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Massachusetts

Massachusetts

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Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Flag of Massachusetts State seal of Massachusetts
Flag Seal
Nickname(s): The Bay State, The Old Colony, The Codfish State[1]
Motto(s): Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem (Latin)
Map of the United States with Massachusetts highlighted
Official language(s) None
Demonym Bay Stater (official)[2] Massachusite (traditional)[3][4] Massachusettsian (archaic)[5]
Capital
(and largest city)
Boston
 
Largest metro area Greater Boston
Area  Ranked 44th in the U.S.
 - Total 10,555[6] sq mi
(27,336 km2)
 - Width 183 miles (295 km)
 - Length 113 miles (182 km)
 - % water 25.7
 - Latitude 41° 14′ N to 42° 53′ N
 - Longitude 69° 56′ W to 73° 30′ W
Population  Ranked 14th in the U.S.
 - Total 6,587,536 (2011 est)[7]
 - Density 840/sq mi  (324/km2)
Ranked 3rd in the U.S.
 - Median household income  $65,401 (2008) (6th)
Elevation  
 - Highest point Mount Greylock[8][9][10]
3,489 ft (1063.4 m)
 - Mean 500 ft  (150 m)
 - Lowest point Atlantic Ocean[9]
sea level
Before statehood Province of Massachusetts Bay
Admission to Union  February 6, 1788 (6th)
Governor Deval Patrick (D)
Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray (D)
Legislature General Court
 - Upper house Senate
 - Lower house House of Representatives
U.S. Senators John Kerry (D)
Scott Brown (R)
U.S. House delegation 10 Democrats (list)
Time zone Eastern: UTC-5/-4
Abbreviations MA Mass. US-MA
Website www.mass.gov
[show]
Massachusetts State symbols

Massachusetts (Listeni/ˌmæsəˈsɨts/), officially the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is a U.S. state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. Massachusetts is the 7th least extensive, but the 14th most populous and the 3rd most densely populated of the 50 United States. The state features two separate metropolitan areas – the eastern Boston metropolitan area and the western Springfield metropolitan area. Approximately two thirds of the state's population lives in Greater Boston, most of which is either urban or suburban. Western Massachusetts features one urban area – the Knowledge Corridor along the Connecticut River – and a mix of college towns and rural areas. Massachusetts is the most populous of the six New England states and has the US's sixth highest GDP per capita.

Massachusetts has played a significant historical, cultural, and commercial role in American history. Plymouth was the site of the colony founded in 1620 by the Pilgrims, passengers of the Mayflower. Harvard University, founded in 1636, is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. In 1692, the towns surrounding Salem experienced one of America's most infamous cases of mass hysteria, the Salem Witch Trials. In the 18th century, the Protestant First Great Awakening, which swept the Atlantic world, originated from the pulpit of Northampton, Massachusetts preacher Jonathan Edwards. In the late 18th century, Boston became known as the "Cradle of Liberty" for the agitation there that led to the American Revolution and the independence of the United States from Great Britain. In 1777, General Henry Knox founded the Springfield Armory, which during the Industrial Revolution catalyzed numerous important technological advances, including interchangeable parts. In 1786, Shays' Rebellion, a populist revolt by Western Massachusetts farmers, led directly to the United States Constitutional Convention. Before the American Civil War, Massachusetts was a center for the temperance, transcendentalist, and abolitionist movements. In 1837, Mount Holyoke College, the United States' first college for women, was opened in the Connecticut River Valley town of South Hadley. In the late 19th century, the (now) Olympic sports of basketball and volleyball were invented in the Western Massachusetts cities of Springfield and Holyoke, respectively. In 2004, Massachusetts became the first U.S. state to legally recognize same-sex marriage as a result of the decision of the state's Supreme Judicial Court. The state has contributed many prominent politicians to national service, including members of the Adams family and of the Kennedy family.

Originally dependent on fishing, agriculture, and trade, Massachusetts was transformed into a manufacturing center during the Industrial Revolution. During the 20th century, the state's economy shifted from manufacturing to services. In the 21st century, Massachusetts is a leader in higher education, health care technology, high technology, and financial services.

Contents

Name

The Massachusetts Bay Colony was named after the indigenous population, the Massachusett, whose name can be segmented as mass-adchu-s-et, where mass- is "large", -adchu- is "hill", -s- is a diminutive suffix meaning "small", and -et is a locative suffix, identifying a place. It has been translated as "near the great hill",[12] "by the blue hills", "at the little big hill", or "at the range of hills", referring to the Blue Hills, or in particular, Great Blue Hill, located on the boundary of Milton and Canton.[13][14] Alternatively, Massachusett has been represented as Moswetuset, from the name of the Moswetuset Hummock (meaning "hill shaped like an arrowhead") in Quincy where Plymouth Colony commander Miles Standish and Squanto, a Native American, met Chief Chickatawbut in 1621.[15][16]

Prominent roads and cities in Massachusetts.

