The unanimous declaration of the thirteen United States of America “In Congress, July 4th, 1776…”
With these opening words, a nation was born that would change the course of world history. The United States of America came into being as a unique and different kind of place than many of its inhabitants had known back on the other side of the Atlantic. Here are 45 revolutionary facts about how the United States of America came to be.
Founding Of The USA Facts
45. Charter Members
The original 13 colonies of New England which would become the first states of the Union were New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Rhode Island, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.
44. The First State
Following the Revolution, the first colony to officially ratify the newly-completed Constitution was the state of Delaware, which did so on December 7, 1787. This earned Delaware its title of “First State,” despite not having been the first colony founded during the Colonial era.
43. Columbus and the Natives
Long before revolutions, states, and constitutions came into the picture, Spanish explorer Christopher Columbus set sail and stumbled upon the New World. This began a period of several centuries of European exploration, emigration, battle, and colonization of what would become North America, including many harsh encounters with the Native tribes.
42. Take Two
Despite Columbus’ legacy as the man who discovered America, he was definitely not the first to ever set foot here, as some tales might imply. In addition to the millions of Native Americans who lived throughout the continent, earlier explorers like Leif Eriksson and Zheng He are believed to have made the journey prior to the date of Columbus’ first trip. Maybe if he had played his cards right, we’d all be getting a day off for “Eriksson Day” every year!
41. Ancient Migration
It is believed that the Native Americans originally arrived in America by crossing an Ice Age-era land bridge from Asia some 12,000 years ago.
40. Mother Rock
The first English Pilgrim settlers are said to have arrived at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts in 1620, which has since become an iconic monument. Unfortunately, the rock was split in half during a 1774 attempt to move it into a more publicly visible location. The part that remains intact in its original location is known as “Mother Rock.”
39. Pure History
The Massachusetts Bay Colony was America’s first major settlement in the 17th century. The colony was founded by the Puritans, one of many groups from England and elsewhere who came to America in search of religious freedom. You may remember the Puritans as the group who carried out the Salem Witch Trials in the last 10 years of the 17th century or as the group that banned Christmas for being sacrilegious. It may, however, be nicer to remember them as the group that founded the city of Boston, built up Massachusetts into a thriving colony, and set the tone for America’s future as a place where freedom seekers come.
38. Neighborly Relations
The relationship between the new settlers and the Native tribes was long and complicated, to say the least. Unfortunately, it was not always a pleasant interaction. Tensions had arisen as early as the 17th century and continued well into the 19th century. Many tragedies and massacres took place along the way and are among the darkest parts of American history.
37. A Change of Hands
The story of the city that never sleeps began as the story of a Dutch colony called New Amsterdam, and continues into the story of the British burning of the city during the Revolutionary War. There is an urban legend, considered to be one of the oldest such tales in American, that the island of Manhattan was purchased by the Dutch from the Natives for the whopping price of $24. I’m not even sure you can get a pretzel for that in NYC today. That’s what you call buying low and selling high!
36. The Keystone’s Key
What would become the state of Pennsylvania started out as a settlement for Quakers, another religious group fleeing persecution back in England. William Penn, the future state’s namesake, sought to create his community’s settlement as a free, democratic model of religious tolerance, and this model ultimately helped inspire parts of the United States Constitution.
35. Third Time’s a Charm
The King of England against whom the American colonists chose to revolt was the famous George III. While Americans mainly remember him as the last monarch to ever rule over them, the British remember him as having had the longest reign of any monarch prior to Victoria, totalling 59 years on the throne.
34. Jack & Master of All Trades
One of the most famous and easily recognizable of America’s Founding Fathers is none other than Benjamin Franklin. In addition to unifying the colonies into one nation and helping to write the Constitution, Franklin’s staggering list of other life accomplishments is second to none. He started Boston’s first newspaper, opened the nation’s first public library, wrote several classic bestselling books, founded an Ivy League University, invented the bifocal, and, oh yeah, flew his kite in a lightning storm to learn more about electricity. This guy may take the cake for greatest overachiever of all time—and we should all be glad he did!
33. I Cannot Tell a Lie
The man who would become the Revolutionary General, First President, and “Father of the Nation” was born in Virginia in 1732. A famous urban legend tells the story of a young George Washington who tested out his new hatchet on his father’s cherry tree, only to tell the truth about it when confronted by his upset father. This story is meant to illustrate Washington’s impeccable reputation for honesty, and the popularity of the story even centuries later shows how widespread that reputation truly is.
32. School of Thought
The political philosopher who inspired many of the Founding Fathers’ views about liberty was John Locke, who believed in and wrote about the concept of natural rights and the immorality of impeding upon those natural rights in his classic Second Treatise on Government.
