkansas by the Ozark Plateau, a continuation of the Appalachians.

The Gulf Coast is a large silt area that extends into the Florida peninsula. Along the Atlantic coast, this sandy plain continues to Cape Cod.

Sandy Cape Cod, USA
Photo: m01229, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

In the west, the Cordillera rises 2000 meters above the Great Plains. This vast mountain range extends from the far north of the American continent, the heavily glaciated Brooks Range, to the Sierra Madre del Sur in Mexico; in fact, it also continues in the Andean chain in South America. The eastern chain of the Cordillera is formed by the Brooks Range, the Mackenzie Mountains, the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Madre Oriental.
There are a number of high plains to the west of this chain. This leads to a number of ridges, creating smaller basins, which in some cases have no outflow to the sea, so that salt lakes, such as Great Salt Lake, are formed.

Great Salt Lake, Utah, USA
Photo: Copernicus Sentinel-2, ESA, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 IGO no changes made

The Great Plains lie to the west of the invisible line that clearly divides the North American continent in two: the 508 mm precipitation line, one of the major geographical divisions in the United States. This line, which runs almost straight through the center of the country from north to south, separates the more inhospitable east from the dry west, which lies in the rain shadow of the Rocky Mountains, with its unpredictable and low rainfall, its harsh climate and smaller , more dispersed population.

The land between the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada in the west is dry: the sun burns most of the year, the mercury can rise above 50 °C in the shade, and even fairly large mountain rivers dry up quickly. In this part of the country is also "the bottom of the United States", Death Valley. This ancient lake bottom, nowadays a desert of more than 200 kilometers in length, lies 830 meters below sea level.

The rivers have cut huge canyons in these high plains; famous is the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River. The Grand Canyon in Arizona is the deepest canyon in the world, 446 kilometers long and an average of 1.6 kilometers deep. To the west, this plateau is closed by a mountain range with a steep east side and a less steep west side: Alaska Range, St. Elias Mountains, Coast Range, Cascade Range, Sierra Nevada and Sierra Madre Occidental. In the north of the continent, this chain forms a real fjord coast, with large glaciers sliding into the sea, especially in Alaska. Further south there is a coastal mountain range for this, in the United States a closed mountain range that closes off the Willamette Valley and the Valley of California. Even further south, it separates the Gulf of California from the Pacific.

Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA
photo: "Diego Delso, delso.photo, License CC-BY-SA

Alaska, the 49th state, is a different story in landscape terms. Alaska consists of ice. Under the ice and snow layers, the ground is frozen to a depth of 90 meters. Even in summer, when the sun is practically not setting, the bottom does not thaw below 60 centimeters. In the far north the temperature can drop to below 40 °C, in the south the winters are more bearable.
In Central Alaska is Mount McKinley, the highest mountain in all of North America with approximately 6200 meters. Outside of Alaska, Mount Whitney in California is the highest mountain at 4,418 meters.

Mount McKinley, highest mountain of the USAphoto:Frank K., Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Genericno changes made

Hawaii, the 50th state, cannot be compared to the other states either. The eight large and about a hundred small islands are spread over a length of 2500 kilometers in the Pacific. The island closest to the American coast is about 3,200 kilometers from San Francisco. The largest island is Hawaii and has five volcanoes, two of which still operate. The 4200 meter high crater of the Mauna Loa is the largest active volcano in the world.

On the mainland there are also a number of large volcanoes active such as the Katmai (ALaska Range), Mount Rainier (Cascade Range), Mount Lassen and Mount Shasta (Sierra Nevada). The state of Alaska has approximately 70 active volcanoes. Every year about 5,000 earthquakes and sea tremors also occur, some of which are very severe. On March 27, 1964, an 9.2-magnitude earthquake occurred 120 kilometers southeast of Anchorage.

Rivers and lakes

The water balance of the United States is primarily determined by the relief. The main river basins are located in the central lowland.An important hydrographic area are the great lakes on the border of the United States and Canada. With a total area of approximately 250,000 km², this is the largest freshwater basin in the world. The lakes are interconnected by rivers and connected to the sea via the St. Lawrence River.
The biggest difference in height exists between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. This height difference is overcome by Niagara Falls, waterfalls that can be counted as the largest in the world in terms of water mass. The heights of the American Fall and the Canadian Fall are not that spectacular in themselves, 52 and 48 meters respectively. Yosemite National Park is home to one of the world's tallest waterfalls, the Ribbon (491 meters).

Ribbon Waterfall, highest of the USAPhoto: Rennett Stowe, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

A number of short rivers flow from the eastern edge of the Appalachians to the Atlantic Ocean. The largest river basin in the United States is that of the Mississippi. It includes the central lowland south of the Great Lakes, the west side of the Appalachians, and much of the east side of the Rocky Mountains.
The Mississippi has its source on the Mesabi Range and is navigable from the Anthony Fall near Minneapolis. The decline is small and after the incorporation of the Missouri and the Ohio, the river goes to the sea like a mile wide stream with great meanders.

Mississippi starts flowing in Itasca State Park, Minnesota, USAPhoto: Mark Evans, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

The Rio Grande, flowing through one of the driest areas of the Great Plains, has great significance for irrigation. The rivers of the west side of the Rocky Mountains often go through deep canyons through the plateaus of the Great Basin. Most famous is of course the Grand Canyon, which is cut out by the Colorado River.

Longest rivers (* = partially flowing through Canada)

Missouri4086 kilometer
Mississippi3765 kilometer
Yukon*3185 kilometer
Rio Grande3057 kilometer
St.Lawrence*3057 kilometer
Arkansas2349 kilometer
Colorado2333 kilometer
Atchafalaya2285 kilometer
Ohio2108 kilometer
Red River2076 kilometer
Brazos2060 kilometer
Columbia1995 kilometer
Snake River1673 kilometer
Platte River1593 kilometer
Pecos1490 kilometer
Canadian1458 kilometer
Tennessee1426 kilometer
Colorado1329 kilometer
North Canadian1287 kilometer
Mobile1245 kilometer
Kansas1195 kilometer
Kuskokwim1165 kilometer
Yellowstone1113 kilometer
Tanana1060 kilometer
Milk1006 kilometer
Quachita973 kilometer
Hamilton965 kilometer
Cimarron965 kilometer

Climate and Weather

There are major climatic differences in the United States. From a polar climate in northern Alaska to a (sub) tropical climate in Hawaii and Florida. The rainfall is also unevenly distributed. There are quite wet areas, such as the northwest and southeast, while the southeastern states are largely desert. In addition, the Rocky's has a clearly high mountain climate.

Satellite photo of a winterly Alaska, USA
photo: Jeff Schmaltz, public domain,(NASA Earth Observatory)

Snow on vulcan Mauna Loa on Hawaii, USA
photo: NASA Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8, public domain

The northeastern states, collectively referred to as New England, are Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, eastern New York and Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia. This part of the United States generally has a volatile, humid continental climate, with moderate rainfall throughout the year.

Due to the polar influence, the winters to the north are getting colder and the most snow falls there. Summer heat waves can drive temperatures up to 38 °C for several days. The weather on the coastal strip is then very unpleasant due to the simultaneous very high humidity. In the big cities it is even more unpleasant because of the slightly higher temperatures that apply there. Throughout this region, it can get very cold in winter and even in spring, with a lot of snow in the north, especially in the Appalachian Mountains.

Although one of the regions with the least sunshine, the sun shines more often than in, for example, northwestern Europe. Daily sun hours range from an average of 4-5 hours in winter to 9-19 hours in summer. Some valleys in the Appalachians are often misty due to a combination of air pollution and ordinary fog.

Fall lasts only a few weeks in this part of the United States, but it is world famous. This so-called "Indian summer" arises when in the autumn the cold and polar air from Canada has trouble expelling the warm air that is still present. The cold air then comes to a standstill and a high pressure area develops. The first day of the "Indian summer" is usually quite cold, but the following days get warmer and can reach temperatures of 25 °C. The heated air remains, as it were, on the ground, covered with a layer of cold air. The first nights with frost are the signal for the trees to stop the food supply to their leaves. This also stops the production of green chlorophyll pigment, and the famous red, brown and yellow colors are visible that give the 'Indian summer' a spectacular face.

Indian Summer in New England, USAfoto: Werner Kunz from Boston, USA, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic no changes made

In winter, the dreaded blizzards occur in the northeastern United States. These are heavy snow and ice storms, combined with very low temperatures, which bring meters of snow in a short time.

Occasionally in the summer a remnant of a tropical whirlwind or "hurricane" may penetrate to the northeast; the destructive power has already decreased considerably.

The Midwest consists of the following states and regions: Western Pennsylvania, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Ohio, Kansas, Missouri, Indiana, and Kentucky. The northern Midwestern states have a clear continental climate with hot, short summers and long, harsh winters.

In winter there is not much rainfall, usually in the form of snow. Along the Canadian border and the Great Lakes, winters can be very severe with blizzards that supply very cold air from Arctic Canada. The southern midwestern states have a more moderate weather type with long, rainy summers and mild winters. Open skies and abundant sunshine are typical of this region, even in winter. Sun hours range from 4-5 in winter and 10-11 in summer.

Further west, in the Great Plains, there is a semi-arid climate with an average rainfall of 254 to 762 millimeters. A strong, dry wind (the chinook) blows from the Rocky Mountains and affects the weather in the western part of the Great Plains. This area has wide differences in temperature because of the cold air that is introduced from the North Pole and warm tropical influences from the Gulf of Mexico. The average daily temperature in Iowa ranges from -11 °C in January to 30 °C in July.

The southern states and the states bordering the Gulf of Mexico are Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. This large area is located roughly south of the 37th degree latitude between the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachians.

The climate in all of these states is quite similar to the mid-west climate; but due to the southern location and under the influence of warm air from the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, winters are warmer and shorter than in the north. Arctic air occasionally penetrates, but it never lasts longer than a few days.

Cold spells are more common in western Texas. The eastern part of this region is much wetter than the western one. The annual rainfall in the east is almost everywhere between 1000 and 1250 mm. In the west, the precipitation is between 350 and 500 mm. Summer is generally the wettest season with a lot of thunderstorms.

The climate is sunny throughout the region, especially western Texas and Oklahoma (averaging 5-6 hours a day in winter and 10-11 hours in summer). The summer heat is well tolerated, except along the Gulf of Mexico, where the combination of heat and high humidity feels uncomfortable. This region is often affected by hurricanes and tornadoes in late summer.

Desastrous result of the hurricane Ike in Louisiana, USA
photo: Coast Guard Jayhawk 6031, public domain

The Rocky Mountains states are Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and West Texas. In general, the northern states of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming have a much cooler climate in both winter and summer, a much longer cold season, and more rainfall.

However, large differences can be observed throughout this region due to the elevation, causing cold regions in the south and arid regions in the north. Most of this region has little rainfall, especially in the south where large parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado are deserts or semi-deserts with rainfall amounts below 300mm per year. This is due to the western mountain areas of California, which means that rain clouds cannot reach this area.

Great Basin Desert in Utah, USA
photo: David F Kennedy, CC Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

The southern part of this area has the sunniest climate in the United States; Phoenix and Las Vegas have approximately 8 hours of sunshine per day in the winter months and 12-14 hours in the summer months. The high temperatures in the entire area are tempered by the low humidity.

The northwestern United States is made up of the states of Washington, Oregon, and western Idaho. The climate in this region is very similar to that of Northwestern Europe and Great Britain.

In these states are high mountains of the Western Cordillera, where there is eternal snow. The climate here is more similar to that of the Northern Rocky Mountains. The coastal districts have the slightest differences in winter and summer temperatures. Furthermore, it is often cloudy here and therefore the least sunny region of the United States with many rainy days. Some mountain areas are very wet at 2500-3000 mm per year. This is in contrast to some sheltered valleys where only approx. 300 mm falls per year. It is also the only region of the country where winter is the wettest season, but summer also has no long connected dry periods.

The number of sun hours in winter is 2-3 hours per day and 9-10 in summer on the coast. More inland and in higher areas, winters are a bit sunnier with 5-6 hours of sunshine a day.

California has a climate similar to the Mediterranean climate, but due to the vastness of the state there are also major differences here.

The northern coasts have a climate much like that of the northwestern states. Farther south and more inland, temperatures continue to rise and summers in Central and Southern California become dry. In the southeast, conditions are more and more like the desert areas in Arizona and northern Mexico.

The mountains on the coast and of the Sierra Nevada are so high that the abundant precipitation often falls in the form of snow.

Snowy Sierra Nevada, USA
Photo: Don Graham, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic no changes made

California is one of the sunniest states in the country. The number of hours of sunshine varies from 7-8 in the winter to 12-14 hours in the summer in the driest areas of the state. Due to the sea fog, these values on the coast are much lower: from 6-7 hours in winter to 9-10 in summer.

San Francisco is a special case with fairly cool, mild summers. This is due to the fairly frequent fog that drifts into the city from the sea.

The interior and the north coast of Alaska have a polar climate or semi-polar climate. There is always snow and ice on the mountains and the flat parts suffer from permafrost. Rivers are frozen from September to the end of May.

In summer it can get surprisingly warm and that is due to the long days of daylight. Winters are severe and long lasting. The temperature is very unpleasant, especially when the wind is blowing hard. Precipitation amounts are limited and usually fall in the form of snow; summer is the wettest season. The coast of the Pacific has a completely different climate. Here there is much more rainfall and the weather is much less predictable.

Summer temperatures are lower here than inland and winters are cool but much milder than inland. Clouds and fog occur in all seasons.

Hawaii has a tropical climate where temperatures are tempered by the altitude and the wind blowing from the sea. The Hawaii Islands lie in the area of the northeast trade wind that blows almost all year round.

All branches all growing in one direction due to strong winds all year long
photo: Howcheng, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, no changes made

The temperature is fairly uniform, at sea level an average of 23 °C, with a maximum of 30 °C and a minimum of 11 °C. The rainfall mainly occurs on the windward side of the islands. The largest rainfall in the world has been recorded on Kauai, 12.5 m per year at the Waialeale observation post, 1740 meter high. The southwest coast is relatively dry, the northeast coast receives the most rainfall.

In the drier areas, most precipitation falls between October and March, which is quite uncommon in the tropics. The number of hours of sunshine is not too bad considering the amount of rainfall. It ranges from 7-10 hours in the drier capital of Honolulu to 4-5 hours in the wetter areas.

