American History and Genealogy Project

Existence of the United States

The national existence of this country commenced July 4th, 1776, when the delegates from the states, in congress assembled, declared that "the United States are, and of right ought to be, free and independent;" but long and arduous was the struggle by which they made good the declaration. With a population of about 3,000,000, and un-provided with the means of carrying on a war with one of the most powerful nations in the world, with stout hearts, indomitable perseverance, and a devoted patriotism, they persevered in the contest, until complete success crowned their exertions.

There was much in the colonial history of the country, which was well fitted to train up its inhabitants for freedom. In their early state, the colonies were much neglected by the mother country, and were left, in a great measure, to manage their own affairs in their own way; and they were thus prepared to resist all the encroachments of the mother country and the royal governors, and finally to assert their independence. The Indian and French wars had trained them extensively to military operations; and some of the colonial commanding officers in the French war, had fought side by side with British officers, to whom they were afterwards opposed in mortal combat. The hero who led the American armies to victory and triumph, had received the best possible military education, by being called to lead the colonial militia against the French at Fort du Quesne, (now Pittsburg.) After Braddock's defeat, he conducted the retreat of the shattered forces, in a masterly manner; and if his advice had been followed in time, the British army would not probably have fallen into an ambush, and been defeated. President Davies, then a distinguished clergyman in Virginia, afterwards of Princeton College, in a sermon on this subject, uttered more of a prophecy than he was aware of when he said, "that he could not but think, that heaven had preserved that brave youth, Col. Washington, for some signal service to his country." Washington refused all compensation for his arduous services in the revolutionary war, excepting his expenses of which he kept an accurate account.

The following are the principal battles of the revolution, with the commanders, and loss on each side. The war commenced with the

Battle of Lexington, April 19th, 1775. American loss, 84; British loss, 245.

Bunker Hill, June 17th, 1775, American, Prescot, loss, 453; British, Howe, 1,054.

Flatbush, August 12th, 1776, British, Howe, loss, 400; American, Putnam & Sullivan, 2,000.

White Plains, October 28th, 1776, American, Washington, 3 or 400; British, Howe, 3 or 400.

Trenton, December 25th, 1776, American, Washington, 9; British, Rahl, 1,000.

Princeton, Jan. 3d, 1777, American, Washington, 100; British, Mawhood, 400.

Bennington, August 16th, 1777, American, Stark, 100; British, Baum & Breman, 600.

Brandywine, September 11th, 1777, British, Howe, 500: American Washington, 1,000.

Germantown, October 4th, 1777, British, Howe, 600; American, Washington, 1,200.

Stillwater, October 17th, 1777, American, Gates, 350; British, Burgoyne, 600, 5,752 men surrendered.

Monmouth, June 25th, 1778, American, Washington, 230; British, Clinton, 400.

Rhode Island, August 29th, 1778, American, Sullivan, 211; British, Pigott, 260.

Briar Creek, March 30th, 1779, British, Prevost, 16; American, Ash, 300.

Stony Point, July 15th, 1779, American, Wayne, 100; British, 600.

Camden, August 16th, 1780, British, Cornwallis, 375; American, Gates, 720.

Cowpen, January 17th, 1781, American, Morgan, 72; British, Tarleton, 800.

Guilford Court House. March 15th, 1781, American, Greene, 400; British, Cornwallis, 523.

Eutaw Springs, September 8th, 1781, American, Greene, 555, British, Stewart, 1,000.

The war closed by the surrender at Yorktown, by Cornwallis, October 19th, 1783, of 7,073 British soldiers to Washington. The whole amount of the expenses of the revolutionary war, estimated in specie, was $135,193,703.

The following table will show what proportion of the war was borne by the several states, to which the population in round numbers in 1790, is subjoined.

Vermont, which was not then admitted to the Union, bore her full share in the revolutionary war.

Provisional articles of peace were signed in Paris, Nov. 30th, 1782, by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, and Henry Laurens, on the part of the United States; and Mr. Fitzherbert and Mr. Oswald on the part of Great Britain. The definitive treaty was signed September 30th, 1783. The Independence of the United States was acknowledged by Holland, April 19th, 1782; by Sweden, February 5th; by Denmark, February 25th; by Spain, March 24th; by Russia in July 1783 and by Prussia in 1785.

