The United States is made up of 50 states and several territories. The states share sovereignty with the federal government. All Americans are citizens of a respective state and the United States. Virginia, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Kentucky are officially referred to as commonwealths rather than states. The states are entitled to all power that is not granted to the federal government or prohibited by the constitution. Each of the fifty states has the executive, judicial, and legislative branches. Democratically elected representatives represent the state and the residents in Congress while an elected governor is the head of state. Before independence in 1776, the United States consisted of British colonies. The colonies revolted and sought to establish sovereignty. Although some colonies began self-governance earlier than others did, it was not until June 21, 1877, when New Hampshire joined the union as the 9th state that the colonies fulfilled the requirement to ratify the United States Constitution.
The Thirteen Colonies
The "Thirteen Colonies" refer to the British colonies located in the Atlantic coast of North America between the 17th and 18th centuries. The colonies united, revolted against the British colonial administration, and declared independence in 1776 as the first states of the United States of America. The colonies shared similar constitutional, political, and legal systems. After independence, the colonies became states and began self-governance. The union formulated a constitution that had to be ratified by at least nine states to be adopted. On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire ratified the proposed constitution as the ninth state fulfilling the requirement. The constitution provided a platform for a unified United States. On December 7, 1787, Delaware had ratified the constitution as the first state of the United States. Twelve days later Pennsylvania was admitted. On December 18, 1787, New Jersey became the third and final state to be admitted in 1787. In 1788, eight more states were admitted including New Hampshire. Soon after, several other states ratified the constitution and became members. In the 20th century, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska, and Hawaii were admitted.
Admission of New States
Article IV, Section 3 grants Congress the mandate to admit new states to the union. However, the constitution bars the formation of new states within the jurisdiction of the existing states and the merger of states without the consent of the legislatures of the respective states and Congress. Each new state is admitted on an equal footing with the existing states. It is impossible to secede from the union because the constitution does not provide guidelines on how to so. A secession can only occur is the constitution is amended and a close to allow a state to withdraw from the union is added. Between 1860 and 1861, eleven southern states declared independence from the United States and merged to form the Confederate States of America. The move triggered the American Civil War that ended after the states withdrew the secession and rejoined the Union.