U.S. state

U.S. state

Overview
A U.S. state is any one of the 50 federated states of the United States of America
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 that share sovereignty
Sovereignty
Sovereignty is the quality of having supreme, independent authority over a geographic area, such as a territory. It can be found in a power to rule and make law that rests on a political fact for which no purely legal explanation can be provided...

 with the federal government
Federal government of the United States
The federal government of the United States is the national government of the constitutional republic of fifty states that is the United States of America. The federal government comprises three distinct branches of government: a legislative, an executive and a judiciary. These branches and...

. Because of this shared sovereignty, an American is a citizen both of the federal entity and of his or her state of domicile
Domicile (law)
In law, domicile is the status or attribution of being a permanent resident in a particular jurisdiction. A person can remain domiciled in a jurisdiction even after they have left it, if they have maintained sufficient links with that jurisdiction or have not displayed an intention to leave...

. Four states use the official title of commonwealth rather than state. State citizenship is flexible and no government approval is required to move between states
Freedom of movement
Freedom of movement, mobility rights or the right to travel is a human right concept that the constitutions of numerous states respect...

 (with the exception of convicts on parole
Parole
Parole may have different meanings depending on the field and judiciary system. All of the meanings originated from the French parole . Following its use in late-resurrected Anglo-French chivalric practice, the term became associated with the release of prisoners based on prisoners giving their...

).

The United States Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

 allocates certain powers to the federal government.
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Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia
A U.S. state is any one of the 50 federated states of the United States of America
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 that share sovereignty
Sovereignty
Sovereignty is the quality of having supreme, independent authority over a geographic area, such as a territory. It can be found in a power to rule and make law that rests on a political fact for which no purely legal explanation can be provided...

 with the federal government
Federal government of the United States
The federal government of the United States is the national government of the constitutional republic of fifty states that is the United States of America. The federal government comprises three distinct branches of government: a legislative, an executive and a judiciary. These branches and...

. Because of this shared sovereignty, an American is a citizen both of the federal entity and of his or her state of domicile
Domicile (law)
In law, domicile is the status or attribution of being a permanent resident in a particular jurisdiction. A person can remain domiciled in a jurisdiction even after they have left it, if they have maintained sufficient links with that jurisdiction or have not displayed an intention to leave...

. Four states use the official title of commonwealth rather than state. State citizenship is flexible and no government approval is required to move between states
Freedom of movement
Freedom of movement, mobility rights or the right to travel is a human right concept that the constitutions of numerous states respect...

 (with the exception of convicts on parole
Parole
Parole may have different meanings depending on the field and judiciary system. All of the meanings originated from the French parole . Following its use in late-resurrected Anglo-French chivalric practice, the term became associated with the release of prisoners based on prisoners giving their...

).

The United States Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

 allocates certain powers to the federal government. It also places some limitations on the state governments. State governments are allocated power by the people (of each respective state) through their individual constitutions. By ratifying the United States Constitution, the people transferred certain limited
Limited government
Limited government is a government which anything more than minimal governmental intervention in personal liberties and the economy is generally disallowed by law, usually in a written constitution. It is written in the United States Constitution in Article 1, Section 8...

 sovereign
Sovereign
A sovereign is the supreme lawmaking authority within its jurisdiction.Sovereign may also refer to:*Monarch, the sovereign of a monarchy*Sovereign Bank, banking institution in the United States*Sovereign...

 powers to the federal government from their states. Under the Tenth Amendment
Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which is part of the Bill of Rights, was ratified on December 15, 1791...

, all powers not delegated to the federal government nor prohibited to the states are retained by the states or the people
People of the United States
The people of the United States, also known as simply Americans or American people, are the inhabitants or citizens of the United States. The United States is a multi-ethnic nation, home to people of different ethnic and national backgrounds...

. Historically, the tasks of public safety
Public Safety
Public safety involves the prevention of and protection from events that could endanger the safety of the general public from significant danger, injury/harm, or damage, such as crimes or disasters .-See also:* By nation...

 (in the sense of controlling crime), public education, public health, transportation, and infrastructure
Infrastructure
Infrastructure is basic physical and organizational structures needed for the operation of a society or enterprise, or the services and facilities necessary for an economy to function...

 have generally been considered primarily state responsibilities, although all of these now have significant federal funding and regulation as well (based largely upon the Commerce Clause
Commerce Clause
The Commerce Clause is an enumerated power listed in the United States Constitution . The clause states that the United States Congress shall have power "To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes." Courts and commentators have tended to...

, the Taxing and Spending Clause
Taxing and Spending Clause
Article I, Section 8, Clause 1 of the United States Constitution, is known as the Taxing and Spending Clause. It is the clause that gives the federal government of the United States its power of taxation...

, and the Necessary and Proper Clause of the Constitution).

Over time, the Constitution has been amended, and the interpretation and application of its provisions have changed. The general tendency has been toward centralization and incorporation
Incorporation (Bill of Rights)
The incorporation of the Bill of Rights is the process by which American courts have applied portions of the U.S. Bill of Rights to the states. Prior to the 1890s, the Bill of Rights was held only to apply to the federal government...

, with the federal government playing a much larger role than it once did. There is a continuing debate over states' rights
States' rights
States' rights in U.S. politics refers to political powers reserved for the U.S. state governments rather than the federal government. It is often considered a loaded term because of its use in opposition to federally mandated racial desegregation...

, which concerns the extent and nature of the states' powers and sovereignty in relation to the federal government as well as the rights of individual persons.

Congress may admit new states on an equal footing with existing ones; this last happened in 1959 with the admission of Alaska
Alaska
Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait...

 and Hawaii
Hawaii
Hawaii is the newest of the 50 U.S. states , and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of...

. The Constitution is silent on the question of whether states have the power to leave unilaterally, or secede from, the Union, but the Supreme Court has ruled secession to be unconstitutional, a position driven in part by the outcome of the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

.

