Реферат: Учебно-методическое пособие по английскому языку для подготовки студентов к интернет-тестированию Уфа 2007

Министерство образования и науки Российской Федерации

Федеральное агентство по образованию

Государственное образовательное учреждение высшего профессиального




Кафедра иностранных языков


по английскому языку для подготовки студентов к интернет-тестированию

Уфа 2007



General information

The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states, one federal district, and fourteen territories. The country is situated almost entirely in the western hemisphere. The U.S. is one of the world's most ethnically and socially diverse nations, the product of large-scale immigration from almost every corner of the globe. Its national economy is the world's largest, with a nominal 2005 gross domestic product (GDP) of more than $13 trillion.

The nation was founded by thirteen colonies of Great Britain located along the Atlantic seaboard.

Common abbreviations of the United States of America include the United States, the U.S., and the U.S.A. Colloquial names for the country include the common America as well as the States. The term Americas, for the lands of the western hemisphere, was coined in the early sixteenth century after Amerigo Vespucci, an Italian explorer and cartographer. The full name of the country was first used officially in the Declaration of Independence, which was the "unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America" adopted by the "Representatives of the united States of America" on July 4, 1776. The current name was finalized on November 15, 1777, when the Second Continental Congress adopted the Articles of Confederation, the first of which states, "The Stile of this Confederacy shall be 'The United States of America.'" Columbia, a once popular name for the Americas and the U.S., was named after Christopher Columbus. It appears in the name District of Columbia.


The American Flag

The American flag consists of 13 horizontal stripes, 7 red alternating with 6 white.  The upper corner near the staff is a rectangular blue field that contains 50 five-pointed white stars.  The thirteen stripes symbolize the 13 original colonies of the United states of America and the stars represent the 50 states of the Union.  

White is said to symbolize purity and innocence; Red, hardiness and valor, and Blue, vigilance, perseverance and justice.  The American flag is commonly called the Stars and Stripes, the Red, White and Blue, or the Star Spangled Banner. 

^ History of American Flag

For more than 200 years, the American flag has been the symbol of the nation's strength and unity.

On June 14, 1777, in order to establish an official flag for the new nation, the Continental Congress passed the first Flag Act: "Resolved, That the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation." As new states joined the Union there had to be representation of them in the flag. 

^ Betsy Ross

Elizabeth Griscom Ross was a seamstress and legend has said that she was the maker of the first American flag.  According to the story often told, General George Washington, her late husband’s uncle, called her in 1773 and asked her to design a national flag.  The Betsy Ross house has been preserved and can be visited by tourists. It is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 

Between 1777 and 1960, Congress passed several acts that changed the shape, design and arrangement of the flag and allowed for additional stars and stripes to be added to reflect the admission of each new state.

^ The coat of arms of the United States

Located at the west end of the Great Hall, closest to the Capitol, is the coat of arms of the United States. It was approved on 20 June 1782 by an Act of Congress, and appears on the Great Seal of the United States. Above the head of an American bald eagle is the crest, which represents a cloud surrounding thirteen stars. The eagle holds thirteen arrows of war in its left talon and the olive branch of peace in its right. In its beak is a scroll bearing the motto “e pluribus unum (out of many, one)”. The shield has thirteen vertical stripes (pales) on the lower portion, alternating white and red, with a wider horizontal bar (a chief) above, in blue.

The colors on the coat of arms are the same as those of the flag and when displayed have special meaning. Red represents hardiness and valor, the white purity and innocence, and the blue stands for vigilance, perseverance, and justice. The arrows and olive branch represent the power of peace and war, exclusively vested in Congress. The shield on the breast of the American eagle has no supporters (a pair of figures standing one on each side of and supporting the shield), denoting that the United States must rely on its own virtue. The thirteen bars of the shield represent the "several States all joined in one compact entire" and the solid horizontal bar (chief) above "unites the whole and represents Congress."

the Great Seal of the United States

On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress passed a resolution authorizing a committee to devise a seal for the United States of America. This mission, designed to reflect the the Founding Fathers' beliefs, values, and sovereignty of the new Nation, became a reality on June 20, 1782.

The front side of the Great Seal, which is the U.S. coat of arms, authenticates the President's signature on numerous official documents such as treaty ratifications, international agreements, appointments of Ambassadors and civil officers, and communications from the President to heads of foreign governments. It is also shown on coins, postage stamps, passports, monuments and flags, and in many other ways. The American public sees both the front and less familiar reverse, which is never used as a seal, every day when using a $1 dollar bill.

On the front side, the American bald eagle is prominently featured supporting a shield composed of 13 red and white stripes representing the Thirteen Original States with a blue bar uniting the shield and representing Congress. The motto of the United States, E Pluribus Unum (meaning out of many, one), refers to this union. The olive branch and 13 arrows grasped by the eagle allude to peace and war, powers solely vested in the Congress, and the constellation of stars symbolizes the new Nation taking its place among the sovereign powers.

On the reverse side, the pyramid signifies strength and determination: The eye over it and the motto, “Annuit Coeptis (meaning He, [God,] has favored our undertakings)” allude to the many interventions of Providence in favor of the American cause. The Roman numerals below are the date of the Declaration of Independence. The words under it, “Novus Ordo Seclorum (meaning a new order of the ages)”, signify the beginning of the new American era in 1776.

^ Anthem of the United States.