Plants and Animals

Plants

The native flora of the northwestern United States has suffered greatly from land reclamation. Originally man-sized grasses, with the so-called 'tall grass' (1.5-2 meters high), grew in Iowa and Kansas on the extensive grass plains. The original vegetation is still protected in the Konza Prairie Research Natural Area near Topeka.
More to the west on higher and poor soil grows "short grass", a shorter variety. Desert-like conditions prevail in parts of the states of Idaho, Oregon, Washington, and Wyoming, where sage bushes predominate. The eastern grass plains have meanwhile developed into agricultural areas, while livestock farming predominates in the western parts. Due to the abundant rainfall, the western slopes of the Rocky Mountains are covered with beautiful forests: red cedars, Douglas firs and redwoods.

Red cedar or Virginia juniper
photo: Keith Kanoti, Maine Forest Service, USA, CC Attribution 3.0 United States no changes made

Minnesota is largely covered with forests. Walnut, oak, birch, and pine trees are ubiquitous, and on dry rocky soils grow cedars, white spruce, balsam, and hemlock. Wetlands, lake and river banks are the beloved habitat of black spruce, American larch, and western trees of life. Shallow inlets adorn themselves with yellow-flowering plumps, snake root and bulrushes. The national flower of Minnesota is the "pink lady's slippers", an orchid variety of women's shoes. The forests in Washington and Oregon consist of the western hemlocks, red cedars and, at higher altitudes, Engelmann spruces and lodge poles.
In the rainforests on the coastal area, cedars and hemlock spruces grow to exceptional sizes, but Douglas fir and Sitka spruces also reach a length of 100 meters and a size of 4-5 meters. The bottoms are covered with mushrooms, (rind) mosses and ferns. On the plateaus between the mountain ranges, deciduous forest with maples and oaks predominates. Southwest Oregon is home to the famous redwood and giant sequoia trees. The Colorado Plateau is dominated by sage bushes.

'General Sherman' Sequoia tree
photo: m01229, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic no changes made

Outside South Dakota's "badlands", mixed and short-grass prairie dominates, one of the few well-preserved remains of the Great Plains grasslands. More than fifty varieties of grass are found here, with low buffalo grass, "blue grama" and bluish "western wheatgrass" being the most common. More than two hundred species of herbaceous flowering plants grow in between. Rocky Mountains are home to juniper berries and red cedars.

The North Dakota prairies are very similar to those of the southern neighbor, but very surprising in these northern latitudes are hardy red-fruited fig cacti. Tall poplars and willows grow along Little Missouri.

About 1100 plant species are found in the famous Yellowstone National Park. In the wooded areas conifers and especially the murrayana pines dominate. The other vegetation types range from semi-arid forest land to marshes, marshlands and alpine mountain pastures. In the Yosemite Valley, yellow pines, Jeffrey pines, libocedars, California black oaks and large-leaved maples form a mixed forest. In the rest of the park, conifers determine the vegetation image.

California black oak
photo: Miguel Vieira from Walnut Creek, CA, USA, CCAttribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

The Glacier National Park in Montana has two climatically different halves, which affect the vegetation. For example, western hemlock and giant life trees grow only in the McDonald Valley located to the west of the mountains. White pines and American aspen poplars grow in the eastern valleys. Engelmann firs and Douglas firs control the montane forests, and murrayana pines occur in drier forests. Alpine silver firs and white bark pines form the tree line in the alpine zone. Bear grass grows in many places, lily-like plants that can grow up to 90 cm high.

Temperate rainforest is found in the most northwestern state of Washington, with the Sitka spruce as a characteristic tree. The large-leaved maple is typical and often very densely overgrown with countless mosses, lichens and ferns. English dewclaw moss hang in dense curtains from the branches. The undergrowth is formed by sword fern and ponytail, along with some flowering plants. More giant silver firs are found in the drier lowland forest.
The higher you go, the more western weymouth pines, Pacific silver pines and nut cypresses come to the fore. In the undergrowth various berry bushes and the pink colored, rare wood nymph from the orchid family thrive. Even higher are meadows with blue lupins, deep red "magenta paintbrushes" and bright purple bushes.

Magenta paintbrush, USAPhoto: J Brew, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic no changes made

In the mountainous northeastern part of California, under 2,000 meters high-stemmed yellow pines, Jeffrey pines and Colorado silver firs dominate. The sometimes man-sized red-stemmed "greenleaf manzanita", a bear grape variety, forms a dense undergrowth. Bushes of libocedars and male pines grow in warm places with cones about 50 centimeters long.

In Sequoia / Kings National Park, the elevation ranges from 500 meters to over 4,000 meters, resulting in different climate and vegetation zones. Striking in the promontory (500-1400 meters) are the blue glossy "blue oaks", the California chestnut and the yucca variety "our Lord's candle". The montane vegetation zone (1400-2500) is the realm of the giant sequoia trees, which are divided into 75 small forests. The forests in the lower belt of the subalpine and alpine vegetation zone (from 2500 meters) are characterized by beautiful silver pines, murrayana pines and foxtail pines, above 3300 meters the vegetation turns into alpine meadows. Tiger lilies grow near forest streams or springs.

The alpine vegetation zone or tundra extends above the treeline (from 3,400 meters) in the mountain areas of Colorado. Frost, storm and snow here limit the vegetation to low tree plants. More than a hundred flowering plant species take advantage of the vegetation period of only eight to ten weeks: examples include "alpine avens", a nail herb species, "alpine sunflowers" and the Arctic gentian.

Alpine avens, USA
photo: Opiola Jerzy, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

In the southeastern United States, evergreen trees grow, such as American oak (the national tree of the United States), maple, beech, chestnut, ash, birch, elm, walnut, linden, and magnolia. However, pine and swamp forests are predominant. Wetlands can be divided into "marshes", with spicy vegetation, and "swamps", with shrubs and trees, especially cypresses. In North Carolina and the Gulf States, unique Spanish moss grows, rootless plants that live on oaks and cypresses. They are so-called epiphites, so they do no damage.

American or red oak, national tree of the USA
photo: 'Velela', public domain

In the Everglades and in parts of South Louisiana, different types of mangroves occur, easily recognizable by the aerial roots and evergreen leaves. In the brackish water one finds red, white, black and button mangroves. Tropical crops such as 'gumbo limbo', mahogany trees, royal palms and 'strangler figs' dominate on slightly higher tree islands or 'hammocks'. Climbers, bromeliads, orchids and a partly dense undergrowth of ferns and mosses create their own microclimate. Water- and nutrient-rich basins form growing places of bald cypress, akin to redwoods and giant sequoias. Lush vegetation of Spanish moss, stiff-leaved wild pine, orchids and other epiphytes makes for a special sight. Higher lying limestone ridges are covered with woods of hybrid pine. The floodplains of the Mississippi area have wooded vegetation with maples, cottonwood, and cypress and gum trees to the south. The mossy "bogs" are a bit further north.

The Great Smoky Mountains, the highest mountains in the Appalachians, have fertile soil, abundant rainfall and a height difference of almost 1800 meters, a flora full of variety with almost 1600 species, of which 123 tree species alone. Deciduous forests dominate the lower park zone, including white maples, yellow birches and magnolia trees. Above 1400 meters we find American beech trees and also yellow birches. In spring, a wide variety of rhododendrons also bloom here, as well as the mountain laurel, calico-brush, or spoonwood.

Mountain laurel, calico-brush or spoonwood
photo: A. Barra, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported no changes made

The northeastern part of the United States is densely forested, especially New England where about 80% of the country is covered with forests. Pennsylvania and New York are also forested, but not with original forests.

New deciduous forests have been created to the east of the Appalachians, with many European tree species such as chestnuts, beech, oak, poplar and birch, as well as American aspen, paper birch and American beech. Many conifers grow in New Hampshire and Maine, with the characteristic tree being the sugar maple or maple tree, as well as red spruce, balm spruce and pitch pine, a tough variety that grows on rocky soils. Many apple, pear and cherry orchards have also been planted in this region. Furthermore, many berry bushes, including the famous "cranberry" (cranberry). Some tobacco is also grown.
South of New York, the moderately moist deciduous forest turns into spruce forests. Poison ivy is found throughout the eastern United States, which can cause severe skin inflammation and blisters.

Pinus rigida or pitch pine, USA
photo: Crusier, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported no changes made

The diverse ecosystems in the southwestern United States provide a very diverse flora. For example, along the northern coast of California, the redwoods or Sequoia sempervirens, the tallest trees in the world, grow to 112 meters high. In the precipitation-rich Sierra Nevada grow the somewhat small but much larger Sequoiadendron giganteum that can become thousands of years old.

Pine and cedar forests predominate in the mountain areas. Very special is the desert vegetation with, for example, the "Joshua tree", a relative of the yucca. Slightly smaller are the characteristic saguaro cacti (up to 15 meters high) in the Sonora Desert. The Sonora is covered with drought crops such as the mesquito trees, thorn broom trees and extremely hard ironwood. Very common dwarf shrub species are the creosote shrubs, the "white brittlebush" and the rare otillos. The lechuguilla is an agave species that was used by the desert inhabitants for all kinds of things. The very prickly cholla cactus is dangerous to humans. Other cactus species include the bulky ferocacti, "Engelmann's pricklypears", organ pipe cacti and Senita cacti. The northern parts of the Great Basin ("sagebrush country") are poor in vegetation, with some wormwood bushes here and there.

Organ pipe cactus
photo: Pretzelpaws, CCNaamsvermelding-Gelijk delen 3.0 Unported no changes made

Creosote shrubs, thorny "catclaw" acacias and mesquito trees are found in the lowest, driest places in the Grand Canyon. Utah's high-altitude drought regions are covered in pin pine, Utah junipers, yellow pines, Colorado silver firs, Douglas firs, and American aspen poplars. Various willow species, feather maples and vines belonging to the vine family grow along the watercourses. Bryce Canyon National Park is home to white pines and Great Basin hickory pines, which are among the oldest plants in the world, on rocky crests and sandy soils. The age is estimated at 4600 years. Prince's plumes are among the cruciferous and are very poisonous. Grasses such as "Indian ricegrass" are important food sources for mammals and birds.

The characteristic plants of the Chihuahua desert in New Mexico grow in the above-ground part of the national park. Lechuguilla agaves, ocotillos, torrey yuccas and the smaller soaptree yuccas, the national flowers of New Mexico, are numerous. In the shelter of the canyons, around the waterholes and in the higher regions, you will also find larger shrubs and trees, including "desert willows", Texas walnuts and the evergreen "one-seed junipers".

In the Texan part of the Chihuahua desert, drought bushes dominate, the creosote shrub being the most numerous. In the shelter of this plant grows the "Christmas cactus", one of the seventy cactus species of the Big Bend National Park. Special is the "candelilla", a spurge crop. In the slightly higher part, the largest yucca, the "giant dagger yucca", grows.

Evergreen "Texas madrones", a type of strawberry tree, "Mexican pinyons", three juniper and many oak species grow in the more rainy Chisos Mountains. The banks of the Rio Grande are bordered by a reed belt, from which the 4.5 meter high arrow reed protrudes.

Giant, Spanish or wild cane
photo: H. Zell, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Animals

MAMMALS

North of Mexico we find nine orders of land and amphibious mammals with about 370 species. Of these, about 20 species are found only in Alaska (and Canada), such as dog collar, arctic fox, polar bear, musk ox and various seals. Southern species such as the collar peccary and the Allen donkey hare are only found in the United States.

The order of the marsupials is represented by only one species, the Virginian possum. The order of the armadillos has only one species, the nine-banded armadillo. The last order with only one species is that of the manatees, the Caribbean manatee.

Virginia or North American opossum
photo: Specialjake, CC Naamsvermelding-Gelijk delen 3.0 unported, no changes made

Insect eaters are 37 species from the shrew and mole families.

Widespread is the order of the bats with about 40 species. The guano bat is found throughout the Southwestern United States. At the Bat Cave of the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, a spectacular scene can be seen every night. Tens of thousands of these bats curl up in the evening sky and hunt for insects.

The nineteen species of lagomorphs of North America also include the American pika or whistling hare family.

American pika
photo: Frédéric Dulude-de Broin, CCAttribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

Rodents are common everywhere with about 200 species. These include stump-tailed squirrels, black-tailed prairie dogs, yellow-bellied marmots, chipmunks, cheek rats and mice, the Canadian beaver, jumping mice, the North American porcupine and the coypu. Tree squirrels include red squirrels, chikarees and fly horns. Order kangaroo sacrifices jump like kangaroos.

The predators include black and brown bears, cougars, North American raccoons, silver badgers, coatis, North American cat ferrets, coyotes, red lynx, the striped skunk, the rare ocelot, and equally rare black-footed polecat. The gray wolf is more common in Minnesota. The best known amphibious predators are the California sea lion and the harbor seal.

Black-footed ferret, USA
photo: Black, Tami S, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, public domain

The cloven-hoofed animals are represented with fifteen species, including white-tailed deer, red deer, mule deer, bighorn sheep, moose, snow goats and bison. Gaff antelopes, the fastest mammals in North America, live in the northwest.

Bison, national animal of the USA
photo: ceasol, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic no changes made

BIRDS

Of the approx. 750 bird species, about 620 breed in North America. Some of the 73 families represented in total are distributed worldwide, including raptors, falcons, duck-like, herons, pigeons and owls, including the rabbit owl one of the smallest birds of prey in the world (12-14 cm). Also special are the burrowing owls that occur in South Dakota and the spotted tawny owl in the redwood forests.

Others only occur in the Northern Hemisphere, such as the waxwings, tree creepers and sea divers. Only one family is found only in the United States and Central America: the turkeys.

Birds of prey come in many varieties, for example red-tailed hawk, hen harrier, golden eagle, peregrine falcon, prairie falcon, osprey and the national bird of the United States, the bald eagle. Scavengers are the turkey vulture and the black vulture.

Bald eagle, national bird of the USA
photo: Jörg Hempel, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany, no changes made

Nearly all birds in the New World are centered for distribution in South and Central America, and only occasionally visit the southern United States, such as the cotingas, the hokko's and the trogons.

Some families, however, penetrate into Alaska and breed in North America, such as Kurlans, vultures (including the nearly extinct California condor), troepials (including the Brewer's black troopial and the Baltimore troopial), mock thrushes, white-tailed snow fowl, forest warblers, tangaras, hummingbirds, wren, tyrants and vireos.

Florida is a true bird paradise with white and blue herons, gray-headed storks, snake-necked birds, roseate spoonbills, harriers, kites, waders, plovers, sea and osprey.

