The 51st state, in American political discourse, is a phrase that refers to areas either seriously or derisively considered candidates for addition to the 50 states already part of the Union. Before 1959, when Alaska and Hawaii joined the U.S., the term "the 49th state" was used. Right now, the possible 51st state in discussion is the territory in commonwealth status of Puerto Rico.
"51st state", when used in a negative sense, can refer to independent nations which are, or are perceived to be, under excessive American influence or control. In various countries around the world, people who believe their local and/or national culture has become too Americanized sometimes use the term "51st state" in critical reference to their respective countries. The term 51st stater usually refers to non-U.S. residents who emulate mannerisms and culture of an American, or a non-American politician who is a supporter of the United States, especially its foreign policy.
Under Article IV, Section Three of the United States Constitution, which outlines the relationship among the states, Congress has the power to admit new states to the union. The states are required to give "full faith and credit" to the acts of each other's legislatures and courts, which is generally held to include the recognition of legal contracts, marriages, and criminal judgments. The states are guaranteed military and civil defense by the federal government, which is also obligated by Article IV, Section Four, to "guarantee to every state in this union a republican form of government." New states are admitted into the Union by the precedents and procedures established by the Northwest Ordinance. Following the precedent established by the Enabling Act of 1802, an Enabling Act must be passed by Congress as a prerequisite to admission. The act authorizes the people of a territory to frame a constitution, and lays down the requirements that must be met prior to consideration for statehood.
District of Columbia
The District of Columbia is often mentioned as a likely candidate for statehood. In Federalist No. 43 of the Federalist Papers, James Madison considered the implications of the definition of the "seat of government" found in the United States Constitution. Although he noted potential conflicts of interest, and the need for a "municipal legislature for local purposes," Madison did not address the district's role in national voting. At the time, some believed that giving the district full voting rights would be like giving Congress its own separate vote, increasing its power at the expense of the citizens. However, the city's population has grown to almost 600,000 people (larger than Wyoming's and comparable to those of several other states), and the calls for suffrage have increased.
Of the potential candidates for statehood, citizens of the District of Columbia tend to be most supportive of their statehood movement which could be achieved by an act of Congress or by an amendment to the US Constitution. D.C. residents who support this movement sometimes use the Revolutionary War protest motto "Taxation without representation," denoting their lack of Congressional representation; the phrase is now printed on newly issued D.C. license plates (although a driver may choose to have the D.C. website address instead). President Bill Clinton's presidential limousine had the "Taxation without representation" license plate late in his term, while President George W. Bush had the vehicle's plates changed shortly after beginning his term in office.
This position was carried by the D.C. Statehood Party, a minor party; it has since merged with the local Green Party affiliate to form the D.C. Statehood Green Party. The nearest this movement ever came to success was in 1978, when Congress passed the District of Columbia Voting Rights Amendment. Two years later in 1980, local citizens passed an initiative calling for a constitutional convention for a new state. In 1982, voters ratified the constitution of the state, which was to be called New Columbia. The drive for statehood stalled in 1985, however, when the D.C. Voting Rights Amendment failed because not enough states ratified the amendment within the seven-year span specified.
Statehood will likely remain a highly contentious political issue due to the political demographics of the city. D.C. has long voted overwhelmingly Democratic, and the addition of another state would likely guarantee two Democratic Senators in a closely divided Senate.
Another proposed option would be to have Maryland, from which the current land was ceded, retake the District of Columbia, as Virginia has already done for its part, while leaving the National Mall, the United States Capitol, and the White House in a truncated District of Columbia, thereby preventing any Congressional favoritism toward any state (as was the Founders' reason for the District in the first place). This would give D.C. residents the benefit of statehood while precluding the creation of a 51st state.
The Puerto Rico Democracy Act (H.R. 2499) is a proposed United States federal statute that would provide for referendums to be held in Puerto Rico to determine the island's ultimate political status. It has been introduced twice in the United States Congress, first in 2007 and again in 2009.
