Description of the United States


The government of the United States is a confederated republic, each state being independent, and having the exclusive control of all concerns merely local, with its own executive, legislature, judiciary, &c.  But the regulation of commerce, the defense of the country, and all the general concerns of the confederacy are committed, by the constitution, to a general government.  The legislative power is vested in a Congress, consisting of a senate and house of representatives.  The senate is composed of two members from each state, chosen for a period of six years, and so arranged that one third of the senate is renewed biennially.  The members of the house of representatives are chosen every two years.  Their number is proportioned to the number of inhabitants, two fifths of the slaves being omitted in the enumeration.  The house of representatives represents the people; the senate represents the states.  The executive power is vested in the President, who together with the vice president, is chosen for four years, by electors from all the states.  The principle subordinate officers of the executive department are the secretaries of state, of the treasury, of the interior, of war, and of the Navy, the postmaster general, and the attorney general.  The President must be a native born citizen, and 35 years of age.  The judiciary is composed of a supreme court, of one chief and eight associate judges, of 46 district courts, held respectively by a district judge alone and of nine circuit courts, composed of the judge of the district and one of the judges of the supreme court.  There are, besides, territorial courts, which are temporary, and lose that character when the territory becomes a state.  The present constitution of the United States was adopted in 1789, and has since been amended.  It secures to the people the grand principles of freedom, liberty of conscience in matter of religion, liberty of the press, trial by jury, and the right of suffrage in elections

Colonial History

The original thirteen states, it is well known, were formerly colonies of Great Britain.  The English made the first settlement at Jamestown, in Virginia in 1607: New York was settled by the Dutch in 1614, and afterward ceded to the English; and at Plymouth, MA, in 1620, the first settlement was made by the English in New England.  The remaining colonies were principally offshoots from these parent stems.  The dates of their settlements are as follows: New Hampshire in 1623, New Jersey in 1623, Maryland & Delaware in 1627, Connecticut in 1633, Rhode Island in 1636, Pennsylvania in 1640, North Carolina in 1665, South Carolina in 1670, and Georgia in 1732.  Among the earliest settlers in North America were many who emigrated from Great Britain on account of civil or religious persecution; men who, being of republican principles, naturally instilled those principles into the minds of their children, and thus aid the foundation of that spirit of resistance to arbitrary acts of power, which kindled the flames of war between the mother country and the colonies and ended in the establishment of a powerful republic.

In 1765, a stamp duty on various articles was imposed by the British parliament on the colonies: but on their remonstrating, this was soon after repealed.  But it was subsequently followed by several oppressive acts, against which the colonists remonstrated and petitioned in vain.  At length, despairing of redress, a general congress of delegates was called to consult upon the public good.  The Congress assembled at Philadelphia, September 4, 1774, and various measures were adopted to obtain justice from the British government.  But their petitions were answered by new aggressions, and their remonstrance were replied to by sending arms to intimidate them, and to coerce then into submission to arbitrary power. The alternate presented was, war or slavery.  The colonists chose the former, and made vigorous preparations for the coming storm.  The first martyr-blood of the Revolution flowed at Concord and Lexington, Massachusetts, April 19, 1775.  The church-bells rang throughout the neighboring region, and the people seized arms and flocked to Boston by hundreds.  On the 17th of June following, the battle of Bunker's Hill occurred between 1,500 Americans and about 3,000 British regulars.  The enemy was three times repulsed, but at length the Americans were compelled to retreat across Charlestown Neck.  Among the American's slain was the brave General Warren. The loss of the Americans was 450; that of the British upward of 1,000.  About the time of the battle of Bunker's Hill, Washington was appointed commander-in-chief, and Congress adopted the army collected at Boston, under the name of the "continental army."  He took the command about the first day of July, and proceeded to invest Boston.  In March following, the British under General Howe evacuated the town and New England became freed from foreign soldiery.