Yellowstone National Park is home to Canada geese, American white pelicans and rare trumpeter swans.

Trumpeter swan, rare in the USA
Photo: Dick Daniels (http://carolinabirds.org/ CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The Everglades National Park is home to about 350 bird species, including red spoonbills, white ibises, American white pelicans, American snake neck birds, all twelve North American heron species, ospreys, red-shouldered buzzards, turkey and black vultures, epaulet starlings, boat tails, red-crested black woodpeckers , swamp kites and the rare gray-headed storks.

Helmeted quail, cactus wren, crested spot thrushes, racing cuckoos and American gray shrike live in the Sonoran desert.

The extreme northwest of the United States includes blue ptarmigan, pink finches, gray juncos, variegated thrushes and brown hummingbirds. On the Great Ocean Coast you will find Bering Gulls, Pelagic Cormorants, Guillemots, Rhino Puffins and Pigeon Guillemots.

In the past centuries, extinct giant auks, Labrador ducks, Carolina parakeets, migratory pigeons, eskimo curlews and the ivory beak have once been the largest woodpecker in the world.

Pelagic or Baird's cormorant
photo: Alpsdake, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

REPTILES

North America has approximately 290 species of reptiles, of which rattlesnakes, Mississippi alligators and gila monsters (poisonous lizard species) are the most notable and dangerous. There are also about fifty species of turtles, including the diamondback turtle in Texas, the giant alligator turtle (up to 100 kg) and the desert turtle.

Alligator snapping turtle, USA
Photo: Peter Paplanus, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

Iguanas include deaf iguanas, desert spines, collared iguanas, chuckwallas, short horned lizards, renal lizards and toad lizards. In the eastern United States, the striped skink is widespread.

The fairly rare American beaked muzzle crocodile is only found in the brackish waters of South Florida.

AMPHIBIANS

In North America about 200 species of amphibians are found. The order of the salamanders includes the axolotls and the lungless salamanders. The Pacific giant salamander occurs in the western redwood forests, among others. The family of curious, external gill-bearing sirens are found only in North America.

California giant salamander, USA
photo: Greg Schechter, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

Frog-like species include the American garlic toad, the bull frog, the giant toad from Central America, and the many tree frog species (including the Pacific tree frog). The mountain yellow-legged frog, a brownish frog with a striking yellow-orange belly, can be found up to 3600 meters in California.

FISH

The seas around North America still have a great wealth of fish. In the eastern waters, fishing is mainly for herring, plaice and cod, in the east for salmon, tuna and sardine.

On the banks of many rivers, fishing for Pacific salmon is done by both humans and bears. Other freshwater fish include blue-backed salmon, rainbow trout and sea trout.

Sockeye salmon, USA
photo: US Fish & Wildlife Service, public domain

A special ocean inhabitant in the northeastern United States is the horseshoe crab, living fossils and the last examples of an animal group that appeared en masse 500 million years ago.

INVERTEBRATES

About 100,000 species are known in North America, including mosquitoes, ringworms (including the black ringworm in the northeastern state of Washington), butterflies and spiders (including tarantulas and black widows). Slugs up to 6 inches (15 cm) long live in western Washington State.

History

First residents

The written history of the "New World" does not, of course, begin until the arrival of Europeans in 1492. Yet, tens of thousands of years earlier, people had been on the American continent. Between 20,000 and 30,000 BC. the first inhabitants of the North American continent came from Asia to present-day America. These people, mistakenly called Indians by Christopher Columbus, eventually spread across the continent, from the far north of Canada to the very tip of South America.

'Native Americans' end 19th centuryphoto: United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division public domain

The original inhabitants spread from the west coast to the east coast and lived in it in many different ways. Indians on the west coast mainly lived from fishing, in the middle they mainly lived from hunting (bison). Remains of mainly agricultural communities have also been found.

Exact figures of the number of Indians are not known, but estimates range from 40 to 80 million.

Christopher Columbus and the Colonization of America

In 1492, America was discovered by the explorer Christopher Columbus, employed by the Spanish king. Before Columbus, Vikings had already arrived in America around the year 1000. Initially, the Spaniards only built some exploitation colonies, they did not have the authority to continue to live there. People especially hoped to find a lot of gold.

Christoffel Columbus (1451-1906)Photo: public domain

In 1565 the Spanish established the colony of St. Augustine in Florida, followed by the British with Jamestown in present-day Virginia. The first settlement colony arose in 1619 and the first women came to America. In the 17th century, the group of settlers grew rapidly, often at the expense of the original population. The Native American population was decimated by new diseases and attacks by the settlers, who considered the Native Americans to be savages.

In the early 17th century, the Spaniards had advanced a long way to the west and Santa Fe was founded in 1609 in New Mexico. The English entered the scene from the 17th century onwards, and they established a colony in Virginia in 1607. The Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts was founded in 1620 by the Pilgrim Fathers with their famous ship the Mayflower. In the years that followed, they were followed by the Puritans who founded Boston, also on the east coast.

photo: Popular Graphic Arts, public domain

The Englishman Henry Hudson worked for the Republic of the United Netherlands. He discovered the river named after him and started building a settlement on the island of Manhattan, New Netherlands, in 1624.

In this way, the entire east coast was, as it were, divided between the various European superpowers. However, it soon became clear that England would become the dominant power in this part of America. New colonies developed from Massachusetts, such as Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland, Carolina, Georgia, and Pennsylvania. In 1664 the Dutch colony of New Netherland was also conquered and the English territory stretched from Canada to Florida. The Indian tribes that lived in this entire area were also subject to the English, often through bloody wars.

Deed of sale Manhattan (1626)Photo: George Schlegel lithographers, publiek domein

War of Independence

Initially, the differences between the various colonies, especially in economic terms, were very large. The North was an area of small farmers and traders, while the economy of the South was dominated by slavery-dependent tobacco, rice and cotton plantations. Because of the joint French enemy in Canada, they initially joined forces, which led to the conquest of Canada in 1763 after the so-called French and Indian War. However, the struggle cost England a lot of money and to refuel the treasury, heavier taxes were placed on the colonies.

French and Indian war (1754-1763)photo: Hoodinski, CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

The opposition to this was obvious and resulted in a war of independence won by the thirteen colonies; At the beginning of the war, on July 2, 1776, independence was declared and on July 4, the Declaration of Independence written by Thomas Jefferson was accepted. The American War of Liberty was to last until 1783, and on April 19, 1783, the British acknowledged their loss at the Peace of Versailles and withdrew from the United States; the American republic was a fact. After France, the Netherlands was the second country to recognize the "United States of America" (1782).

Signing of the Declaration of IndependencePhoto: US Capitol, public domain

It turned out to be a utopia that the thirteen so different colonies would immediately form a unit. In fact, the only common thing was the “Articles of Confederation”, a kind of constitution which, in particular, confirmed the independence of the colonies. Furthermore, there was really only one joint body, the "Congress", which met only a few times a year. This loose union of states was burdened by large debts of war, declining trade and a lack of central authority. The so-called Federalists called for stronger authority and a better constitution.

In 1787 a new Constitution was indeed accepted, a difficult process that was only completed when a so-called “bill of rights” was added to the constitution. The "bill of rights" consisted of ten articles containing fundamental human rights. With the adoption of the new constitution, the thirteen colonies continued as a United States Union, and in 1789 George Washington became the first president, a hero of the war against the British.

George Washington, first president of the USA

photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art, online collection (accession number 07.160), public domain

Consolidation (1787-1815)

The new constitution was initially satisfactory and Washington was supported by excellent employees such as Thomas Jefferson on Foreign Affairs and Alexander Hamilton on Finance. Hamilton advocated the trade and industry of the North and stood for a central government and sound financial policy. Jefferson, on the other hand, was a genuine Southerner who stood for the interests of the farmers in the South and for greater economic freedom and decentralized rights of the individual states.

With the creation of a National Bank, Hamilton received the support of President Washington, and his supporters were called the Federalists. Jefferson's supporters were called Republicans, but they were nowhere near as powerful as in later times. Washington was succeeded by federalist John Adams in 1797, but in 1800 the Republicans won the election and Jefferson became president, who was fairly authoritarian. For example, without consulting Congress in 1803, he purchased the Louisiana Territory from the French Emperor Napoleon, doubling the territory of the Union. He also anxiously tried to remain neutral in the European wars that were waged at the time.

Thomas Jefferson, 3rd president of the USA
photo: White House Historical Association, public domain

Under Jefferson's successor, James Madison, America entered a war with the British in 1812. The English achieved some nice victories, but with the Treaty of Ghent in 1814 the old situation was restored. After this war, America would manage to stay out of European politics for more than a hundred years. For domestic politics, it was important that the Federalists and the Republicans became one party: the National Republicans. In general, there was also a great sense of national unity, which is why this period is also referred to as the “era of good feeling”.
The president during this quiet period was James Monroe, who installed the Monroe Doctrine. This meant that America wanted to isolate itself from foreign policy (isolationism).

James Monroe, 5th president of the USA
photo: https://www.whitehousehistory.org, public domain

Frontier: the migration to the West

After the battle against the English won, the migration started to the west, and the so-called “frontier” gradually formed the new America. According to many, democracy in America originated here because everyone was equal and had to save themselves in a hard life. Many new states also emerged, including Kentucky (1792), Tennessee (1796), Ohio (1803), Louisiana (1812), Indiana (1816), Mississippi (1817), Illinois (1819), Alabama (1819), Missouri ( 1821), Arkansas (1836) and Michigan (1837).

USA states around 1870
photo: United States Geological Survey, public domain

The sharper contrasts between North and South meant that whenever a southern state was admitted to the Union, a northern state would also be added in order to maintain balance in the Senate. At one point, the division between north and south could no longer be maintained when people penetrated further and further west. The ongoing expansion would even endanger national unity.

The great democratization

At that time, the democratic quality was not very high, because the right to vote was far from universal, and politics was only practiced by a small elite. Andrew Jackson came to power in 1828, who was preoccupied with a real democratization process. The people slowly opposed the elite and Jackson was on the side of the people. Jackson's party also changed names and was now aptly called the Democratic Party. The old elite then united in a new party, the Whigs, who opposed what they believed to be "King Andrew".

Andrew Jackson, 7th president of the USA
photo: http://www.senate.gov, public domain

They again called for a strong federal government that was mainly concerned with the development of industry and the opening up of the western agricultural areas by connecting them to the industrial centers in the east. However, Jackson was an anti-monopolist, and the rights of the states and a free economy were paramount to him. Not surprisingly, popular Jackson was reelected as president in 1832 without much effort.

After Jackson stepped down in 1837, a major economic crisis broke out. During this period, universal suffrage was also introduced in almost all states, leading to far ahead of Europe.

The war with Mexico

During the migration to the west, only some Indian tribes offered resistance. Eventually, the south-west of the continent collided with Mexico, which had separated itself from Spain in 1821. Initially, thousands of settlers entered the Mexican province of Texas without any problems. At one point, the settlers prevailed and a conflict with the Mexicans arose in 1833, ultimately resulting in the proclamation of the Republic of Texas. The expectation was that America would immediately annex the new republic, but this did not happen until 1845. In 1846 the Mexicans tried to reclaim their territory, but this two-year war ended with total defeat for the Mexicans, even the capital Mexico City was occupied. In the Peace of Guadeloupe in February 1848, Mexico had to relinquish large tracts of land, including present-day Arizona, California, and New Mexico.

Mexican-American War (1846-1848)
Photo: M Kaidor, CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

In 1846, an agreement had also been reached with the British on the northwestern border with Canada, all under the presidency of James Polk. Meanwhile, America had already become the primary trading power in the Far East after England, and it was they who forced the Japanese to open their ports to the Westerners in 1853. However, the constant contrasts between North and South would lead to a real civil war in the mid-19th century.

The struggle between North and South culminates in a Civil War

The South was still hostile to central authority, especially as the position of the South against the North became weaker. Ultimately, the whole problem would escalate through the slavery issue. The North had already abandoned this system around 1800, while the South relied heavily on slaves, especially cotton plantations. Northern abolitionists (advocates of the abolition of slavery) became increasingly fanatical in their plea for the abolition of slavery. The enlargement to the west made problems worse, such as California's accession to the Union, which was partly in the south and in the north. Often half-hearted compromises were made that would never be able to provide a real solution for long.

Overview slavery United Staten around 1860
photo: Stilfehler, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, no changes made

In 1852 Harriet Beecher Stowe's book "Uncle Tom's cabin" was published, making the American problem a world problem. In 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Act proposed that the pioneers decide what to do with slavery. This did not work either, as fierce fighting ensued between supporters and opponents of the abolition of slavery. In 1857, some oil was thrown on the fire by the Supreme Court. This college determined that slaves remained property anytime, anywhere, even though a southerner moved north. In addition to the abolition of slavery, the northerners were also afraid of the free passage to the west for small farmers.

Uncle Tom's Cabin, important book about slavery in the USA
photo: W. M. Rhoads, public domain

This position led to the dissolution of the Whigs party, again due to the major contradictions in opinion. The North's supporters then founded a new party, the Republicans, who also sought strong central authority. They therefore felt that Congress should decide whether or not to abolish slavery.

In 1860, the republican and notorious slavery fighter Abraham Lincoln became president, and that was the sign for eleven southern states to secede from the Union. The first shots were fired in April 1861 and the American Civil War was a fact. The North, led by Lincoln, won this bloody war in 1865. During the war, in 1863, the slaves were liberated by proclamation by Lincoln, and this was ratified by the constitution in 1865. On April 14, 1865, Lincoln was murdered by a southerner. The Civil War killed more than 600,000 people.

For Lincoln, the victory of the North was also proof that the Union belonged together and that a state could not just leave the Union. It was also important that the industrial North had won from the agricultural South, and after the war the irresistible boom of American industry began. In 1862, the West was also opened up to the settlers as free land through the Homestead Act.

President Lincoln
photo: Alexander Gardner (1821–1882), public domain

Reconstruction

Between 1865 and 1877, the South was occupied by Northern troops. The slaves were free, but were not given enough support to build an independent life. In 1877, the occupation and thus the reconstruction was discontinued.

After the Civil War, the Union recovered at the national level and the South at the regional level. Because the North fully focused on industrial development, the development of the South was ignored.

This position of the North turned out very badly for the blacks in the South, who were deprived of suffrage, among other things, and who often fell victim to segregation, racism and discrimination, the so-called "redemption" period.