The official name of the state is the "Commonwealth of Massachusetts".[17] Colloquially, it is often referred to simply as "the Commonwealth". While this designation is part of the state's official name, it has no practical implications. Massachusetts has the same position and powers within the United States as other states.[18]

Geography

Massachusetts is the 7th smallest state in the United States. It is located in the New England region of the northeastern United States, and has an area of 10,555 square miles (27,340 km²).[6] Several large bays distinctly shape its coast. Boston is the largest city, at the inmost point of Massachusetts Bay, the mouth of the Charles River, which is the longest river entirely within Massachusetts. The state extends from the mountains of the Appalachian system in the west to the sandy beaches and rocky shorelines of the Atlantic coast.

The National Park Service administers a number of natural and historical sites in Massachusetts.[19] Along with twelve national historic sites, areas, and corridors, the National Park Service also manages the Cape Cod National Seashore and the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area.[19] In addition, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation maintains a number of parks, trails, and beaches throughout the commonwealth.[20][21][22]

Ecology

The primary biome of inland Massachusetts is temperate deciduous forest.[23] Although much of the state had been cleared for agriculture, leaving only traces of old growth forest in isolated pockets, secondary growth has regenerated in many rural areas as farms have been abandoned.[24] Currently, forests cover around 62% of Massachusetts.[25][26] The areas most affected by human development include the Greater Boston area in the east, the smaller Springfield metropolitan area in the west, and the largely agricultural Pioneer Valley.[27] Animals that have become locally extinct over the past few centuries include gray wolves, elk, wolverines, and mountain lions.[28]

Many coastal areas in Massachusetts provide breeding areas for species such as the Piping Plover.

A number of species are doing well despite (and in some cases because of) the increased urbanization of the commonwealth. Peregrine falcons utilize office towers in larger cities as nesting areas,[29] and the population of coyotes, whose diet may include garbage and roadkill, has been increasing in recent decades.[30] White-tailed deer, raccoons, wild turkeys and eastern gray squirrels are also found throughout Massachusetts.[28][31] In more rural areas in the western part of the state, larger mammals such as moose and black bears have returned, largely due to reforestation following the regional decline in agriculture.[32][33]

Massachusetts is located along the Atlantic Flyway, a major route for migratory waterfowl along the Atlantic coast.[34] Lakes in central Massachusetts provide habitat for the common loon,[35] while a significant population of long-tailed ducks winter off Nantucket.[36] Small offshore islands and beaches are home to roseate terns and are important breeding areas for the locally threatened piping plover.[37][38] Protected areas such as the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge provide critical breeding habitat for shorebirds and a variety of marine wildlife including a large population of gray seals.[39]

Freshwater fish species in the commonwealth include bass, carp, catfish, and trout,[40] while saltwater species such as Atlantic cod, haddock and American lobster populate offshore waters.[41] Other marine species include Harbor seals, the endangered North Atlantic right whales, as well as humpback whales, fin whales, minke whales and Atlantic white-sided dolphins.[28]

History

Mayflower in Plymouth Harbor by William Halsall (1882) The Pilgrims were a group of Puritans who founded Plymouth in 1620.

Early

Massachusetts was originally inhabited by tribes of the Algonquian language family such as the Wampanoag, Narragansett, Nipmuc, Pocomtuc, Mahican, and Massachusett.[42][43] While cultivation of crops like squash and corn supplemented their diets, these tribes were generally dependent on hunting, gathering and fishing for most of their food supply.[42] Villages consisted of lodges called wigwams as well as long houses,[43] and tribes were led by male or female elders known as sachems.[44]

Colonial period

In the early 1600s (after contact had been made with Europeans, but before permanent settlements were established), large numbers of the indigenous people in the northeast of what is now the United States were killed by virgin soil epidemics such as smallpox, measles, influenza, and perhaps leptospirosis.[45] In 1617–1619, smallpox reportedly killed 90% of the Massachusetts Bay Native Americans.[46]

