Who coined the name 'United States of America'? Mystery gets new twist.
Historians continue to debate who came up with the formulation 'United States of America' as the name for the new nation. A new discovery could shift the discussion.
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Beginning in March 1776, a series of anonymously written articles began appearing in The Virginia Gazette – one of three different Virginia Gazettes being published in Williamsburg at that time. Addressed to the “Inhabitants of Virginia,” the essays present an economic set of arguments promoting independence versus reconciliation with Great Britain. The author estimates total Colonial losses at $24 million and laments the possibility of truce without full reparation – and then voices for the first time what would become the name of our nation.Skip to next paragraph
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“What a prodigious sum for the united states of America to give up for the sake of a peace, that, very probably, itself would be one of the greatest misfortunes!” – A PLANTER
So who is A PLANTER?
Likely candidates could be well-known Virginians, like Richard Henry Lee, Patrick Henry, or even Jefferson. Some of the essay’s phrasing can be found in the writings of Jefferson. For example, “to bind us by their laws in all cases whatsoever,” appears in both the essay and Jefferson’s autobiography.
A Planter could be the nomme de plume of an intrepid New Englander, like John Adams, attempting to rally support for independence in the South, a similar motive for why he charged Jefferson, a Southerner, to pen the Declaration.
A Planter could be Benjamin Franklin, who was well-known for his hoaxes and journalistic sleight-of-hand. Or maybe, A Planter is exactly whom the letters portray, an industrious, logistics-minded landowner, evangelizing about the promise of increased prosperity should the “united states of America” ever become an independent nation.
There is a possibility the author was aware of the historical significance of introducing the new name for the first time, as he or she observes:
“Many to whom this language is new, may, at first, be startled at the name of an independent Republick, [and think that] the expenses of maintaining a long and important war will exceed the disadvantages of submitting to some partial and mutilated accommodation. But let these persons point out to you any other alternative than independence or submission. For it is impossible for us to make any other concessions without yielding to the whole of their demands.”
So, the mystery continues.
Our anonymous author, A Planter, certainly did plant a few seeds in the spring of 1776. Those seeds came to fruition as the first documentary evidence of the phrase “United States of America” – an experiment in self-government that quickly became one of the most powerful and influential nations in the world.