On April 29, 2010, the United States House of Representatives voted 223–169 to approve a measure for a federally sanctioned process for Puerto Rico's self determination. The measure would allow Puerto Rico to set a referendum on whether to continue its present form of commonwealth political status or move to a different political status. If Puerto Ricans vote to maintain its current political status, the Government of Puerto Rico is authorized to conduct additional plebiscites at intervals of every 8 years from the date that the results of the prior plebiscite are certified. If Puerto Ricans vote to have a different political status for the territory, a second referendum would determine whether it becomes a U.S. state, an independent country, or a sovereign nation associated with the U.S. that will not be subject to the Territorial Clause of the United States Constitution. During the House debate, a fourth option to retain its present form of commonwealth (status quo) political status was added as an option in the second plebiscite.
Immediately following U.S. House of the U.S. Congress passage, H.R. 2499 was sent to the U.S. Senate, where it was given two formal readings and referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. H.R. 2499 has been scheduled for a hearing before the aforementioned committee at 9:30 A.M., on Wednesday, May 19, 2010. This hearing will be for gathering testimony on the bill.
If Puerto Rico were a U.S. state, it would rank 27th in population, and have six seats in the House of Representatives. Puerto Rico has been under U.S. sovereignty for over a century and Puerto Ricans have been U.S. citizens since 1917; but the island's ultimate status still has not been determined and its 3.9 million residents still do not have voting representation in their national government. Puerto Rico currently has limited representation in Congress in the form of a Resident Commissioner, a nonvoting delegate, and the current Congress had returned the Commissioner's power to vote in the Committee of the Whole, but not on matters where the vote would represent a decisive participation. Puerto Rico has elections on the United States presidential primary or Caucus of the Democratic Party and the Republican Party to select delegates to the respective parties national conventions although presidential electors are not granted on the Electoral College.
Contrary to common misconception, residents of Puerto Rico pay U.S. federal taxes: import/export taxes, federal commodity taxes, social security taxes, etc. Most residents do not pay federal income tax but pay federal payroll taxes (Social Security and Medicare). However, federal employees, or those who do business with the federal government, Puerto Rico-based corporations that intend to send funds to the U.S. and others also pay federal income taxes. Puerto Ricans may enlist in the U.S. military. Puerto Ricans have fully participated in all U.S. wars since 1898. All persons born in Puerto Rico after 1941 are legally natural born citizens of the United States, one of the constitutional requirements to be President of the United States.
President George H.W. Bush raised the statehood before Congress in his first State of the Union message:
There's another issue that I've decided to mention here tonight. I've long believed that the people of Puerto Rico should have the right to determine their own political future. Personally, I strongly favor statehood. But I urge the Congress to take the necessary steps to allow the people to decide in a referendum.
Bush issued a memorandum on November 30, 1992 to heads of executive departments and agencies establishing the current administrative relationship between the Federal Government and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. This memorandum directs all Federal departments, agencies, and officials to treat Puerto Rico administratively as if it were a State insofar as doing so would not disrupt Federal programs or operations. On December 23, 2000, President Bill Clinton signed executive Order 13183, which established the President's Task Force on Puerto Rico's Status and the rules for its membership. Section 4 of executive Order 13183 (as amended by executive Order 13319) directs the Task Force to "report on its actions to the President ... on progress made in the determination of Puerto Rico's ultimate status." President George W. Bush signed an additional amendment to Executive Order 13183 on December 3, 2003, which established the current co-chairs and instructed the Task Force to issue reports as needed, but no less than once every two years.
The statehood position is carried by the New Progressive Party of Puerto Rico. Both the Democratic Party and Republican Party, in their respective 2008 party platforms, have expressed their support of the rights of the United States Citizens in Puerto Rico to determine the destiny of the Commonwealth to achieve a future permanent non-territorial political status with government by consent and full enfranchisement.