The Star Spangled Banner


Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof thru the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out of of their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave'
From the terror of flight and the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

^ Anthem History

The text was written by the American  lawyer and poet Francis Scott Key (1779-1843). During the night of September 13, 1814, the British fleet bombarded

Fort McHenry in the harbour at Baltimore, Maryland. Francis Scott Key, a 34-year old lawyer-poet, watched the attack from a deck of a British prisoner-exchange ship. As the battle ceased on the following morning, Key turned his telescope to the fort and saw the American flag was still waving. The sight so inspired him that he pulled a letter from his pocket and began to write the poem which eventually was adopted as the national anthem of the United States - "The Star Spangled Banner."

The melody to which Francis Scott Key intended his poem to be sung was the tune known as "to Anachreon in Heaven".The composer of this tune is uncertain. John Stafford Smith (1750-1836), used the tune for an arrangement and is often regarded as the composer of the tune.

Vocabulary notes

Contiguous – соприкасающийся, прилегающий

Gross domestic product – Валовый национальный продукт

Abbreviations - сокращения

Hemisphere - полушарие

Unanimous - единогласный

Purity - чистота

Innocence - невинность

Hardiness - смелость, отвага

Valor - доблесть

Vigilance - бдительность

Perseverance – упорство, настойчивость

Highlights -

Seamstress - швея

coat of arms – герб

crest - гребень

virtue - добродетель

authenticate – заверять, подтверждать

treaty – соглашение, конвенция

Ambassador - консул

Anthem - гимн



Around the year 1000 a party of Icelandic Vikings under Leif Ericson sailed to the eastern coast of North America. They landed at a place they called Vinland. Remains of a Viking settlement have been found in the Canadian province of Newfoundland. They failed, however, to establish any permanent settlements, and they soon lost contact with the new continent.

Five hundred years later, the need for increased trade and an error in navigation led to another European encounter with America. In late 15th-century Europe, there was a great demand for spices, textiles and dyes from Asia. Christopher Columbus, a mariner from Italy, mistakenly believed that he could reach the Far East by sailing 4,000 miles (6,400 kilometers) west from Europe. In 1492, he persuaded the king and queen of Spain to finance such a voyage. Columbus sailed west, but he did not reach Asia. Instead he landed on one of the Bahama Islands in the Caribbean Sea.

The Spanish established some of the earliest settlements in North America—St. Augustine in Florida (1565). Santa Fe in New Mexico (1609) and San Diego in California (1769).

The Europeans were initially drawn to the New World in search of wealth. When Columbus and later Spanish explorers returned to Europe with stories of abundant gold in the Americas, each European sovereign hastened to claim as much territory as possible in the New World— along with whatever wealth might be extracted from it. This was the main reason for the establishment of colonies.
The first successful English colony in the Americas was founded at Jamestown, Virginia, in 1607. The settlement was financed by a London company which expected to make a profit from the settlement. It never did. Of the first 105 colonists, 73 died of hunger and disease within seven months of their arrival. But the colony survived and eventually grew and became wealthy. The Virgmians discovered a way to earn money by growing tobacco. which thev began shipping to England in 1614.

In New England, the northeastern region of what is now the United States. several settlements were established bv English Puritans. These settlers believed that the Church of England had adopted too many practices from Roman Catholicism, and they came to America to escape persecution in England and to found a colony based on their own religious ideals. One group of Puritans, called the "Pilgrims," crossed the Atlantic in the ship “May Flower” and settled at Plymouth. Massachusetts in 1620. A much larger Puritan colony was established in the Boston area in 1630. By 1635, some settlers were already migrating to nearby Connecticut.

The Puritans hoped to build "a city upon a hill"—an ideal community. Since that time, Americans have viewed their country as a great experiment, a worthy model for other nations. New England also established another American tradition—a strain of often intolerant moralism. The Puritans believed that governments should enforce God's morality. They strictly punished drunks, adulterers, violators of the Sabbath and heretics. In the Puritan settlements the right to vote was restricted to church members, and the salaries of ministers were paid out of tax revenues.

One Puritan who disagreed with the decisions of the community, Roger Williams, protested that the state should not interfere with religion. Forced to leave Massachusetts in 1635. he set up the neighboring Rhode Island colony, that guaranteed religious freedom and the separation of church and state. The colonies' of Maryland, settled in 1634 as a refuge for Roman Catholics, and Pennsylvania. founded in 1681 by the Quaker leader William Penn, were also characterized by religious toleration. This toleration, in its turn, attracted further groups of settlers to the New World.

Over time the British colonies in North America were also occupied bv many non-British national groups. German farmers settled in Pennsylvania, Swedes founded the colony of Delaware, and African slaves first arrived in Virginia in 1619. In 1626. Dutch settlers purchased Manhattan Island from local Indian chiefs and built the town of New Amsterdam; in 1664. the settlement was captured by the English and renamed New York.


Most American colonists worked on small farms. In the southern colonies of Virginia. North Carolina and South Carolina, landowners carved large tobacco and rice plantations out of fertile river basins. These were worked by blacks under the system of slavery, which had evolved slowly since 1619 or by free Englishmen who contracted to work without pay for several years in return for their passage to America.

By 1770, several small but growing urban centers had emerged, each supporting newspapers, shops, merchants and craftsmen. Philadelphia, with 28,000 inhabitants, was the largest city, followed by New York, Boston and Charleston, South Carolina. Unlike most other nations, the United States never had a feudal aristocracy. Land was plentiful and labor was scarce in colonial America, and every free man had an opportunity to achieve economic independence, if not prosperity.

All of the colonies shared a tradition of representative government. The English king appointed many of the colonial governors, but they all had to rule in cooperation with an elected assembly. Voting was restricted to landowning white males, but most white males owned enough property to vote. Britain could not exercise direct control over her American colonies. London was too far away and the colonists were too independent-minded.