31. Boston Tea Party
The single event that remains synonymous with the revolutionary spirit to this day is the Boston Tea Party. This public demonstration against “Taxation Without Representation” saw the settlers throw their tea into the Boston Harbor in protest of the monarchy’s new tax on it. This moment of defiance was a turning point in history as well as the inspiration for many future protests against the government for generations to come.
30. High-Stakes Duel
The insanely popular Broadway play Hamilton tells the story of one of America’s most important Founding Fathers, Alexander Hamilton, who when he wasn’t helping to create the country’s currency, famously engaged in a duel with sitting Vice-President Aaron Burr—which, spoiler alert, did not end well for him.
29. Declaration of Independence
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” With this sentence, written by Thomas Jefferson, the world was informed that a nation was born and its stated national purpose was made clear—to be a place that strives for liberty and freedom above all else.
Among those who signed the Declaration of Independence were such historical names John Hancock, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Harrison.
Another legend of the American founding is what Ralph Waldo Emerson would call the “Shot Heard Round the World”—and the unanswered question of who fired that infamous shot at Lexington which thrust the continent into war.
26. One Revolution, Two New Countries
As with every political movement, not everyone was on board with what the leaders were trying to do. Many British settlers had still retained their loyalty to the British monarchy and did not want to take part in any revolt against them. These people became known as Loyalists, and became an unpopular subgroup at this time. Many of them chose to leave the rebellious colonies and move north to what would become Canada, remaining in an area under British rule.
25. Thomas Paine
The American Revolution would not have been possible without the support of the American public. After all, it was supposed to be a movement for the people. Philosopher Thomas Paine was one of the most important people in rallying public support for the revolution, and his pamphlet Common Sense helping to popularize the ideas that the revolution was promoting.
24. Don’t Shoot the Messenger
One of the most famous messages ever delivered came when Paul Revere is said to have trotted around Lexington, Massachusetts on his horse warning townspeople that “the British are coming!” at the beginning of the war. But his midnight ride didn’t quite happen the way it’s usually portrayed—Revere was actually accompanied by around 40 other men to help him sound the alarm.
23. Old Glory
Another immortal folk hero of the American founding is Betsy Ross, the woman credited with designing the original American flag. The Quaker seamstress is said to have received a visit from General Washington in which she was asked to design and sew the thirteen stars and stripes, representing the thirteen colonies. A few more stars have been added since then, but her basic design has remained unchanged ever since. I bet this modest and unassuming lady never imagined that her design would some day make it to the moon!
22. Lose the Battle, Win the War
A famous turning point early on in the Revolutionary War came at the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775, in which the Rebels, while losing the battle, outperformed expectations and made enough of an impact on the enemy to feel more confident in their ability to win as the underdogs.
21. Old Friends
American victory in the Revolutionary War was won against all odds, given that this group of rebels was taking on the army of the mightiest empire in the world. For this reason, it was crucial when the Americans were able to win over support from France, who saw this Revolution as an opportunity to diminish the power of their British rivals. This was the beginning of a long alliance and friendship with France, which would eventually include the gift of the Statue of Liberty. This whole alliance was in part made possible by the efforts of America’s ambassador to France at the time, our old friend Ben Franklin.
20. Native Opinions
The role of Native Americans in the Revolutionary War is a fascinating area of American history. This segment of the population was far from monolithic, as you had groups of Natives passionately committing to all three possible positions—helping the Rebels, helping the British, and staying neutral. Each group had its reasons for taking the position it did, and none of them were passive or apathetic in the face of the new political developments.
19. Across the River
General Washington famously led a sneak attack on the British by quietly crossing the Delaware River at night and launching the Battle of Trenton on the other side, in which the Rebels dealt a large blow to the British and suffered few casualties on their own side.
18. City of Historical Brotherly Love
When independence was first declared in 1776, it was done so by the temporary Continental Congress in the nation’s original capital, Philadelphia. To this day, Philadelphia is full of historical attractions reminding visitors of the huge role the city played in the nation’s early history.
17. Federal Hall
While Philadelphia was the original capital and it would still be a few years before the establishment of Washington, DC, the temporary capital changed several times to places like Annapolis, Trenton, and Princeton—mostly due to avoiding the British army while the war continued to rage. When the Constitution was finally written, New York City was declared the capital and George Washington was sworn in as the first President of the United States at Federal Hall overlooking Wall Street—where his statue stands to this day.
16. Articles of Confederation
In the difficult years between the Declaration of Independence and the end of the long process of creating and ratifying the permanent Constitution, the Articles of Confederation were a series of documents that governed the nation’s laws in the interim.
