A U.S. state is any one of the fifty subnational entities of the United States (although four states use the official title commonwealth). The separate state governments and the federal government share sovereignty, in that an "American" is a citizen both of the federal entity and of his or her state of residence. However, state citizenship is very flexible, and no government approval is required to move between states (with the exception of convicts on parole).
The United States Constitution allocates power between the two levels of government in general terms. By ratifying the Constitution, each state transfers certain sovereign powers to the federal government and agrees to share other powers. Under the Tenth Amendment, all powers not explicitly transferred or shared are retained by the states and the people. Historically, the tasks of public education, public health, transportation and other infrastructure have been considered primarily state responsibilities, although all have significant federal funding and regulation as well.
Over time, the Constitution has been amended, and the interpretation and application of its provisions have changed. The general tendency has been toward centralization, with the federal government playing a much larger role than it once did. There is a continuing debate over "states' rights," which concerns the extent and nature of the powers that the states have given to the federal government.
- 1 List of states
- 2 Origin of states' names
- 3 Grouping of the states in regions
- 4 State lists
- 5 External links
- 6 References
List of states
The following sortable table lists each of the 50 states of the United States of America with the following information:
- The common state name,
- The official state name or names,
- The United States Postal Service (USPS) two-character state abbreviation
(also used as the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) Standard 3166-2 country subdivision code),
- The date the state ratified the United States Constitution or was admitted to the Union,
- The United States Census Bureau estimate of state population as of 2006-07-01,
- The state capital,
- The most populous incorporated place or census-designated place within the state as of 2005-07-01, as estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau, and
- An image of the state flag.
Admission of states into the union
Since the establishment of the United States, the number of states has expanded from 13 to 50. The Constitution is rather laconic on the process by which new states can 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 without the consent of both that state's legislature and of Congress.
In practice, nearly all states admitted to the union after the original thirteen have been formed from U.S. territories (that is, land under the sovereignty of the United States federal government but not part of any state) that were organized (given a measure of self-rule by Congress). Generally speaking, the organized government of a territory would make known the sentiment of its population in favor of statehood; Congress would then direct that government to organize a constitutional convention to write a state constitution. Upon acceptance of that Constitution, Congress would then admit that territory as a state. The broad outlines in this process were established by the Northwest Ordinance, which actually 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 have been admitted that were never organized territories of the federal government:
- Vermont, an unrecognized but de facto independent republic until its admission in 1791
- Kentucky, a part of Virginia until its admission in 1792
- Maine, a part of Massachusetts until its admission in 1820 following the Missouri Compromise
- Texas, a recognized independent republic until its admission in 1845
- California, created as a state (as part of the Compromise of 1850) out of the unorganized territory of the Mexican Cession in 1850 without ever having been a separate organized territory itself
- West Virginia, created from areas of Virginia that rejoined the union in 1863, after the 1861 secession of Virginia to the Confederate States of America
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 1836, but fears about the conflict with Mexico that would result delayed admission for nine years. Utah Territory was denied admission to the union as a state for decades because of discomfort with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' dominance in the territory, and particularly with the Mormon elite's then-current practice of polygamy.
Naming issues: Commonwealths, republics, and states
Four of the states bear the formal title of Commonwealth: Kentucky, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. In these cases, this is merely a name and has no legal effect. Somewhat confusingly, two U.S. territories — Puerto Rico and the Northern Marianas — are also referred to as commonwealths, and do have a legal status different from the states.
The Republic of Texas was an independent nation for nine years, and the Republic of Hawaiʻi, formerly the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi, was also an independent nation. There is debate over whether Vermont was ever an independent nation; however it was the first future state to write its own Constitution. The so-called "California Republic" was actually a flag raised by Americans in the town of Sonoma after they expelled the local Mexican official. Ten days later the U.S. Army took over.
States are free to organize their state governments any way they like, as long as they conform to the sole requirement of the U.S. Constitution that they have "a Republican Form of Government". In practice, each state has adopted a three branch system of government generally along the sames lines as that of the federal government—though this is not a requirement. There is nothing that could stop a state from adopting a parliamentary system—with a fusion of powers, as opposed to a separation of powers—if it so choses.
Origin of states' names
- Southeastern states on the Atlantic coast originated as British colonies named after British monarchs: Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia, and Maryland. Some northeastern states, also former British colonies, take their names from places in the British Isles: New Hampshire, New Jersey, and New York. Pennsylvania, meaning "Penn's woods," in Latin, takes its name from the father of its founder, William Penn. Delaware is named after Thomas West, Lord De La Warr, an early colonist and governor of the Jamestown Colony.
- Many states' names are those of Native American tribes or are from Native American languages: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, the Dakotas, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and others. Additionally, the name of Idaho was presented as a Native American word by eccentric lobbyist George M. Willing, though it was later revealed that he likely made it up. Indiana means literally "land of Indians". Hawaii is a Polynesian name.