By 1733. English settlers had occupied 13 colonies along the Atlantic coast, from New Hampshire in the north to Georgia in the south. The French controlled Canada and Louisiana, which included the entire Mississippi watershed—a vast empire with few people. Between 1689 and 1815. France and Britain fought several wars, and North America was drawn into every one of them. By 1756 England and France were fighting the Seven Years' War, known in America as the French and Indian War. William Pitt, the British prime minister, invested soldiers and money in North America and won an empire. British forces captured the Canadian strone points of Louisburg (1758), Quebec (1759) and Montreal (1760). The Peace of Pans. signed in 1763. gave Britain title to Canada and all of North America east of the Mississippi River.

Britain's victory led directly to a conflict with its American colonies. To prevent fighting with the Native Americans, known as Indians to the Europeans, a royal proclamation denied colonists the right to settle west of the Appalachian mountains. The British government began punishing smugglers and charged new taxes on sugar, coffee, textiles and other imported goods. The Quartering Act forced the colonies to house and feed British soldiers: and with the passage of the Stamp Act, special tax stamps had to be attached to all newspapers, pamphlets, legal documents and licenses.

Americans also have always insisted on exercising some control over the system of taxation which supports their government. Colonial Americans insisted that they could be taxed only by their own colonial assemblies. In 1765, representatives from nine colonies met as the "Stamp Act Congress" and spoke out against the new tax. Merchants refused to sell British goods, mobs threatened stamp distributors and most colonists simply refused to use the stamps. The British Parliament was forced to repeal the Stamp Act, but it enforced the Quartering Act, enacted taxes on tea and other goods and sent customs officers to Boston to collect those tariffs. Again the colonists refused to obey, so British soldiers were sent to Boston.

Tensions eased when Lord North, the new British chancellor of the exchequer, removed all the new taxes except that on tea. In 1773 a group of patriots responded to the tea tax by staging the "Boston Tea Party": Disguised as Indians, they boarded British merchant ships and tossed 342 crates of tea into Boston harbor. Parliament then passed the "Intolerable Acts": The independence of the Massachusetts colonial government was sharply curtailed, and more British soldiers were sent to the port of Boston, which was now closed to shipping. In September 1774, the First Continental Congress, a meeting of colonial leaders opposed to what they perceived to be British oppression in the colonies, met in Philadelphia. These leaders urged Americans to disobey the Intolerable Acts and to boycott British trade. Colonists began to organize militias and to collect and store weapons and ammunition.


On April 19, 1775, 700 British soldiers marched from Boston to forestall a rebellion of the colonists by capturing a colonial arms depot in the nearby town of Concord. At the village of Lexington. they confronted 70 militiamen. Someone—no one knows who—fired a shot, and the American War of Independence began. The British easily captured Lexington and Concord, but as they marched back to Boston they were harassed by hundreds of Massachusetts volunteers. By June, 10,000 American soldiers had besieged Boston, and the British were forced to evacuate the city in March 1776.

In May 1775, a second Continental Congress had met in Philadelphia and began to assume the functions of a national government. It founded a Continental Army and Navy under the command of George Washington, a Virginia planter and veteran of the French and Indian War. It printed paper money and opened diplomatic relations with foreign powers. On July 2. 1776, the Congress finally resolved "That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be free and independent states." Thomas Jefferson of Virginia, assisted by others, drafted a Declaration of Independence, which the Congress adopted on July 4,1776 which proclaims that "all

men are created equal," and that they possess "certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

The Declaration presented a public defense of the American Revolution. including a lengthy list of grievances against the British king. George III. Most importantly, it explained the philosophy behind the revolution—that men have a natural right to "Life. Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"; that governments can rule only with "the consent of the governed"; that any government may be dissolved when it fails to protect the rights of the people. This theory of politics came from the British philosopher John Locke, and it is central to the Anglo-Saxon political tradition.

At first, the war went badly for the Americans. The British captured New York Citv in September 1776, and Philadelphia was captured a year later. The tide turned in October 1777, when a British army under General John Burgoyne surrendered at Saratoga, in northern New York. Encouraged by that victory. France seized an opportunity to humble Britain, her traditional enemy. A Franco-American alliance was signed in February 1778. With few provisions and little training, American troops generally fought well, but they might have lost the war if they had not received aid from the French treasury and the powerful French Navy.

After 1778, the fighting shifted largely tо the south. In 1781, 8,000 British troops under General George Cornwallis were surrounded at Yorktown, Virginia, by a French fleet and a combined French-American army under George Washington's command. Cornwallis surrendered, and soon afterward the British government asked for peace. The Treaty of Paris, signed in September 1783, recognized the independence of the United States and granted the new nation all the territory north of Florida, south of Canada and east of the Mississippi River.


The 13 colonies were now "free and independent states"—but not yet one united nation. Since 1781, they had been governed by the Articles of Confederation, a constitution that set up a very weak central government. The American people had just rebelled against a parliament in distant London, and they did not want to replace it with a tyrannical central authority at home. Under the Articles of Confederation, congress, comprised of representatives of the people, could not make laws or raise taxes. There was no federal judiciary and no permanent executive. The individual states were almost independent: they could even set up their own tax barriers.

In May 1787, a convention met in Philadelphia with instructions to revise the articles of Confederation. The delegates— among whom were George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and James Madison— went beyond their mandate and drafted a new and more workable Constitution. It established a stronger federal government empowered to collect taxes, conduct diplo­macy, maintain armed forces, and regulate foreign trade and commerce among the states. It provided for a Supreme Court and lesser federal courts, and it gave executive power to an elected president. Most importantly, it established the principle of a 'balance of power" to be maintained among the three branches of government—the executive, the legislative and the judicial.