On the second Monday of May, 1787, delegates from the several states assembled at Philadelphia, for the purpose of forming a constitution; and George Washington was appointed to preside over them. On the 17th of September, after a debate of 4 months, a constitution was adopted, signed by all the members, and sent to the several states for their approval. It was provided that the ratification of nine states should be sufficient for its establishment. It was warmly debated by the state conventions, but finally adopted by them all. (For the vote in the several states, see the particular articles on the states.) In several of the states amendments were recommended.

The adoption of the constitution forms a most important era in the history of the United States, and its happy operation has perpetuated the blessings secured by the blood and treasure expended in the revolution. The following history of its adoption is extracted from Morse's Geography, published in 1789, and written when the event was transpiring. It deserves to be perpetuated.

In the small state of Delaware, a convention was called in November, which, after a few days' deliberation, ratified the constitution without a dissenting voice.

"In the convention of Pennsylvania, held the same month, there was a spirited opposition to the new form of government. The debates were long and interesting. Great abilities and firmness were displayed on both sides; but, on the 13th of December, the constitution w r as received by two thirds of the members.

In New Jersey, the convention which met in December, were unanimous in adopting the constitution; as was likewise that of Georgia.

"In Connecticut there was some opposition; but the constitution was, on the 9th of January, 1788, ratified by three fourths of the votes in convention, and the minority peaceably acquiesced in the decision.

"In Massachusetts, the opposition was large and respectable. The convention, consisting of more than three hundred delegates, were assembled in January, and continued their debates, with great candor and liberality, about five weeks. At length the question was carried for the constitution by a small majority, and the minority, with that manly condescension which becomes great minds, submitted to the measure, and united to support the government.

"In New Hampshire, the federal cause was, for some time, doubtful. The greatest number of the delegates in convention were at first on the side of the opposition; and some, who might have had their objections removed by the discussion of the subject, were instructed to reject the constitution. An adjournment was therefore moved and carried. This gave the people opportunity to gain a further knowledge of the merits of the constitution, and at the second meeting of the convention, it was ratified by a respectable majority.

"In Maryland, several men of abilities appeared in the opposition, and were unremitted in their endeavors to persuade the people, that the proposed plan of government was artfully calculated to deprive them of their dearest rights; yet in convention it appeared that five sixths of the voices were in favor of it.

"In South Carolina, the opposition was respectable; but two thirds of the convention appeared to advocate and vote for the constitution.

"In Virginia, many of the principal characters opposed the ratification of the constitution with great abilities and industry. But after a full discussion of the subject, a small majority, of a numerous convention, appeared for its adoption.

"In New York, two thirds of the delegates in convention were, at their first meeting, determined to reject the constitution. Here, therefore, the debates were the most interesting, and the event extremely doubtful. The argument was managed with uncommon address and abilities on both sides of the question. But during the session, the ninth and tenth states had acceded to the proposed plan, so that by the constitution, Congress w r ere empowered to issue an ordinance for organizing the new government. This event placed the opposition on new ground; and the expediency of uniting with the other states, the generous motives of conciliating all differences, and the danger of a rejection, influenced a respectable number, who were originally opposed to the constitution, to join the federal interest. The constitution was accordingly ratified by a small majority; but the ratification was accompanied here, as in Virginia, with a bill of rights, declaratory of the sense of the convention, as to certain great principles, and with a catalogue of amendments, which were to be recommended to the consideration of the new congress, and the several state legislatures.

"North Carolina met in convention in July, to deliberate on the new constitution. After a short session they rejected it, by a majority of one hundred and seventy-six against seventy-six. This was the first state that had, in a formal manner, rejected the constitution.

"In Rhode Island was doomed to be the sport of a blind and singular policy. The legislature, in consistency with the measures which had been before pursued, did not call a convention, to collect the sense of the state upon the proposed constitution; but in an unconstitutional and absurd manner, submitted the plan of government to the consideration of the people. Accordingly it was brought before town-meetings, and in most of them rejected. In some of the large towns, particularly in Newport and Providence, the people collected and resolved, with great propriety, that they could not take up the subject; and that the proposition for embracing or rejecting the federal constitution, could come before no tribunal but that of the state in convention or legislature."