The battles at Lexington and Bunker's Hill had aroused the minds of the colonists to a more determined resistance; and when, in the spring of 1776, intelligence was received of the intention of the king to subdue them at all hazards, public opinion soon became  decidedly in favor of union and independence.  A resolution was adopted by Congress, on the 9th of June, that "the united colonies are, and ought to be free and independent states; that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British crown; and that all political connection between them and the state of Great Britain is and ought to be, totally dissolved."  This bold proposition was soon after followed by the appointment of a committee to draft a declaration of independence.  This committee consisted of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert R Livingston.  The draft was made by Jefferson, and after a few verbal alterations by Dr Franklin and Mr. Adams, it was submitted to Congress on the 28th of June.  It was laid upon the table until the 1st of July, when it was taken up in committee of the whole, and after several amendments were made, nine states voted for independence.  The assemblies of Maryland and Pennsylvania refused their concurrence; but conventions of the people having been call, majorities were obtained, and on the 4th of July, votes from all the colonies were procured in its favor, and the thirteen united colonies were declared free and independent states.  The contest thus auspiciously commenced, was continued with varied success--- victory sometimes perching upon the banner of the patriots, and sometimes rout and disaster-- til the defeat, and surrender of Cornwallis, with his whole army, at Yorktown, October 19, 1781, proved the death-blow to British power in the United States, and a cessation of hostilities was soon after proclaimed.  A preliminary treaty of peace between the United States and Great Britain, was signed on the 20th of January, 1783 and on the 3rd of September following, a definite treaty was signed, and speedily ratified, and the United States declared to be "a free and independent nation."

Federal History

The year subsequent to the declaration of independence, the united colonies had entered into a compact for the general good, and adopted articles of confederation as organic law for the whole.  But when peace returned, and commerce and the arts began to revive, they were found too defective for sound and efficient government, and accordingly, in May, 1787, delegates from the several states met at Philadelphia, and adopted the present federal constitution on the 17th of September following.  The government was organized under it, and George Washington, who had commanded the American army through the trying times of the Revolution, was elected the first president.  He was inaugurated in the city of New York, on the 30th of April, 1789.  Washington filed the presidential chair eight consecutive years, and within that time established a wise financial and foreign policy for the government--the chief features of which were an economical expenditure, a judicious, tariff for revenue, and strict neutrality in relation to the wars of nations in the eastern hemisphere.  Vermont, Kentucky, and Tennessee, were admitted into the Union during Washington's administration.  Our neutral policy irritated the French, and they not only committed aggressions upon our commerce, but threatened us with invasion.  John Adams succeeded Washington in 1797, and in view of the threats of the French, he raised an army and increased the navy.  Washington was appointed to the command of the former, but he died soon after.  Happily for humanity; the services of the army were not needed.  Thomas Jefferson succeeded John Adams as president of the United States in 1801.  During his administration a treaty was effected with France (then ruled by Napoleon as first-consul) for the cession of Louisiana to the United States, for which our government paid fifteen millions of dollars.  The energetic measures of President Jefferson, made the commercial and political influence of the United States seriously felt in Europe. 

The scar which England received, in her contest with America during the Revolution, still mortified her pride, and the growing commercial importance of the new republic excited her fiercest jealousy,  In her impotent wrath, she committed aggression after aggression, until at length they could no longer be borne with honor; and during the fourth year of Mr. Madison's administration (which succeeded Mr. Jefferson's, in 1809), war was formally declared against Great Britain.  This war was continued until February, 1815, when peace was restored, a treaty having been agreed to at Ghent, by commissioners appointed by both powers.  During Mr. Madison's administration, Ohio, Louisiana, and Indiana, were admitted into the Union.  The total expenditures of the United States government during the war, may be stated in round numbers at $100,000,000, and the loss of lives at abut 30,000 persons.  The war with England had scarcely closed, when the depredations upon our commerce by the Algerian corsairs, rendered it necessary to declare war  against that power.  A squadron under Commodore Decatur sailed for the Mediterranean in May, 1815, and in a very short time he obtained payment for property destroyed, and treaties highly advantageous to the United States from the day of Algiers, and the bays of Tunis and Tripoli, James Monroe succeeded Mr. Madison in the presidential chair in 1817.  His administration (which lasted eight years) was a quiet one, and no feign war disturbed the repose of our people.  A brief war with the Seminole Indians occurred in 1818; and in 1819 Spain ceded to the United States the whole of East and West Florida, and the adjacent islands.  During Mr. Monroe's administration, Mississippi, Illinois, Alabama, Maine and Missouri, were admitted into the Union.  On the admission of the latter state, in 1820, the slavery question first arrayed the North and South as Antagonists upon sectional grounds.  In 1822, Congress, by an almost unanimous vote, acknowledged the independence of the South American republics.