Federal power


The Supreme Court of the United States
Supreme Court of the United States
The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the United States. It has ultimate appellate jurisdiction over all state and federal courts, and original jurisdiction over a small range of cases...

 has interpreted the Commerce Clause
Commerce Clause
The Commerce Clause is an enumerated power listed in the United States Constitution . The clause states that the United States Congress shall have power "To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes." Courts and commentators have tended to...

 of the Constitution of the United States which has expanded the scope of federal power. The Cambridge Economic History of the United States says, "On the whole, especially after the mid-1880s, the Court construed the Commerce Clause in favor of increased federal power." In Wickard v. Filburn
Wickard v. Filburn
Wickard v. Filburn, 317 U.S. 111 , was a U.S. Supreme Court decision that recognized the power of the federal government to regulate economic activity. A farmer, Roscoe Filburn, was growing wheat for on-farm consumption. The U.S...

, the court expanded federal power to regulate the economy by holding that federal authority under the commerce clause extends to activities which are local in character. For example, Congress can regulate railway traffic across state lines, but it may also regulate rail traffic solely within a state, based on the theory that wholly intrastate traffic can still have an impact on interstate commerce. In recent years, the Court has tried to place limits on the Commerce Clause in such cases as United States v. Lopez
United States v. Lopez
United States v. Alfonso Lopez, Jr., was the first United States Supreme Court case since the New Deal to set limits to Congress's power under the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution.-Background:...

and United States v. Morrison
United States v. Morrison
United States v. Morrison, is a United States Supreme Court decision which held that parts of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 were unconstitutional because they exceeded congressional power under the Commerce Clause and under section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution.-...

.

Another source of Congressional power is its spending power—the ability of Congress to impose uniform taxes across the nation and then distribute the resulting revenue back to the states (subject to conditions set by Congress). A classic example of this is the system of federal-aid highways, which includes the Interstate Highway System
Interstate Highway System
The Dwight D. Eisenhower National System of Interstate and Defense Highways, , is a network of limited-access roads including freeways, highways, and expressways forming part of the National Highway System of the United States of America...

. The system is mandated and largely funded by the federal government, and also serves the interests of the states. By threatening to withhold federal highway
United States Numbered Highways
The system of United States Numbered Highways is an integrated system of roads and highways in the United States numbered within a nationwide grid...

 funds, as upheld in South Dakota v. Dole
South Dakota v. Dole
South Dakota v. Dole, 483 U.S. 203 , was a case in which the United States Supreme Court considered federalism and the power of the United States Congress under the Taxing and Spending Clause.-Background:...

, Congress has been able to pressure state legislatures to pass a variety of laws. Although some object that this infringes on states' rights, the Supreme Court has upheld the practice as a permissible use of the Constitution's Spending Clause.

Governments


States are free to organize their individual government
State governments of the United States
State governments in the United States are those republics formed by citizens in the jurisdiction thereof as provided by the United States Constitution; with the original 13 States forming the first Articles of Confederation, and later the aforementioned Constitution. Within the U.S...

s any way they like, so long as they conform to the sole requirement of the U.S. Constitution that they have "a Republican Form of Government," that is, each state government must be a republic
Republic
A republic is a form of government in which the people, or some significant portion of them, have supreme control over the government and where offices of state are elected or chosen by elected people. In modern times, a common simplified definition of a republic is a government where the head of...

.

Constitutions


In practice, each state has adopted a three-branch system of government
Form of government
A form of government, or form of state governance, refers to the set of political institutions by which a government of a state is organized. Synonyms include "regime type" and "system of government".-Empirical and conceptual problems:...

 (with legislative, executive, and judiciary branches) generally along the same lines as that of the federal government — though this is not a requirement.

Despite the fact that every state has chosen to follow the federal model of government, there are significant differences in some states.

There are also significant similarities. For example, all 50 states allow tax exemptions for religious institutions.

Executive


In all of the U.S. states, the chief executive is called the Governor
Governor (United States)
In the United States, the title governor refers to the chief executive of each state or insular territory, not directly subordinate to the federal authorities, but the political and ceremonial head of the state.-Role and powers:...

. The governor may approve or veto
Veto
A veto, Latin for "I forbid", is the power of an officer of the state to unilaterally stop an official action, especially enactment of a piece of legislation...

 bills passed by the state legislature. In forty-four states, governors have line item veto power.

Most states have a "plural executive" in which two or more members of the executive branch
Executive (government)
Executive branch of Government is the part of government that has sole authority and responsibility for the daily administration of the state bureaucracy. The division of power into separate branches of government is central to the idea of the separation of powers.In many countries, the term...

 are elected directly by the people. Such additional elected officials serve as members of the executive branch, but are not beholden to the governor and cannot be dismissed by him or her. For example, the attorney general
State Attorney General
The state attorney general in each of the 50 U.S. states and territories is the chief legal advisor to the state government and the state's chief law enforcement officer. In some states, the attorney general serves as the head of a state department of justice, with responsibilities similar to those...

 is elected, rather than appointed, in 43 of the 50 U.S. states.

Legislative



The legislatures of 49 of the 50 states are made up of two chambers: a lower house (termed the House of Representatives, State Assembly or House of Delegates) and a smaller upper house, always termed the Senate. The exception is the unicameral Nebraska Legislature
Nebraska Legislature
The Nebraska Legislature is the supreme legislative body of the State of Nebraska, in the Great Plains region of the United States. The Legislature meets at the Nebraska State Capitol in the City of Lincoln, Lancaster County....

, which is composed of only a single chamber.

Most states have part-time
Part time
A part-time job is a form of employment that carries fewer hours per week than a full-time job. Workers are considered to be part time if they commonly work fewer than 30 or 35 hours per week...

 legislatures, while six of the most populated states have full-time
Full time
Full-time employment is employment in which the employee works the full number of hours defined as such by his/her employer. Full-time employment often comes with benefits that are not typically offered to part-time, temporary, or flexible workers, such as annual leave, sickleave, and health...

 legislatures. However, several states with high population have short legislative sessions, including Texas and Florida.

In Baker v. Carr
Baker v. Carr
Baker v. Carr, , was a landmark United States Supreme Court case that retreated from the Court's political question doctrine, deciding that redistricting issues present justiciable questions, thus enabling federal courts to intervene in and to decide reapportionment cases...

