How the United States began

Freedom of the colonies through the Declaration of Independence

The early colonists and settlers who came to the United States were often fleeing unfair treatment, especially religious persecution, in their home countries. They were seeking freedom and new opportunities. Today, many people come to the United States for these same reasons.

Before it became a separate and independent nation, the United States was made up of 13 colonies that were ruled by Great Britain. People living in the colonies had no say in which laws were passed or how they were governed. They especially objected to “"axation without representation." This means that people had to pay taxes, but they had no say in how their government operated.

By 1776, many people felt that this was unfair and that they should govern themselves. Representatives from the colonies issued a Declaration of Independence. This important document declared that the colonies were free and independent and no longer tied to Great Britain. Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence. He later became the third president of the United States.

Permanent Resident - Right & Responsibility

As a permanent resident, you have many rights and freedoms. In return, you have some responsibilities. One important responsibility is to get involved in your community. You should also learn about the American way of life and our history and government. You can do this by taking adult education classes and reading the local newspaper.

The original 13 colonies of the United States

The thirteen colonies were founded in the following order: Virginia, Massachusetts, Maryland, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Delaware, New Hampshire, North Carolina, South Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Georgia.

The Declaration of Independence was adopted on July 4, 1776. This is the reason that Americans celebrate July 4th every year as IndependenceDay: it is our nation’s birthday.

The United States had to fight for its freedom from Great Britain in the Revolutionary War. General George Washington led the military forces of the American Revolution. He is known as the "Father of Our Country." Later he became the first president of the United States.

After the colonies won the war, they became states. Each state had its own government. The people in these states wanted to create a new form of government to unite the states into a single nation. Today, this central government, our national government, is called "the federal government." The United States now consists of 50 states, the District of Columbia (a special area that is the home of the federal government), the territories of Guam, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the commonwealths of the Northern Mariana Islands and Puerto Rico.

“All men are created equal”

Many Americans know these words from the Declaration of Independence by heart:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

This means that all people are born with the same basic rights. Government does not create these rights, and no government can take these rights away.


Citation: U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, Office of Citizenship, Welcome to the United States: A guide for New Immigrants, Washington, DC, 2007, Revised Edition.