The first English settlers in Massachusetts, the Pilgrims, established their settlement at Plymouth in 1620, and developed friendly relations with the native Wampanoag.[47] This was the second successful permanent English colony in North America, after the Jamestown Colony. The Pilgrims were soon followed by Puritans who established the Massachusetts Bay Colony at present-day Boston in 1630.[48] The Puritans, who believed the Church of England was too hierarchical (among other disagreements) came to Massachusetts for religious freedom,[49] although, unlike the Plymouth colony, the bay colony was founded under a royal charter. Both religious dissent and expansionism resulted in several new colonies being founded shortly after Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay elsewhere in New England. Dissenters such as Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams were banished due to religious disagreements; (Hutchinson held meetings in her home discussing flaws in the Puritan beliefs, while Williams believed that the Puritan beliefs were wrong, and the Indians must be respected.) In 1636, Williams founded the colony of Rhode Island and Hutchinson joined him there several years later.[50]

In 1691, the colonies of Massachusetts Bay and Plymouth were united (along with present-day Maine, which had previously been divided between Massachusetts and New York) into the Province of Massachusetts Bay.[51] Shortly after the arrival of the new province's first governor, Sir William Phips, the Salem witch trials took place, in which a number of men and women were hanged.[52]

The most destructive earthquake yet known in New England occurred in 1755, causing considerable damage across the commonwealth.[53]

Percy's Rescue at Lexington by Ralph Earl and Amos Doolittle from 1775, an illustration of the Battles of Lexington and Concord.

Massachusetts was a center of the movement for independence from Great Britain; colonists here had long had uneasy relations with the British monarchy, including open rebellion under the Dominion of New England in the 1680s.[51] Protests against British attempts to tax the colonies after the French and Indian War ended in 1763 led to the Boston Massacre in 1770, and the 1773 Boston Tea Party escalated tensions to the breaking point.[54] Anti-Parliamentary activity by men such as Samuel Adams and John Hancock, followed by reprisals by the British government, were a primary reason for the unity of the Thirteen Colonies and the outbreak of the American Revolution.[55] The Battles of Lexington and Concord initiated the American Revolutionary War and were fought in the Massachusetts towns of Concord and Lexington.[56] Future President George Washington took over what would become the Continental Army after the battle. His first victory was the Siege of Boston in the winter of 1775–6, after which the British were forced to evacuate the city.[57] The event is still celebrated in Suffolk County as Evacuation Day.[58]

Federal period

Bostonian John Adams, known as the "Atlas of Independence", was an important figure in both the struggle for independence as well as the formation of the new United States.[59] Adams was highly involved in the push for separation from Britain and the writing of the Massachusetts Constitution in 1780 (which, in the Elizabeth Freeman and Quock Walker cases, effectively made Massachusetts the first state to have a constitution that declared universal rights and, as interpreted by Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice William Cushing, abolished slavery).[59][60] Later, Adams was active in early American foreign affairs and succeeded Washington as US President.[59] His son, John Quincy Adams, would go on to become the sixth US President.[59]

After independence and during the formative years of independent American government, Shays' Rebellion was an armed uprising in the western half of the state from 1786 to 1787. The rebels were mostly small farmers angered by crushing war debt and taxes. The rebellion was one of the major factors in the decision to draft a stronger national constitution to replace the Articles of Confederation.[61] On February 6, 1788, Massachusetts became the sixth state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.[62]

19th century

In 1820, Maine separated from Massachusetts, of which it had been first a contiguous and then a non-contiguous part, and entered the Union as the 23rd state as a result of the ratification of the Missouri Compromise.[63]

Textile mills such as the Boott Mills in Lowell made Massachusetts a leader in the US industrial revolution.

During the 19th century, Massachusetts became a national leader in the American Industrial Revolution, with factories around Boston producing textiles and shoes, and factories around Springfield producing precision manufacturing tools and paper.[64][65] The economy transformed from one based primarily on agriculture to an industrial one, initially making use of waterpower and later the steam engine to power factories, and canals and later railroads for transporting goods and materials.[66] At first, the new industries drew labor from Yankees on nearby subsistence farms, and later relied upon immigrant labor from Europe and Canada.[67][68]

In the years leading up to the Civil War, Massachusetts was a center of social progressivism, Transcendentalism, and abolitionist activity. Horace Mann made the state system of schools the national model.[69] Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson made major contributions to American thought.[70] Members of the Transcendentalism movement, they emphasized the importance of the natural world and emotion to humanity.[70] Although significant opposition to abolitionism existed early on in Massachusetts, resulting in anti-abolitionist riots between 1835 and 1837,[71] opposition to slavery gradually increased in the next few decades.[72][73] The works of abolitionists contributed to subsequent actions of the state during the Civil War. Massachusetts was the first state to recruit, train, and arm a Black regiment with White officers, the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.[74] The Robert Gould Shaw Memorial in Boston Common contains a relief depicting the 54th regiment.[75]

 

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Author:Bling King
Published:May 25th 2012
Modified:May 25th 2012

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