(1962) and Reynolds v. Sims
Reynolds v. Sims
Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533 was a United States Supreme Court case that ruled that state legislature districts had to be roughly equal in population.-Facts:...

(1964), the U.S. Supreme Court held that all states are required to elect their legislatures in such a way as to afford each citizen the same degree of representation (the one person, one vote standard). In practice, most states choose to elect legislators from single-member districts, each of which has approximately the same population. Some states, such as Maryland and Vermont, divide the state into single- and multi-member districts, in which case multi-member districts must have proportionately larger populations, e.g., a district electing two representatives must have approximately twice the population of a district electing just one.

If the governor vetoes legislation, all legislatures may override it, usually, but not always, requiring a two-thirds majority.

Judicial



States can also organize their judicial systems differently from the federal judiciary
United States federal courts
The United States federal courts make up the judiciary branch of federal government of the United States organized under the United States Constitution and laws of the federal government.-Categories:...

, as long as they protect the federal constitutional right of their citizens to procedural due process
Due process
Due process is the legal code that the state must venerate all of the legal rights that are owed to a person under the principle. Due process balances the power of the state law of the land and thus protects individual persons from it...

. Most have a trial level court, generally called a District Court
District court
District courts are a category of courts which exists in several nations. These include:-Australia:District Court is the name given to the intermediate court in most Australian States. They hear indictable criminal offences excluding treason, murder and, in some States, manslaughter...

 or Superior Court
Superior court
In common law systems, a superior court is a court of general competence which typically has unlimited jurisdiction with regard to civil and criminal legal cases...

, a first-level appellate court
Court of Appeals
A court of appeals is an appellate court generally.Court of Appeals may refer to:*Military Court of Appeals *Corte d'Assise d'Appello *Philippine Court of Appeals*High Court of Appeals of Turkey*United States courts of appeals...

, generally called a Court of Appeal (or Appeals), and a Supreme Court. However, Oklahoma and Texas have separate highest courts for criminal appeals. New York state has its own terminology, in that the trial court is called the Supreme Court. Appeals are then taken to the Supreme Court, Appellate Division, and from there to the Court of Appeals.

Most states base their legal system on English common law
Common law
Common law is law developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals rather than through legislative statutes or executive branch action...

 (with substantial indigenous changes and incorporation of certain civil law innovations), with the notable exception of Louisiana, a former French colony
Louisiana (New France)
Louisiana or French Louisiana was an administrative district of New France. Under French control from 1682–1763 and 1800–03, the area was named in honor of Louis XIV, by French explorer René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle...

, which draws large parts of its legal system from French civil law
Civil law (legal system)
Civil law is a legal system inspired by Roman law and whose primary feature is that laws are codified into collections, as compared to common law systems that gives great precedential weight to common law on the principle that it is unfair to treat similar facts differently on different...

.

Only a few states choose to have the judges on the state's courts serve for life terms. In most of the states the judges, including the justices of the highest court in the state, are either elected or appointed for terms of a limited number of years, such as five years, eligible for re-election or reappointment if their performance is judged to be satisfactory.

Relationships


Under Article Four of the United States Constitution
Article Four of the United States Constitution
Article Four of the United States Constitution relates to the states. The article outlines the duties states have to each other, as well as those the federal government has to the states...

, which outlines the relationship between the states, the United States Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

 has the power to admit new states to the Union. The states are required to give full faith and credit
Full Faith and Credit Clause
The Full Faith and Credit Clause is the familiar name used to refer to Article IV, Section 1 of the United States Constitution, which addresses the duties that states within the United States have to respect the "public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state." According to...

 to the acts of each other's legislatures and courts, which is generally held to include the recognition of legal contracts, marriages, and criminal judgments, and before 1865, slavery status. States are prohibited from discriminating against citizens of other states with respect to their basic rights
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

, under the Privileges and Immunities Clause
Privileges and Immunities Clause
The Privileges and Immunities Clause prevents a state from treating citizens of other states in a discriminatory manner...

. The states are guaranteed military
Military
A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...

 and civil defense
Civil defense
Civil defense, civil defence or civil protection is an effort to protect the citizens of a state from military attack. It uses the principles of emergency operations: prevention, mitigation, preparation, response, or emergency evacuation, and recovery...

 by the federal government, which is also required to ensure that the government of each state remains a republic
Republic
A republic is a form of government in which the people, or some significant portion of them, have supreme control over the government and where offices of state are elected or chosen by elected people. In modern times, a common simplified definition of a republic is a government where the head of...

.

Four states use the official name of commonwealth, rather than state. However, this is merely a paper distinction, and the U.S. Constitution uniformly refers to all of of these subnational jurisdiction
Administrative division
An administrative division, subnational entity, or country subdivision is a portion of a country or other political division, established for the purpose of government. Administrative divisions are each granted a certain degree of autonomy, and are required to manage themselves through their own...

s as "States" (Article One, Section 2, Clause 1 of the Constitution, concerning the U.S. House of Representatives, in which Representatives are to be elected by the people of the "States"; Article One, Section 3, Clause 1, concerning the U.S. Senate, allocates to each "State" two Senators). For all of these purposes, each of the four above-mentioned "Commonwealths" counts as a State.

Admission into the union



Since the establishment of the United States in 1776, the number of states has expanded from the original 13
Thirteen Colonies
The Thirteen Colonies were English and later British colonies established on the Atlantic coast of North America between 1607 and 1733. They declared their independence in the American Revolution and formed the United States of America...

 to 50. The U.S. Constitution is rather laconic on the process by which new states could be added, noting only that "New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union" and forbidding a new state to be created out of the territory of an existing state, or the merging of two or more states into one, without the consent of both Congress and all the state legislatures involved.

In practice, most of the states admitted to the union after the original 13 have been formed from Territories of the United States (that is, land under the sovereignty of the federal government but not part of any state) that were organized (given a measure of self-rule
Self-governance
Self-governance is an abstract concept that refers to several scales of organization.It may refer to personal conduct or family units but more commonly refers to larger scale activities, i.e., professions, industry bodies, religions and political units , up to and including autonomous regions and...

 by the Congress subject to the Congress’ plenary powers under the territorial clause of Article IV, sec. 3, of the U.S. Constitution).

