United States territory

From Academic Kids

United States territory is any extent of region under the jurisdiction of the United States. federal government, including all waters (around islands or continental tracts). The United States has traditionally proclaimed the sovereign rights for exploring, exploiting, conserving, and managing its territory. This extent of territory is all the area belonging to, and under the dominion of, the United States federal government (which includes tracts lying at a distance from the country) for administrative and other purposes. The United States total territory includes a subset of political divisions.


Territory of the United States

The United States territory includes any points of extended spatial location under the control of the United States federal government. Various regions, districts, and divisions are under the supervision of the United States federal government. The United States territory includes clearly defined geographical area and refers to an area of land under jurisdiction of United States federal governmental authority (but is not limited only to these areas). The extent of territory is all the area belonging to, and under the dominion of, the United States of America federal government (which includes tracts lying at a distance from the country) for administrative and other purposes.

Constitution of the United States

In the Constitution of the United States, territory is subject to and belongs to the United States (but not necessarily within the national boundaries or any individual state). This includes tracts of land or water not included within the limits of any State and not admitted as a State into the Union.

The Constitution of the United States states,

"the congress shall have power to dispose of, and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property of the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be construed, so as to preclude the claims of the United States or of any state." - Article IV

Congress of the United States

Congress possesses power to set territorial governments within the territory of the United States. The power of congress over such territory is exclusive and universal. Congress legislation is subject to no control, unless in the case of ceded territory. The U.S. Congress is granted the exclusive and universal power to set United States territory's political divisions.

Supreme Court of the United States

All territory under the control of the federal government is considered part of the "United States" for purposes of law. The Supreme Court ruling from 1945 stated that the term "United States" can have three different meanings, in different contexts.

"The term 'United States' may be used in any one of several senses. It may be merely the name of a sovereign occupying the position analogous to that of other sovereigns in the family of nations. It may designate the territory over which the sovereignty of the United States extends, or it may be the collective name of the states which are united by and under the Constitution." [Hooven & Allison Co. v. Evatt, 324 U.S. 652 (1945)]

This means that the United States territory is composed of any area or region over which the federal government has jurisdiction (including, but not limited to, the 50 states, plus all federal possessions and territories).

United States Department of the Interior

Main articles: U.S. Department of the Interior

The Interior Department is charged with managing federal affairs within U.S. territory. The Interior Department has a wide range of responsibilities (which include the regulation of territorial governments and the basic stewardship for public lands, et. al.). The United States Department of the Interior is not responsible for local government or for civil administration except in the cases of Indian reservations, through the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

United States divisions

Main article: Political divisions of the United States

District, States, Counties, Cities and Townships

Territories are subdivided into legally administered tracts (e.g., non-sovereign geographic areas that have voluntarily come under the authority of a government). For example, American Samoa is a territory of the government of the United States. A U.S. state is not a "state" as viewed by international law, since the U.S. Constitution restricts individual states from conducting foreign relations. The federal district is under the direct authority of congress, the District of Columbia and was established independent of any state.

The contiguous part of the U.S., (along with Hawaii and Alaska), are divided into smaller administrative regions, called counties in 48 of the 50 states. (They are boroughs in Alaska and parishes in Louisiana.) U.S. counties can include a number of cities and towns, or sometimes just a part of a city. These counties have varying degrees of political and legal significance. U.S. townships are an intermediate civic designation between city and county; cities sometimes cross county boundaries, townships never do. Some townships have governments and political power, others are simply geographic designations.

Historic regions of the United States

Main article: Historic regions of the United States

Territories are, at times, organized with a separate legislature under a Territorial governor and officers appointed by the President and approved by the Senate of the United States. Territory has been historically divided into organized territories and unorganized territories. Unorganized territory was generally either unpopulated or set aside for Native Americans by the U.S. federal government until such time as the growing and restless population encroached into the areas. In recent times, unorganized refers to the degree of self-governmental authority exercised by the territory.

As a result of some Supreme Court cases after the Spanish-American War, in which the U.S. had to determine how to deal with newly acquired territories such as the Philippines, Puerto Rico and other areas that were not part of the North American continent and which were not necessarily intended to become a part of the Union of States. As a consequence of the Supreme Court decisions, the United States has since made a distinction between incorporated and unincorporated territory. Incorporated territory in essence is land that has been irrevocabably incorporated within the sovereignty of the United States and to which the full corpus of the U.S. Constitution applies. Unincorporated territory is land held by the United States, and to which U.S. Congress applies selected parts of the constitution. Currently the only incorporated territory held by the U.S. is the unorganized (and unpopulated) Palmyra Atoll. 'See also: Insular areas

Dependent areas of the United States

Main article: U.S. Insular areas

Several islands in the Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea are dependent territories of the United States. The United States Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay is leased from Cuba and only mutual agreement or U.S. abandonment of the area can terminate the lease. The United States has made no territorial claim in Antarctica but has reserved the right to do so. From July 18, 1947 until October 1, 1994, the U.S. administered the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, but recently entered into a new political relationship with the Trust.

The Panama canal, and the Canal Zone surrounding it, was territory administered by the United States until 1999, when control was relinquished to Panama.

Currently, the Guantanamo Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, is administered by the US under a perpetual lease, much as the Panama Canal Zone used to be before the signing of the Torrijos - Carter Treaty.

Maritime territory of the United States

The Government of the United States of America has claims to the oceans in accord with international law, which delineates a zone of territory adjacent to territorial lands and seas. United States protects this marine environment, though not interfering with other lawful uses of this zone. The United States jurisdiction has been established on vessels, ships, and artificial islands (along with other marine structures).

  • [to do: ships and vessels at sea]

International law concerning United States territory

United States is not restricted from making laws governing its own territory by international law.

  • [todo: secure and recognize boundaries]

The United States territory can include illegally occupied territory, which is a geographic area that claims sovereignty, but is being illegally or forcibly subjugated to the authority of the United States of America federal government. The United States territory can also include disputed territory, which is a geographic area claimed by United States of America federal government and one (or more) rival governments.

America has acquired territory by force and conquest (Latin, "to seek for"). Internationally (specifically according to the Hague law), United States territory can include areas occupied when placed under the authority of a United States army. When this authority has been established, and exercised, occupation extends to that territory. The United States forces has a responsibility of providing for the basic needs of individuals under its control (which includes food, clothing, shelter, medical attention, law maintenance, and social order). The United states forces must enforce laws that were in place in the territory before occupation during its occupation.

  • [todo: Acquisition of territory by war]

Land occupied by the United States

Main article: Occupied territories

Historically, all of the United States of America was originally the territory of a multitude of Native American Indian tribes/nations. However, the source of this situation goes back several centuries, and includes land taken from Native Americans by the Spanish, French, Russians, Dutch, Danish and British.

The current United States government was obviously not responsible for all of these cessions, since many took place under British rule. However, some Native Americans claim that the U.S. still illegally occupies some of their land, pointing to treaties that they say the United States later violated. (Some say the U.S. violated all treaties it signed with Indian tribes.)

The United States currently occupies Iraq in conjunction with the United Kingdom after invading it in 2003 for still-controversial reasons relating to 9/11. Iraq retains its territorial integrity and nominal sovereignty.

The United States also occupied Japan and West Germany for several years following its victory over those nations in World War II, leaving modern market-driven democracies behind. This is also its stated goal for Iraq, though at present this hope seems imperiled by massive internal unrest there.

See also


Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Art)
    • Architecture (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Architecture)
    • Cultures (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Cultures)
    • Music (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Music)
    • Musical Instruments (http://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/List_of_musical_instruments)
  • Biographies (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Biographies)
  • Clipart (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Clipart)
  • Geography (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Geography)
    • Countries of the World (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Countries)
    • Maps (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Maps)
    • Flags (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Flags)
    • Continents (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Continents)
  • History (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/History)
    • Ancient Civilizations (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Ancient_Civilizations)
    • Industrial Revolution (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Industrial_Revolution)
    • Middle Ages (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Middle_Ages)
    • Prehistory (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Prehistory)
    • Renaissance (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Renaissance)
    • Timelines (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Timelines)
    • United States (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/United_States)
    • Wars (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Wars)
    • World History (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/History_of_the_world)
  • Human Body (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Human_Body)
  • Mathematics (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Mathematics)
  • Reference (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Reference)
  • Science (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Science)
    • Animals (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Animals)
    • Aviation (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Aviation)
    • Dinosaurs (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Dinosaurs)
    • Earth (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Earth)
    • Inventions (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Inventions)
    • Physical Science (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Physical_Science)
    • Plants (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Plants)
    • Scientists (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Scientists)
  • Social Studies (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Social_Studies)
    • Anthropology (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Anthropology)
    • Economics (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Economics)
    • Government (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Government)
    • Religion (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Religion)
    • Holidays (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Holidays)
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Solar_System)
    • Planets (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Planets)
  • Sports (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Sports)
  • Timelines (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Timelines)
  • Weather (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Weather)
  • US States (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/US_States)


  • Home Page (http://academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php)
  • Contact Us (http://www.academickids.com/encyclopedia/index.php/Contactus)

  • Clip Art (http://classroomclipart.com)
Personal tools