(North Carolina finally adopted the constitution in Nov. 1789; and Rhode Island in May, 1790.)

"From the moment the proceedings of the general convention at Philadelphia transpired, the public mind was exceedingly agitated, and suspended between hope and fear, until nine states had ratified their plan of a federal government. Indeed, the anxiety continued until Virginia and New York had acceded to the system. But this did not prevent the demonstrations of their joy on the accession of each state.

"On the ratification in Massachusetts, the citizens of Boston, in the elevation of their joy, formed a procession in honor of the happy event, which was novel, splendid, and magnificent. This example was afterwards followed, and in some instances improved upon, in Baltimore, Charleston, Philadelphia, New Haven, Portsmouth, and New York, successively. Nothing could equal the beauty and grandeur of these exhibitions. A ship was mounted upon wheels, and drawn through the streets; mechanics erected stages, and exhibited specimens of labor in their several occupations, as they moved along the road; flags with emblems, descriptive of all the arts and of the federal union, were invented and displayed in honor of the government; multitudes of all ranks in life assembled to view the majestic scenes; while sobriety, joy, and harmony, marked the brilliant exhibitions, by which the Americans celebrated the establishment of their Empire."

The constitution was finally ratified by Congress, July 14th, 1788. On the first Wednesday of January, 1789, electors of President and Vice-President were appointed. The electors met on the 1st Wednesday of February, 1789, and George Washington was unanimously chosen President, and John Adams was chosen Vice-President. Gen. Washington was inaugurated as first President, on the 33th of April, 1789, in the open gallery of the old Federal Hall in New York, where the Customhouse now stands; and at the conclusion, the mass of citizens in Wall Street, and far down Broad Street, rent the air with the hearty and universal shout, "Long live George Washington!"

The following is a list of the Presidents of the United States.

Washington, of Virginia, from 1789 to 1797, 8 years
John Adams, Massachusetts, from 1797 to 1801, 4 years
Thomas Jefferson, Virginia, from 1801 to 1809, 8 years
James Madison, Virginia, from 1809 to 1817, 8 years
James Monroe, Virginia, from 1817 to 1825, 8 years
John Quincy Adams, Massachusetts, from 1825 to 1829, 4 years
Andrew Jackson, Tennessee, from 1829 to 1837, 8 years
Martin Van Buren, New York, from 1837 to 1841, 4 years
William H. Harrison, Ohio; died 1 month after his inauguration, 1841.
John Tyler, Virginia, as Vice-President, succeeded, 1841.

Gen. Washington died suddenly, at his residence at Mount Vernon, December 14th, 1799, of an inflammation of the throat, at the age of 68 years; and the nation everywhere mourned for him, as for a father. Funeral processions were formed, and funeral orations were delivered in almost every considerable place in the country; and the respect of the world has added its sanction to the nation's tears.

In 1803, Louisiana was purchased of the French, for $15,000,000; and Florida was ceded to the United States in 1821 by Spain, in compensation for spoliations on American commerce, for $5,000,000.

On the 4th of June, 1812, war was declared with Great Britain by the American Congress, by a vote in 108 House of 79 to 49; and in the Senate by a vote of 19 to 13. This war continued with varied success, until peace was concluded at Ghent, December 24th, 1814, leaving the parties in the condition in which the war was commenced, except the expenditure of money and of life.

The original 13 states that adopted the constitution were New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia. North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia. To these, 13 new states have been added; Vermont in 1791, Kentucky in 1792, Tennessee in 1796, Ohio in 1802, Louisiana in 1812, Indiana in 1816, Mississippi in 1817, Illinois in 1818, Alabama in 1819, Maine in 1820, Missouri in 1821, Arkansas in 1836 Michigan in 1836.

Table of Contents

Source: A Complete Descriptive And Statistical Gazetteer Of The United States Of America, By Daniel Haskel, A. M and J. Calvin Smith, Published By Sherman & Smith, 1843

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