COUNTRIES AND CLIMATE 47. Boundaries of the political map of North America (Fig. 51) shows the countries that make up the continent. They are British America; the United States and Alaska; Mexico ; Central America, and the West Indies.
How do we know where one country ends and another one begins? You remember that in Section 23 we learned that the edge of a country is called its boundary. Some boundaries are natural, such as seas, rivers, lakes, and mountains. Name some natural boundaries of the United States. When a river is a boundary, the line may be in the middle of the river or it may be on either shore. Some boundaries are just straight lines; often these are meridians or parallels. In such a case the line goes right across hills and valleys, mountains, rivers, and lakes, and is marked with boundary stones. (Fig. 23.) Such boundaries are called arti ficial boundaries, because they are made by man. Point out some artificial boun daries in North America.
48. The settling of us see how it happens that there are several countries in this one continent. To find out, we shall have to know some historical facts. In Section 29 you read of Columbus and his wonderful voyage. Although Columbus in 1492 told the people of Europe about the country he had discovered, they did not hurry to make their homes in our country. Many exploring trips were made to its shores by daring sailors, who did not stay to make a home. At last in 1607, enough Englishmen settled in Virginia to make quite a fair-sized town. Later, other groups of Englishmen settled in other places along the coast. Each group of people from England that settled down to live in the new world was called an English colony. When people from France, Spain, and other countries in Europe came here to live, each country had its colony, or colonies, until the countries of Europe claimed the whole of America, as their colonial possessions. Then the Euro pean countries fought each other to decide who should own the colonies. Sometimes one country sold one of its colonial posses sions to another country. After a time, many of the colonies became independent countries and ruled themselves. We cele brate the Fourth of July as Independence Day, because it was on that day in the year 1776 that the people of the thirteen chief English colonies said they would be independent of Eng land. Mexico and the other
colonies settled by Spanish people in America became in dependent nearly fifty years later, about 1820. But the colonies which lay north of the United States never became independent of England.
The names of the countries, counties, and cities of North America often show what people were the first settlers. New England was settled by the English. Nova Scotia means "New Scotland". Near by it on the St. Lawrence River are many towns having French names, because people from France first settled on the St. Lawrence. Now, how ever, all the Dominion of Canada belongs to England, as do also Newfoundland and Labrador.
Some parts of the United States have French names, like New Orleans and St. Louis, on the Mississippi. This is because that part of the country was first settled by the French. The French language is still spoken a little in New Orleans and there are many people in Quebec, on the St. Lawrence, who speak no other language. Some cities in the western United States have Spanish names, like Los Angeles and San Francisco. This is because the Spaniards first settled that region. Around New York, there are many Dutch names, • because the Dutch were the first settlers of New York. Most of the names in the United States, however, English, such as New York, Boston, or Portland. Some of them too, are beautiful Indian names, as Ohio and Mississippi.
In Mexico, the country which lies south of the United States, the people speak Spanish. The Spaniards settled Mexico and the six little countries to the south of Mexico. This group of six countries is called Central America, because it happens to lie in a central place be tween the continents of North and South America. The narrowest of these six little countries is Panama, through which Passes the great canal that was built by the United States government to let ships go from ocean to ocean without having to sail around South America. In order that we may take good care of the canal, the United States con trols a strip of land ten miles wide from sea to sea, called the Canal Zone.