The Constitution was accepted in 1788, but only after much bitter debate. Many Americans feared that a powerful central government would trample on the liberties of the people, and in 1791, 10 amendments—the Bill of Rights—were added to the Constitution. This document guaranteed freedom of religion, a free press, free speech, the right of citizens to bear arms, protection against illegal house searches, the right to a fair trial by jury and protection against "cruel and unusual punishments."

The Constitution and the Bill of Rights thus struck a balance between two conflicting but fundamental aspects of American politics—the need for a strong, efficient central authority and the need to ensure individual liberties. America's first two political parties divided along those ideological lines. The Federalists favored a strong president and central government; the Democratic Republicans defended the rights of the individual states, because this seemed to guarantee more "local" control and accountability. This party appealed to small farmers; the Federalist party was the party of the prosperous classes, and it would die out by 1820.


As the first president of the United States. George Washington governed in a Federalist style. When Pennsylvania farmers refused to pay a federal liquor tax, Washington mobilized an army of 15,000 men to put down the "Whiskey Rebellion." Under his Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, the federal government took over the debts of the individual states and set up a national bank. These fiscal measures were designed to encourage investment and to persuade business interests to support the new government.

In 1797, Washington was succeeded by another Federalist, John Adams, who became involved in an undeclared naval war with France. In an atmosphere of war Congress passed the Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798. These measures permitted the deportation or arrest of "dangerous" aliens, and they prescribed fines or imprisonment for publishing "false, scandalous, and malicious" attacks on the government. Ten Republican editors were convicted under the Sedition Act, which was bitterly denounced by Virginia lawyer and main author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson.

The repression which occurred under the Alien and Sedition Acts ended in 1801, when Thomas Jefferson was elected president. As a Republican, Jefferson was an informal, accessible chief executive. Although he wanted to limit the power of the president, political realities forced Jefferson to exercise that power vigorously. In 1803, he bought the huge Louisiana territory from France for $15 million: now the United States would extend as far west as the Rocky Mountains. When North African pirates attacked American ships, Jefferson sent a naval expedition against the state of Tripoli.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court, under Chief Justice John Marshall, was asserting its own authority. In the 1803 case of Marbury v. Madison, Marshall affirmed that the Court could declare void any act of Congress "repugnant to the Constitution." That ruling established the most fundamental idea in American constitutional law—that the Supreme Court makes the final decision in interpreting the Constitution and can, if the justices determine a law to be unconstitutional, declare the law void. although it was enacted by the Congress and signed by the president.

During the Napoleonic Wars, British and French warships harassed American merchant ships. Jefferson responded by banning American exports to Europe, but New England merchants protested that their trade was ruined by the embargo, which Congress repealed in 1809. In 1812, however, President James Madison went to war with Britain over this issue.

During the War of 1812. American warships had some impressive victories, but the vastly superior British Navy blockaded American ports. Attempts to invade British Canada ended in disaster, and British forces captured and burned Washington, the nations new capital city. Britain and the United States agreed on a compromise peace in December 1814: neither side won any concessions from the other. Two weeks later, General Andrew Jackson routed a British assault on New Orleans. News of the peace treaty had not yet reached the soldiers.

After the war, the United States enjoyed a period of rapid economic expansion. A national network of roads and canals was built, steamboats traveled the rivers, and the first steam railroad opened in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1830. The Industrial Revolution had reached America: There were textile mills in New England; iron foundries in Pennsylvania. By the 1850s, factories were producing rubber goods, sewing machines, shoes. clothing, farm implements, guns and clocks.

The frontier of settlement was pushed west to the Mississippi River and beyond. In 1828. Andrew Jackson became the first man born into a poor family and born in the West, away from the cultural traditions of the Atlantic seaboard, to be elected president. Jackson and his new Democratic party, heirs to the Jeffersonian Republicans, promoted a creed of popular democracy and appealed to the humble members of society—the farmers, mechanics and laborers. Jackson broke the power of the Bank of the United States, which had dominated the nation's economy. He rewarded inexperienced but loyal supporters with government jobs. He made land available to western settlers—mainly by forcing Indian tribes to move west of the Mississippi.
The Jacksonian era of optimism was clouded by the existence in the United States of a social contradiction—increasingly recognized as a social evil—that would eventually tear the nation apart: slavery. The words of the Declaration of Independence—"that all men are created equal"—were meaningless for the 1.5 million black people who were slaves. Thomas Jefferson, himself a slave-owner, recognized that the system was inhumane and wrote an attack on slavery into the Declaration, but Southern delegates to the Continental Congress forced him to remove the passage. The importation of slaves was outlawed in 1808, and many Northern states moved to abolish slavery, but the Southern economy was based on large plantations, which used slave workers to grow cotton, rice, tobacco and sugar. Still, in several Southern states, small populations of free blacks also worked as artisans or traders.

In 1820, Southern and Northern politicians disputed the question of whether

slavery would be legal in the western territories. Congress agreed on a compromise: Slavery was permitted in the new state of Missouri and the Arkansas territory, and it was barred everywhere west and north of Missouri. But the issue would not go away, some organized themselves into abolitionist societies, primarily in the North, Southern whites defended slavery with increasing ardor. The nation was also split over the issue of high tariff, which protected Northern industries but raised prices for Southern consumers.

Meanwhile, thousands of Americans had been settling in Texas, then a part of Mexico. The Texans found Mexican rule under General Santa Ana increasingly oppressive, and in 1835 they rebelled, defeated a Mexican army and set up the Independent Republic of Texas. In 1845, the United States annexed Texas, and Mexico suspended diplomatic relations. President James K. Polk ordered American troops into disputed territory on the Texas border. After a battle between Mexican and American soldiers in May 1846, Congress declared war on Mexico.

