It sweeps across a continent. It’s one of the world’s military superpowers. Certain other nations often look upon it with scorn. It’s famous for rednecks and guns. Yes, we’re talking about the United States. Here are some interesting things about this eccentric country that you may not know.
John Adams believed we celebrated independence on the wrong day.
That’s right, he was convinced that we were celebrating Independence Day on the wrong date and actually refused to attend any July 4th events while he was alive. A committee was formed to draft the Declaration of Independence on June 11th, 1776 and the actual vote to adopt it came on July 2nd. July 4th was the day that the declaration was formally accepted. John Adams believed that the 2nd was the proper date.
The national anthem is a drinking song.
Well, the lyrics aren’t, but the tune is. Francis Scott Key borrowed a popular tune from a song praising the wonders of wine, and he wasn’t the only one, either. Apparently there are around 80 different songs adopting this tune. Melody borrowing was very common in this era before copyright law.
John F. Kennedy declared the country “a nation of immigrants.”
And he wasn’t that far off, either. Everyone in the United States traces their ancestry back to somewhere else. Even the Native Americans are from elsewhere. They came across a land bridge between Asia and Alaska at least 15,000 years ago, if not earlier. This is why I prefer the term First Nations to Native American. They were not actually native, but they were here first.
The country once split into two.
Though it was not officially recognized, the Confederate States of America broke off from the United States in 1861 and remained this way until 1865, when it was brought back into the union at the closing of the Civil War. It even elected a president and held a congress. The territory consisted of South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Kentucky. And, sorry to you history revisionists, but the war was about slavery. Slavery and a bunch of stubborn old farts who didn’t want to admit their economy was dying because it was based on an antiquated and horrible institution.
The country once went to war with Canada.
Sort of. Troops sent from Canada by the British marched on Washington, D.C., during the War of 1812. Several minor border disputes followed over the years, including one between Maine and New Brunswick (1838-39) and one in the San Juan Islands (1859).
An urban myth states that the country almost spoke German.
According to this legend, the official language of the United States was almost German but was defeated by a single vote. This myth dates back to various periods and the single vote was supposedly cast by different people, depending on who is telling the story. One of the supposed votes came from Frederick Muhlenberg, which is why it’s known as the Muhlenberg Legend. In reality, at one point a population in Virginia requested that the Constitution be printed in German as well as English, but they were defeated by a single vote in the House. The United States actually has no official language and never did.
They are sometimes referred to as the “cops of the world.”
This not so complimentary nickname comes from a Phil Ochs song of the same name. It is a criticism of the United States’ bad habit of butting their heads into international affairs where they might not belong, such as in Vietnam or Central America. It’s a far contrast from our pre-World War II days, when we were an isolationist country who was reluctant to join the international conflict.
The United States covers six time zones.
These time zones are Aleutian-Hawaiian, Alaska, Pacific, Mountain, Central, and Eastern. However, at one point before standardization fixed everything, there were somewhere between 140 and 300 different time zones in North America.
There have been way more than 11 wars.
The standard and accepted wars are, of course, the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, and the recent “war on terror” involving Iraq and Afghanistan. However, this does not cover the numerous wars with Native American populations (also known as genocides, let’s be honest), the two Barbary Pirate wars, and numerous smaller skirmishes around the world. Wikipedia lists 102 conflicts, including 3 ongoing. What was that I said about the cops of the world butting in where they don’t belong?
There has been more than one capital city.
In fact, there have been nine in total. These cities include Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Baltimore, Maryland; Lancaster, Pennsylvania (for one day); York, Pennsylvania; Princeton, New Jersey; Annapolis, Maryland; Trenton, New Jersey; New York City; and finally Washington, D.C. The last was designated and designed specifically to be a capital city.
I was born in the United States and have lived here my whole life. I’ve explored other parts of the world and enjoyed my adventures. However, I’m always happy to come home at the end of them. We may have our faults and shortfalls (some of which I pointed out in this article), but I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else in the world.
George Washington’s Mount Vernon- www.mountvernon.org
National Geographic- www.nationalgeographic.com
Politico Magazine- www.politico.com
University of Wisconsin-Madison- www.wisc.edu
The History Channel (yeah, I know!)- www.history.com
Nations Online- www.nationsonline.org
The United States Senate- www.senate.gov