Vital Signs

Territorial Bliss

One consequence of the Cold War has gone unnoticed. Before the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union collapsed, the United States had already ceased to exist. To fight the Cold War and in the name of national security, Washington had destroyed the political structure created by the U.S. Constitution—the well-defined union of states, which regardless of territorial size, population, or date of admission, possessed equal powers—and replaced it with an ambiguous political system composed of 50 states and a hierarchy of eight ethnic/ race-based territories.

Historically, a territory was a temporary political status granted to land administered by the federal government as long as the population was too small and scattered to govern as a state. Under the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, states were to be carved out of existing territories and admitted to the union on the basis of political equality with the original 13 states. This occurred with the Northwest Territory, Southwest Territory, Louisiana Territory, Oregon Territory, and the Mexican Cession.

Since territorial status was temporary, those which did not become states became independent countries or were transferred, in whole or part, to a foreign power. Examples of the former are Cuba in 1903 and the Philippines in 1946. Examples of the latter are the northwest portion of the Louisiana Territory (1818), the northeast portion of Maine (1842), the northern half...

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