An American army landed near Vera Cruz in March 1847 and captured Mexico City in September. In return for $15 million, Mexico was forced to surrender an enormous expanse of territory—most of what is today California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and Colorado.

In 1846, by settling a long-standing border dispute with British Canada, the United States had acquired clear title to the southern half of the Oregon Country—the present states of Oregon, Washington and Idaho. Thus America became a truly continental power, stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

The acquisition of these new territories revived a troubling question: would newly acquired territories be open to slavery? In 1850, Congress voted another compromise: California was admitted as a free state, and the inhabitants of the Utah and New Mexico territories were allowed to decide the issue for themselves. Congress also passed the Fugitive Slave Act, which helped Southerners to recapture slaves who had escaped to the free states. Some Northern states did not enforce this law, however, and abolitionists continued to assist fleeing blacks. Harriet Beecher Stowe of Massachusetts wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin, a sentimental but powerful anti-slavery novel which converted many readers to the abolitionist cause. The issue of slavery became, in American politics, economics and cultural life, the central point of contention.

In 1854, Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois persuaded Congress to allow the inhabitants of the Kansas and Nebraska territories to resolve the question of slavery within their own borders—which voided the Missouri Compromise of 1820. In Kansas, the result was a violent feud between pro-slavery and anti-slavery settlers. In 1857, the Supreme Court handed down the Dred Scott decision, which held that blacks had no rights as American citizens and that Congress had no authority to bar slavery in the Western territories.

In 1858, when Senator Douglas ran for reelection, he was challenged by Abraham Lincoln and the Republican party (a new anti-slavery party unrelated to Jefferson's Republican party). In a series of historic debates with Douglas, Lincoln remanded a halt to the spread of slavery. He was willing to tolerate slavery in the Southern states, but at the same time he affirmed that "this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free."


Lincoln lost the senatorial race, but in 1860 he and Douglas faced each other again—as the Republican and Democratic candidates for president. By now the tension between North and South was extreme. In 1859. John Brown, an abolitionist zealot, had tried to begin a slave rebellion in Virginia by attacking an army munitions depot. Brown was quickly captured, tried and hanged, whereupon many Northerners hailed him as a martyr. Southern whites, however, now believed that the North was preparing to end slavery by bloody warfare. Douglas urged Southern Democrats to remain in the Union, but they nominated their own separate presidential candidate and threatened to secede if the Republicans were victorious.

The majority in every Southern and border state voted against Lincoln, but the North supported him and he won the election. A few weeks later, South Carolina voted to leave the Union. It was soon joined by Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina. These 11 states proclaimed themselves an independent nation—the Confederate States of America—and the American Civil War began.

Southerners proclaimed that they were fighting not just for slavery; after all, most Confederate soldiers were too poor to own slaves. The South was waging a war for independence—a second American Revolution. The Confederates usually had the advantage of fighting on their home territory, and their morale was excellent. They had superb soldiers, cavalrymen and generals, but they were greatly outnumbered by Union (Northern) forces. The Southern railroad network and industrial base could not support a modern war effort. The Union navy quickly imposed a blockade, which created serious shortages of war materiel and consumer goods in the Confederacy. To fight the war, both sides suspended some civil liberties, printed mountains of paper money and resorted to conscription.

Lincoln's two priorities were to keep the United States one country and to rid the nation of slavery. Indeed, he realized that by making the war a battle against slavery he could win support for the Union at home and abroad. Accordingly, on January 1, 1863, he issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which granted freedom to all slaves in areas still controlled by the Confederacy.

The Southern army (Confederates) won some victories in the early part of the war, but in the summer of 1863 their commander, General Robert E. Lee, marched north into Pennsylvania. He met a Union army at Gettysburg, and the largest battle ever fought on American soil ensued. After three days of desperate fighting, the Confederates were defeated. At the same time, on the Mississippi River, Union General Ulysses S. Grant captured the important city of Vicksburg. Union forces now controlled the entire Mississippi Valley, splitting the Confederacy in two.

In 1864, a Union army under General William T. Sherman marched across Georgia, destroying the countryside. Meanwhile, General Grant relentlessly battled Lee's forces in Virginia. On April 2, 1865, Lee was forced to abandon Richmond, the Confederate capital. A week later he surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Court House, and all other Confederate forces soon surrendered. On April 14, Lincoln was assassinated by the actor John Wilkes Booth.

The Civil War was the most traumatic episode in American history. The war resolved two fundamental questions that have divided the United States since 1776. It put an end to slavery, which was completely abolished by the 13th Amendment to the Constitution in 1865. It also decided, once and for all, that America was not a collection of semi-independent states, but a single indivisible nation.
^ World War I, Great Depression, and World War II
At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the United States remained neutral. American sympathies were with the British and French, although many citizens, mostly Irish and German, were opposed to intervention. In 1917, however, they joined the Allies, helping to turn the tide against the Central Powers. Reluctant to be involved in European affairs, the Senate did not ratify the Treaty of Versailles, which established the League of Nations. Instead, the country continued to pursue a policy of unilateralism, verging at times on isolationism. After seven decades, the women's rights movement won passage of a constitutional amendment in 1920 granting women's suffrage. In part due to the service of many in the war, Native Americans won U.S. citizenship in the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924.

During most of the 1920s, the United States enjoyed a period of unbalanced prosperity as farm profits fell while industrial profits grew. A rise in debt and an inflated stock market culminated in the 1929 crash that, combined with the Dust Bowl, triggered the Great Depression. After his election as president in 1932, Franklin Delano Roosevelt responded with the New Deal, a range of policies increasing government intervention in the economy. The nation would not fully recover from the economic depression until the industrial mobilization spurred by its entrance into World War II.