The United States Constitution was finally completed at the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, which was called to address some of the problems the country was facing under the Articles of Confederation, such as ineffective central government. The result was a document outlining the precise powers and duties of the Federal Government, and it remains the primary governing document of the country to this day.
14. Separation of Powers
In addition to addressing practical issues of the day, the new Constitution was an opportunity for many of the Founders to finally put their political philosophy into action. Specifically, many of them believed that the key to maintaining the freedom of a country was a government in which power was limited and divided up into a system of checks and balances, so that no one entity or person can ever impose his will on everyone else. This was a major part of the decision to separate the powers of the Federal government into the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches.
13. Washington, DC
In 1790, a permanent capital city for the young country was finally built. An undeveloped area along the Potomac river between Maryland and Virginia was chosen for its centrality to most of the major states at that time and so that no one state or region would have the privilege of calling the capital its own, since the capital belongs to everyone.
12. Mount Vernon
Before the White House was around, George and Martha Washington had their own Presidential residence at Mount Vernon, Washington’s personal home and garden in Northern Virginia.
11. The Bill of Rights
The first 10 constitutional amendments, also known as the Bill of Rights, were completed in 1791. This was the document that enshrined the founding philosophy of individual rights and freedoms into law, and it was authored by future President James Madison.
10. First and Foremost
The most famous amendment in the Bill of Rights is probably the First—which ensures freedom of speech and expression, freedom of the press, and freedom of religion, and forbids the federal government from infringing upon these rights.
9. Contemporary Questions
One of the most relevant and controversial aspects of the founding philosophy today is the question of the Second Amendment, which ensures the right to keep and bear arms. The original reason that Madison included this as a guaranteed right of the public was to protect against the potential rise of a tyrannical government, or in his own words, for the people to be “the best and most natural defense of a free country.”
Another matter that is now controversial about the American founding is the fact that slavery was still commonly practiced at that time, and that some of the Founding Fathers were themselves slaveholders. It is one of the ironies of history that the very ideology and documents produced by these individuals were what would ultimately help turn the tides of history away from some of their own personal practices and shortcomings.
7. Family Matters
Though Martha Washington was America’s first First Lady, George Washington was not her first man. Martha had been married to a man named Daniel Parke Custis for seven years earlier in her life.
6. Religious Views
The relationship between religion and the Founding Fathers is a fascinating and ongoing debate, amongst historians and political commentators alike. On the one hand, many of the founders and early immigrants were devout Christians who explicitly cite the “Creator” in the Declaration of Independence as the moral justification behind the new country’s ideology. At the same time, many of them held unconventional beliefs about religion, such as Deism and Unitarianism, and they chose to enshrine the separation of church and state into the law.
5. Jefferson Bible
Perhaps the most famous instance of a Founding Father differing with traditional religious dogma while still maintaining strong personal religious beliefs and convictions is Thomas Jefferson, who created his own edition of the Bible to reflect the ways in which he felt it was misinterpreted by many other Christians.
4. Setting the Example
There are many reasons why George Washington remains such an admired figure even two hundred years after his presidency. In addition to his memorable reputation for tremendous integrity of character, Washington also serves as a history-changing role model—his choices to use his power to implement freedom rather than impose his own will and to voluntarily limit his own time in power for the sake of democracy did not go unnoticed, and he is remembered and loved to this day for his role in making America the unique country that it is.
3. Declaration of ____________
The Declaration of Independence is one of the most important documents written in modern history, but it might surprise you to learn that the word “Independence” doesn’t actually show up once. The title written at the top of the page is “The unanimous declaration of the thirteen United States of America.”
2. Boney Chompers
Just because Washington himself could not tell a lie, that doesn’t mean everything you’ve heard about him is true. While it is a fact that the first President did have some serious dental issues (he lost his first adult tooth at just 22 years old and only had one left by the time he became president), none of his several sets of false teeth were made of wood. He had one set that was made of actual human teeth (gross) and another that was made of hippopotamus and elephant ivory and held together with gold springs (less gross? more gross? I can’t tell).
1. He’s Our Guy (Or is He?)
George Washington is universally regarded today as one of, if not the most important figure in American history. His amazing exploits during the Revolutionary War and his time as the young nation’s first president have cemented his place in the very upper echelon of the American Founding Fathers, but he actually had several very vocal critics during the war. Washington had never actually commanded a large-scale army in the field before the Revolution, and after some brutal defeats early in the war, another Founding Father, Benjamin Rush, wrote to Patrick Henry saying that Washington should be replaced as the head of the American army. If he’d gotten his way, who knows what the world would look like today.
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