Generally speaking, the organized government of a territory made known the sentiment of its population in favor of statehood. Congress then directed that government to organize a constitutional convention
Constitutional convention (political meeting)
A constitutional convention is now a gathering for the purpose of writing a new constitution or revising an existing constitution. A general constitutional convention is called to create the first constitution of a political unit or to entirely replace an existing constitution...

 to write a state constitution. Upon acceptance of that Constitution, Congress has always admitted that territory as a state. The broad outlines in this process were established by the Northwest Ordinance
Northwest Ordinance
The Northwest Ordinance was an act of the Congress of the Confederation of the United States, passed July 13, 1787...

 (1787), which predated the ratification of the Constitution.

However, Congress has ultimate authority over the admission of new states, and is not bound to follow this procedure. A few U.S. states (outside of the original 13) that were never organized territories of the federal government have been admitted:
  • Vermont
    Vermont
    Vermont is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. The state ranks 43rd in land area, , and 45th in total area. Its population according to the 2010 census, 630,337, is the second smallest in the country, larger only than Wyoming. It is the only New England...

    , an unrecognized but de facto independent republic
    Vermont Republic
    The term Vermont Republic has been used by later historians for the government of what became modern Vermont from 1777 to 1791. In July 1777 delegates from 28 towns met and declared independence from jurisdictions and land claims of British colonies in New Hampshire and New York. They also...

     until its admission in 1791
  • Kentucky
    Kentucky
    The Commonwealth of Kentucky is a state located in the East Central United States of America. As classified by the United States Census Bureau, Kentucky is a Southern state, more specifically in the East South Central region. Kentucky is one of four U.S. states constituted as a commonwealth...

    , a part of Virginia until its admission in 1792
  • Maine
    Maine
    Maine is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and south, New Hampshire to the west, and the Canadian provinces of Quebec to the northwest and New Brunswick to the northeast. Maine is both the northernmost and easternmost...

    , a part of Massachusetts until its admission in 1820 following the Missouri Compromise
    Missouri Compromise
    The Missouri Compromise was an agreement passed in 1820 between the pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions in the United States Congress, involving primarily the regulation of slavery in the western territories. It prohibited slavery in the former Louisiana Territory north of the parallel 36°30'...

  • Texas
    Texas
    Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

    , a recognized independent republic
    Republic of Texas
    The Republic of Texas was an independent nation in North America, bordering the United States and Mexico, that existed from 1836 to 1846.Formed as a break-away republic from Mexico by the Texas Revolution, the state claimed borders that encompassed an area that included all of the present U.S...

     until its admission in 1845
  • California
    California
    California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

    , created as a state (as part of the Compromise of 1850
    Compromise of 1850
    The Compromise of 1850 was a package of five bills, passed in September 1850, which defused a four-year confrontation between the slave states of the South and the free states of the North regarding the status of territories acquired during the Mexican-American War...

    ) out of the unorganized territory
    Unorganized territory
    An unorganized territory is a region of land without a "normally" constituted system of government. This does not mean that the territory has no government at all or that it is unclaimed territory...

     of the Mexican Cession
    Mexican Cession
    The Mexican Cession of 1848 is a historical name in the United States for the region of the present day southwestern United States that Mexico ceded to the U.S...

     in 1850 without ever having been a separate organized territory itself
  • West Virginia
    West Virginia
    West Virginia is a state in the Appalachian and Southeastern regions of the United States, bordered by Virginia to the southeast, Kentucky to the southwest, Ohio to the northwest, Pennsylvania to the northeast and Maryland to the east...

    , created from areas of western Virginia that rejoined the union in 1863, after the 1861 secession of Virginia to the Confederate States of America
    Confederate States of America
    The Confederate States of America was a government set up from 1861 to 1865 by 11 Southern slave states of the United States of America that had declared their secession from the U.S...

     during the American Civil War
    American Civil War
    The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...



Congress is also under no obligation to admit states even in those areas whose population expresses a desire for statehood. For instance, the Republic of Texas requested annexation to the United States in 1837, but fears about the conflict with Mexico that would result delayed admission for nine years.

Once established, most state borders have been generally stable, with exceptions including the formation of the Northwest Territory
Northwest Territory
The Territory Northwest of the River Ohio, more commonly known as the Northwest Territory, was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from July 13, 1787, until March 1, 1803, when the southeastern portion of the territory was admitted to the Union as the state of Ohio...

 in 1787 and the Southwest Territory
Southwest Territory
The Territory South of the River Ohio, more commonly known as the Southwest Territory, was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from May 26, 1790, until June 1, 1796, when it was admitted to the United States as the State of Tennessee.The Southwest Territory was...

 in 1790 from various portions of the original states, the cession by Maryland and Virginia of land to create the District of Columbia in 1791 (Virginia's portion was returned in 1847), and the creation of states from other states, including the creation of Kentucky and West Virginia from Virginia, and Maine from Massachusetts. However, there have been numerous minor adjustments to state boundaries over the years due to improved surveys, resolution of ambiguous or disputed boundary definitions, or minor mutually agreed boundary adjustments for administrative convenience or other purposes.

Possible new states



Today, there are several U.S. territories left that might potentially become new states.

Puerto Rico


The most likely candidate for statehood is generally thought to be Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico , officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico , is an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the northeastern Caribbean, east of the Dominican Republic and west of both the United States Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands.Puerto Rico comprises an...

. Puerto Rico called itself the "Commonwealth of Puerto Rico" in the English version of its constitution, and as "Estado Libre Asociado" (literally, Associated Free State) in the Spanish version. The island’s ultimate status has not been determined .

As with any non-state territory of the United States, its residents do not have voting representation in the federal government. Puerto Rico has limited representation in the U.S. Congress in the form of a Resident Commissioner
Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico
The Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico is a non-voting member of the United States House of Representatives elected by the voters of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico every four years...

, a nonvoting delegate.
History

Puerto Rico has been under U.S. sovereignty for over a century. Puerto Ricans have been U.S. citizens since 1917.