Cartoon With Abraham Lincoln and vice-president Andrew Johnson
photo; Joseph E. Baker, public domain

Industrial expansion

Politically, until the First World War in 1914, the United States was governed almost constantly by Republicans, who were primarily concerned with the industrial development of the North. The big boys among the industrialists such as Rockefeller, Carnegie and Mellon had gained so much power (also through corruption and extortion) that it was unclear who ruled the country, the great industrialists or the government in Washington.

Important people at the start of the 20th century, e.g. Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller
photo: The Library of Congress, public domain

On the other hand, they also made the country great by founding universities and museums. Industrial development also led to many inventions (Edison, Bell). All this did not alter the fact that economically it often went very badly with crises in 1873, 1893 and 1907. Widespread corruption also caused the country to be in bad shape.

The great immigration

The strong industrial growth required a lot of extra labor, who had to come from abroad. Millions (1907: 1,285,349 !!) immigrants migrated to the United States and the population grew like crazy:

1800 5,000,000

1860 36,000,000

1880 50,000,000

1900 75,000,000

1920 105,000,000

Swedish ant-immigration propaganda to the USA
photo: public domain

In the mid-19th century, the influx of immigrants got off to a good start, especially from Ireland, Germany and Scandinavia. After 1885, many immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe also came, especially Italians and persecuted Jews from Russia.

In the big cities an anti-alien sentiment arose and the Chinese (1882) and Japanese (1907) were completely banned. Moreover, the industry no longer needed so many workers. In 1921 and 1924, immigration laws created quotas for the various nationalities with which they wanted to stem the flow of immigrants.

Political changes

At the end of the 19th century, a third movement in American politics, the Populists, emerged, consisting of disaffected farmers and workers. Later, this party was almost completely absorbed in the Democratic Party. In the early 20th century, there was a climate for political reform. After some hesitation, President Theodore Roosevelt, who took office in 1901, was an exponent of that idea of reform. However, he started his reforms too late and under his successor William Howard Taft, conservatives in the Republican Party regained the upper hand. In response, he founded his own party, the Progressives, and the split in the Republican party was a fact.

Woodrow Wilson, 28th president of the USA
photo: Pach Brothers, New York, public domain

Because of this, Woodrow Wilson's Democrats were thrown into the presidency. Wilson himself was a true reformer, creating the situation where the Republican Party became conservative and the Democrats became the progressive party. The Democrats also became the party that called for a strong federal government that could make changes. Republicans, on the other hand, were more in favor of the rights of individual states. Because of this remarkable "exchange" of principle principles, the Democratic Party has long become the largest party in the country.

The completion of the West

The migration to the west also often resulted in bloody confrontations with the Indians. All treaties between the whites and the Indians were eventually violated by the whites, resulting in the Native Americans losing more and more of their land. Native American confidence in the whites hit rock bottom, and horrific atrocities were committed back and forth. The last major confrontations occurred in 1876, when General Custer was ambushed and massacred along with several hundred soldiers, and in 1890 when 200 Sioux Indians were killed in the Battle of Wounded Knee and fought the last major battle for freedom.

Wounded Knee: indians are buried in a mass grave
photo: Northwestern Photo Co., public domain

The physical resistance of the Indians was then broken and they were placed in reserves, often in desperate conditions. Many Native Americans, however, said goodbye to life in the reserves and tried, often in vain, to be absorbed into American society. The Bureau of Indian Affairs was established in 1934. From that time, more attention was paid to the reserves by the federal government, now with the participation of the Indians themselves. Since that time, the cultural identity of the Indians has been cherished again and, despite major economic and social problems, a clear national consciousness has emerged again.

American imperialism

After the American Civil War, the United States retreated to a fearsome isolationism that only diminished with the rise of industry. In 1875 a treaty was signed with Hawaii, in 1878 the Americans were given exclusive rights to the port of Pago Pago in Samoa, and in 1887 also to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. In 1898, Hawaii joined the United States, and in the same year America entered Cuba in a war with Spain. The outcome of this war was that Cuba came under American custody. Later, America acquired the Philippines, Guam, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, thereby becoming a colonial power.

Collage photographs Spanish-American War
photo: Barbudo Barbudo, CC Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

The Spanish-American war led Theodore Roosevelt to broaden the Monroe doctrine, meaning that the United States could intervene in any country that could no longer meet its obligations due to domestic problems. And to prevent European intervention, the isolation policy was completely abandoned. The United States intervened regularly; for example, Panama was soaked away from Colombia, so that the Panama Canal, which is important to America, could be dug. America now even became involved in everything in the whole world to maintain the so-called “balance of power” in the world. It so happened that Japan was first supported in its fight against Russia and after the victory of Japan in 1904/1905, Russia was supported instead.

The idea was that the United States was called to take over Britain's role of most powerful state in the world. It would not take long before the United States would also participate in the struggle for power in Europe.

The first World War

When World War I broke out, the United States government stuck to neutrality. There were several reasons why they were involved in combat in Europe in 1917:

-Germany declared the unlimited submarine war on February 1, 1917, which also endangered the United States

-the Americans gave loans to Europeans and supplied ammunition; a German victory would mean a very serious loss for the American industry.

- On 2 April 1917, after the Zimmermann telegram became known, Woodrow Wilson declared war on Germany.

Participant First World War
Photo: Wallace Robinson, public domain

Circles outside Wilson were concerned that the balance of power in the world would be disrupted, with consequences for the position of the United States on the world stage.

After years of trench warfare and a completely stuck front, the Americans finally took part in the Great War and Germany was defeated in 1918.

African American infantry troops
photo: U.S. Army Signal Corps, public domain

It was now clear that the United States would play a crucial role in world politics from this time on. At the Treaty of Versailles with the Frenchman Clemenceau and the Englishman Lloyd George, Wilson wanted to inextricably link his idea of a League of Nations to the peace treaty.

The majority of the US Senate, on the other hand, feared America's sovereignty, and a compromise between Wilson and the Senate was also impossible. In addition, Wilson was hit by a stroke and a more or less logical consequence was the United States retreating into isolationism under Republican Warren Harding.

Interbellum

After the First World War, the so-called "Roaring Twenties" started, a period in which prosperity struck the clock, but also a period of unrest and uncertainty among young people.

The Republicans remained in power until 1933, but from 1929 onwards they faced an economic crisis that would become the worst ever to occur in the Western world. The Wall Street stock market collapsed and more than 100,000 companies went bankrupt, leaving more than 13 million people unemployed (about 25% of the workforce). Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt won the election in 1932 and tackled the economic and social problems with his "New Deal" program. However, the New Deal was not enough to get industry back on track and World War II had to come in to save the US economy.

Poster for Works Progress Administration encouraging laborers to work for USA, showing a farmer and a laborer
photo: Works Progress Administration, Federal Art Project;, designed by Vera Bock, public domain

In his second term in office he tried to tackle isolationism, but it turned out to be too strong, despite the threat that Germany's Adolf Hitler posed again. It was only when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on December 7, 1941 that the United States could no longer remain neutral.

The second World War

It was not long before the Americans fought on all fronts and therefore played a decisive part in the defeat of Germany by the landings in Africa and Italy in 1943, and the decisive attack in Normandy on June 6, 1944 (D-Day). The American militia had already pushed back the Japanese from 1942 after the Battle of Midway. In 1945 Germany and Japan were forced to their knees, Japan only after dropping nuclear bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Roosevelt was naturally re-elected president in 1940 and 1944, and he understood that the United States could no longer remain aloof in world politics.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 32nd president of the USA
photo: unkown, public domain

He too pursued an international organization that would achieve a realistic balance of power between the four major powers, China, Soviet Union, Britain and the United States, and divide the world into four major spheres of influence. Roosevelt died on April 12, 1945.

Post-war developments 1945-1960

Under Roosevelt's successor, Harry S. Truman, relations with the Soviet Union cooled and the so-called Cold War started. The Soviet Union captured Eastern Europe while the Americans provided economic and military aid to the West. In addition, an Atlantic Alliance, NATO, was established. In the Far East, America was the occupying power in Japan, but China was lost, which suddenly became a major enemy after communist Mao Zedong's victory over the pro-American Tjiang K'ai-shek.

In 1950, North Korean communist forces invaded South Korea, and in September, 90% of South Korea was in North Korean hands. The United Nations forces, consisting mainly of American units commanded by General MacArthur, made landings in the back of the North Korean army, which soon collapsed. Chinese volunteers came to the aid of the North Koreans and together they pushed back the forces of the United Nations to about 38th parallel. Negotiations for an armistice began on July 10, 1951, but agreement was not reached until June 13, 1953.

Harry S. Truman, 33rd president of the USA
photo: Harry S. Truman Library, public domain

It became clear that while the United States had ensured freedom in much of the world, it was also clear that it was not possible to regulate everywhere in the world. In the United States itself, unimaginable prosperity developed and the economic and technological revolution completely changed the country. Fear of losing this wealth led to fear and feelings of uncertainty. Anti-communism, in particular, was rampant among extremist leaders like Joe McCarthy with his communist hunt among “leftist” intellectuals. Ultimately it would appear that extreme right-wing and left-wing politics could never thrive in American soil. The Democratic coalition of cities, ethnic minorities, intellectuals and blacks therefore remained in the majority until 1952.

In that year, Truman was succeeded by Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower, but the majority of Congress remained democratic. The fifties went on rather quietly. The "containment" policy (communism had to be kept under control inside and outside America) against the communist world continued and in the interior the problems between the different races became increasingly prominent, partly due to the emancipation of the black population itself.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th president of the USA
photo: White House, public domain

In the segregated southern United States, votes emerged in the 1950s to end the segregation of whites and blacks. For example, in 1954 the segregation of schools was officially abolished, although not much has changed in practice. In 1955, a black woman refused to give up her seat on a bus to a white woman. She was arrested and her case was taken over by Martin Luther King Jr., who later became one of the primary advocates for equal rights for white and black.

A major protest march was organized in the capital Washington in 1963. In 1964, among other things, the Civil Rights Act came into force, which gave equal rights to blacks in many areas throughout the United States.

The crisis of the 1960s

Democrat John F. Kennedy entered the White House in 1961 and his youthful demeanor sparked great optimism. However, he was very inexperienced and created a number of explosive situations. For example, in April 1961, an invasion of Cuban exiles (supported by the United States) into the Bay of Pigs in Cuba, as planned by the American intelligence agency CIA, took place. However, this attack against the rule of the communist Cuban Prime Minister Castro failed completely. October 1962 saw a very serious conflict with the Soviet Union, which wanted to deploy missiles in Cuba.

John F. Kennedy, 35th president of the USA
photo: Cecil Stoughton, White House, public domain

In August 1963, a treaty was signed with the Soviet Union and Great Britain to ban above-ground nuclear tests. On November 22, 1963, President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, and it shocked the world.

Vietnam War

Around this time, the United States became increasingly entangled in the Vietnamese conflict. At the end of 1963, 16,000 American "advisers" were already present in that country. On August 2, 1964, Kennedy's successor, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, made the decision to bomb North Vietnamese naval bases and oil repositories in response to the United States-induced incident in the Gulf of Tonkin.

In four years, the strength of the United States in Vietnam rose to more than 550,000 men. The increasingly violent air raids on North Vietnam provoked sharp protests, both abroad and in the United States. After President Johnson halted the bombings in March 1968, negotiations began in Paris on May 13 involving the United States, South Vietnam, North Vietnam, and the Vietnamese National Liberation Front (N.L.F.).

Lyndon B. Johnson, 36th president of the USA
photo: Yoichi Okamoto (1915–1985), public domain

However, this yielded little and in 1968 the so-called Tet offensive was started by N.L.F. and North Vietnamese troops in key cities and bases in South Vietnam and US losses were high. In June 1969, Johnson's successor, Richard M. Nixon, announced that the withdrawal of US troops from South Vietnam would soon begin and that North and South Vietnam should find out for themselves. In March 1972, there were only 60,000 US ground troops in South Vietnam, but they no longer participated in the acts of war; however, the bombing of North Vietnam continued in December 1971 and intensified again in April 1972.

After the resumption of the Paris negotiations in May 1972, a draft agreement was concluded in October providing for an immediate ceasefire and readiness to negotiate between the warring parties.

The United States would end all military actions and withdraw its forces immediately after signing. The signing of the agreement has been made conditional by the United States on the fulfillment of a number of new requirements, such as the recognition of 17th latitude as a provisional political divide. The recognition of the sovereignty of South Vietnam and the withdrawal of North Vietnamese troops from South Vietnam. When North Vietnam did not respond to this, massive bombings of the major North Vietnamese cities took place on behalf of President Nixon from 18 to 30 December. As a result, much of the world's public opinion turned violently against the United States.

Protest against the presence of the USA in Vietnam
photo: Frank Wolfe, Lyndon B. Johnson Library, public domain

On January 23, 1973, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and North Vietnamese delegate Le Duc Tho signed the so-called Paris Accords, officially ending the Vietnam War, which, with brief interruptions, since the French reconquest of Saigon had lasted more than 27 years in 1945. The last US troops withdrew in March 1973.

In hindsight, the Vietnam War became the greatest embarrassment for the United States in a long time. In 1973, the country had to withdrawy in disgrace, leaving the fight to the ill-trained South Vietnamese army.

In the United States itself, politics slowly lost its grip on society: problems with the black population, poverty, youth unrest and violent resistance in universities, and violence and crime in general. Johnson had won the presidential election in 1964, but decided not to stand for re-election in March 1968. Democratic leader Robert Kennedy was assassinated during the election campaign and Republican candidate Richard M. Nixon managed to win by a minute majority over Democrat Hubert Humphrey.

The seventies

Under Nixon, the United States made overtures to China in 1971 and to the Soviet Union in 1972. Internally, Nixon tried to calm the contradictions among the population through a moderately conservative course. In November 1972, he won the election against his Democratic opponent George McGovern by an overwhelming majority. The end of the Vietnam War was the last highlight of his reign that crumbled at a rapid pace shortly thereafter, notably through the Watergate affair involving the White House. It was a series of political and financial scandals that eventually led to the resignation of President Nixon.

Richard Milhous Nixon, 37th president of the USA
photo: Department of Defense, public domain

In June 1972, during the election campaign for the presidency, a burglary was made at the Democratic Party headquarters in the Watergate building complex in Washington for the purpose of installing eavesdropping devices. It turned out to be part of a complex of Republican practices to damage the Democratic Party and secure the re-election of President Nixon. Later, the Republican Party's corruption of electoral money was uncovered, White House secret lists of political opponents whose phones were tapped and smear campaigns against Democratic presidential candidates and burglaries organized.

