History of Massachusetts
The earliest known inhabitants of the territory of today’s Massachusetts were the members of the Algonquian family, including the tribes of Massachusett, Mahican, Pocomtuc, Nipmuc, Narrangasett and Wampanoag. Most of their food supply came from fishing, gathering and hunting, but they also grew crops, including corn and squash. Their settlements consisted of long houses and wigwams, and were presided over by the sachems, the village chiefs.
The first contact with the Europeans was made in the early 17th century. It would turn out that this contact was fatal for the indigenous people, as they often fell victim to some of the diseases that the European visitors brought with them. The native people have never before come into contact with such diseases, and didn’t have any natural resistance to them. This resulted in 90% of the local population dying from influenza, measles or smallpox in the period between 1617 and 1619.
The first European settlement in the region was established by the Pilgrims in 1620 in Plymouth. This was the second English colony in the continent that stood the test of time, with Jamestown Colony being the first one. The Pilgrims managed to establish friendly relations with the local tribe of Wampanoag. Some 10 years later, in 1630, the Puritans established their own colony in the region of today’s Boston, called the Massachusetts Bay Colony. They mainly came to the new world because of the disagreements with the church in their native England. However, some of the disagreements carried on to their new settlements, and dissenters that didn’t agree with the way that the new colony was being led went on to form their own colonies, which is how Rhode Island colony was founded. The colonies of Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay have later merged, also incorporating the area of today’s Maine, and formed the Province of Massachusetts Bay.
Massachusetts was crucial in the organizing the American Revolution. The relations between the province and Great Britain were strained for a long while, which eventually resulted in the open conflict in 1680. The tensions continued to build up, and after 1763 and the end of the French and Indian War, they once again resulted in violence in the 1770 Boston Massacre, and finally in the Boston Tea Party of 1773, the event that signaled the beginning of the revolutionary struggle. The Thirteen Colonies came together inspired by the rebellious activates of men such as John Hancock and Samuel Adams, and stood up to British government. The first battles of the Revolutionary War were fought in Massachusetts in the towns of Lexington and Concord. After the battles, George Washington, the president to be, took control over the forces and went on to his first victory in the 1776 in the Siege of Boston that drove the British out of the city.
John Adams, who lived in Boston, was one of the prominent figures, not just in local politics, but in the creation of the new nation. He had a great part in the achieving of independence, and has also greatly contributed to the writing of the constitution of Massachusetts in 1780, which is still believed to be the first state constitution that abolished slavery and declared universal rights. Adams later became the second United States President. In 1788, Massachusetts became the 6th state that ratified the US Constitution.
Maine became independent of Massachusetts in 1820, when it became the 23rd state to be accepted into the Union. Massachusetts was one of the leading states when it came to the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century. Springfield based factories were known for the production of paper and precision manufacturing tools, while those in Boston dealt mostly with shoes and textiles. It was in this period that the state’s economy shifted from agriculture to manufacturing. Steam engine and new railroads facilitated the manufacture and the transportation of goods, and the state’s economy blossomed, employing the growing number of laborers immigrating from Canada and Europe.
The state had some important thinkers of the time, including Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, members of the Transcendentalism movement and Horace Mann who made significant contributions to the school system. The state was always strongly opposed to slavery, which even caused some riots to take place between 1835 and 1837, and the sentiment was only getting stronger as the Civil War drew near. This was the first state that had a regiment that consisted of African American recruits, the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry.
Before the Great Depression in the 1920s, mechanized transportation, shoemaking and textile production were the most important industries in the state. However, the Great Depression, combined with the increase in the competition killed off a number of companies, and after the WW II the state’s economy became more reliant on the high technology and service industry.
Massachusetts’s GSP (gross state product) in 2008 was estimated at $365 billion, while the per capita income in the state in the same year amounted to $50,735, which was the 3rd highest per capita income in the United States. There are 13 Fortune 500 companies in Massachusetts, including the MassMutual Financial Services of Springfield as well as Boston based Liberty Mutual Insurance Group. In 2010 Massachusetts was recognized by the CNBC as the 5th best state to do business in.