The U.S. Congress directed the Puerto Rican government to organize a constitutional convention
Constitutional convention (political meeting)
A constitutional convention is now a gathering for the purpose of writing a new constitution or revising an existing constitution. A general constitutional convention is called to create the first constitution of a political unit or to entirely replace an existing constitution...

 to write the Puerto Rico Constitution in 1951. Like the U.S. States, Puerto Rico has a republican form of government organized pursuant to a constitution adopted by its people and a bill of rights. The Approval of that constitution by Puerto Rico's electorate, the U.S. Congress, and the U.S. President occurred in 1952. The rights, privileges and immunities attendant to the United States Citizens are "respected in Puerto Rico to the same extent as though Puerto Rico were a state of the union" through the express extension by the U.S. Congress in 1948 of the Privileges and Immunities Clause
Privileges and Immunities Clause
The Privileges and Immunities Clause prevents a state from treating citizens of other states in a discriminatory manner...

 of the U.S. Constitution.

President George H. W. Bush
George H. W. Bush
George Herbert Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 41st President of the United States . He had previously served as the 43rd Vice President of the United States , a congressman, an ambassador, and Director of Central Intelligence.Bush was born in Milton, Massachusetts, to...

 issued a memorandum on November 30, 1992 to heads of executive departments and agencies establishing the current administrative relationship between the federal government
Federal government of the United States
The federal government of the United States is the national government of the constitutional republic of fifty states that is the United States of America. The federal government comprises three distinct branches of government: a legislative, an executive and a judiciary. These branches and...

 and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. This memorandum directs all federal departments, agencies, and officials to treat Puerto Rico administratively as if it were a state, insofar as doing so would not disrupt federal programs or operations.

The commonwealth's government has organized several referenda
Referendum
A referendum is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is asked to either accept or reject a particular proposal. This may result in the adoption of a new constitution, a constitutional amendment, a law, the recall of an elected official or simply a specific government policy. It is a form of...

 on the question of status over the past several decades, though Congress has not recognized these as binding; all shown resulted in narrow victories for the status quo
Status quo
Statu quo, a commonly used form of the original Latin "statu quo" – literally "the state in which" – is a Latin term meaning the current or existing state of affairs. To maintain the status quo is to keep the things the way they presently are...

 over statehood. On December 23, 2000, President Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton
William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton is an American politician who served as the 42nd President of the United States from 1993 to 2001. Inaugurated at age 46, he was the third-youngest president. He took office at the end of the Cold War, and was the first president of the baby boomer generation...

 signed executive Order 13183, which established the President's Task Force on Puerto Rico's Status
President's Task Force on Puerto Rico's Status
The mission of the President’s Task Force on Puerto Rico’s Status is to provide options for Puerto Rico’s future status and relationship with the Government of the United States....

 and the rules for its membership. Section 4 of executive Order 13183 (as amended by executive Order 13319) directs the task force to "report on its actions to the President ... on progress made in the determination of Puerto Rico’s ultimate status."

President George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

 signed an additional amendment to Executive Order 13183 on December 3, 2003, which established the current co-chairs and instructed the task force to issue reports as needed, but no less than once every two years. In December 2005, the presidential task force proposed a new set of referendums on the issue; if Congress votes in line with the task force's recommendation, it would pave the way for the first congressionally mandated votes on status in the island, and (potentially) statehood by 2012. The task force's December 2007 status report reiterated and confirmed the proposals made in 2005.

President Barack Obama
Barack Obama
Barack Hussein Obama II is the 44th and current President of the United States. He is the first African American to hold the office. Obama previously served as a United States Senator from Illinois, from January 2005 until he resigned following his victory in the 2008 presidential election.Born in...

 appointed a new Task Force on Puerto Rico's Status. In March 2011, it recommended that all relevant parties—the President, Congress, and the leadership and people of Puerto Rico—work to ensure that Puerto Ricans are able to express their will about status options and have that will acted upon by the end of 2012 or soon thereafter.
The report further recommends, "... if efforts on the Island do not provide a clear result in the short term, the President should support, and Congress should enact, self-executing legislation that specifies in advance for the people of Puerto Rico a set of acceptable status options, including the Statehood, that the United States is politically committed to fulfilling.
This legislation should commit the United States to honor the choice of the people of Puerto Rico (provided it is one of the status options specified in the legislation) and should specify the means by which such a choice would be made. The Task Force recommends that, by the end of 2012, the Administration develop, draft, and work with Congress to enact the proposed legislation."

Washington, D.C.


The intention of the Founding Fathers
Founding Fathers of the United States
The Founding Fathers of the United States of America were political leaders and statesmen who participated in the American Revolution by signing the United States Declaration of Independence, taking part in the American Revolutionary War, establishing the United States Constitution, or by some...

 was that the United States capital should be at a neutral site, not giving favor to any existing state; as a result, the District of Columbia was created in 1800 to serve as the seat of government. The inhabitants of the District do not have full representation
Proportional representation
Proportional representation is a concept in voting systems used to elect an assembly or council. PR means that the number of seats won by a party or group of candidates is proportionate to the number of votes received. For example, under a PR voting system if 30% of voters support a particular...

 in Congress or a sovereign elected government (they were allotted presidential electors by the 23rd amendment
Twenty-third Amendment to the United States Constitution
The Twenty-third Amendment to the United States Constitution permits citizens in the District of Columbia to vote for Electors for President and Vice President. The amendment was proposed by Congress on June 17, 1960, and ratified by the states on March 29, 1961...

, and have a non-voting delegate
Delegate (United States Congress)
A delegate to Congress is a non-voting member of the United States House of Representatives who is elected from a U.S. territory and from Washington, D.C. to a two-year term. While unable to vote in the full House, a non-voting delegate may vote in a House committee of which the delegate is a member...

 in Congress). Some residents of the District support statehood of some form for that jurisdiction—either statehood for the whole district or for the inhabited part, with the remainder remaining under federal jurisdiction. While statehood is always a live political question
Political question
In American Constitutional law, the political question doctrine is closely linked to the concept of justiciability, as it comes down to a question of whether or not the court system is an appropriate forum in which to hear the case. This is because the court system only has authority to hear and...

 in the District, the prospects for any movement in that direction in the immediate future seem dim.

