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The continent's first elected legislative assembly, Virginia's House of Burgesses created in 1619, the Mayflower Compact, signed by the Pilgrims before disembarking, and the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut, established precedents for the pattern of representative self-government and constitutionalism that would develop throughout the American colonies.

Most settlers in every colony were small farmers, but other industries developed within a few decades as varied as the settlements. Extraction industries grew up in furs, fishing and lumber.

For the landmass comprising North, Central and South America, see Americas.

For other uses, see America (disambiguation), US (disambiguation), USA (disambiguation), and United States (disambiguation).

The current constitution was adopted in 1788, with the first ten amendments, collectively named the Bill of Rights, being ratified in 1791 to guarantee many fundamental civil liberties.

The United States embarked on a vigorous expansion across North America throughout the 19th century, acquiring new territories, as a global superpower, the first country to develop nuclear weapons, the only country to use them in warfare, and a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

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Bad weather forced his ships south to about 43° north before they could begin their exploration of the coast northward.When the Russians began establishing a growing fur trading system in Alaska, the Spanish began to challenge the Russians, with Pérez's voyage being the first of many to the Pacific Northwest.After having arrived in the Hawaiian islands in 1778, Captain Cook sailed north and then northeast to explore the west coast of North America north of the Spanish settlements in Alta California.During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union competed in the Space Race, culminating with the 1969 moon landing. "Columbia", a name popular in poetry and songs of the late 18th century, derives its origin from Christopher Columbus; it appears in the name "District of Columbia".

The end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 left the United States as the world's sole superpower. The phrase "United States" was originally plural, a description of a collection of independent states—e.g., "the United States are"—including in the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified in 1865.

Numerous disputes between Great Britain and the colonies following the French and Indian War led to the American Revolution, which began in 1775, and the subsequent Declaration of Independence in 1776.