On December 7, 1941, the United States was driven to join the Allies against the Axis Powers after a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor by Japan. World War II had a greater economic cost than any in American history, but it helped to pull the economy out of depression by providing much-needed jobs and bringing many women into the labor market. Allied conferences at Bretton Woods and Yalta outlined a new system of intergovernmental organizations that placed the United States and Soviet Union at the center of world affairs. As victory was achieved in Europe, a 1945 international conference held in San Francisco produced the United Nations Charter, which became active shortly after the war's end. The United States, having developed the first nuclear weapons, used them on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August. Japan surrendered on September 2, ending the war.
^ Postwar superpower
The United States and Soviet Union jockeyed for power after World War II during a new Cold War, dominating the military affairs of Europe through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Warsaw Pact. The United States promoted liberal democracy and capitalism, while the Soviet Union promoted communism and a centrally planned economy, but both sides supported dictatorships when politically convenient and engaged in proxy wars, including the Greek Civil War and the Korean War. As the Communist Party in the Eastern Bloc suppressed dissent, American anti-communists like Joseph McCarthy attempted and failed to suppress their opposition at home.

Meanwhile, America experienced a period of sustained economic expansion. A growing civil rights movement headed by prominent African Americans such as Martin Luther King Jr. fought racism, leading to the abolition of the Jim Crow laws in the South and passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Following Kennedy's assassination in 1963, his successors expanded a proxy war in Southeast Asia into the unsuccessful Vietnam War. As a result of the Watergate scandal, in 1974 Richard Nixon became the first U.S. president to resign, rather than be impeached on charges including obstruction of justice and abuse of power.

The election of Ronald Reagan as president in 1980 marked a significant rightward shift in American politics. In the late 1980s and 1990s, the Soviet Union's power diminished, leading to its collapse. The leadership role taken by the United States and its allies in the United Nations–sanctioned Gulf War and the Yugoslav wars helped to preserve its position as the world's last remaining superpower and to expand NATO.

^ The highlights (important dates) of American history

1607 Colonizers establish America's first permanent English settlement at Jamestown, Virginia.

1620 The Mayflower Compact establishes government by majority will in the settlement of Plymouth in Massachusetts.

1636 America's first college, Harvard, is founded at Cambridge, Massachusetts.

1754 The Seven Years' War (also known as the French and Indian War) begins between France and Britain. At the war's end, France cedes Canada, the Great Lakes, and the upper Mississippi Valley to the British.

^ 1775 APRIL 19, the first shots of America's war for independence from Britain are fired at Lexington, Massachusetts.

1776 JULY 4, America's 13 colonies sign the Declaration of Independence.

1783 SEPTEMBER 3, Britain and the United States sign the Treaty of Paris,

recognizing American independence.

1789 APRIL 30, George Washington is inaugurated as the first president of the

United States.

^ 1791 Ten amendments-the Bill of Rights-are added to the U.S. Constitution to

protect the rights of individuals.

1800 The federal capital moves from temporary quarters in Philadelphia to

Washington, D.C.

1803 Purchase of Louisiana Territory from France doubles U.S. land area.

1812-14 The United States and Britain fight the War of 1812. British burn the

Capitol and the White House in August 1814.

^ 1844 Samuel F.B. Morse sends the first telegraph message from Washington,

D.C., to Baltimore, Maryland.

1846 The Mexican War between the United States and Mexico begins. The treaty

that ends the war in 1848 gives the United States a vast stretch of land from Texas

west to the Pacific Ocean and north to Oregon.

^ 1860 Abraham Lincoln is elected the United States' 16th president.

1861 APRIL 12, the first shots are fired in the U.S. Civil War.

1863 JANUARY 1, President Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation, granting freedom to slaves in Confederate-held territory.

1865 APRIL 9, the Civil War ends with the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee to General Ulysses S. Grant, commander of Union forces.

**APRIL 14, President Lincoln is shot while attending the theater in Washington, D.C.; Lincoln dies the next morning.

^ 1867 The territory of Alaska is purchased from Russia.

1876 Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone.

1879 Thomas A. Edison invents the incandescent lamp.

1898 The Spanish-American War is declared in April and ends in August. The

peace treaty signed with Spain in December guarantees Cuban independence and

cedes the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam to the United States.

^ 1908 Henry Ford introduces an efficient, low-cost car, begins the era of mass

production, and "puts America on wheels."

1914 The Panama Canal, built by the United States across Central America,

opens, permitting ships to travel between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans without

rounding the tip of South America.

^ 1917 APRIL 6, the United States enters World War I, declaring war after German violations of American neutrality.

1927 The National Broadcasting Company (NBC) makes the first coast-to-coast

network radio broadcast.

1929 OCTOBER 29, the stock market crash in the United States begins the Great

Depression, a worldwide business slump that ranks as the worst and longest

period of high unemployment and low business activity in modern times.

1941 DECEMBER 7, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, brings the United States into World War II.

1945 JUNE 26, the United States and 49 other nations sign the United Nations Charter in San Francisco, California.

**AUGUST 6, the United States drops an atomic bomb on Hiroshima and, three days later, on Nagasaki, Japan.

1949 APRIL 4, the United States, Canada, and 10 Western European nations form the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to provide mutual military aid if any member is attacked.

^ 1958 The United States sends its first satellite, Explorer I, into orbit.

1961 The Peace Corps is established.

1969 JULY 20, Apollo 11 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin land on the moon, an event televised 400,000 kilometers to Earth.

1974 AUGUST 9, in the wake of the Watergate break-in and cover-up, President Nixon resigns from office, the first president to do so, and is succeeded by Vice President Gerald R. Ford.

