A state of the United States is one of the 50 constituent entities that shares its sovereignty with the federal government. Americans are citizens of both the federal republic and of the state in which they reside, due to the shared sovereignty between each state and the federal government.Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia use the term commonwealth rather than state in their full official names.
In the United States, a state is a constituent political entity, of which there are currently 50. Bound together in a political union, each state holds governmental jurisdiction over a separate and defined geographic territory and shares its sovereignty with the federal government. Due to this shared sovereignty, Americans are citizens both of the federal republic and of the state in which they reside. State citizenship and residency are flexible, and no government approval is required to move between states, except for persons restricted by certain types of court orders. Four states use the term commonwealth rather than state in their full official names.
The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.
A constituent state is a state entity that constitutes a part of a sovereign state. A constituent state holds regional jurisdiction over a defined administrative territory, within a sovereign state. Government of a constituent state is a form of regional government. Throughout history, and also in modern political practice, most constituents states are parts of complex states, like federations or confederations. Constituent state can have republican or monarchical form of government. Those of republican form are usually called states or autonomous states, republics or autonomous republics, and also cantons. Those that have monarchical form of government are often defined by traditional hierarchical rank of their ruler.
States are the primary subdivisions of the United States. They possess all powers not granted to the federal government, nor prohibited to them by the United States Constitution. In general, state governments have the power to regulate issues of local concern, such as: regulating intrastate commerce, running elections, creating local governments, public school policy, and non-federal road construction and maintenance. Each state has its own constitution grounded in republican principles, and government consisting of executive, legislative, and judicial branches.
An administrative division, unit, entity, area or region, also referred to as a subnational entity, constituent unit, or country subdivision, is a portion of a country or other region delineated for the purpose of administration. Administrative divisions are granted a certain degree of autonomy and are usually required to manage themselves through their own local governments. Countries are divided up into these smaller units to make managing their land and the affairs of their people easier. A country may be divided into provinces, which, in turn, may be divided in whole or in part into municipalities.
Elections in the United States are held for government officials at the federal, state, and local levels. At the federal level, the nation's head of state, the President, is elected indirectly by the people of each state, through an Electoral College. Today, these electors almost always vote with the popular vote of their state. All members of the federal legislature, the Congress, are directly elected by the people of each state. There are many elected offices at state level, each state having at least an elective Governor and legislature. There are also elected offices at the local level, in counties, cities, towns, townships, boroughs, and villages. According to a study by political scientist Jennifer Lawless, there were 519,682 elected officials in the United States as of 2012.
Local government in the United States refers to governmental jurisdictions below the level of the state. Most states and territories have at least two tiers of local government: counties and municipalities. In some states, counties are divided into townships. There are several different types of jurisdictions at the municipal level, including the city, town, borough, and village. The types and nature of these municipal entities vary from state to state.
All states and their residents are represented in the federal Congress, a bicameral legislature consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Each state is represented by two Senators, and at least one Representative, while the size of a state's House delegation depends on its total population, as determined by the most recent constitutionally-mandated decennial census.Additionally, each state is entitled to select a number of electors to vote in the Electoral College, the body that elects the President of the United States, equal to the total of Representatives and Senators in Congress from that state.
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the Federal Government of the United States. The legislature consists of two chambers: the House of Representatives and the Senate.
The United States Senate is the upper chamber of the United States Congress, which along with the United States House of Representatives—the lower chamber—comprises the legislature of the United States. The Senate chamber is located in the north wing of the Capitol, in Washington, D.C.
The United States House of Representatives is the lower chamber of the United States Congress, the Senate being the upper chamber. Together they compose the legislature of the United States.
Article IV, Section 3, Clause 1 of the Constitution grants to Congress the authority to admit new states into the Union. Since the establishment of the United States in 1776, the number of states has expanded from the original 13 to 50. Each new state has been admitted on an equal footing with the existing states.
Article Four of the United States Constitution outlines the relationship between the various states, as well as the relationship between each state and the United States federal government. It also empowers Congress to admit new states and administer the territories and other federal lands.
The Admission to the Union Clause of the United States Constitution, often called the New States Clause, found at Article IV, Section 3, Clause 1, authorizes the Congress to admit new states into the United States beyond the thirteen already in existence at the time the Constitution went into effect.
