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, a federal district, and various overseas extraterritorial jurisdictions. 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 history of slavery covers slave systems in historical perspective in which one human being is legally the property of another, can be bought or sold, is not allowed to escape and must work for the owner without any choice involved. As Drescher (2009) argues, "The most crucial and frequently utilized aspect of the condition is a communally recognized right by some individuals to possess, buy, sell, discipline, transport, liberate, or otherwise dispose of the bodies and behavior of other individuals." In the American colonies and other places, an integral element was frequently the assignment of children of a slave mother to the status of slaves - born into slavery. Slavery does not include other forced labor systems: historical forced labor by prisoners, labor camps, or other forms of unfree labor, in which laborers are not considered property.
Slavery can be traced back to the earliest records, such as the Code of Hammurabi (c. 1760 BC), which refers to it as an established institution. Slavery is rare among hunter-gatherer populations, as it is developed as a system of social stratification. Slavery typically also requires a shortage of labor and a surplus of land to be viable. David P. Forsythe wrote: "The fact remained that at the beginning of the nineteenth century an estimated three-quarters of all people alive were trapped in bondage against their will either in some form of slavery or serfdom." While slavery has existed for thousands of years, the social, economic, and legal position of slaves was vastly different in different systems of slavery in different times and places.
Christian views on slavery are varied both regionally and historically. In the early years of Christianity, slavery was a normal feature of the economy and society in the Roman Empire, and well into the Middle Ages and beyond. Most Christian figures in that early period, such as Saint Augustine, supported continuing slavery whereas several figures such as Saint Patrick were opposed. Centuries later, as the abolition movement took shape across the globe, groups who advocated slavery's abolition used Christian teachings in support of their positions, using the 'spirit of Christianity', biblical verses against slavery, and textual argumentation.
The issue of Christianity and slavery is one that has seen intense conflict. While Christian abolitionists were a principal force in the abolition of slavery, the Bible sanctioned the use of regulated slavery in the Old Testament and whether or not the New Testament condemned or sanctioned slavery has been disputed. Passages in the Bible have historically been used by both pro-slavery advocates and slavery abolitionists to support their respective views.
Abolition of slavery occurred as abolition in specific countries, abolition of the trade in slaves and abolition throughout empires. Each of these steps was usually the result of a separate law or action.
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.
Crimes against humanity, as defined by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Explanatory Memorandum, "are particularly odious offenses in that they constitute a serious attack on human dignity or grave humiliation or a degradation of human beings." They are not isolated or sporadic events, but are part either of a government policy (although the perpetrators need not identify themselves with this policy) or of a wide practice of atrocities tolerated or condoned by a government or a de facto authority. Murder; extermination; torture; rape; political, racial, or religious persecution and other inhumane acts reach the threshold of crimes against humanity only if they are part of a widespread or systematic practice. Isolated inhumane acts of this nature may constitute grave infringements of human rights, or depending on the circumstances, war crimes, but may fall short of falling into the category of crimes under discussion."
In 1860 the American National Republican Convention included in their electoral platform, on which Abraham Lincoln stood for President, the following statement: "... We brand the recent re-opening of the African slave trade, under the cover of our national flag, aided by perversions of judicial power, as a crime against humanity". In 1890, George Washington Williams used the phrase to describe the treatment of Africans in the Congo Free State under King Leopold II of Belgium. Another very significant early use of the phrase "crimes against humanity" came during the First World War when, on May 24, 1915, the Allies of World War I, Britain, France, and Russia, jointly issued a statement explicitly announcing, for the first time, the commission of a "crime against humanity" in response to the Armenian Genocide and warned of personal responsibility for members of the Ottoman Government and their agents. At the conclusion of the war, an international war crimes commission recommended the creation of a tribunal to try "violations of the laws of humanity". However, the US representative objected to references to "law of humanity" as being imprecise and insufficiently developed at that time and the concept was not pursued.