The United States consists of 50 states, several minor islands, five major territories, and the federal district of Washington DC, which is also the capital. Forty-eight states and Washington DC are conterminous; Alaska is located in the northwest end of the continent while the state of Hawaii is an archipelago in the Pacific. Hawaii is the only American state that is outside the North American continent. The rest of America's territories are scattered in the Caribbean and the Pacific.
The Formation of the United States
The United States was formed on July 4, 1776, when the 13 colonies under British rule declared independence from the United Kingdom. The 13 Colonies were divided into the New England Colonies, Middle Colonies, and Southern Colonies. A year before the declaration of independence the 13 colonies, with the support of France, had declared war against the United Kingdom not to seek independence but to rally against administration injustices, taxation, and restrictions of trade. As the intensity of the war increased, it changed into a war of independence and continued even after the declaration of independence.
The Ratification of the Constitution
After the declaration of independence and the end of the American war for independence, the former 13 colonies remained independent. Between 1780 and 1787, the states deliberated on the formation of a central government that would have authority over the states and represent the states as a single unit. On May 25, 1787, delegates from the 13 states convened in Philadelphia to draft the federal constitution that created the federal government of the United States. 38 of the 41 present delegates proposed the constitution draft. However, 9 of the 13 states were required to ratify the constitution to be adopted as the federal constitution. On December 7, 1787, Delaware ratified the constitution and became the first state to be admitted to the union. By the end of the year, Pennsylvania and New Jersey had also been admitted. In January 1788, Georgia and Connecticut ratified the constitution. Massachusetts, Maryland, and South Carolina soon adopted the draft bringing the total number to eight. On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire ratified the constitution as the ninth state thereby fulfilling the requirement for the draft to be adopted as the federal constitution of the United States. Oklahoma (1907), New Mexico (1912), Arizona (1912), Alaska (1959), and Hawaii (1959) were the only states admitted in the 20th century.
Admission and Withdrawal of a State
Congress possesses the sole authority to admit a state, but there is no constitutional provision for the withdrawal of a state from the union. The constitution also prohibits the formation of a new state from the territory of the existing states without the consent of the affected states. All new states are admitted in an equal footing with the current states. The number of states in the country likely to change if the proposal to split California into three states and admission of Puerto Rico are adopted.
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