Land belonging to the United States that has not become a state and defined areas that just gained statehood.
The Treaty of Paris, by which England recognized the independence of the United States, gave to the Americans not only the territories of the thirteen states but also the lands east of the Mississippi and north of Florida. The Continental Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance
The U.S. government’s inability under the Articles of Confederation to govern the territories effectively became one of the reasons for the adoption of the U.S. Constitution in 1789. The Constitution gave the federal government the means to enforce the Northwest Ordinance through its provision for a standing army. In addition, Article IV, section 3, of the Constitution gave Congress the authority to develop laws governing the federal territories and to provide for the entrance of new states.
In 1803 President Thomas Jefferson purchased Louisiana from Napoleon, who was aware that the territory, which included the entire area drained by the Mississippi, west of the main channel, could not be defended by France from the British. Although Jefferson could find nothing in the Constitution that authorized him to buy land for territorial expansion, he made the purchase, adding considerable territory to the nation.
In the decades before the Civil War (1861-1865), the creation of new states depended on balancing slave
The admittance of Texas, the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), and the subsequent Mexican cession returned slavery to the forefront of political debate. The Wilmot Proviso of 1846 was an attempt by free-state congressmen to ban slavery in the territories taken from Mexico. Southern senators defeated the proviso, but the debate over slavery in the territories came to dominate politics. The Compromise of 1850 only delayed southern secession for a decade. Under the Compromise, California entered as a free state, while the status of slavery in the other territories remained ambiguous. In Scott v. Sandford
After the Civil War, the process for new states entering the Union became less political. The system depended on territories becoming populated by a majority of white settlers, displacing or outnumbering Native American or Hispanic residents. In Coyle v. Smith
The Supreme Court ruled on questions regarding the conversion of public lands into for-sale properties as the territories became states. In 1911 the government converted American Indian Lands to public lands, then sold them on the market.
The system for statehood was tested by the annexation of the Philippines.
The last state to enter the Union, Hawaii, did so in 1959 after long debate. President Dwight D. Eisenhower remained leery of the influence of communism in the islands and of admitting a state where white people were not in the majority. In the 1970’s, Congress began changing the relationship between the territories and the federal government. American Samoa, Guam, and the Virgin Islands began to elect their own governors. The former United Nations Trust of the Northern Mariana Islands became a commonwealth of the United States in 1986, with a status similar to that of Puerto Rico, and Guam also began seeking commonwealth status. The territories and the District of Columbia each elect a member to the House of Representatives, who can vote in committees and speak on the floor but cannot vote on the floor. Only in Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia have serious movements toward statehood occurred.
Scott v. Sandford