After the House of Representatives judicial committee recommended impeachment on July 27 and Nixon himself admitted by a startling statement on August 5 his involvement in the scandal, his position proved unsustainable. He resigned on August 9, 1974 and was succeeded by Vice President Gerald Ford.

Watergate complex from the air
photo: Indutiomarus, public domain

Under his rule, the country calmed down more or less and national contradictions diminished. In 1976, Ford was succeeded by Georgia Democrat Jimmy Carter. He, too, was not a great leader who could inspire the American people, and had great problems with Congress. His major triumphs were in the field of foreign policy. In particular, the reconciliation of Israel and Egypt in the Camp David Accords was a personal triumph.

Jimmy Carter, 39th president of the USA
Photo: Department of Defense. Department of the Navy. Naval Photographic Center, publiek domein

The reputation of Carter and the United States was again severely tested in 1979 and 1980. In Iran, the Shah's pro-American government fell and was succeeded by a fundamentalist-Islamic regime of clergy. To make matters worse, 52 staff members of the United States Embassy were taken hostage in November 1979 and released only a year later, exactly on the day of the inauguration of the new President, Conservative Republican Ronald Reagan.

The eighties

Reagan was reelected in 1984, and under his administration the federal government bureaucracy was reduced and massive tax cuts were made. However, defense spending rose so much that a huge budget deficit nevertheless arose that affected those who depended on social care.

Reagan was also a real “containment” fan, aimed at reducing communism in Grenada, El Salvador and Nicaragua, among others.

Ronald Reagan, 40th president of the USA
photo: unknown author, public domain

He pursued a hard line against the Soviets that thawed only when Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union, pursuing a policy of glasnost (openness) and perestroika (change). Discussions between the two superpowers led to far-reaching weapon control agreements (SALT and START agreements).

In 1986, the so-called Iran-Contra affair came to light, in which the United States illegally sold weapons to Iran and used the proceeds to finance resistance to the leftist government of Nicaragua.

The Bush administration (1988-1992)

The November 1988 elections were won by Reagan's vice president, George Bush. In Congress, on the other hand, Democrats tightened their majority in both houses.

In 1989, total world politics would be turned upside down by the upheaval in Eastern Europe, so that the United States no longer had to worry about reducing the communist sphere of influence. Bush and Gorbachev formally ended the Cold War at the Summit in Malta in December 1989. This led directly to the break-up of the Soviet Union, liberating all of Eastern Europe from communist regimes. In the same year, Bush decided to invade Panama to overthrow the regime of dictator and drug trafficker Manuel Noriega.

George Bush 41st president of the USA
photo: unknown author, public domain

Because the balance between the two superpowers fell away, new sources of fire arose all over the world. For example, Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, leading to the first Gulf War. In the interior, economic and social policies were not very focused on the economically weak, leading to deteriorating living conditions for the black population, leading to much violence and unrest.

The Clinton administration (first term in office)

The 1992 presidential election was won by Democratic candidate Bill Clinton and he became the 42nd President of the United States. The majority in Congress was once again Democratic. In the first week of January 1993, President Bush and his Russian counterpart Yeltsin, who was still in office, concluded a nuclear weapons deal, START II, which required Russia and the United States to drastically reduce the number of long-range nuclear weapons in ten years.

At the end of February of that year, a car bomb exploded in the parking garage under one of the two towers of the New York World Trade Center; six people were killed and more than a thousand injured. In 1994, Clinton was troubled by the Whitewater affair (financial transactions during his Arkansas governorship) and the charge of sexual harassment by former Arkansas employee Paula Jones.

Bill Clinton, 42nd president of the USA
photo: Bob McNeely, The White House, public domain

Also in February, economic sanctions against Vietnam were lifted and prompted the United States to impose sanctions on North Korea, which refused to allow investigators from the international nuclear agency IAEA to nuclear facilities. In June, the North Koreans stepped out of the IAEA and threatened war, but former President Carter managed to persuade the North Koreans to halt their nuclear weapons programs.

As for the war in Bosnia, the United States called for stronger action against the Serbs and the lifting of the arms embargo against Muslims. In December 1994, after another mediation by Carter, a ceasefire was established. In August 1995, Clinton vetoed a bill to unilaterally lift the arms embargo on Bosnia. In November, after difficult talks in Dayton, Ohio, a peace treaty was concluded between the presidents of Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia.

Negotiators Dayton Agreement
photo: NATO, public domain

A few months earlier, the state of war between Israel (Rabin) and Jordan (Hussein), which had existed since 1948, had already ended.

In July 1994, among others, congressional elections were held that turned out disastrously for the Democratic Party. She lost the majority in both houses of Congress for the first time since 1954. Of the 50 states, 31 fell to Republicans and 18 to Democrats.

The economy developed well in that year with inflation rates of less than 2% and a budget deficit that was lowest in five years. That the elections were nevertheless lost was due to the fact that most people hardly felt the economic recovery. The business community remediated on a large scale, causing many people to end up on the street. The soft policy towards immigrants, criminals and other minorities also played tricks on the Democrats.

An agreement was reached with Japan in October 1994, with Japan pledging to address trade restrictions on telecommunications, insurance and medical devices, among others.

Due to the new balance of power in Congress, bills were rarely passed by both houses in 1995 and time-consuming compromises were needed between the White House and the Senate. In June, the Clintons were acquitted of dubious conduct regarding the Whitewater affair, and in October the Muslim fundamentalist suspects were found guilty of the World Trade Center attack and sentenced to lengthy prison terms. The Egyptian leader of the group, Omar Abdel Rahman, was sentenced to life.

Protesters wanted Omar Abdel Rhaman to be free
photo: Lilian Wagdy, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

1995 was also the year of the great conflict between the Clinton administration and the Republican-controlled Congress on the 1996 budget. As a result of the deadlock, hundreds of thousands of officials were declared inactive at the end of 1995. The dispute was settled in early 1996 and the officials were able to return to work.

Under the American leadership, the Dayton Peace Agreement was concluded in late 1995. Bosnia was divided into a Serb and Muslim-Croat section and a large international force, including 20,000 US military personnel, ensured that the file was observed.

In August the 1935 Welfare Act was thoroughly revised; the implementation of this law was delegated to the individual States. In the fall, a new immigration law was passed that governed the rights and obligations of refugees and asylum seekers.

President Clinton and his wife Hillary, meanwhile, continued to face the Whitewater affair and the "Paula Jones" case, which accused Clinton of sexual harassment when he was still governor of Arkansas.

Clinton's second term of office

In March 1996, the Helms-Burton Act was passed, which threatened to sanction foreign companies if they did trade with Cuba. In June 1996, Clinton pushed for an international approach to terrorism, but did not get European countries caught up in American foreign policy towards Libya and Iran.

The relationship with China also came under severe pressure this year. Export credits of America were terminated due to the Chinese supply of nuclear technology to Pakistan and China. China then threatened to pass American companies in favor of European companies after the Americans' continued criticism of China's human rights issues. The 1996 elections were again won by Clinton and his vice-president Al Gore, but Republicans continued to hold their majority in Congress.

Flag presidential campaign Bill Clinton and Al Gore
photo: Bill Clinton presidential campaign, 1996, public domain

The economy continued to pick up in 1996: unemployment fell to around 5% and GDP rose by 2.4%. Clinton continued to be haunt in 1997 with the Paula Jones and Whitewater affairs. In addition came, the Monica Lewinsky case, which would almost ensure that Clinton was impeached, through a so-called impeachment procedure. Clinton would have lied that he had sex with his intern Monica Lewinsky. The impeachment procedure was actually initiated by the Republicans, but the procedure ended on February 12, 1999 with an acquittal pronounced by the Senate.

In March 1997, Clinton and Russian President Yeltsin discussed nuclear weapons reduction and the relationship between NATO and the Russian Federation again. The defense treaty was revised with Japan, but America was allowed to retain its military base on the Japanese island of Okinawa.

Tensions between America and Iraq rose again in October 1997 when Iraq expelled American members of the UN Disarmament Commission from the country and threatened to take down American reconnaissance aircraft. The United States now found the time to intervene but received no support from the UN Security Council.

In the same month, relations with Israel bottomed out, following Prime Minister Netanyahu's refusal to honor the peace agreements with the Palestinians of 1993 and 1995. A year later, an agreement was reached on further Israeli withdrawals from occupied Palestinian territory.

Relations with China improved despite Clinton's criticism of human rights policy, notably for Chinese television. In October 1997, Clinton and Chinese President Jiang Zemin entered into a number of political and economic agreements.

Politically, this black episode in Clinton's life didn't end so badly. In midterm elections, Republicans suffered defeat against Democrats, with the Republican majority in the House even dropping and the number of Republican governors dropping by one from 32 to 31.

Noteworthy was the great victory of Republican Senator George Bush of Texas, son of former President Bush, and tipped as a presidential candidate for the 2000 presidential election.

In August 1998, bomb attacks were carried out simultaneously at the American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. Tens of people were killed, including 12 Americans. Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden was thought to be the mastermind behind the attack, which would operate from Afghanistan. As a measure of retaliation, the United States, despite much criticism, carried out missile attacks on Afghanistan and a suspected chemical plant in Sudan.

Embassy of the USA in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in the aftermath of the August 7, 1998, after al-Qaida suicide bombing
photo: DS Records, public domain

UN weapons inspectors were expelled from Iraq by Saddam Hussein at the end of October 1998, but were able to return after being condemned by the five permanent members of the Security Council. In December, however, they were again hindered in their work and that was the signal for the United States and Great Britain to attack Iraq (Operation Desert Fox or Second Gulf War). Hundreds of bombings and more than 400 cruise missiles were fired at Iraqi military targets and facilities where Iraq could produce nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. However, all this did not lead to the fall of Saddam Hussein.

In 1998, the United States also intervened in the Kosovo crisis, where President Milosevic's Serbs and Kosovar insurgents fought a bloody battle. Heavy pressure from the Americans and negotiations with both parties came to nothing. The peace plan that emerged from a conference on Kosovo (Rambouillet, February 1999) provided Kosovo's self-government for an interim period of three years, overseen by a NATO peacekeeping force. However, Serbia (read: Milosevic) disagreed with the proposals, after which NATO began bombing Serbian and Kosovar military targets in late March. On June 9, 1999, Milosevic pledged to withdraw his troops from Kosovo, partly because of Clinton's threat to deploy ground troops.

The war initially cooled relations with Russia, but in the end Russia even played the role of mediator and also participated in the UN peacekeeping force, KFOR. Relations with China were also on the back burner after an attack on the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, which left three dead.

American and Russian armed forces in Kosovo
photo: Spc. Christina Ann Horne (U.S. Army), public domain

Relations with China remained highly strained in 1999 due to the Taiwan issue and the conditions for Chinese accession to the World Trade Organization (WHO). The WHO negotiations were very difficult and only in September 1999 did both countries agree on the conditions for accession. In June, the Americans had already successfully brokered a new diplomatic conflict between Taiwan and China. Even a genuine espionage conflict over the production of nuclear weapons could not harm "good" relations between the United States and China. On December 14, 1999, sovereignty over the Panama Canal was officially transferred to Panama.

The presidential elections also cast their shadows in 1999 through the primaries. After the last primaries on March 7, 2000, George Bush remained for the Republicans and Al Gore for the Democrats as presidential candidates. After a long period of uncertainty following the November 7, 2000 elections, Texas Governor George W. Bush was declared the winner in mid-December. On January 20, 2001, Bush took the oath as the 43rd President of the United States. He was the first president in a very long time to win the majority of electoral votes per state (electoral vote), but not the majority of all popular votes.

George W. Bush, 43rd president of the USA
photo: White house photo by Eric Draper, public domain

Attack on America and war in Afghanistan

On September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks with hijacked passenger planes took place at the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center at the southern tip of Manhattan, New York and at the Pentagon in Washington. Both towers completely collapsed after about an hour, and thousands of people from 62 countries were killed, including all occupants in the aircraft used for the attack. The attacks were not claimed by any organization, but it was generally believed that the Saudi Osama bin Laden was behind it. Bin Laden is said to be hidden in Afghanistan, but the Taliban regime did not wish to extradite him.

Attack on the Twin Towers, USA
photo: Michael Foran, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

The United States viewed the attacks as a direct declaration of war on the country, and in turn declared war on terrorism and the states that hid terrorists such as Afghanistan, supported by NATO. In September / October 2001, several people in the United States also became infected with the anthrax bacteria.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban regime was preparing for war. The United States was allowed to operate from Pakistani territory, and American and British troops were stationed in the region. The US bombing of targets in Afghanistan began on October 7. Mid-November saw the first major successes, the capital Kabul fell to the Northern Front, and the important city of Kandahar fell to the opposition. Despite everything, Osama bin Laden was not found. At the diplomatic level, a lot of hard work has been done to create a transitional government.

Stock prices fell sharply immediately after the attack, particularly those of airlines and related companies. One month after the attack, 200,000 Americans had lost their jobs.

War with Iraq again

On November 8, 2002, the Security Council adopted Resolution 1441. Iraq will have a last chance to disarm and grant inspectors unimpeded access. The resolution states that refusal will have "grave consequences" for Iraq if the country again declined to cooperate in the implementation of this and earlier resolutions. UN weapons inspectors subsequently launched investigations into the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Weapon inspections are resumed on 27 November under the leadership of Swedish UN diplomat Blix.

However, the members of the Security Council were unable to reach a common position. A number of countries wanted to give weapons inspectors even more time in early March 2003. But America and Great Britain in particular felt that Iraq had lost the 'last chance'.

Shortly thereafter, on the night of Wednesday to Thursday, March 20, 2003, President Bush announced the beginning of the war against Iraq. The war started with a precision attack on Saddam Hussein. In the evening, Americans and British launched the ground attack in southern Iraq, and the following day, the capital, Baghdad, was rocketed. The first Allied soldiers were killed in a helicopter accident. Saturday, March 22, heavy bombings of the cities of Baghdad, Kirkuk, Umm Qasr and Basra followed again, after which thousands of Iraqi soldiers surrendered. A day later, the first Allies were taken prisoner of war.

