The early 17th century saw the beginning of a great tide of emigration from Europe to North America.
Spanning more than three centuries, this movement grew from a trickle of a few hundred English colonists to a flood of millions of newcomers.
The coming of colonists entailed expense and risk. The first English immigrants crossed the Atlantic in small, overcrowded ships during six to 12 weeks. Settlers had to be transported nearly 5,000 kilometres across the sea.
They needed utensils, clothing, seeds, tools, building materials, livestock, arms and ammunition.
The emigration from England was not directly sponsored by the government but by private groups of individuals whose chief motive was profit. Most emigrants left their homelands to escape political oppression, to seek the freedom to practice their religion, or for adventure and opportunities denied them at home.
The colonists' first glimpse of the new land was a view of dense woods. The settlers might not have survived had it not been for the help of friendly Indians, who taught them how to grow native plants. They also provided abundant raw materials used to build houses, furniture, ships and profitable cargoes for export.
Although the new continent was remarkably endowed by nature, trade with Europe was vital for articles the settlers could not produce.
Dense forests, the resistance of some Indian tribes and the barrier of the Appalachian Mountains discouraged settlement beyond the coastal plain. For the first hundred years the colonists built their settlements along the coast.
The Road to Independence
The first major American opposition to British policy came in 1765 after Parliament passed the Stamp Act - a taxation measure designed to raise revenues for a standing British army in America.
With its enactment, most colonists called for a boycott of British goods, and some organized attacks on customhouses and homes of tax collectors.
After months of protest in the colonies, Parliament finally voted to repeal the Stamp Act in March 1766. Most colonists continued to quietly accept British rule until Parliament’s enactment of the Tea Act in 1773, a bill designed to save the faltering British East India Company by greatly lowering its tea tax and granting it a monopoly on the American tea trade.
In response, militant colonists in Massachusetts organized the “Boston Tea Party,” which saw British tea valued at some £18,000 dumped into Boston Harbour.
Outraged Parliament enacted the Coercive Acts in 1774. The Coercive Acts closed Boston to merchant shipping, established formal British military rule in Massachusetts and made British officials immune to criminal prosecution in America.
In response, the colonists called the first Continental Congress to consider united American resistance to the British.
Massachusetts led the resistance, forming a shadow revolutionary government and establishing militias to resist the increasing British military presence across the colony.
In April 1775 the British governor of Massachusetts, ordered British troops to march to Massachusetts and the first shots of the American Revolution were fired.
To British king, it was a colonial rebellion, and to the Americans, it was a struggle for their rights as British citizens.
In response to Britain’s continued opposition to reform, the Continental Congress began to pass measures abolishing British authority in the colonies.
In January 1776, Common Sense, an influential political pamphlet that convincingly argued for American independence, was published. In the spring of 1776, support for independence swept the colonies, the Continental Congress called for states to form their own governments and a five-man committee was assigned to draft a declaration.
July 4 - On this day in 1776, in Philadelphia, the Continental Congress adopts the Declaration of Independence, which proclaims the independence of a new United States of America from Great Britain and its king.
American Civil War
In the mid-19th century, while the United States was experiencing an era of tremendous growth, a fundamental economic difference existed between the country’s northern and southern regions.
In the North, manufacturing and industry was well established. Northerners had invested heavily in an expansive and varied transportation system that included canals, roads, steamboats, and railroads; in financial industries such as banking and insurance; and in a large communications network that featured inexpensive, widely available newspapers, magazines, and books, along with the telegraph.
By contrast the South’s economy was based on plantations that depended on the labour of black slaves.
More and more Northerners, driven by a sense of morality or an interest in protecting free labour, came to believe, in the 1850s, that slavery needed to be eradicated. Southerners feared that limiting the expansion of slavery would consign the institution to certain death.
When Abraham Lincoln, the candidate of the explicitly antislavery Republican Party, won the 1860 presidential election, seven Southern states carried out their threat and seceded, organizing as the Confederate States of America.
In April 1861, rebels opened fire on Fort Sumter.
Within weeks, four more Southern states left the Union to join the Confederacy.
But the real fighting began in 1862. By 1864 the original Northern goal of a limited war to restore the Union had given way to a new strategy of total war to destroy the Old South and its basic institution of slavery and to give the restored Union a "new birth of freedom."
By the spring of 1865 all the principal Confederate armies surrendered, and when Union cavalry captured the fleeing Confederate President in May, 1865, resistance collapsed and the war ended.
Northern victory in the war preserved the United States as one nation and ended the institution of slavery that had divided the country from its beginning. But these achievements came at the cost of 625,000 lives.
September 11, 2001
Islamic fundamentalist terrorists hijack four U.S. airliners and crash them into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center in New York City. The impact left a gaping, burning hole near the 80th floor of the skyscraper, instantly killing hundreds of people and trapping hundreds more in higher floors. As the evacuation of the tower got underway, television cameras broadcasted live images of what initially appeared to be a freak accident. Then, after the first plane hit, a second Boeing appeared out of the sky and sliced into the south tower near the 60th floor.
The attackers were Islamic terrorists from Saudi Arabia and several other Arab nations. Reportedly financed by the al-Qaeda terrorist organization.
They were allegedly acting in retaliation for America’s support of Israel, its involvement in the Persian Gulf War and its continued military presence in the Middle East. As millions watched the events unfolding in NY, American Airlines Flight circled over downtown Washington, D.C., before crashing into the west side of the Pentagon. Jet fuel from the Boeing caused a devastating inferno that led to the structural collapse of a portion of the giant concrete building, which is the headquarters of the U.S. Department of Defense. All told, 125 military personnel and civilians were killed in the Pentagon, along with all 64 people aboard the airliner.