According to Article IV, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution, "New states may be admitted by the Congress into this union; but no new states shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other state; nor any state be formed by the junction of two or more states, or parts of states, without the consent of the legislatures of the states concerned as well as of the Congress." This was the case when Maine was split off from Massachusetts; and when West Virginia was split from Virginia during the Civil War. When Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

 was admitted to the union in 1845, it was much larger than any other state and was specifically granted the right to divide itself into as many as five separate states.

Unrecognized entities

See also: Historical regions of the United States

  • The State of Franklin
    State of Franklin
    The State of Franklin, known also as the Free Republic of Franklin or the State of Frankland , was an unrecognized autonomous United States territory created in 1784 from part of the territory west of the Appalachian Mountains that had been offered,...

     existed for four years not long after the end of the American Revolution, but was never recognized by the union, which ultimately recognized North Carolina
    North Carolina
    North Carolina is a state located in the southeastern United States. The state borders South Carolina and Georgia to the south, Tennessee to the west and Virginia to the north. North Carolina contains 100 counties. Its capital is Raleigh, and its largest city is Charlotte...

    's claim of sovereignty over the area. A majority of the states were willing to recognize Franklin, but the number of states in favor fell short of the two-thirds majority required to admit a territory to statehood under the Articles of Confederation
    Articles of Confederation
    The Articles of Confederation, formally the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, was an agreement among the 13 founding states that legally established the United States of America as a confederation of sovereign states and served as its first constitution...

    . The territory comprising Franklin later became part of the state of Tennessee.
  • State of Jefferson
    • On July 24, 1859, voters defeated the formation of the proposed State of Jefferson
      Jefferson (Mountain state)
      Jefferson was a proposed American state in the Southern Rocky Mountains. On September 24, 1859, voters defeated the formation of this proposed State....

       in the Southern Rocky Mountains. On October 24, 1859, voters instead approved the formation of the Jefferson Territory
      Jefferson Territory
      The Provisional Government of the Territory of Jefferson was an extralegal and unrecognized United States territory that existed from October 24, 1859 until the creation of the Colorado Territory on February 28, 1861...

      , which was superseded by the Territory of Colorado on February 28, 1861.
    • In 1915, a second State of Jefferson
      Jefferson (South state)
      The name State of Jefferson was a name proposed for a new state in two plans for the division of the State of Texas.-Background:In the bill that annexed the Republic of Texas to the United States, allows the State to divided itself into additional states up to four...

       was proposed for the northern third of Texas
      Texas
      Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

       but failed to obtain majority approval by the Texas Senate.
    • In 1941, a third State of Jefferson was proposed in the mostly rural area of southern Oregon
      Oregon
      Oregon is a state in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States. It is located on the Pacific coast, with Washington to the north, California to the south, Nevada on the southeast and Idaho to the east. The Columbia and Snake rivers delineate much of Oregon's northern and eastern...

       and northern California
      California
      California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

      , but was cancelled as a result of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor
      Attack on Pearl Harbor
      The attack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise military strike conducted by the Imperial Japanese Navy against the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on the morning of December 7, 1941...

      . This proposal has been raised several times since.
  • State of Lincoln
    • Lincoln is another state that has been proposed multiple times. It generally consists of the eastern portion of Washington state and the panhandle or northern portion of Idaho
      Idaho
      Idaho is a state in the Rocky Mountain area of the United States. The state's largest city and capital is Boise. Residents are called "Idahoans". Idaho was admitted to the Union on July 3, 1890, as the 43rd state....

      . It was originally proposed by Idaho in 1864 to include just the panhandle of Idaho, and again in 1901 to include eastern Washington. Proposals have come up in 1996, 1999, and 2005.
    • Lincoln is also the name of a failed state proposal after the U.S. Civil War
      American Civil War
      The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

       in 1869. It consisted of the area south and west of Texas
      Texas
      Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

      ' Colorado River
      Colorado River (Texas)
      The Colorado River is a river that runs through the U.S. state of Texas; it should not be confused with the much longer Colorado River which flows from Colorado into the Gulf of California....

      .
  • State of Superior
    Superior (proposed state)
    The proposed State of Superior is the name of a longstanding "51st state" proposal involving the secession of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan from the rest of the state of Michigan, due to cultural differences, geographic separation, as well as the feeling that the capital in Lansing ignores the...

    • A proposed state formed out of the Upper Peninsula
      Upper Peninsula of Michigan
      The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is the northern of the two major land masses that make up the U.S. state of Michigan. It is commonly referred to as the Upper Peninsula, the U.P., or Upper Michigan. It is also known as the land "above the Bridge" linking the two peninsulas. The peninsula is bounded...

       of Michigan
      Michigan
      Michigan is a U.S. state located in the Great Lakes Region of the United States of America. The name Michigan is the French form of the Ojibwa word mishigamaa, meaning "large water" or "large lake"....

      . Several prominent legislators including local politician Dominic Jacobetti
      Dominic Jacobetti
      Dominic J. Jacobetti was a Democratic politician from the U.S. state of Michigan. He holds the record as the longest-serving member of the Michigan House of Representatives, serving from 1955 until his death in 1994, representing Michigan's 108th and 109th Districts.- Early life :Dominic was born...

       formally attempted this legislation in the 1970s, with no success. As a state, it would have had, by far, the smallest population, and remaining so through the present day. Its 320,000 residents would equal only 60% of Wyoming's population, and less than 50% of Alaska's population.

  • State of Deseret
    State of Deseret
    The State of Deseret was a proposed state of the United States, propositioned in 1849 by Latter-day Saint settlers in Salt Lake City. The provisional state existed for slightly over two years and was never recognized by the United States government...