On Tuesday March 25, the advance was halted by heavy sandstorms, but the aerial bombardments continued. Umm Qasr is declared free and the first aid goods arrived there. Friday, March 28, it was announced that large parts of western Iraq had been taken by US commandos. The first fighting near Baghdad was reported on Monday, March 31, and British troops entered the southern city of Basra. On Wednesday, April 2, the Americans were 30 kilometers from Baghdad and a day later troops advanced to Saddam Hussein International Airport near Baghdad. Iraq's expected use of chemical weapons was still out of the question.

On Saturday April 5, American tanks "explored" the center of Baghdad without any problems and a day later the first American planes landed at the international airport. British troops penetrated into the center of Basra. On Monday April 7, the Allies delivered a number of psychological blows to the Iraqis: one of Saddam Hussein's palaces was occupied and Ali Hassan al-Majid, aka "Ali Chemicali", was found dead. He was the Iraqi WMD specialist. President Bush and British Prime Minister Blair met in Northern Ireland.

Reign Saddam Hussein ended
photo: unknown author, public domain

On the night of Tuesday to Wednesday, April 9, US troops remained in the center of Baghdad. On Wednesday, the Iraqi people in Baghdad learned that Saddam Hussein's regime had actually been toppled, and fear turned into enthusiasm. In the center of Baghdad, Americans drew a statue of Saddam Hussein to the great cheer of the Iraqis.

2004-2008

The domestic political discussions in Congress are largely determined by the attacks in New York and the Pentagon in 2001 ("9/11") and the domestic economy. Strong emphasis is placed on topics such as counterterrorism, economy and employment, (reduction of) taxes, energy policy and social security (aging, health care). The elections in November 2004 produced Republican majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives, putting the government firmly in the saddle until the November 2, 2008 presidential election. The government is (neo) conservative. After the conflict with Iraq the focus is expected to be primarily on the economic situation and other domestic issues close to the average American.

In November 2006, new elections were held for Congress and the Senate. In these elections, Democrats have won the majority in both Congress and the Senate. In March 2008, John McCain (war veteran) is nominated to run for the presidential election for Republicans, and in June Barack Obama decides the fight for democratic nomination in his favor against Hillary Clinton. In November 2008, Barack Obama defeats John McCain and will become the first black president of the United States.

Barack Obama, first black president of the USA
photo: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza, public domain

The Obama administration

In January 2009, Obama was sworn in as President of the United States and immediately proposes to pump $ 800 billion into the economy, and in February 2009, Congress largely approves. The US emerged from recession in November 2009. In March 2010, Obama piloted a new health care reform system through Congress, despite strong opposition from Republicans. In May 2010, an oil spill occurred in the Gulf of Mexico. In May 2011, commandos manage to kill Al-Queda leader Osa Bin Laden.

President Barack Obama watches capture Osama Bin Laden
photo: Pete Souza, Official White House Photographer, public domain

Obama was reelected to the 2012 United States presidential election by beating Republican candidate Mitt Romney by a wide margin in terms of electoral votes. He is the first Democratic candidate since Franklin D. Roosevelt to win two consecutive presidential elections by a majority of preference votes. In 2013, Democrats and Republicans are fighting with each other over public finances. A provisional agreement will be reached in 2014. In April 2014, the US and the EU announced sanctions against Russia for the annexation of Crimea and Russian interference with Ukraine. In November, Republicans win a majority in the Senate, thereby gaining a majority in both Congress and Senate.

In March 2015, President Obama announced that US advisers will remain in Afghanistan for the time being. In July 2015, Cuba and the United States mutually reopen their embassies, a huge step forward in normalizing relations. In 2016, there were many attacks by the Islamic State, including a gay club in Orlando. The United States is preparing for the November 2016 presidential election. Hillary Clinton is a candidate for Democrats and Donald Trump is a candidate for Republicans.

The Trump administration

To the surprise of almost everyone, Donald Trump wins the presidential election in November 2016. He will perform under the slogan America First in January 2017. In April 2017, the US bombs a Syrian air base and decides to arm Kurdish forces in the fight against Islamic State. President Trump warns North Korea that it may face military reprisals if it continues its nuclear program. In May 2017, Trump fires FBI director James Comey, and concerns arise about interference by the Russians in last November's elections.

In August 2017, Trump becomes discredited when he laxly responds to violence in Charlottesville caused by the far right. In late 2017, tension with North Korea mounts, and Trump says on Twitter that he has a bigger red button than North Korea. In January 2018, it is announced that the Dutch intelligence service has had a large share in the evidence surrounding the Russian interference in the American elections. The AIVD has caught a Russian hacker group red-handed.

Donald J. Trump 45th Presidentphoto: Shealah Craighead (1976–), public domain

In April 2018, the United States and China start a trade war, with import duties of up to 25%. Trump meets North Korean leader Kin Jong-un in Singapore in June and tensions seem to be easing somewhat, but a real breakthrough is not coming. In the November 2018 elections, Democrats obtain a majority in the House of Representatives. In March 2019, the Mueller report concludes that there is no convincing evidence of Russian interference in the election of Donald Trump. President Trump, meanwhile, mainly communicates via the social medium Twitter. In March 2020, a state of emergency will be declared in the United States due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Trump initially downplayed the nature and extent of the pandemic, but today the United States is the most affected country.

Demontsration Black Lives Matter in USA
Photo:The All-Nite Images Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic no changes made

In May 2020, African-American Georg Floyd was killed in extreme police brutality. The whole world is captivated by this event and a worldwide "Black lives matter" movement arises.

In November 2020, Democrat Joe Biden beats incumbent President Trump, who is struggling to acknowledge his loss. After a chaotic intervening period, culminating in the violent storming of the Capitol by Trump supporters, Joe Biden will be inaugurated as president on January 20, 2021. His vice president is Kamala Harris, the first woman to hold this position. Biden's first priorities are to fight the Covid pandemic, strengthen national unity and re-establish diplomatic ties. He wants, among other things, to reverse the withdrawal of the United States from the Paris climate agreement and the withdrawal from the WHO.

Joe Biden

Joe BidenPhoto:The white house in the public domain

Population

General

The population of the United States includes a wide variety of groups, both by race and by country. This pluriformity has increased since the 1960s due to massive immigration from Africa, Asia and Latin America. Immigration from Europe declined sharply during the same period.

The original inhabitants make up about 1% of the total population. Most Native Americans live in the western states, often in reservations. In 1924, Native Americans were granted full U.S. citizenship, while the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 gave tribal Indians the opportunity for a high degree of self-government.

 John Collier, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, meets with South Dakota Blackfoot Indian chiefs in 1934 to discuss the Wheeler-Howard Act, later known as the Indian Reorganization Act
photo: unknown author, public domain

The first Europeans to settle in American territory were the Spanish in the sixteenth century. In the seventeenth century, the English, Scots, Dutch, Germans and Irish followed. The French settled in the Mississippi Valley in the 17th and 18th centuries.

From the beginning of the 19th century, the number of inhabitants began to rise spectacularly, from about 5 million in 1800 to about 75 million at the end of that century.

From 1830 to the beginning of the Civil War in 1865, another massive wave of immigration from Europe followed, with many British, Germans, Irish, Dutch and Scandinavians. They were quickly and fairly quietly incorporated into existing society. After the Civil War, a second wave of immigrants from Europe started, now mainly from South and Southeastern Europe (including Hungarians, Italians, Poland, Russians, Czechs and Ukrainians). They once had completely different backgrounds from the first wave of immigrants, and often formed closed groups in the big cities that hardly integrated into society. In economic and social terms, they therefore lagged far behind the rest of the population.

Health inspection of immigrants USA
photo: NIAID, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

An ink-black period in American history was the time of the slave trade, when millions of blacks from Africa were brought into the country and often employed on southern plantations. Slavery was abolished in 1863, but much of the black population of the United States still lives today in often very poor economic and social conditions. After the Second World War, many blacks moved to the major cities in the north. In 2017, blacks made up about 12.6% of the total population.

Exxample of a slaveship that transported slaves to the USA
photo: unknown author, public domain

A very large group, currently the largest ethnic minority, are the so-called "Hispanics", including Mexican Americans, Porto Ricans and Cubans. This group is also in a thorny socio-economic position, and is a kind of second-class citizen. In 2017, Hispanics made up about 16% of the total population. Since 1980, tens of thousands of Cubans have come to the United States as so-called boat refugees or "marielitos."

Approx. 4.8% of the population) are Americans of Asian descent, mainly Japanese, Chinese, Filipinos, Vietnamese and Koreans.

A special group are the Cajuns, descendants of the French Acadians from Canada, who, after refusing to submit to the English, took refuge in the bayous (wetlands) of the state of Louisiana.

Origin of migrants in the period 1820-1990

Distribution and some demographic figures

The population as of July 2017 was 326,625,791, making the United States the third largest country in terms of population size after China and India.

The population distribution in the United States is very uneven. Alaska and the desert areas in the west have a population density of less than 10 inhabitants per km². The east, the Great Lakes regions and parts of Texas and California, on the other hand, have a very high population density. The average population density of the United States is approximately 33 inhabitants per km². (2017) The state of Wyoming has a population density of 2 inhabitants per km², while in New Jersey it has increased to 366 inhabitants per km².

Buford in Wyoming, smalles village in the USA with only 1 inhabitant
photo: Zanygenius, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

About 82% of the population lives in an urban area. California and some northeastern states are the most urbanized, relatively least urbanized are the southern states. The United States has more than 200 cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants. The largest urban area is the New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island conurbation with a population of around 18.8 million. (2017) With a population of 12.5 million, the western agglomerate of Los Angeles-Riverside-Orange County ranks second.

Annual population growth was 0.81% in 2017). The birth rate in 2017 was 12.5 per 1000 inhabitants; the death rate 8.2. Life expectancy at birth in 2017 was 80 years. (men, 77.7 years, women 82.2 years)

Population structure by age:

Language

The vast majority of the American population is native English speaker, but large groups also speak other European and non-European languages, notably Spanish. Especially in the big cities live groups that have often retained the language of origin for many generations.

For example, French dialects are still spoken in parts of Louisiana, and some French Canadians in New England have also retained the language of their neighbors in Canada.

The Portoricans and many people of Spanish descent speak Spanish. The Inuit also have their own language in Alaska and a Polynesian language is also spoken in Hawaii.

Inuit alfabet
photo: Mysid, public domain

American as a language does not exist: there is really only Americanized English. The main difference with British English lies in the deviating pronunciation. A distinction is made between the dialects of the north, east and south, but despite the great distances, the dialects are still less diverse than in a small country in Europe. New living conditions and a different mentality created new words, sayings and expressions. Some words took on a different meaning, and a few things have also changed in spelling and grammar. However, the language differences between English and English-American are not very large.

Photo:Dennis Bratland: CC Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Americans like short and anything that goes fast and saves time is much appreciated.

This aim can also be found in the language. Some examples of this are:

Almost all Indians speak American. In addition, dozens of widely divergent Native American languages have survived the assimilation technique of the American government.

Some ethnic groups still strongly adhere to the language and traditions of the mother country. In the big cities this is very noticeable in the many "Chinatowns" and "Little Italy".

Chinese and English signs in Chinatown SanFrancisco, USA
photo: deror_avi, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

In the countryside, religious groups such as Mennonites of the old order, Hutterites and Amana still speak German from the 19th century.

Other names for the United States are:

United States of America, United States, US, USA, America

Religion

While the state does not support one particular religion, and everyone has the right to believe it or not, America nevertheless underlines its commitment to religion in general: the President takes his oath of office on the Bible, the House of Representatives begins each session with a prayer, and in court the witnesses seek God's help when taking the oath.

This deep-seated religious foundation of American society is historically easy to explain. European settlers brought their religion with them; some groups had even fled from Europe to escape persecution.

These people looked for a place where they could apply their often strict rules of life, and behaved very puritanically, a trait that can still be found in American society today. However, not every group was able to immediately experience its faith freely: people were often intolerant of dissenters. In the end, everyone found their place and was able to keep their conviction.

Religions in the USA
photo: Verrai, public domain

After the war of independence, religious freedom was incorporated into the constitution and a complete separation of church and state was carried out (1791). About 30% of the population is Protestant. Protestantism is highly polarized with extremes of fundamentalism and liberalism (liberalism). There is a wide variety of Christian denominations with more than 250 churches, faith communities and religious groups.

The main church types are Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, Pentecostal Churches, Presbyterians and Reformed, Anglicans (Episcopalian Church) and Churches of Christ. The smaller denominations include the (seventh day) Adventists, Christian Science, Jehovah's Witnesses, Quakers, Salvation Army and a number of Unitarian churches.

In the 1970s, various anti-institutional movements such as Youth for Christ and Jesus People came to the fore; in the 1980s, churches of very fundamentalist character were increasingly evangelizing through television (the electronic church).

Logo Youth for Christ USA
photo: zactraversa, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

The Roman Catholic Church includes approximately 26% of the population. There are 32 archdioceses with a total of 138 dioceses. Approx. 2.6% of the population is Jewish. Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus are small minorities.

THE DIFFERENT CHURCHES

Baptists
Baptism developed independently from a mother church in America from 1639-1641. The main characteristic of Baptism is the emphasis on religious freedom. Many groups prefer to call themselves "associations" or "congregations" than churches.

One becomes a full member through the ritual of adult baptism by immersion. The decentralized structure means that, in addition to very progressive communities, there are also conservative fundamentalists. The Southern Baptist Convention, one of the largest Baptist conventions, was created in 1845 and represents the most conservative Baptists. Racial segregation has also created "black churches": the two largest have millions of members.

Arguably the most famous Baptist minister was TV minister Billy Graham.

First Baptist Church of Ossining, NY, USA
photo: Daniel Case, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Methodists
The Methodist Church spread in America from 1761. It emphasizes personal experience and moral behavior, such as opposing "excessive entertainment" and calling for social service.

The Southern Methodist Church has approximately 10 million followers, the total Methodist movement has approximately 14 million members.

At the end of the eighteenth century, two "black churches" separated from this movement: the African Methodist Episcopal Church and the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.

Hartzell Memorial United Methodist Church, Bronzeville, USA
photo: Joe Ravi, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unporte no changes made

Lutherans
Three major groups of immigrants introduced Lutheranism to the United States in the 17th century. Until 1820, the composition of the Lutherans remained strongly ethnic (Germans and Scandinavians).

Today, there are three strong groups, the American Lutheran Church (mid-west and rural areas), the Lutheran Church in America (in the cities), and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, which is home to most black Lutherans. The latter group has 2.6 million members in 6,145 congregations

Each community is autonomous and has its own structure and liturgical forms. Some groups have bishops.

