On this day in 1776, The Continental Congress officially gave its union of colonies the name United States of America.
This was not, however, the first time this collection of colonies and territories had been called that. A letter dated January 2, 1776, from Muster-Master General of the Continental Army, Stephen Moylan, Esq., to Lt. Col. Joseph Reed, ordered that the “full and ample powers of the United States of America” were be carried to Spain to assist in the revolutionary war effort, is the earliest historical mentioning.
The first known public use of “United States of America” was on April 6, 1776. It was mentioned in the Williamsburg, VA, newspaper, The Virginia Gazette. And the first official documentation of the name was in the June 17, 1776, second draft of the Articles of Confederation, where it is stated that, “The name of this Confederation shall be the ‘United States of America.'”
Also in June of 1776, Thomas Jefferson wrote in all caps “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” across the top of his working rough draft of the Declaration of Independence. It is not known who used it first, between Jefferson and Dickinson’s Articles of Confederation draft. (And that would really be knit-picking to run that detail down.)
In the final, official (July 4th) draft of the Declaration of Independence, the uncapped ‘united’ is used: “The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America”. Further, the full “United States of America” is used in the Preamble of the Constitution.
So, happy name day, United States of America!
Feature image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.