The most important branches of the Massachusetts economy are electronics, minicomputers, tourism, health care, finance, biotechnology and higher education. There are not a lot of major high technology manufacturing companies in the state, but this sector is still quite important in Massachusetts. Tourism is constantly growing and developing, thanks to a number of interesting tourist destinations, including Berkshires, Plymouth, Salem, Cape Cod and Boston. The unemployment rate in Massachusetts was estimated at 6% in 2012, which is 2.2% percent less than the national unemployment rate.
Agriculture is still rather important in Massachusetts, with some 520,000 acres being covered in farmlands. This surface is divided amongst 7,700 individual farms, meaning that on average, one farm covers some 68 acres. The most important agriculture products of the state are berries, tree nuts, fruits, livestock and tobacco. As a matter of fact, Massachusetts produces the second highest quantity of berries in the United State, with Wisconsin being the largest berry producer in the nation. Massachusetts was declared the most energy efficient state in 2011.
The state has the 11th highest tax burden in the union. Personal income in the state comes in just one bracket, being fixed at 5.25%. There are however, certain earning thresholds, below which the tax is reduced. The sales tax in Massachusetts is fixed at 6.25%. This tax doesn’t apply to periodicals, clothing that costs less than $175 and groceries. The state also has the 8th highest property tax in the United States.
Massachusetts Geography and Climate
Massachusetts is the seventh smallest state in the nation. It is situated in the northeastern part of the US, in the New England region, and it covers the area of 10,555 square miles. Its coast is shaped by a number of bays. The state’s largest city, that is also its capital, Boston, is located at the mouth of the longest river in Massachusetts, the Charles River. Massachusetts stretches from the Atlantic coast to the Appalachian Mountains.
There are a number of areas under the protection of the National Park Service in the state, including the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area, the Cape Cod National Seashore as well as 12 national corridors, areas and historic sites.
The state is in the temperate deciduous forest biome. Most of the state’s original forests have been cleared to create farmlands, but some of the abandoned farms have become forested in the meantime, which has resulted in some 62% of the state currently being covered in forests. Aggressive land repossession has resulted in the extinction of some of the native species, including mountain lions, wolverines, elk and gray wolves. Other animals, though, have managed to evade, or even utilize, the effects of the urbanization. This includes eastern gray squirrels, wild turkeys, raccoons, white-tailed deer, coyotes and the peregrine falcons. The growing forested areas have helped the revitalization of the black bear and moose populations.
Due to its location on the migration route, known as the Atlantic Flyway, Massachusetts is a temporary home to a number of migratory birds, such as piping plover, roseate terns, long-tailed ducks and common loon. Large population of gray seals has also been noticed in the protected Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge. The state is also rich in freshwater fish like trout, catfish, carp and bass, while the Atlantic Ocean in this region is abundant in Atlantic white-sided dolphins, minke whales, fin whales, humpback whales, North Atlantic whales, Harbor seals, the American lobster, haddock and Atlantic cod.
Despite the relatively small size of the state, the climate in Massachusetts is rather diverse. This is mainly noticeable as one moves from the east of the state to the west, and is caused by the influence that the Atlantic Ocean has on the climate in the state. Massachusetts generally has moderate summers and cold winters, but the temperatures are generally the lowest in the western parts of the state. In this region, the average summer temperatures are usually around 68°F, while in winter they usually drop to 22°F. The central parts of the state are somewhat warmer with the summer temperatures of 71°F. Naturally, the easternmost parts of Massachusetts have the highest temperatures, with the summer temperatures of around 74°F and winter temperatures averaging some 30°F. The highest temperature of 107°F was recorded in 1975 at both New Bedford and Chester, while the lowest temperature of –35°F was recorded in 1981, also at Chester. The average annual precipitation varies from 39 to 46 inches, while the average snowfall in the state is 42 inches, although some areas are getting much more snowfall than other.
Population of Massachusetts
In 2011 Massachusetts had 6,587,536 inhabitants, which was 0.61% percent more than in 2010. In 2009, the state’s population counted 6,593,587 people. Massachusetts has held the position of the 3rd most densely populated state in the US since the year 2000. In 2008 the state has had 919,771 residents that were born somewhere else and have immigrated into Massachusetts. The state has two metropolitan areas, the Greater Boston, which accounts for almost two thirds of the state’s entire population, and which encompasses the cities of Worcester and Boston, and the Springfield metropolitan area which encompasses the city of Springfield, some college towns such as Northampton and Amherst, as well as a potion of rural areas located to the west and north. Town of Natick is the center of the Massachusetts’ population.