St. John's Lutheran Church in Knoxville, Tennessee, USA
photo: Brian Stansberry, Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported no changes made

Presbyterians and Reformed
Presbyterian groups also differ greatly. Together they form the Anglo-Saxon variant of Calvinism. The Presbyterians emphasize the teaching of Calvijn, the idea of predestination, the predestination of man.

The largest church is the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. who has resided in the United States since 1611. The Presbyterian Church in the U.S. flourished in the southern United States.

Especially Dutch, Hungarians and Germans call themselves reformed, each with their own Reformed Chrurchues. The major reformed groups have been united in the United Church of Christ since 1957.

Episcopalists
Today's Episcopal Church used to be the Church of England, the first church to send European settlers to America. The approximately 3 million episcopalists are governed by bishops; functions such as pope or cardinals are unknown.

United Church of God
This church has about 1 million members, is Calvinistic of doctrine, but opposed to a hierarchical structure. Brouhht by the Pilgrim Fathers who arrived in the America in 1620.

Churches of Christ-Christian Churches
This church includes approximately 5,500 congregations in North America with approximately 1 million members. 150,000 members of 1,500 congregations live in about 40 other countries.

Pentecostal movement
Various religious movement with the two largest groups being the Assemblies of God and the Church of God in Christ.

West Angeles North Campus, Los Angeles, California, USA
photo: Downtowngal, public domain

Christian Church
The Christian Church of Disciples of Christ is a Protestant denomination with approximately 800,000 members in the United States and Canada, making it one of the largest faith communities founded in America. They began operations in Kentucky and Western Pennsylvania from 1804-1809.

Mormons
The Mormons are a religious sect founded by Joseph Smith, to which the biblical history of America was revealed in 1823: according to these visions, the Indians are believed to be the descendants of the Lamanites, the lost tribe of Israel. "The Book of Mormon," in which this story is recorded, is the Holy Book of Mormons that calls itself the "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints".

The Mormons first settled in New York State, then in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois to escape the persecution they suffered.

Finally, they moved to Utah, where they founded the city of Salt Lake City, which became their permanent home. The Mormon Church, in which polygamy was allowed until 1890, has the vicarious baptism for the deceased, and in this context has compiled a database where the genealogical data from almost all over the world are stored. The Church also has its own banks, insurance companies, hotels, and communications media.

Slt Lake Temple, Utah, USA
photo: Trödel assumed, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no change made


Roman Catholics
Catholic missionaries have been working in the United States since the sixteenth century. In 1634, the first Catholic settlers settled in the state of Maryland. Only from 1840 did the number of Catholics grow rapidly with the arrival of many Irish and Southern Europeans.

American dissenters have long been negative toward Catholics; It was not until 1961 that the first Catholic President, John F. Kennedy, of Irish descent was elected. Currently, the Roman Catholic Church is the largest church with about a quarter of the total population.

Orthodox churches
Especially after the Russian Revolution (1917), many Eastern Orthodox fled to the United States. The Eastern Orthodox Church is made up of numerous groups.

Two other important groups are the Greek Orthodox Archdioces of North and South America and the Orthodox Church in America.

Jews
After 1880, many Jews from Central and Eastern Europe came to America. They settled mainly in the large cities on the east coast and, for example, make up a quarter of the population of New York.

In addition to the group of Orthodox Jews, the Jewish community of the United States has two directions that deviate from traditional Orthodox Judaism, namely that of Reform Judaism and that of "conservative Judaism". Most of the Jews live in the United States except Israel.

Congregation Tifereth Israel synagogue, Corona, New York Queens, USA
photo: Peter Greenberg, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made


Quakers
The Quakers strongly believed in the equality of all human beings, renounced violence of any kind, and advocated tolerance towards other religions.

Currently, fewer than 60,000 quakers remain in the United States, united in the Friends United Meeting. The quakers have no preachers and hold meetings where they are together in complete silence for a long time.

Mennonites, Amana and Hutterites
Persecutions in Europe in the course of the 19th century successively brought the German-speaking communities of Mennonites, Amana and Hutterites to the Plains states. For example, while they all reject modern clothing and electronic aids, they are not related to each other. Amana and Mennonites are concentrated in Iowa.

Mennonites are followers of the 16th-century Dutch Protestant leader Menno Simonsz. The members of this anabaptist community believed that in principle everyone was a priest and had the spirit of God within them.

The likewise Mennonite Amish and Hutterites are very conservative communities, with an emphasis on self-reliance and separation, avoiding worldly obligations such as conscription. Most Hutterites live in South Dakota.

The Amana are among the so-called inspirationists, for whom God addressed his believers through prophets instead of priests.

Mennonites still drive only horse and carriage in the USA
photo: Alan Walker, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 Generic no changes made

"Black" churches
The main black churches are:

National Baptist Convention

National Baptist Convention of America

African Methodist Episcopal Church

African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church

National Primitive Baptist Convention

Progressive National Baptist Convention

Christian Methodist Episcopal Church

Griffith Chapel Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in Commerce, Texas (USA).
photo: Michael Barera, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International no changes made

Many of these churches, of course, originated during the time of racial segregation. The fact that so many blacks are members of the Baptist churches is partly due to the active missionary activities that the Baptists have developed among the black population in the past.

Native Americans
The religion of the North American Indians is based on ancestor worship and takes them back to a mythical era in which a distinction was made between humans and animals and the earth and nature took on their present form, through spirits or spirits of deceased relatives. Nature in all its manifestations is also important for the spiritual life of the Indians. For example, almost every stream, hill or plain has a religious significance.
Striking is sometimes the integration of typical Catholic elements in traditional Native American beliefs, such as altar customs, the worship of the Virgin Mary and religious holidays.

Sects
Church of Satan.

Jesus Movement of Flower Children of Street Christians.

Church of Scientology (founder Ron Hubbard).

Unification Church of God led by the North Korean Sun Myoong Moon.

Ron Hubbard, founder Scientology Church
photo: Uncredited photographer for Los Angeles Daily News, public domain

Sun Myoong Moon
photo: David Roberts, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Society

State Structure

Around the declaration of independence in 1776, a written Constitution was drawn up for the first time in world history, a constitution with principles of state structure. On September 17, 1787, the United States Constitution officially went into effect.

The United States Constitution is based on some principles that were considered important in the thinking of the Enlightenment:

-people sovereignty (Rousseau)

separation of powers (Montesquieu)

-government by law or "government by law" (Locke)

-public administration based on federalism

-the Anglo-Saxon tradition in public administration

Since 1787, several dozen amendments to the constitution have been introduced, the so-called "Bill of Rights". It establishes human rights, including freedom of religion and media and the prohibition of slavery.

The central point of the Bill of Rights is the unitary idea, which, however, is translated into a system of "checks and balances", which regulate the relationship between the federation and the federal states and the separate relations between the legislative, executive and judiciary.

Signing of the Declaration of Independence, USA
photo: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/390116, Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

Legislative power is held by the Congress, consisting of two Chambers, the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Each state is represented in the Senate by two members, who have six-year terms of office. Every two years, one-third of senators are replaced after elections.

The House of Representatives has 435 members, who serve for two years. Each state must have at least one delegate in the House; the remaining seats are divided among the states depending on the population.

All members of the House and Senate can submit bills, but to become law, bills must be accepted by both Houses and signed by the President. The President still has the right of veto, but this can be overruled by a two-thirds majority in both Houses of Congress.

Senate of the USA
photo: U.S. Senate, 111th Congress, Senate Photo Studio, public domain

The two Chambers in Congress have even more functions. The House of Representatives decides (on the basis of one vote per state) if no candidate is elected in the presidential election. The right to impeachment means that a special procedure can be initiated to remove the president and, for example, federal judges from office. The House then decides on the accusation and the Senate finally (by two-thirds majority) gives the final verdict. Furthermore, the Senate has the right to approve the closing of tracts and appointments to - most senior - government positions by the President. Customary law makes members of Congress represent the individual interests of their constituents in the national government.

In practice, power in Congress rests with the chairmen of the main committees and with "leadership". The leadership consists of the group leaders and their right hands (whips) and the elected chairman of the House, the so-called "Speaker". The Speaker is the foreman of the largest party and the most powerful figure in the House. The Senate is chaired by the Vice President of the United States, who, however, has a less central position.

Seal USA House of Representatives
photo: Ipankonin, public domain

The executive power is in the hands of the President, who is elected for four years in general elections (voting age from 18 years) through a college of electors, appointed by state in proportion to the number of state seats in Congress. Re-election is only possible once.The system works in such a way that the winner in a state gets all the electoral votes, no matter how small the victory. The deputy of the president, the vice-president, is also elected this way.

The president has six functions or powers:

a. He is head of state. This includes the promulgation of laws and the right to pardon.

b. He is head of the executive branch. The President is the head of government, he has the task of overseeing the implementation of the laws, and he is head of the federal administration. He also has the right to be appointed and dismissed with regard to important positions in the board, a considerable political means of power.

c. He is commander in chief of all armed forces and has war powers. He decides on deploying troops abroad and in his own country. The "right to declare war" is reserved to Congress, but the right to "make war" to the President.

d. The administration of external relations rests with the President. Congress also has important powers in this regard, notably the right to approve Senate treaties. However, the president can circumvent this by concluding not an agreement in a formal sense, but an 'executive agreement', which evades this participation. In addition, the Supreme Court has ruled that it has "inherent power" in this area. For example, traditionally the position of the President in this area has been predominant: from the Monroe doctrine ("America for the Americans") to the Nixon Doctrine (on the subsidiary nature of America's "police role" in the world), US foreign politically is determined by the White House.

Seal of the President of the USA
photo: unknown author, public domain

e. He is an initiator of legislation. Although legislative power is vested in Congress, the President still plays a leading role in this area. The constitution requires the president to address Congress periodically, notably through the annual "throne speech": the State of the Union. In practice, important bills have their origin in the executive branch.

f. He is the head of a political party. The President is automatically the leader of the political party that nominates him. This is done in a "national convention" of that party. Delegates to that meeting are often appointed on the basis of party political primaries in all states.

Parliamentary responsibility of the government, such as in Western Europe, does not exist in America. The president is unyielding (subject to impeachment) and that also governs his actions as head of government. The constitution mentions 'heads of departments', but the cabinet has almost a function entirely derived from the president. The importance of the cabinet declined, especially after the Second World War. For the current political situation see chapter history.

Democratic Convention, USA
photo: Ava Lowery, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

Economy

General

The American economy rests on the pillars of the free market and private entrepreneurship ("free enterprise"), whereby the influence of the government is very limited. Railways, electricity companies, telephone and the like are largely privately owned. However, the government certainly does not completely refrain from influencing economic life. For example, it has a decisive say in the rates charged by the utilities to its customers, and the central banking system was pulled into the government sphere by the Federal Reserve System by a 1913 law.
Trust has also been rigorously monitored over time, prohibiting market separations, monopolization and price fixing. The government also influences economic life through taxation, labor protection laws, quality requirements and consumer protection provisions. There are no real state-owned companies in the United States.

Federal Reserve System, USA
foto: Kimse84, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

The United States has become the wealthiest country in the world over time. The vast expanse, the many possibilities for agriculture, the presence of almost all major minerals (only oil is a problem) and an enterprising and resourceful population, have made the country the most powerful economic power in the world, taking up almost a quarter of world production. Only Japan has come somewhat close to the United States in recent decades.

For several years after the severe recession of 1982, the US economy experienced a period of continuous expansion, with an average growth of 4% per year. The new economic government policy was based on stimulating the supply side on the market. Lower taxes and deregulation led to increased business investment, and cutbacks on several federal programs, including those in the social sector. The fall in oil prices, interest rates and the dollar further contributed to the recovery of the economy. But at the same time the budget deficit also increased enormously. The trade deficit widened from $ 35 billion in 1982 to $ 800 billion in 2017. Tighter monetary policy was pursued to help curb the increasingly slow-growing economy, including to contain inflation. The United States suffered from the housing crisis in the 21st century, followed by the credit crunch. Nevertheless, GDP per capita ($ 59,800 in 2017) is one of the highest in the world. Yet in 2017, 15.1% of the population lived below the poverty line. Poverty is particularly high among the non-white population. Approx. 22% of Indians, blacks and Hispanics can be classified as poor. About 40% of the poor live in major cities. In 2017, the labor force was 0.7% active in agriculture, 20.3% in industry and 79% in services.

Distribution of annual household income in the USA

Foto:vikjam Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

The US economy is developing quite favorably with growth of around 2% per year, 2.2% in 2017). Unemployment is at 4.4% and prices are stable.

Agriculture, livestock farming, forestry and fishing

The US agricultural sector contributes only 0.9% (2017) to the GDP of the United States. The massive volume of agricultural production has made the United States the world's largest exporter of agricultural products for a long time, a position that expanded further in the 1980s. Medium and large farms predominate; far-reaching mechanization and application of the latest agricultural methods are characteristic of these companies. Small, traditional farms have been displaced by larger, efficient and technologically equipped farms. The number of agricultural companies is declining.

Grain silos in North Dakota, USA
photo: Mark Goebel from Taos, New Mexico, USA, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

Climatic and physical-geographical conditions have created different agricultural zones. The northeastern states and the Great Lakes regions belong to the dairy zone, the so-called "dairy belt". The east coast has many horticulture, fruit and poultry farming. South of the dairy belt, the corn and soybeans, which are important for livestock farming, are grown in the corn soy belt. The large cotton plantations in the once famous 'cotton belt' have now largely given way to mixed agricultural companies. Due to better agricultural methods, the yield of the still existing cotton plantations is higher than before. Citrus fruits, sugar cane and rice are grown on the coast of Florida and Texas. The Middle West is the breadbasket, known as the "wheat belt". California has extensive vegetable and fruit farms, while viticulture has become of great importance there.

The main products from the arable farming sector are maize, soybeans, wheat, tobacco, cotton, sorghum, potatoes, rice, oats and sugar beet.

The United States is also the largest producer in the world in livestock farming and is therefore of equal importance to the agricultural sector as arable farming. The US animal husbandry sector is mainly focused on supplying its own domestic market. Cattle farming takes place in Texas, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin. Livestock farming is extensively practiced in the west.

In the south and the west mainly beef cattle are kept, in the north and northeast and in the large cities dairy cattle are kept. Pig farming is mainly carried out in the north. Of great significance is poultry farming, which is concentrated in California, New England, North Carolina and Georgia.

