The “United Colonies” Become “United States”
On September 9, 1776, the Second Continental Congress declared that the United Colonies would now be known as the United States.
Richard Henry Lee may have been one of the first people to officially refer to America as the “United States.” On June 7, 1776, he submitted a resolution to Congress stating “That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States.” Congress approved his resolution on July 2 – a date future president John Adams believed would be one of the most celebrated in American history. However, the adoption of Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence two days later received that honor.
Jefferson is also largely credited with introducing the phrase “United States.” In the rough draft of his declaration, he included a headline that read, “A Declaration by the Representatives of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA in General Congress assembled.” This was changed in the final version to read, “The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America.” His Declaration also stated “That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES.” For these inclusions, Jefferson is often credited as having coined the phrase.
By September, the Declaration of Independence was drafted, signed, and sent to Great Britain. When Congress met on September 9, they decreed that they would no longer be known as the United Colonies, but that they were a new nation to forever be known as the United States of America.
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