The Thirteen Colonies, also known as the Thirteen British Colonies or the Thirteen American Colonies, were a group of British colonies on the Atlantic coast of North America founded in the 17th and 18th centuries. They declared independence in 1776 and formed the United States of America. The Thirteen Colonies had very similar political, constitutional, and legal systems and were dominated by Protestant English-speakers. They were part of Britain's possessions in the New World, which also included colonies in Canada, the Caribbean, and the Floridas.
The following table is a list of all 50 states and their respective dates of statehood. The first 13 became states in July 1776 upon agreeing to the United States Declaration of Independence, and each joined the first Union of states between 1777 and 1781, upon ratifying the Articles of Confederation, its first constitution.(A separate table is included below showing AoC ratification dates.) These states are presented in the order in which each ratified the 1787 Constitution, thus joining the present federal Union of states. The date of admission listed for each subsequent state is the official date set by Act of Congress.
The United States Declaration of Independence is the statement adopted by the Second Continental Congress meeting at the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on July 4, 1776. The Declaration announced that the Thirteen Colonies at war with the Kingdom of Great Britain would regard themselves as thirteen independent sovereign states, no longer under British rule. With the Declaration, these new states took a collective first step toward forming the United States of America. The declaration was signed by representatives from New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.
The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union was an agreement among the 13 original states of the United States of America that served as its first constitution. It was approved, after much debate, by the Second Continental Congress on November 15, 1777, and sent to the states for ratification. The Articles of Confederation came into force on March 1, 1781, after being ratified by all 13 states. A guiding principle of the Articles was to preserve the independence and sovereignty of the states. The weak central government established by the Articles received only those powers which the former colonies had recognized as belonging to king and parliament.
Article Seven of the United States Constitution sets the number of state ratifications necessary in order for the Constitution to take effect and prescribes the method through which the states may ratify it. Under the terms of Article VII, constitutional ratification conventions were held in each of the thirteen states, with the ratification of nine states required for the Constitution to take effect. Delaware was the first state to ratify the Constitution, doing so on December 7, 1787. On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the Constitution, ensuring that the Constitution would take effect. Rhode Island was the last state to ratify the Constitution under Article VII, doing so on May 29, 1790.
(admitted or ratified)
|1||December 7, 1787 |
|Colony of Delaware|
|2||December 12, 1787 |
|Proprietary Province of Pennsylvania|
|3||December 18, 1787 |
|Crown Colony of New Jersey|
|4||January 2, 1788 |
|Crown Colony of Georgia|
|5||January 9, 1788 |
|Crown Colony of Connecticut|
|6||February 6, 1788 |
|Crown Colony of Massachusetts Bay|
|7||April 28, 1788 |
|Proprietary Province of Maryland|
|8||May 23, 1788 |
|Crown Colony of South Carolina|
|9||June 21, 1788 |
|Crown Colony of New Hampshire|
|10||June 25, 1788 |
|Crown Colony and Dominion of Virginia|
|11||July 26, 1788 |
|Crown Colony of New York|
|12||November 21, 1789 |
|Crown Colony of North Carolina|
|13||May 29, 1790 |
|Crown Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations|
|14||March 4, 1791 |
|15||June 1, 1792 |
|Virginia (nine counties in its District of Kentucky )|
|16||June 1, 1796 |
|17||March 1, 1803 |
|Northwest Territory (part)|
|18||April 30, 1812 |
|Territory of Orleans|
|19||December 11, 1816|
|20||December 10, 1817 |
|21||December 3, 1818 |
|Illinois Territory (part)|
|22||December 14, 1819 |
|23||March 15, 1820 |
|Massachusetts (District of Maine )|
|24||August 10, 1821 |
|Missouri Territory (part)|
|25||June 15, 1836 |
|26||January 26, 1837 |
|27||March 3, 1845|
|28||December 29, 1845 |
|Republic of Texas|
|29||December 28, 1846|
|Iowa Territory (part)|
|30||May 29, 1848 |
|Wisconsin Territory (part)|
|31||September 9, 1850 |
|unorganized territory (part)|
|32||May 11, 1858 |
|Minnesota Territory (part)|
|33||February 14, 1859|
|Oregon Territory (part)|
|34||January 29, 1861 |
|Kansas Territory (part)|
|35||June 20, 1863 |
|Virginia (50 Trans-Allegheny region counties )|
|36||October 31, 1864|
|37||March 1, 1867|
|38||August 1, 1876 |
|39||November 2, 1889 |
|Dakota Territory (part)|
|40||November 2, 1889 |
|Dakota Territory (part)|
|41||November 8, 1889 |
|42||November 11, 1889 |
|43||July 3, 1890|
|44||July 10, 1890|
|45||January 4, 1896 |
|46||November 16, 1907 |
|Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory|
|47||January 6, 1912|
|New Mexico Territory|
|48||February 14, 1912|
|49||January 3, 1959|
|Territory of Alaska|
|50||August 21, 1959|
|Territory of Hawaii|
The Second Continental Congress approved the Articles of Confederation for ratification by the individual states on November 15, 1777. The Articles of Confederation came into force on March 1, 1781, after being ratified by all 13 states. On March 4, 1789, the general government under the Articles was replaced with the federal government under the present Constitution.