Cattle in Ohio USA
photo: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generi no changes made

Approx. 30% of the country's surface is still covered with forests. This makes the United States, after the Russian Federation and Brazil, one of the most wooded countries in the world. Two thirds of these can be exploited commercially and 73% of this is privately owned. The timber industry owns significant forest areas and is also committed to expanding them. Nevertheless, wood production has been declining for years.

Commercial forestry mainly takes place in the great coniferous forests of Northern California, Washington and Oregon, which also has the largest sawmills in the world, mainly working for the paper industry and in the mixed forests of the Southeast. A third important forest area is the Rocky Mountains.

The forest areas are used for wood extraction, but also for food supply, nature management, drinking water supply and recreation.

Fishing in itself makes only a modest contribution to the US economy, and the products are mainly used for local consumption. The United States has fishing grounds in the Atlantic Ocean, where it mainly catches cod, mackerel, herring and sole. The main fishing areas are the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.

The main import products are shrimp, salmon, crab, lobster and tuna. The main import countries are Canada, Thailand, China, Chile, Vietnam, Mexico and Indonesia.

The Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976 declared a zone 200 miles offshore prohibited from foreign fishermen.

Mining and energy supply

The United States is very rich in resources and one of the most important mining countries in the world. They take first place in the extraction of magnesium, phosphate and molybdenum. The extraction of natural gas, oil, lead, copper, gold and coal are also very important to the economy. The United States has the largest coal supply in the world, and the center of gravity of extraction is in Pennsylvania. Coal is also extracted in the Rocky Mountains.

Besides the normal extraction of petroleum, the extraction of shale gas is important. Major natural gas reserves are in Texas and Louisiana.

locations in the USA where shale-gas is extracted
picture: U.S. Energy Information Administration May, 2011, public domain

Iron ore mining, mainly taking place in the North and in the Appalachians, Utah, Nevada and Southern California, is also no longer sufficient to cover domestic demand. This also applies to the mining of copper ore that takes place in Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada and Montana, where gold and silver are also mined. Bauxite is mainly found in Arkansas and Georgia, but not enough to meet the demand of the aluminum industry. Uranium ore is found in the Rocky Mountains.

Some minerals are mainly imported, especially from Canada and Mexico: including manganese, bauxite, platinum, tungsten, chromium, potassium and nickel.

The United States currently uses 27% of total world energy production. Not surprising when you consider that per capita consumption is almost four times higher than the world average. Power is supplied mainly from cogeneration plants, the majority of which are fed by petroleum, natural gas and coal. Nuclear energy only provides a small part of the total energy supply.

Renewable energy sources provide for a limited part of the power generation capacity of the United States. Hydroelectric power stations, such as those in the Tennessee River, also provide a substantial share of the energy supply. Biomass and solid urban waste on the one hand and solar, wind and geothermal energy on the other hand each provide approximately 1% of the total capacity. The total amount of sustainably generated energy remains limited to date.

Hydroelectric power plant Glendo State Park, Wyoming, USA
photo: Wusel007, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Industry in general

The United States is also the largest industrial nation in the world. The core area of the industry is the manufacturing belt, in the triangle formed by New York, Chicago and St. Louis. Texas is the center of the petrochemical industry, while the western states, particularly the areas around Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle, have attracted many industrial establishments in recent decades.

Characteristic of the American industry are the large industrial companies that are often merged into large groups. These concentrations mainly occurred in the car industry, the telephone, aircraft, steel and cigarette industries.

Chemistry and plastics

The chemical industry is one of the largest industries in the United States, with more than 1 million employees. There are hundreds of chemical companies that have more than 13,000 production units. Major states include California, Texas, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania, and the chemical industry is also the largest exporting industry. The production and sales turnover of the plastics industry is still increasing every year. About 60,000 people work in this branch of industry.

Midland, Michigan, USA with Dow Chemical plant and headquarters
photo: Doc Searls from Santa Barbara, USA, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic, no changes made

Biotechnology

The most interesting developments in biotechnology are in the sub-sectors dedicated to the development of medicines and vaccines, genetically modified crops, food and pesticides.

American agriculture relies heavily on biotechnology. Many genetically modified crops are grown.

Most biotechnology companies are located in the northeast of the country and in and around the major cities along the west coast.

Computer industry

The United States is the world leader in computer technology and innovation. A large part of the world market in this sector is owned by American companies. The US computer industry employs 2 million people worldwide, of which more than 1 million are in the United States. A number of US computer companies have moved production to Asian countries for competitive reasons due to much lower production costs.
The majority of microprocessors and software are still being developed in the United States. The technological innovation from Silicon Valley, where many leading companies have their headquarters, is world famous.

Leading (computer)companies all together in Silicon Valley, USA
photo: Samykolon, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, no changes made

Machine industry

About 1.4 million employees work in more than 20,000 machine factories, producing approximately $ 500 billion annually. However, much is also imported from abroad. The major states of revenue are Illinois, Ohio, California, Michigan and New York.

Automotive industry

The United States is one of the major automobile manufacturers in the world. This industry accounts for about a quarter of total world production and that share is only increasing. The three largest US automakers are General Motors, Ford and Chrysler. Automotive production mainly takes place in the north of the Midwest.

Aerospace industry

The aerospace industry is one of the most successful industries in the United States, with enormous market value. Airplanes and aircraft parts are the main products in this industry.

About 35% of its total production is supplied to the United States Department of Defense, and more than half of its production is sold abroad. Major companies include Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing, Honeywell and Northrop Grumman.

Boeing Everett Factory in Washington, where alle the Boeing-wide bodies are fabricated
photo: Piergiuliano Chesi, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, no changes made

Trade

Foreign trade - compared to domestic trade - is relatively small in size, as approximately 90% of all agricultural and industrial products are consumed in the United States itself. Trade with foreign countries has only increased since the mid-1980s and forms an increasingly important part of the economy. The huge export surplus in the 1960s has now turned into a trade deficit.

Main export products USA
picture: Alexander Simoes, Cesar Hidalgo, et. al. See OEC - About, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

The United States is still one of the largest exporting countries in the world, exporting $ 1.553 billion in 2017. The main export partners were Canada, Mexico, China and Japan. The main export products are: machinery, cars and car parts, aircraft, chemicals and food products, including grain. Imports are mainly cars and car parts, electrical appliances, petroleum and petroleum products, chemical and agricultural products. Total value of imports in 2017 was $ 2.361 billion. The main import partners were China, Canada, Mexico, Japan and Germany.

Traffic

The United States has the largest road network and the highest motorization rate in the world. For daily short-distance passenger transport, the car is still the most frequently used and preferred means of transport. The facilities required for this have had far-reaching consequences, especially for urban planning. Due to the large number of private cars and the extensive use that is made of them (e.g. for commuting), public transport is poorly developed in some urban areas such as Los Angeles.

The leisure activities of the Americans are also influenced by the car. The east in particular has a very dense road network. For longer distances, the "interstate highways" (6 million kilometers) are important, of which a large number are toll roads. The core of this system is the toll-free interstate freeways. Bus traffic plays an important role in particular for passenger transport over longer distances (Greyhound and Continental Trailways).

Greyhound bus, USA
photo: SounderBruce, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic no changes made

The significance of the railways for passenger and freight transport has declined rapidly after the advent of cars and air travel. Due to a complex of causes, the private railway companies lost the competition with the car and later the plane. Investments, extensions and adaptation of the network and renewal of the equipment were not carried out, as a result of which the passenger and goods supply fell even further.
As far as freight transport is concerned, the rail lines are the most important transport lines. Approx. 35% of the volume of commercial freight transport is accounted for by the train.

Amtrak (National Railroad Passenger Corporation), national train company USA
photo: User:DanielHolth, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

Inland navigation is of great importance for the transportation of goods, especially in the catchment areas of the Ohio, Missouri and Mississippi and on the Great Lakes. A waterway network with a total length of 40,000 kilometers is available.

A number of major canals connect key seaports and industrial areas, such as the St. Laurence Seaway, the Illinois Waterway and the Intracoastal Waterway. Chicago is the largest inland port. The major seaports are: New York, New Orleans, Houston, Baltimore, Newport, San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Aviation is of great importance for domestic passenger transport. In fact, domestic passenger transport by air accounts for nearly 50% of total global air traffic. There are a large number of airlines (the largest US Airlines-United Airlines, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines) and more than five hundred cities have airports. The busiest airports are: Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Atlanta, New York (J.F. Kennedy), San Francisco, Denver, Miami, New York (La Guardia) and Boston.

US Airways, USA
photo: Aero Icarus from Zürich, Switzerland, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic no changes made

Holidays and Sightseeing

Tourism to the United States is a major source of income (2000: $ 582 billion). In 2000, the United States was the second largest holiday destination in the world after France. Approx. 18 million Americans make their living directly or indirectly in this sector. After the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, the tourism industry collapsed.

In 2000, approximately 51 million foreign tourists visited the United States (only 17 million in 1994) and spent $ 74.4 billion ($ 14.3 billion in 1985). More than 47 million Americans visited overseas in 1995 (over half of whom went to Europe), and spent nearly $ 50 billion there.

The most favorite travel destinations for foreign travelers are either cities or national parks some of the most visited are introduced below:

Central to the tourism industry in America, New York is a city like no other. New York has many well-known tourist attractions, such as the Statue of Liberty symbolizing the American dream of freedom, and the sheer size of this beautiful, monumental design is breathtaking. The city also has a number of top museums such as the MOMA (modern art) and the Metropolitan. The Staten Island Ferry offers you one of the best ways to see some of the most impressive tourist attractions such as the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge and the Manhattan Skyline for free. The ferry ride takes approximately 25 minutes and departs every 30 minutes. You can relax with the New Yorkers in Central Park.

Skyline New York, USA
photo: William Warby, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic no changes made

Boston is the capital and largest city in Massachusetts, one of the oldest cities in the United States. It is the economic and cultural center of the New England region. Boston played a prominent role in the American Revolution and a number of historical sites related to that period are preserved as part of the Boston National Historical Park. There are several prominent museums in the city, including the Museum of Fine Arts. The most famous works in the Museum of Fine Arts include the artists Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso and Rembrandt.

Las Vegas is home to bright neon lights, bustling casinos, the famous Las Vegas Strip, huge hotels, numerous wedding chapels, vibrant nightlife and an average of 315 days of sunshine a year and many impressive tourist attractions. Where else in the world can you get married without even leaving your car or by a priest dressed as Elvis Presley? One of the most popular activities in Las Vegas is gambling. Las Vegas has more than 150 casinos and hotel casinos, with excellent facilities.

The Strip, Las Vegas, USA
photo: Clément Bardot, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

Miami is a popular tourist destination. The Miami Museum of Science and Planetarium, the Vizcaya Museum, Little Havana and the Bass Art Museum are highlights of the city. The 15 miles of beaches make Miami a little different from other major cities in America. It attracts a wide spectrum of tourists and visitors of different ages. In Little Havana, everything is permeated with Latin American culture. Colorful murals and older men playing dominoes talking about politics while rolling the cigar and the ever-present aroma of Cuban coffee set the mood for Little Havana.

Orlando is best known for Disney World. That is the biggest attraction in the city and perhaps the world, it includes the Magic Kingdom, Epcot Center, Disney Studios, Disney's Animal Kingdom, Typhoon Lagoon, Blizzard Beach and Downtown Disney. This is an attractiony where both children and adults come to enjoy this spectacular magical world. The Universal Studios is a combination of the original theme park with the newer 'Islands of Adventure' park. It's something different for those who are fed up with Mickey and Disney World.

Orlando Disney World, USA
photo: Gerard McGovern, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic, no changes made

San Francisco has a number of imaginative sights. Alcatraz was once a prison to America's most dangerous criminals. Alcatraz is no longer used as a prison, but is part of a national park. A visit to this prison is reliving the past and a must in your travel schedule. Fisherman's Warf has many shops, arcades, seafood restaurants, cafes, carnival rides, street vendors, attractions, and scenic ocean views. You will see the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and Angel Island. Pier 39 is the number one tourist attraction and a real crowd pleaser in the city. Hundreds of sea lions are lounging in the California sun around Pier 39. San Francisco also has good museums and fun trams that ride steep trails.

Los Angeles is known for its golden beaches, excellent surfing conditions and the numerous movie stars that you can spot there. Paramount Pictures is the oldest continuously operating film studio in Hollywood and one of the few that hasn't moved. You can take walks around the beautiful studios and sets. A cultural attraction not to be missed is the Getty Museum. This museum is home to the collections of Old Masters, manuscripts and statues, as well as a selection of 20th century photographs and a selection of Greek and Roman antiquities. A favorite outing from Hollywood residents and tourists is Santa Monica Beach. Here you will find a somewhat alternative audience and it is within easy reach of the center of Los Angeles.

Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, USA
photo: JERRYE AND ROY KLOTZ MD, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported, no changes made

Grand Canyon National Park is arguably the most famous park in the US, the Colorado River flows through a spectacular gorge that has been carved out for centuries. The gorge is 1800 meters deep in some places and the view is sensational, especially at dawn and dusk. The park is located in Arizona and is easily accessible from Las Vegas.

The Yellowstone National Park extends in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. This is the first national park in the world (1872). The park is best known for its many geysers, the Old Faithful being the best known. This geyser sprays hot vapors 55 meters into the air every hour on average. There are also many lakes, including the elevated Lake Yellowstone where you can kayak or fish.

Yosemite Park is located in northern California and is easy to visit from San Fransisco. Here you will see Yosemite Falls, the largest waterfall in the US with a drop of more than 700 meters. From Yosemite Valley you can see granite rock walls looming, The best known rock formations are Half Dome and El Capitan. Both rocks are popular climbing objects for Alpinists. There are many black bears in the park who are after food from tourists.

Yosemite Falls, California, USA
photo: Richard Wood, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported no changes made

The Everglades is a national park in Florida. A propeller boat, the park's most famous mode of transport, is a great way to explore alligators through a landscape of mangroves and swamps. With the necessary luck you will also spot a Florida panther. You can also walk on ramps or take a bike ride and enjoy this special landscape.

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Sources

Phillipson, O. / USA
Heinemann Library

Sandak, C.R. / Verenigde Staten van Amerika
Corona

Stanic, S. / De Verenigde Staten
Schuyt & Co

Supermachten
Stichting Teleac 1: Verenigde Staten van Amerika

Verenigde Staten
Uitgeversmaatschappij The Reader’s Digest NV

Webb, M. / The United States
Lucent Books

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated June 2021
Copyright: Team Landenweb