George Washington addressing the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, 1787.
The history of the United States has been an experiment in democracy for more than 200 years. Issues that were addressed in the early years continue to be addressed and resolved today: big government versus small government, individual rights versus group rights, unfettered capitalism versus regulated commerce and labor, engagement with the world versus isolationism. The expectations for American democracy have always been high, and the reality has sometimes been disappointing. Yet the nation has grown and prospered, through a continual process of adaptation and compromise.
At the height of the most recent Ice Age, about 35,000 years ago, much of the world’s water was locked up in vast continental ice sheets. A land bridge as much as 1,500 kilometers wide connected Asia and North America. By 12,000 years ago, humans were living throughout much of the Western Hemisphere. The rst Americans crossed the land bridge from Asia and were believed to have stayed in what is now Alaska for thousands of years. They then moved south into the land that was to become the United States. They settled along the Paci c Ocean in the Northwest, in the mountains and deserts of the Southwest, and along the Mississippi River in the Middle West. These early groups are known as Hohokam, Adenans, Hopewellians, and Anasazi. They built villages and grew crops. Some built mounds of earth in the shapes of pyramids, birds, or serpents. Their life was closely tied to the land, and their society was clan-oriented and communal. Elements of the natural world played an essential part in their spiritual beliefs. Their
Left, Mesa Verde settlement in Colorado, 13th century. Above, aerial view of the Great Serpent Mound in Adams County, Ohio. Carbon tests of the e gy revealed that the creators of this 1,330-foot monument were members of the...