Initially, the Second Continental Congress was a meeting of delegates from 12 of the 13 British colonies that would ultimately join in the Revolutionary War, that convened on May 10, 1775 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, shortly after the battles of Lexington and Concord. It succeeded the First Continental Congress, which met in Philadelphia September 5 – October 26, 1774, and functioned as a de facto national government at the outset of the Revolutionary War by raising armies, directing strategy, appointing diplomats, and writing treatises such as the Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking Up Arms and the Olive Branch Petition. It eventually adopted the Lee Resolution which established the new country on July 2, 1776, and it agreed to the Declaration of Independence two days later.
Coming into force or entry into force refers to the process by which legislation, regulations, treaties and other legal instruments come to have legal force and effect. The term is closely related to the date of this transition.
The Federal Government of the United States is the national government of the United States, a federal republic in North America, composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and several island possessions. The federal government is composed of three distinct branches: legislative, executive, and judicial, whose powers are vested by the U.S. Constitution in the Congress, the President, and the federal courts, respectively. The powers and duties of these branches are further defined by acts of congress, including the creation of executive departments and courts inferior to the Supreme Court.
|1||December 16, 1777|
|2||February 5, 1778|
|3||February 6, 1778|
|4||February 9, 1778|
|5||February 12, 1778|
|6||February 26, 1778|
|7||March 4, 1778|
|8||March 5, 1778|
|9||March 10, 1778|
|10||April 5, 1778|
|11||November 19, 1778|
|12||February 1, 1779|
|13||February 2, 1781|
The Twenty-third Amendment to the United States Constitution extends the right to vote in presidential elections to citizens residing in the District of Columbia. The amendment grants the district electors in the Electoral College as though it were a state, though the district can never have more electors than the least-populous state. The Twenty-third amendment was proposed by the 86th Congress on June 16, 1960, and was ratified by the requisite number of states on March 29, 1961.
The First United States Congress, consisting of the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives, met from March 4, 1789, to March 4, 1791, during the first two years of George Washington's presidency, first at Federal Hall in New York City and later at Congress Hall in Philadelphia. With the initial meeting of the First Congress, the United States federal government officially began operations under the new frame of government established by the 1787 Constitution. The apportionment of seats in the House of Representatives was based on the provisions of Article I, Section 2, Clause 3 of the Constitution. Both chambers had a Pro-Administration majority. Twelve articles of amendment to the Constitution were passed by this Congress and sent to the states for ratification; the ten ratified as additions to the Constitution on December 15, 1791, are collectively known as the Bill of Rights.
In the history of the United States, a slave state was a U.S. state in which the practice of slavery was legal, and a free state was one in which slavery was prohibited or being legally phased out. Historically, in the 17th century, slavery was established in a number of English overseas possessions. In the 18th century, it existed in all the British colonies of North America. In 1776, slavery was legal throughout the Thirteen Colonies; starting with Pennsylvania in 1780, about half the states abolished slavery during the Revolutionary War or in the first decades of the new country. Slavery became a divisive issue; it was a major issue during the writing of the U.S. Constitution, and slavery was the primary cause of the American Civil War. The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified in December 1865, abolished slavery throughout all of the United States.
The District of Columbia statehood movement is a political movement that advocates making the District of Columbia a U.S. state. As the national capital, the District of Columbia is a federal district under the direct jurisdiction of the United States Congress. Statehood would grant the District voting representation in the Congress and full control over local affairs. For most of the modern statehood movement, the new state's name would have been "New Columbia".
The Judiciary Act of 1789 was a United States federal statute adopted on September 24, 1789, in the first session of the First United States Congress. It established the federal judiciary of the United States. Article III, Section 1 of the Constitution prescribed that the "judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and such inferior Courts" as Congress saw fit to establish. It made no provision for the composition or procedures of any of the courts, leaving this to Congress to decide.
The Enabling Act of 1802 was passed on April 30, 1802 by the Seventh Congress of the United States. This act authorized the residents of the eastern portion of the Northwest Territory to form the state of Ohio and join the U.S. on an equal footing with the other states. To accomplish this, and in doing so, the act also established the precedent and procedures for creation of future states in the western territories. The Enabling Act of 1802 would be the first appropriation by Congress for internal improvements in the country's interior.
In the United States, each state has its own constitution.
The State of Sequoyah was a proposed state to be established from the Indian Territory in the eastern part of present-day Oklahoma. In 1905, with the end of tribal governments looming, Native Americans of the Five Civilized Tribes—the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Creek (Muscogee), and Seminole—in Indian Territory proposed to create a state as a means to retain control of their lands. Their intention was to have a state under Native American constitution and governance. The proposed state was to be named in honor of Sequoyah, the Cherokee who created a writing system in 1825 for the Cherokee language.
Voting rights of citizens in the District of Columbia differ from the rights of citizens in each of the 50 U.S. states. The United States Constitution grants each state voting representation in both houses of the United States Congress. As the U.S. capital, the District of Columbia is a special federal district, not a state, and therefore does not have voting representation in Congress. The Constitution grants Congress exclusive jurisdiction over the District in "all cases whatsoever".
The Constitution of the State of Washington is the document that describes the structure and function of the government of the U.S. State of Washington. The constitution was adopted as part of Washington Territory's path to statehood in 1889. An earlier constitution was drafted and ratified in 1878, but it was never officially adopted.
The Constitution of the State of Montana is the primary legal document providing for the self-governance of the U.S. State of Montana. It establishes and defines the powers of the three branches of the government of Montana, and the rights of its citizens. Its provisions are sovereign within the state, subject only to the limits imposed by the federal laws and constitution of the United States. The current Montana Constitution was adopted in 1972 and is the second enacted in the state's history.
The Missouri Compromise was the legislation that provided for the admission of Maine to the United States as a free state along with Missouri as a slave state, thus maintaining the balance of power between North and South in the United States Senate. As part of the compromise, slavery was prohibited north of the 36°30′ parallel, excluding Missouri. The 16th United States Congress passed the legislation on March 3, 1820, and President James Monroe signed it on March 6, 1820.
Organized incorporated territories are territories of the United States that are both incorporated and organized. There have been no such territories since Alaska and Hawaii were admitted as states in 1959.
The drafting of the Constitution of the United States began on May 25, 1787, when the Constitutional Convention met for the first time with a quorum at the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to revise the Articles of Confederation, and ended on September 17, 1787, the day the Constitution drafted by the convention's delegates to replace the Articles was adopted and signed. The ratification process for the Constitution began that day, and ended when the final state, Rhode Island, ratified it on May 29, 1790. In addition to key events during the Constitutional Convention and afterward while the Constitution was before the states for their ratification, this timeline includes important events that occurred during the run-up to the convention and during the nation's transition from government under the Articles of Confederation to government under the Constitution, and concludes with the unique ratification vote of Vermont, which at the time was a sovereign state outside the Union. The time span covered is 5 years, 9 months, from March 25, 1785 to January 10, 1791.
The equal footing doctrine, also known as equality of the states, is the principle in United States constitutional law that all states admitted to the Union under the Constitution since 1789 enter on equal footing with the 13 states already in the Union at that time. The Constitution grants to Congress the power to admit new states in Article IV, Section 3, Clause 1, which states:
New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.
The Enabling Act of 1906, in its first part, empowered the people residing in Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory to elect delegates to a state constitutional convention and subsequently to be admitted to the union as a single union.
Historical coats of arms of the U.S. states date back to the admission of the first states to the Union. Despite the widely accepted practice of determining early statehood from the date of ratification of the United States Constitution, many of the original colonies referred to themselves as states shortly after the Declaration of Independence was signed on 4 July 1776. Committees of political leaders and intellectuals were established by state legislatures to research and propose a seal and coat of arms. Many of these members were signers of the Articles of Confederation, Declaration of Independence, and United States Constitution. Several of the earliest adopted state coats of arms and seals were similar or identical to their colonial counterparts.