- Because they are on territories previously controlled by Spain or Mexico, many states in the southeast and southwest have Spanish names. They include Colorado, Florida, Nevada, Montana, and, ultimately of Native American origin, New Mexico. California is also believed to be of Spanish origin, though this is not entirely clear (see Origin of the name California).
- Because it was previously a French colony, Louisiana is named after Louis XIV (the King of France at the time). Maine may also be named after the historical French province of Maine, although another theory derives "Maine" from "mainland," differentiating it from the outlying islands. Vermont is derived from the French term for "green mountains", a reference to its mountainous but forested terrain.
- Formally referred to as the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Rhode Island likely gained its name through the supposed similarity of Aquidneck Island (the body of land known as Rhode Island, which contains the city of Newport and the towns of Portsmouth and Middletown) to the Greek Isle of Rhodes. Providence Plantations, which makes reference to the mainland that surrounds Narragansett Bay, was named by its religious founders for God's divine providence. The state of Washington was named after George Washington. Arizona may come from a Basque term, or it may be of Native American origin.
- The origin of Oregon is not certain, although various theories exist, but is most likely to be of Native American origin.
Grouping of the states in regions
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.
- List of U.S. state capitals
- List of current and former capital cities within U.S. states
- List of U.S. states' largest cities
- List of U.S. states by date of statehood
- List of U.S. states that were never territories
- List of U.S. state name etymologies
- List of state legislatures in the United States
- List of U.S. states by area
- List of U.S. states by elevation
- List of U.S. states by GDP (nominal)
- List of U.S. states by GDP per capita (nominal)
- List of U.S. states by population
- List of U.S. states by population density
- List of U.S. states by time zone
- List of U.S. states by unemployment rate
- List of U.S. states by traditional abbreviation
- U.S. postal abbreviations
- U.S. state temperature extremes
- Codes: FIPS state code, ISO 3166-2:US
- Tables with areas, populations, densities and more (in order of population)
- Tables with areas, populations, densities and more (alphabetical)
- Origin of State Names
- Rick's Search Assistant - Web links & addresses for many state agencies, e.g., Motor Vehicles, Corporate Records, Attorneys General
- United States Postal Service
- State and Territorial Governments on FirstGov.gov
- StateMaster - statistical database for US States.
- ^ "Official USPS Abbreviations" (HTML). United States Postal Service. 1998. http://www.usps.com/ncsc/lookups/abbreviations.html. Retrieved 2007-02-26.
- ^ "Table 1: Annual Estimates of the Population for the United States and States, and for Puerto Rico: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2006" (CSV). 2006 Population Estimates. United States Census Bureau, Population Division. 2006-12-22. http://www.census.gov/popest/states/tables/NST-EST2006-01.csv. Retrieved 2007-02-26.
- ^ "Annual Estimates of the Population for All Incorporated Places: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2005" (CSV). 2005 Population Estimates. United States Census Bureau, Population Division. 2006-06-20. http://www.census.gov/popest/cities/files/SUB-EST2005-ip.csv. Retrieved 2007-02-26.
- ^ The Hartford-West Hartford-Willimantic Combined Statistical Area is the most populous metropolitan area in Connecticut.
- ^ The Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Miami Beach Metropolitan Statistical Area is the most populous metropolitan area in Florida.
- ^ The United States Census Bureau estimates that, as of 2005-07-01, the population of the City of New Orleans was 454,863 and the population of the City of Baton Rouge was 222,064. After Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana, New Orleans lost a significant portion of its population while the population of Baton Rouge increased substantially.
- ^ Baltimore City and the 12 Maryland counties of the Washington-Baltimore-Northern Virginia Combined Statistical Area form the most populous metropolitan region in Maryland.
- ^ The City of Saint Louis and the 8 Missouri counties of the St. Louis-St. Charles-Farmington Combined Statistical Area form the most populous metropolitan region in Missouri.
- ^ The 5 southeastern New Hampshire counties of the Boston-Worcester-Manchester Combined Statistical Area form the most populous metropolitan region in New Hampshire.
- ^ The 13 northern New Jersey counties of the New York-Newark-Bridgeport Combined Statistical Area form the most populous metropolitan region in New Jersey.
- ^ The Cleveland-Akron-Elyria Combined Statistical Area is the most populous metropolitan area in Ohio.
- ^ The Greenville-Spartanburg-Anderson Combined Statistical Area is the most populous metropolitan area in South Carolina.
- ^ The Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Columbia Combined Statistical Area is the most populous metropolitan area in Tennessee.
- ^ The Dallas-Fort Worth Combined Statistical Area is the most populous metropolitan area in Texas.
- ^ The 10 Virginia counties and 6 Virginia cities of the Washington-Baltimore-Northern Virginia Combined Statistical Area form the most populous metropolitan region in Virginia.
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