The United States of America (USA), commonly referred to as the United States (US), America, or simply the States, is a federal republic consisting of 50 states, 16 territories, and a federal district. The 48 contiguous states and the federal district of Washington, D.C., are in central North America between Canada and Mexico. The state of Alaska is the northwestern part of North America and the state of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific. The country also has five populated and nine unpopulated territories in the Pacific and the Caribbean. At 3.79 million square miles (9.83 million km2) in total and with around 316 million people, the United States is the fourth-largest country by total area and third largest by population. It is one of the world's most ethnically diverse and multicultural nations, the product of large-scale immigration from many countries. The geography and climate of the United States is also extremely diverse, and it is home to a wide variety of wildlife.
Paleo-indians migrated from Asia to what is now the US mainland around 15,000 years ago, with European colonization beginning in the 16th century. The United States emerged from 13 British colonies located along the Atlantic seaboard. Disputes between Great Britain and these colonies led to the American Revolution. On July 4, 1776, delegates from the 13 colonies unanimously issued the Declaration of Independence. The ensuing war ended in 1783 with the recognition of independence of the United States from the Kingdom of Great Britain, and was the first successful war of independence against a European colonial empire. The current Constitution was adopted on September 17, 1787. The first 10 amendments, collectively named the Bill of Rights, were ratified in 1791 and guarantee many fundamental civil rights and freedoms.
The Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854 (10 Stat. 277) created the territories of Kansas and Nebraska, opening new lands for settlement, and had the effect of repealing the Missouri Compromise of 1820 by allowing white male settlers in those territories to determine through popular sovereignty whether they would allow slavery within each territory. The act was designed by Democratic Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois. The initial purpose of the Kansas–Nebraska Act was to open up many thousands of new farms and make feasible a Midwestern Transcontinental Railroad. It became problematic when popular sovereignty was written into the proposal so that the voters of the moment would decide whether slavery would be allowed. The result was that pro- and anti-slavery elements flooded into Kansas with the goal of voting slavery up or down, leading to a bloody civil war there.
Douglas hoped that the formula of "popular sovereignty" would ease national tensions over the issue of human bondage and that he would not have to take a side on the issue. However, a wave of indignation erupted across the North as anti-slavery elements cried betrayal, for Kansas had been officially closed to slavery since the Missouri Compromise of 1820, now repealed. Opponents denounced the law as a triumph of the hated slave power — that is the political power of the rich slave owners, who would buy up the best lands in Kansas leaving ordinary men with the leftovers. The new Republican Party, which was created in opposition to the act, aimed to stop the expansion of slavery and soon emerged as the dominant political party in the North, electing its first president, Abraham Lincoln, in 1860.
Popular sovereignty or the sovereignty of the people is the principle that the authority of the government is created and sustained by the consent of its people, through their elected representatives (Rule by the People), who are the source of all political power. It is closely associated with republicanism and social contract philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Popular sovereignty expresses a concept and does not necessarily reflect or describe a political reality. It is usually contrasted with the concept of parliamentary sovereignty, and with individual sovereignty.
Benjamin Franklin expressed the concept when he wrote, "In free governments, the rulers are the servants and the people their superiors and sovereigns".
The Territory of Kansas was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from May 30, 1854, until January 29, 1861, when the eastern portion of the territory was admitted to the Union as the state of Kansas.
The territory extended from the Missouri border west to the summit of the Rocky Mountains and from the 37th parallel north north to the 40th parallel north. Much of the eastern region of what is now the State of Colorado was part of Kansas Territory. The Territory of Colorado was created to govern this western region of the former Kansas Territory on February 28, 1861.
The Nebraska Territorial Legislature was held from January 16, 1855 until 1865 in Omaha City, Nebraska Territory.
The history of the United States as covered in American schools and universities typically begins with either Christopher Columbus's 1492 voyage to the Americas or with the prehistory of the Native peoples, with the latter approach having become increasingly common in recent decades.
Indigenous peoples lived in what is now the United States for thousands of years and developed complex cultures before European colonists began to arrive, mostly from England, after 1600. The Spanish had early settlements in Florida and the Southwest, and the French along the Mississippi River and Gulf Coast. By the 1770s, thirteen British colonies contained two and a half million people along the Atlantic coast, east of the Appalachian Mountains. The colonies were prosperous and growing rapidly, and had developed their own autonomous political and legal systems. After driving the French out of North America in 1763, the British imposed a series of new taxes while rejecting the American argument that taxes required representation in Parliament. "No taxation without representation" became the American catch phrase. Tax resistance, especially the Boston Tea Party of 1774, led to punishment by Parliament designed to end self-government in Massachusetts. All 13 colonies united in a Congress that led to armed conflict in April 1775. On July 4, 1776, the Congress adopted the Declaration of Independence drafted by Thomas Jefferson, proclaimed that all men are created equal, and founded a new nation, the United States of America.
Slavery in the United States for this article refers to the legal institution that existed in the United States of America in the 18th and 19th centuries. Slavery had been practiced in British North America from early colonial days, and was firmly established by the time of the United States' Declaration of Independence (1776). After this, there was a gradual spread of abolitionism in the North, while the rapid expansion of the cotton industry from 1800 caused the South to identify strongly with slavery, and attempt to extend it into the new Western territories. Thus slavery polarized the nation into slave states and free states along the Mason-Dixon Line, which separated Maryland (slave) and Pennsylvania (free).
Although the international slave trade was prohibited from 1808, internal slave-trading continued apace, and the slave population would eventually peak at four million before abolition. Of all 1,515,605 free families in the fifteen slave states in 1860, nearly 400,000 held slaves (roughly one in four, or 25%), amounting to 8% of all American families. By the time of the United States founding, even through some free persons of color were present, the status of slave was largely limited almost entirely to Africans and those of African decent, creating a system and legacy in which race played an influential role.
Bleeding Kansas, Bloody Kansas or the Border War was a series of violent political confrontations involving anti-slavery Free-Staters and pro-slavery "Border Ruffian" elements, that took place in the Kansas Territory and the neighboring towns of Missouri between 1854 and 1861. At the heart of the conflict was the question of whether Kansas would enter the Union as a free state or slave state. As such, Bleeding Kansas was a proxy war between Northerners and Southerners over the issue of slavery in the United States. The term "Bleeding Kansas" was coined by Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune; the events it encompasses directly presaged the American Civil War, as well as the future relationship between Kansas and Missouri.
Congress had long struggled to balance the interests of pro- and anti-slavery forces. The events later known as Bleeding Kansas were set into motion by the Kansas–Nebraska Act of 1854, which nullified the Missouri Compromise and instead implemented the concept of popular sovereignty. An ostensibly democratic idea, popular sovereignty stated that the inhabitants of each territory or state should decide whether it would be a free or slave state; however, this resulted in immigration en masse to Kansas by activists from both sides. At one point, Kansas had two separate governments, each with its own constitution, although only one was federally recognized. On January 29, 1861, Kansas was admitted to the Union as a free state, less than three months before the Battle of Fort Sumter which began the Civil War.
A social issue (also called a social problem or a social situation) is an issue that relates to society's perception of a person's personal lives. Different cultures have different perceptions and what may be "normal" behavior in one society may be a significant social issue in another society. Social issues are distinguished from economic issues. Some issues have both social and economic aspects, such as immigration. There are also issues that don't fall into either category, such as wars.
Thomas Paine, in Rights of Man and Common Sense, addresses man's duty to "allow the same rights to others as we allow ourselves". The failure to do so causes the birth of a social issue.