On Sept. 9, 1776, the Continental Congress formally changed the name of their new nation to the “United States of America,” rather than the “United Colonies,” which was in regular use at the time, according to History.com.
While most credit Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence as the instigating force behind independence, it was actually a June 7 resolution on independence written by Virginian Richard Henry Lee that was adopted by the Continental Congress on July 2. As such, John Adams wrote to his wife that July 2 would be celebrated as “the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America.”
The resolution proposed a declaration of independence, a call to form alliances with foreign states, and a “plan for confederation.” The Continental Congress would establish three committees to accomplish the tasks, including the committee that would birth the Declaration of Independence. In the resolution, Lee wrote, “Resolved, that these united colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent states.”
While the Declaration of Independence declares the “united States” free and independent on July 4, Jefferson also writes “these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States,” in his conclusion.
The new independent status of the colonies prompted a need for a declaration of statehood.
In the meeting notes from Sept. 9, John Adams wrote, “Resolved, that in all Continental Commissions, and other Instruments where heretofore the Words, ‘United Colonies,’ have been used, the Stile be altered for the future to the United States.” The United States was born.