    • The State of Deseret was a provisional state of the United States, proposed in 1849 by the Mormon settlers in Salt Lake City. The provisional state existed for slightly over two years and was never accepted by the United States Congress
      United States Congress
      The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

      . Its name was derived from the word for "honeybee" in the Book of Mormon
      Book of Mormon
      The Book of Mormon is a sacred text of the Latter Day Saint movement that adherents believe contains writings of ancient prophets who lived on the American continent from approximately 2600 BC to AD 421. It was first published in March 1830 by Joseph Smith, Jr...

      . Its territory included most of what is now Utah
      Utah
      Utah is a state in the Western United States. It was the 45th state to join the Union, on January 4, 1896. Approximately 80% of Utah's 2,763,885 people live along the Wasatch Front, centering on Salt Lake City. This leaves vast expanses of the state nearly uninhabited, making the population the...

       and Nevada
      Nevada
      Nevada is a state in the western, mountain west, and southwestern regions of the United States. With an area of and a population of about 2.7 million, it is the 7th-largest and 35th-most populous state. Over two-thirds of Nevada's people live in the Las Vegas metropolitan area, which contains its...

      .

Secession


The Constitution is silent on the issue of the secession
Secession
Secession is the act of withdrawing from an organization, union, or especially a political entity. Threats of secession also can be a strategy for achieving more limited goals.-Secession theory:...

 of a state from the union. However, its predecessor document, the Articles of Confederation, stated that the United States of America "shall be perpetual." The question of whether or not individual states held the right to unilateral secession remained a difficult and divisive one until the American Civil War. In 1860 and 1861, eleven southern states seceded, but following their defeat in the American Civil War were brought back into the Union during the Reconstruction Era. The federal government never recognized the secession of any of the rebellious states. Following the Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

, the United States Supreme Court, in Texas v. White
Texas v. White
Texas v. White, was a significant case argued before the United States Supreme Court in 1869. The case involved a claim by the Reconstruction government of Texas that United States bonds owned by Texas since 1850 had been illegally sold by the Confederate state legislature during the American...

, held that states did not have the right to secede and that any act of secession was legally void. Drawing on the Preamble to the Constitution
Preamble to the United States Constitution
The Preamble to the United States Constitution is a brief introductory statement of the Constitution's fundamental purposes and guiding principles...

, which states that the Constitution was intended to "form a more perfect union" and speaks of the people of the United States of America in effect as a single body politic, as well as the language of the Articles of Confederation, the Supreme Court maintained that states did not have a right to secede. However, the court's reference in the same decision to the possibility of such changes occurring "through revolution, or through consent of the States," essentially means that this decision holds that no state has a right to unilaterally decide to leave the Union.

Commonwealths


Four of the states bear the formal title of commonwealth: Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. This is merely a legacy of all four states' history, and their formal name has no effect on their legal status as states.

Somewhat confusingly, the U.S. territories of the Northern Marianas and Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico , officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico , is an unincorporated territory of the United States, located in the northeastern Caribbean, east of the Dominican Republic and west of both the United States Virgin Islands and the British Virgin Islands.Puerto Rico comprises an...

 are also referred to as commonwealths, and that designation does have a legal status different from that of the 50 states. Both of these commonwealths are unincorporated territories of the United States.

Origin of states' names




Twenty-four of the states' names originate from Native American languages
Indigenous languages of the Americas
Indigenous languages of the Americas are spoken by indigenous peoples from Alaska and Greenland to the southern tip of South America, encompassing the land masses which constitute the Americas. These indigenous languages consist of dozens of distinct language families as well as many language...

. Of these, eight are from Algonquian languages
Algonquian languages
The Algonquian languages also Algonkian) are a subfamily of Native American languages which includes most of the languages in the Algic language family. The name of the Algonquian language family is distinguished from the orthographically similar Algonquin dialect of the Ojibwe language, which is a...

, seven are from Siouan languages
Siouan languages
The Western Siouan languages, also called Siouan proper or simply Siouan, are a Native American language family of North America, and the second largest indigenous language family in North America, after Algonquian...

, one is from Uto-Aztecan languages
Uto-Aztecan languages
Uto-Aztecan or Uto-Aztekan is a Native American language family consisting of over 30 languages. Uto-Aztecan languages are found from the Great Basin of the Western United States , through western, central and southern Mexico Uto-Aztecan or Uto-Aztekan is a Native American language family...

 and five others are from other indigenous languages. Hawaii
Hawaii
Hawaii is the newest of the 50 U.S. states , and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of...

's name is derived from the Polynesian languages
Polynesian languages
The Polynesian languages are a language family spoken in the region known as Polynesia. They are classified as part of the Austronesian family, belonging to the Oceanic branch of that family. They fall into two branches: Tongic and Nuclear Polynesian. Polynesians share many cultural traits...

 Hawaiian Language
Hawaiian language
The Hawaiian language is a Polynesian language that takes its name from Hawaii, the largest island in the tropical North Pacific archipelago where it developed. Hawaiian, along with English, is an official language of the state of Hawaii...

.

Of the remaining names, 22 are from European languages: Seven from Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 (mainly Latinized
Latinisation (literature)
Latinisation is the practice of rendering a non-Latin name in a Latin style. It is commonly met with for historical personal names, with toponyms, or for the standard binomial nomenclature of the life sciences. It goes further than Romanisation, which is the writing of a word in the Latin alphabet...

 forms of English names), the rest are from English, Spanish and French. Eleven states are named after people, including seven named for royalty and one named after an American president. The origins of six state names are unknown or disputed.

Regional grouping


States may be grouped in regions; there are endless variations and possible groupings, as most states are not defined by obvious geographic or cultural borders. For further discussion of regions of the U.S., see the list of regions of the United States.

Borders


The northern and southern borders of the Thirteen Colonies
Thirteen Colonies
The Thirteen Colonies were English and later British colonies established on the Atlantic coast of North America between 1607 and 1733. They declared their independence in the American Revolution and formed the United States of America...

 on the East Coast were largely determined by colonial charters and anchoring coastal settlements. The western boundaries were determined by the limits of transportation, the infeasibility of settling areas dominated by Native Americans and foreign powers, and the decision to create new states out of western territories.

