Geography and population
The United states of America – the richest and one of the biggest countries in the world – has several names. People say The United states, The States, America or just the USA or the US. There are 50 states in the USA and over 250 million people live in them. The capital of the USA is Washington, D.C.
The USA are situated in southern part of North America. Its neighbours are Canada in the north, Mexico in the south and Russia in Alaska. Central plains are bounded by the Rocky Mountains and the Coastal Mountains to west, the Appalachian Mountains to east and alluvial plains around the Gulf of Mexico. The highest mountain in the USA is Mount McKinley in the Alaska Range which is 6 l94 m high. The largest rivers are the Mississippi and the Missouri. It is the third longest river system in the world after the Amazon and the Nile. The border with Canada is in its central part made by the Great Lakes Region. Lakes Superior, Huron, Erie and Ontario share the USA with Canada. Lake Superior is the second largest lake in the world. In respect of climatic and other natural conditions, the USA is quite variable. Every part of the country is different from Alaska in the north, covered with snow and ice, to tropical Florida in the south. In the USA we can find industrial areas (especially the cities of Chicago and Detroit) and other big cities (Boston, New York, Washington, Philadelphia) but also farmlands (Mid-West, Ohio, Indiana and Wisconsin) and deserts (the great deserts of Nevada and Arizona). Near Los Angeles, California’s largest city, is Hollywood, where film-stars have their homes.
In the USA there are many different minorities, e.g. African-American, Asian, Eskimo, Chinese, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, Polish, Swedish, Japanese etc. and each of them has its own culture which always differs a bit from the other one. This means a great contribution to American culture.
Examples of animals that live in the USA are cattle, horses, seals, salmons, pumas, alligators and so on.
Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492 and met the native Americans (Indians) there. Settlement by Europeans was slow, and at first only Spanish explorers showed any interest.
The first English colony was founded in Virginia in 1607. In November 1620, the small ship Mayflower brought a group of English Puritans, who had left England to avoid persecution after their conflict with James I and his Church, to Massachusetts. They landed near present day Boston, at a place which they called Plymouth. Half of them died of starvation or epidemics during the first winter. Those who survived celebrated their first harvest with a feast of thanksgiving. Within the next few years the Pilgrim Fathers were followed by thousands of other settlers: English, Dutch, Irish and French. They called their new home New England. Wars between Britain and France, who both had colonies here, lasted for many years and cost Britain great sums of money. The British government continually raised the taxies on the colonies, but in the end it caused rebellion: in 1773, North Americans, dressed as Indians, emptied chests of British tea into the waters of Boston harbour. This Boston Tea Party marked the beginning of the War of Independence (1775-1783).On July 4, 1776, the representatives of the original thirteen colonies adopted the Declaration of Independence, which established the United States of America. The author of this document was Thomas Jefferson. Britain recognised the USA in 1783. In 1788, the American Constitution was adopted and the following year George Washington was elected the first President of the United States.
In the 19th century, more than 10 million new settlers arrived from Europe. Nearly all of them settled in the North, where industry was developing rapidly. The South was agricultural and there was slavery, which the Northerners did not like. They wanted to abolish it, but the Southerners did not agree. This disagreement on the slavery question led to the Civil War between the South and the North (1861-1865). The north won the war. In 1863, President Lincoln gave the slaves freedom by the Emancipation Proclamation. But the problem of slavery was not solved by it and continued. More steps had to be made and the most difficult thing was to change especially white people´s minds and attitudes towards former slaves or black Americans.
In the 20th century, immigration continued. America has become the “melting pot” of nations and it is often called “a nation of immigrants”.
The USA is a federation consisting of fifty states.
The Constitution went into effect in March l789. Some new parts were added over the years but the political system created by the Constitution is basically the same today as it was in l790. This document gave the USA the principle of a balance power divided into three branches – legislative (Congress), executive (President) and judicial (Supreme Court).
The American President is one of the most powerful men in the world. He can make war, or peace. He can touch the lives of millions in many different countries. But the President cannot do just what he wants. Congress must agree first. In some ways, the United States is like fifty small countries and not one large one. Every state has its own governor, its own police, and its own laws. The government of the whole country (the federal government) works from Washington, the capital. This is where Congress is based. Congress is the supreme law-making body in the country. It has two parts, the Senate, and the House of Representatives. There are l00 members of the Senate (Senators), two from each state. The President cannot act without the Senate’s agreement. The House of Representatives has 435 members. Like the senators, they can make new laws. Americans choose a new President every four years. The election is a great occasion. It is a serious business, of course, but the Americans make sure that it is fun too. In America, the President is the Head of the State. He makes the most important decisions and chooses the members of his cabinet who will help him to govern the country. The President also represents the United States on official occasions. He receives ambassadors from other countries, gives parties for important visitors from abroad, and takes the first place in any national ceremony. The Supreme Court is the main instrument of the federal judiciary.
The main political parties in the USA are the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. When members of a political party form a majority in the Congress, they have great power to decide what kinds of laws will be passed.
The American flag and anthem
The American flag consists of two parts – one smaller blue oblong with 50 white stars symbolising 50 American states and one larger oblong consisting of 6 white and 7 red stripes symbolising the original 13 states which used to be the British colonies. The flag is sometimes called “Old Glory” or “Stars and Stripes”. The first US flag was created in 1776. The American anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner”, was written in 1814.
The main industrial items are manufacturing, steel, car industry, electronics, machinery, clothing. Nearly half of the country is a farmland, however only 2l per cent is arable. The main agriculture products are corn, soya beans, wheat, cotton, tobacco, cattle breeding, fruit and vegetables. The USA is rich in the following mineral resources: coal, copper, lead, uranium, gold, iron, mercury, oil. The main trading partners are Canada, Japan, Mexico and Great Britain.
The main language spoken here is American English but various ethnic minorities speak their original languages (Chinese, Spanish etc.). American English differs from British English in vocabulary, pronunciation and spelling (US spelling is simpler, e.g. “color, harbor, program”).
Here are some vocabulary differences: