Today in History: Congress renames nation “United States of America” in 1776

September 9th, 2013

On September 9, 1776, the Continental Congress took up a busy docket of legislation, including payment for military expenses, the creation of special committees, and the reading of petitions. Tucked in the middle of the day’s proceedings was a resolution which would have a permanent impact on the new nation: the official adoption of the “United States” as the country’s name.   

Prior to this decision, the country was called the “united States” (with a lowercase “u”) or the “United Colonies.” In the Declaration of Independence, for example, Thomas Jefferson makes two references to the “united States” and another to the “United Colonies.” The new resolution read:

Resolved, That in all continental commissions, and other instruments, where, heretofore, the words “United Colonies” have been used, the stile be altered, for the future, to the “United States.”

Following the vote by the Continental Congress, official documents began to refer to the nation as the “United States,” with the Articles of Confederation declaring that “The style of this confederacy shall be, ‘The United States of America’” in 1777.

For another perspective on the unity of America, consider President Theodore Roosevelt’s “Americanism” speech, delivered on Columbus Day in 1915. In his remarks, President Roosevelt makes the case that from its founding, America was a country united by common ideals and a fundamental respect for human rights.

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