The population of the state has been growing over the past couple of decades, as is the cease with most states in the northwest. Between the years 2000 and 2012, the state’s population has increased by 3.9%, which is not that high considering the fact that the national population growth over the same period amounts to 10%. High costs of living and housing have driven a number of people out of the state, but on the other hand, Massachusetts has had a healthy inflow of immigrants. When it comes to languages that are spoken in Massachusetts’ homes, English is considered the first language by 79% of the state’s inhabitants, Spanish by 7%, Portuguese by 3.5% and Chinese or French by 1%.
In 2012, Massachusetts had 48.4% or 3,166,628 male, and 51.6% or 3,381,001 female inhabitants. Some 13.8% of them were older than 65, and 78.3% were older than 18. When it comes to the ethnicity of the state’s residents, it is estimated that 76.1% of the population is composed of non-Hispanic white people, 4.3% of Hispanic white, 6.6 of African American, 0.3% of American Indian and Alaskan Native, 5.3% of Asian, less than 0.1% if Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, 4.7% of members of other races and 2.6% of multiethnic people.
Near the end of the 18th century most of the state’s inhabitants were of British origin. However, immigrants began coming to the state in the 19th century, and currently the largest ancestry group is Irish, with almost a quarter of the state’s population belonging to that group. Likewise, the Haitian population in Massachusetts is the 3rd highest of all the US states.
When it comes to religion in the state, it is estimated that 69% of the state’s inhabitants are members of a Christian religion, which includes 44% of adherents of the Catholic Church and 25% of members of a Protestant denomination, which is further subdivided into 4% of non-specific Protestants, 4% of Baptists, 3% of members of Congregational/United Church of Christ, 3% Episcopal Protestants and 11% of members of other Protestant denominations. The state also has some 2% of Jewish people, 1% of Muslim, 7% of people belonging to other religions, 16% of people with no religious affiliations and 7% of the people in the survey refused to give an answer.
Massachusetts Government and Legislation
Massachusetts’ current constitution has been ratified in 1780, and is one of the oldest constitutions still in effect. The state’s government is divided into three branches, the executive, legislative and judicial branch. Among other things, the executive branch is in charge of executing the laws put forth by the legislative branch. State Governor is at the helm of the executive branch. The Governor’s duties include commanding the state’s National Guard, preparing the state’s annual budget, granting pardons, filing agency and judicial appointments and vetoing or signing legislation. The governors in Massachusetts are addressed as His or Her Excellency. The rest of the executive branch includes the Lieutenant Governor, who is meant to take over the Governor’s duties in the case of an emergency, and eight councilors, who are elected by people. The council is in charge of certifying elections and confirming gubernatorial appointments. There are additional executive branch officers such as the State Secretary and the Attorney General.
The state’s legislative branch is embodied in the Massachusetts General Court. The Court is composed of two legislative bodies, the higher house, the Massachusetts Senate and the lower house, Massachusetts House of Representatives. The leaders of these houses are chosen by their members. Senate has 40 members, and the leader of Senate is known as the Senate President, while the House of Representatives has 160 members, and its leader is known as the House Speaker. Both of the houses have a number of internal committees. Members of the houses of the legislative branch are elected into two year terms. Massachusetts’ legislative branch is in charge of proposing and introducing new laws. Once a bill has been proposed it needs to get a majority of votes in both houses before it is accepted as a law. Even once it has won the majority of votes, the state’s Governor has the authority to veto the bill, but it can still be passed as a law if the members of both houses gather a two thirds majority of votes to adopt the law.
The state’s judicial branch includes a number of courts with different jurisdictions and authority. The highest court in the state is the Supreme Judicial Court. This court rarely has original jurisdiction over cases, but mainly serves to solve disputes that have previously been discussed in some of the lower courts. It is presided over by six associate justices and a chief justice.