John Quincy Adams succeeded Mr. Monroe, in 1825, and his administration was one of almost unbroken peace and prosperity.  Andrew Jackson succeeded Mr. Adams as president in 1829. A tariff law, passed in 1828, caused much discontent at the south, and a threatened rebellion, called Nullification, was manifested in South Carolina in 1831-32.  During Jackson's administration, the Indian "Black Hawk war", occurred, and a second war with eh Seminoles commenced in 1835; and Arkansas and Michigan came into the Union.  Martin Van Buren succeeded Jackson in the presidential chair, in 1837.  It was during his administration that the troubles on our Canada frontier took place, when the sympathizing aid which our people lent to the revolted Canadians, came very near involving us in hostilities with Great Britain.  Van Buren was succeeded by General Harrison in 1841, but death terminated his earthly career just one month after he was inaugurated, and John Tyler, the vice-president, succeeded him.  During Mr. Tyler's administration a new tariff was instituted; Texas , an independent republic, and Florida, were annexed to our confederacy.  James K Polk succeeded Mr. Tyler in 1845, and war soon after followed between this government and that of Mexico, in consequence of the annexation of Texas.  General Taylor, with a small force, was sent to the Mexican frontier of Texas to oppose a threatened invasion; and two severe battles were fought between the Americans, under Taylor, and the Mexicans, at Palo Alto and Resaca de la Palma, on the 8th and 9th of May 1846.  General Scott was also sent to Mexico, and took the chief command.  Taylor captured Matamoras and Monterey, and defeated a Mexican army of four times the number of his own forces, at Buena Vista; while Scott, after securing Vera Cruz, pushing on toward the capital.  After several successful battles, he hoisted the American flag over "the halls of Montezuma."  A treaty was finally concluded between our government and the of Mexico, by which California and New Mexico became property of the United States.  Iowa and Wisconsin were admitted into the Union, and the Oregon boundary question settled, during Mr. Polk's administration.  General Zachary Taylor was elected the twelfth president in 1848.  The discovery of gold in California, and the colonization and founding of a new state on the Pacific coast were the chief events of Taylor's administration.  President Taylor died quite suddenly, on the 9th of July, 1850, and was succeeded in office by the vice-president, Millard Fillmore, whose administration was signalized by the admission of California into the Union, and the passage of the compromise measure.  On the 4th of March, 1853, Franklin Pierce entered on the discharge of the duties of the executive office, as the fourteenth president of the United States.


No. Name Residence Born Installed into Office Age at that Time Years in Office Died Age at time of Death
1 George Washington VA 22 Feb 1732 1789 57 8 14 Dec 1799 68
2 John Adams MA 30 Oct 1735 1797 61 4 04 Jul 1826 91
3 Thomas Jefferson VA 13 Apr 1743 1801 58 8 04 Jul 1826 83
4 James Madison VA 16 Mar 1751 1809 58 8 28 Jun 1836 85
5 James Monroe VA 02 Apr 1759 1817 58 8 04 Jul 1831 72
6 John Quincy Adams MA 11 Jul 1767 1825 58 4 23 Ferb 1848 80
7 Andrew Jackson TN 15 Mar 1767 1829 62 8 08 Jun 1845 78
8 Martin Van Buren NY 05 Dec 1782 1837 54 4    
9 William Henry Harrison OH 09 Feb 1773 1841 68 --- 04 Apr 1841 68
10 John Tyler VA 29 Mar 1790 1841 51 4    
11 James Knox Polk TN 02 Nov 1795 1845 49 4 15 Jun 1849 54
12 Zachery Taylor LA 24 Nov 1784 1849 64 1 02 Jul 1850 66
13 Millard Fillmore NY 07 Jan 1800 1850 50 3    
14 Franklin Pierce NH 23 Nov 1804 1853 48 in office