River borders between states are common. At various times, national borders with territories formerly controlled by other countries (namely the British colonies of Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, New France
New France
New France was the area colonized by France in North America during a period beginning with the exploration of the Saint Lawrence River by Jacques Cartier in 1534 and ending with the cession of New France to Spain and Great Britain in 1763...

, New Spain
New Spain
New Spain, formally called the Viceroyalty of New Spain , was a viceroyalty of the Spanish colonial empire, comprising primarily territories in what was known then as 'América Septentrional' or North America. Its capital was Mexico City, formerly Tenochtitlan, capital of the Aztec Empire...

 including Spanish Florida
Spanish Florida
Spanish Florida refers to the Spanish territory of Florida, which formed part of the Captaincy General of Cuba, the Viceroyalty of New Spain, and the Spanish Empire. Originally extending over what is now the southeastern United States, but with no defined boundaries, la Florida was a component of...

, and Russian North America) became institutionalized as the borders of U.S. states. Alaska
Alaska
Alaska is the largest state in the United States by area. It is situated in the northwest extremity of the North American continent, with Canada to the east, the Arctic Ocean to the north, and the Pacific Ocean to the west and south, with Russia further west across the Bering Strait...

 was formerly the colony of Russian America.

Most borders beyond the Thirteen Colonies were created by Congress as it created territories, divided them, and turned them into states as they became more populated. Territorial and new state lines followed various geographic features, economic units, and the pattern of settlement. In the West, relatively arbitrary straight lines following latitude and longitude often prevail, due to the sparseness of settlement west of the Mississippi River. Faster transportation also meant that larger states were more feasible to govern from a single capital. Vermont
Vermont
Vermont is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. The state ranks 43rd in land area, , and 45th in total area. Its population according to the 2010 census, 630,337, is the second smallest in the country, larger only than Wyoming. It is the only New England...

, California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

, and Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

 were each briefly independent nations, as was Hawaii
Hawaii
Hawaii is the newest of the 50 U.S. states , and is the only U.S. state made up entirely of islands. It is the northernmost island group in Polynesia, occupying most of an archipelago in the central Pacific Ocean, southwest of the continental United States, southeast of Japan, and northeast of...

. Some states were previously part of other states, including Maine
Maine
Maine is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and south, New Hampshire to the west, and the Canadian provinces of Quebec to the northwest and New Brunswick to the northeast. Maine is both the northernmost and easternmost...

, West Virginia
West Virginia
West Virginia is a state in the Appalachian and Southeastern regions of the United States, bordered by Virginia to the southeast, Kentucky to the southwest, Ohio to the northwest, Pennsylvania to the northeast and Maryland to the east...

, Kentucky
Kentucky
The Commonwealth of Kentucky is a state located in the East Central United States of America. As classified by the United States Census Bureau, Kentucky is a Southern state, more specifically in the East South Central region. Kentucky is one of four U.S. states constituted as a commonwealth...

, and Tennessee
Tennessee
Tennessee is a U.S. state located in the Southeastern United States. It has a population of 6,346,105, making it the nation's 17th-largest state by population, and covers , making it the 36th-largest by total land area...

. Occasionally the United States Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

 or the United States Supreme Court have settled state border disputes.

See also



  • 50 State Quarters
    50 State Quarters
    The 50 State Quarters program is the release of a series of circulating commemorative coins by the United States Mint. Between 1999 and 2008, it featured each of the 50 U.S. states on unique designs for the reverse of the quarter....

  • 51st state
    51st state
    The 51st state, in United States political discourse, is a phrase that refers to areas either seriously or derisively considered candidates for addition to the 50 states already part of the United States. Before 1959, when Alaska and Hawaii joined the U.S., the term "the 49th state" was used...

  • Extreme points of the United States
    Extreme points of the United States
    This is a list of the extreme points of the United States, the points that are farther north, south, east, or west than any other location in the country. Also included are extreme points in elevation, extreme distances, and other points of peculiar geographic interest.-Northernmost:*Point Barrow,...

  • Geography of the United States
    Geography of the United States
    The United States is a country in the Western Hemisphere. It consists of forty-eight contiguous states in North America, Alaska, a peninsula which forms the northwestern most part of North America, and Hawaii, an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. There are several United States territories in the...

  • List of fictional U.S. states
  • List of regions of the United States
  • List of U.S. counties that share names with U.S. states
  • Lists of U.S. states
  • Organized incorporated territories of the United States
    Organized incorporated territories of the United States
    Organized incorporated territories are those territories of the United States that are both incorporated and organized .Through most of U.S...

  • Political divisions of the United States
    Political divisions of the United States
    The political units and divisions of the United States include:*The 50 states are subdivided into counties . The counties may be further subdivided into townships, or towns in New York and New England...

  • States' rights
    States' rights
    States' rights in U.S. politics refers to political powers reserved for the U.S. state governments rather than the federal government. It is often considered a loaded term because of its use in opposition to federally mandated racial desegregation...

  • United States Constitution
    United States Constitution
    The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

  • United States Declaration of Independence
    United States Declaration of Independence
    The Declaration of Independence was a statement adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies then at war with Great Britain regarded themselves as independent states, and no longer a part of the British Empire. John Adams put forth a...

    • United States Declaration of Independence (text)
  • United States territorial acquisitions
    United States territorial acquisitions
    This is a simplified list of United States territorial acquisitions, beginning with American independence. Note that this list primarily concerns land acquired from other nation-states; the numerous territorial acquisitions from American Indians are not listed here.-1783-1848:*The 1783 Treaty of...

  • Territorial evolution of the United States
    Territorial evolution of the United States
    This is a list of the evolution of the borders of the United States. This lists each change to the internal and external borders of the country, as well as status and name changes. It also shows the surrounding areas that eventually became part of the United States...

  • United States territory
    United States territory
    United States territory is any extent of region under the jurisdiction of the federal government of the United States, including all waters including all U.S. Naval carriers. The United States has traditionally proclaimed the sovereign rights for exploring, exploiting, conserving, and managing its...

  • Territories of the United States
  • Comparison of U.S. state governments


Further reading

  • Stein, Mark, How the States Got Their Shapes, New York : Smithsonian Books/Collins, 2008. ISBN 9780061431388

External links