^ 1976 JULY 20 and SEPTEMBER 3, unmanned Viking 1 and II spacecraft successfully land on Mars.

**JUIY 4, the United States celebrates the restoration of the Statue of Liberty, a gift from the people of France in 1886.

1987 DECEMBER 8, at a summit meeting in Washington, D.C., President Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev sign a treaty eliminating an entire class of intermediate-range and shorter-range nuclear missiles.

1993 DECEMBER 8, President Bill Clinton signs the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), establishing free trade between the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

Vocabulary notes

Settlement - поселение

Abundant - обильный

Persecution - преследование

tax revenues – налоговые поступления в казну

interfere - вмешиваться

refuge - убежище

toleration - терпимость

prosperity - процветание

Disguised - замаскированные

Rebellion – восстание, бунт

Besiege - осаждать

Alliance - союз

Troop - войско

Ban - запрещать

Invade – вторгаться, оккупировать

Slavery - рабство

Abolish - отменять

to declare war – объявлять войну

surrender - сдаваться

acquisition - приобретение

conscription – воинская повинность

Assassinate – покушаться на жизнь

Amendments – поправки (конституционные)

Tribe - племя

Incandescent - раскаленный

Armistice - разоружение

mutual aid - взаимопомощь



The United States is a federal union of 50 states, with the District of Columbia as the seat of the federal government. The Constitution outlines the structure of the national government and specifies its powers and activities, and defines the relationship between the national government and individual state governments. Power is shared between the national and state (local) governments. Within each state are counties, townships, cities and villages, each of which has its own elective government.

Article 1 of the Constitution defines the legislative branch and vests power to legislate in the Congress of the United States. The executive powers of the President are defined in Article 2. Article 3 places judicial power in the hands of one Supreme Court and inferior courts as Congress sees necessary to establish.

^ The Constitution

The American Constitution is the oldest written constitution in force in the world.  The authors of the Constitution built in a provision for amending the document when political, social or economic conditions demanded it.  Twenty-seven amendments have been passed since ratification. The first 10 amendments to the Constitution, called the Bill of Rights, assure individual rights and freedoms. 

The Constitution divides the powers of the government into three branches - the Executive, headed by the President; the Legislative, which includes both houses of Congress (the Senate and the House of Representatives); and the Judicial, which is headed by the Supreme Court. In this system of a "separation of powers" each branch operates independently of the others. The Constitution limits the role of each branch, through a system of checks and balances, to prevent any one branch from gaining undue power.

^ The Executive Branch

The chief executive of the United States is the president, who together with the vice-president is elected to a four year term.  As a result of a 1951 constitutional amendment, a president may be elected to only two terms.  The president's powers are formidable but not unlimited.  As the chief formulator of national policy, the president proposes legislation to Congress and may veto any bill passed by Congress.  The president is commander-in-chief of the armed forces. 

The executive branch of the Government is responsible for enforcing the laws of the land. The Vice President, department heads (Cabinet members), and heads of independent agencies assist in this capacity.

The executive branch includes 15 executive departments, the Executive Office of the President and numerous other independent agencies.  The day-to-day enforcement and administration of federal law is in the hands of the various executive departments, created by Congress to deal with specific areas of national and international affairs.  The heads of the departments, chosen by the President and approved by the Senate, form a council of advisers known as the President's Cabinet.

^ The Legislative Branch

The legislative branch - the Congress - is made up of elected representatives from each of the 50 states.  The Constitution sets up a bi-cameral body known as the U.S. Congress to raise and to spend national revenue and to draft laws. It is the only branch of U.S. government that can make federal laws, declare war and put foreign treaties into effect.

Members of the House of Representatives are elected to two year terms.  Each member represents a district in his or her home state.  The number of districts is determined by the census, which is conducted every 10 years.  Senators are elected to six year terms, staggered so that one third of the Senate stands for election every two years.  The Constitution provides that the vice-president shall be president of the Senate. He or she has no vote, except in the case of a tie.

The Senate chooses a president pro tempore to preside when the vice-president is absent. The House of  Representatives chooses its own presiding officer -- the speaker of the House. The speaker (Nancy Pelosi, D-CA) and the president pro tempore (Senator Robert C. Byrd, D -WV) are members of the political party with the largest representation in each house. 

To become a law, a bill must pass both the House and the Senate.  After the bill is introduced in either body, it is studied by one or more committees, amended, voted out of committee, and discussed in the chamber of the House or Senate.  If passed by one body, it goes to the other for consideration.  Once both bodies have passed the the same version of a bill, it goes to the president for approval. 

^ The Judicial Branch

The judicial branch is headed by the U.S. Supreme Court, which is the only court specifically created by the Constitution.  In addition, Congress has established 13 federal courts of appeals and 95 federal district courts. The president has the authority to appoint federal judges as vacancies occur, including justices of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court meets in Washington, D.C., and the other federal courts are located in cities throughout the United States. 

The federal courts hear cases arising out of the Constitution, federal laws and treaties and maritime cases; cases involving foreign citizens or governments; and cases, in which the federal government is itself a party.  With minor exceptions, cases come to the Supreme Court on appeal from lower courts.  Most of these cases involve disputes over the interpretation and constitutionality of actions taken by the executive branch and of laws passed by Congress or the states.

^ State Government

Like the national government, state governments have three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial; these are roughly equivalent in function and scope to their national counterparts. The chief executive of a state is the governor, elected by popular vote, typically for a four-year term (although in a few states the term is two years). Except for Nebraska, which has a single legislative body, all states have a bicameral legislature, with the upper house usually called the Senate and the lower house called the House of Representatives, the House of Delegates, or the General Assembly. In general, matters which lie entirely within state borders are the concern of state governments. These include internal communications; regulations relating to property, industry, business and public utilities; the state criminal code; and working conditions within the state. Within this context, the federal government requires that state governments not adopt laws which contradict or violate the Constitution or laws and treaties of the United States. Any developing programs are now often developed on a cooperative basis between the two levels of government.

Local Government

Types of city governments vary widely across the nation. However, almost all have some kind of central council, elected by the voters, and an executive officer, assisted by various department heads, to manage the city's affairs. The city directly serves the needs of the people, providing everything from police and fire protection to sanitary codes, health regulations, education, public transportation and housing. Cooperation with both state and federal organizations is essential. The county is a subdivision of the state, usually -- but not always -- containing two or more townships and several villages.

^ Political Parties

Today, there are two major political parties in the United States, the Democratic and the Republican.

The Democratic Party evolved from the party of Thomas Jefferson, formed before 1800. The Republican Party was established in the 1850s by Abraham Lincoln and others who opposed the expansion of slavery.

The Democratic Party is considered to be the more liberal party, and the Republican, the more conservative. Democrats generally believe that government has an obligation to provide social and economic programs for those who need them. Republicans are not necessarily opposed to such programs but believe they are too costly to taxpayers. Republicans put more emphasis on encouraging private enterprise in the belief that a strong private sector makes citizens less dependent on government. Both major parties have supporters among a wide variety of Americans and embrace a wide range of political views.

Vocabulary notes

legislative branch – законодательная власть

executive powers – исполнительная власть

judicial power – судебная власть

ratification - утверждение

undue - несвоевременный

veto - запрет

elect - избирать

amend - дополнять

criminal code – уголовный кодекс

council - совет

obligation - обязательство


The United States does not have an official language; nevertheless, English (specifically, American English) is the language used for legislation, regulations, executive orders, treaties, federal court rulings, and all other official pronouncements. Additionally, one must demonstrate an ability to read, write, and speak English to become a naturalized citizen. Many individual states and territories have adopted English as their official language.

Although the United States currently has no official language, English has long been the de facto national language, which is spoken by about 82% of the population as a native language. 96% of the population speaks English "well" or "very well".

Spanish is taught in various regions as a second language, especially in areas with large Hispanic populations such as the Southwestern United States along the border with Mexico, as well as Florida, the District of Columbia, Illinois, New Jersey, and New York. In Hispanic communities across the country, bilingual signs in both Spanish and English may be quite common. Furthermore, numerous neighborhoods exist (such as Washington Heights in New York City or Little Havana in Miami) in which entire city blocks will have only Spanish language signs and speaking people.

In addition to Spanish-speaking Hispanic populations, younger generations of non-Hispanics in the United States seem to be learning Spanish in larger numbers due to the growing Hispanic population and increasing popularity of Latin American movies and music performed in the Spanish language. Over 30 million Americans, roughly 12% of the population, speak Spanish as a first or second language, making Spanish easily the country's second-most spoken language.

Chinese, is the third most-spoken language spoken in the United States, almost completely spoken within Chinese American populations and by immigrants or the descendants of immigrants, especially in California. Over 2 million Americans speak some variety of Chinese.

French, the fourth most-common language, is spoken mainly by the native French, Haitian or French-Canadian populations. It is widely spoken in Maine, New Hampshire and in Louisiana, a former colony of France, where it is still used with English as the state's de facto official language.

People of German ancestry make up the largest single ethnic group in the United States and the German language ranks fifth.

Italian, Polish, and Greek are still widely spoken among populations descending from immigrants from those countries in the early 20th century, but the use of these languages is dwindling as older generations die out. Starting in the 1970s and continuing until the mid 1990s, many people from the Soviet Union and later its constituent republics such as Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Uzbekistan have immigrated to the United States, causing Russian to become one of the minority languages in the United States.

Tagalog and Vietnamese have over one million speakers in the United States, almost entirely within recent immigrant populations.

There are also a small population of Native Americans who still speak their native languages, but these populations are dropping and the languages are almost never widely used outside of reservations. Hawaiian, although having few native speakers, is still used at the state level in Hawaii along with English. Several states and territories are officially or de facto bi- or trilingual:

Hawaii (English and Hawaiian)

Louisiana (English and French legally recognized, although there is no official language)

New Mexico (English and Spanish de facto)

American Samoa (Samoan and English)

Guam (Chamorro and English)

Northern Mariana Islands (English, Chamorro, and Carolinian)

Puerto Rico (Spanish and English)

Vocabulary notes

Generation - поколение

Descendants - потомки

Variety - разнообразие

Ancestry - предки

Dwindle - убывать

Minority - меньшинство

Bilingual - двуязычный

Constituent - компонент

Neighborhood - соседи

Community - сообщество

Nevertheless – тем не менее

Legislation - законодательство

Regulation - контроль

Adopt – принимать (закон)

Former - бывший

de facto – на деле, фактически



The United States government keeps no official register of Americans' religious status. In a private survey conducted in 2001, 76.7 percent of American adults identified themselves as Christian. Various Protestant denominations accounted for 52 percent, while Roman Catholics, at 24.5 percent, were the largest individual denomination. Other faiths in America include Judaism (1.4 percent), Islam (0.5 percent), Buddhism (0.5 percent), Hinduism (0.4 percent), and Unitarian Universalism (0.3 percent). Fourteen percent described themselves as agnostic, atheist, or as simply having no religion.

Roots of Religions

Europeans com­ing to the New World brought their own reli­gions with them. Indeed, it was for the freedom to practice these beliefs that many people came to the New World. These communities flour­ished, and the resulting religious variety helped give rise to a highly uni
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