The Republican Party platform of 2008 says:
We support the right of the United States citizens of Puerto Rico to be admitted to the Union as a fully sovereign state after they freely so determine. We recognize that Congress has the final authority to define the constitutionally valid options for Puerto Rico to achieve a permanent non-territorial status with government by consent and full enfranchisement. As long as Puerto Rico is not a state, however, the will of its people regarding their political status should be ascertained by means of a general right of referendum or specific referenda sponsored by the U.S. government.
The Democratic Party platform of 2008 says:
We believe that the people of Puerto Rico have the right to the political status of their choice, obtained through a fair, neutral, and democratic process of self-determination. The White House and Congress will work with all groups in Puerto Rico to enable the question of Puerto Rico's status to be resolved during the next four years.
Its population in the 2000 census was 3,927,776. (Kentucky ranked 26th, with 4,206,074, and Oregon ranked 27th, with 3,700,758.)
Other U.S. territories or former territories
Other less likely contenders are Guam and the United States Virgin Islands, both of which are unincorporated organized territories of the United States, although the latter could merge with Puerto Rico due to their proximity (although they have very different histories, cultures & languages). Also the Northern Mariana Islands, which is a commonwealth like Puerto Rico, and American Samoa, an unorganized, unincorporated territory could attempt to gain statehood. Some proposals call for the Virgin Islands to be admitted with Puerto Rico as one state (often known as the proposed "Commonwealth of Prusvi," for Puerto Rico/U.S. Virgin Islands), and for the amalgamation of U.S. territories or former territories in the Pacific Ocean, in the manner of the "Greater Hawaii" concept of the 1960s. Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands would be admitted as one state, along with Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, and the Marshall Islands (though these latter three entities are now separate sovereign nations, which have Compact of Free Association relationships with the United States). Such a state would have a population of 447,048 (slightly lower than Wyoming's population) and an area of 911.82 square miles (slightly smaller than Rhode Island). American Samoa could possibly be part of such a state, increasing the population to 511,917 and the area to 988.65 square miles (2,560.6 km2). Radio Australia, in late May 2008, issued signs of Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands becoming one again and becoming the 51st state.
|Location||Population||Area (sq. mi.)||Comments|
|Puerto Rico||3,994,259||3,514||July 2007 estimate|
|United States Virgin Islands||112,000||133.73||July 2005 estimate|
|Total||4,106,259||3,647.73||Puerto Rico & U.S. Virgin Islands|
|Population||Area (sq. mi.)||Comments|
|Palau||19,907||177||July 2005 estimate|
|Northern Mariana Islands||80,801||184.17||July 2005 estimate|
|Marshall Islands||61,963||69.8||July 2005 estimate|
|Guam||175,877||209.85||July 2008 estimate|
|Federated States of Micronesia||108,500||271||July 2006 estimate|
|Subtotal||447,048||911.82||Former Trust Territories + Guam|
|American Samoa||64,869||76.83||July 2006 estimate|
|Total||511,917||988.65||Former Trust Territories + American Pacific|
From other states
The Texas Constitution and the Texas Annexation Act both provide for the possibility of Texas voting to divide into up to four further sovereign States of the Union. While there is, contrary to popular myth, no provision for Texas to secede from the United States, Texas could (according to most common interpretations of the Annexation Act) divide into more States without Congressional sanction. While the role of Congress in this process is hotly debated, the ability of Texas to subdivide itself is an established point of law. While current Texas politics and self-image would almost certainly prevent any tampering with Texas status as the largest contiguous State, it is theoretically possible.
List of Few Proposed States
- Hudson, from mainland regions of New York
- Superior, from Northwestern Upper Peninsula of Michigan
Because of their cultural similarities and close alliances with the United States, it is said–in jest or derisively–that some countries are the 51st state. In other countries, movements with various degrees of support and seriousness have proposed U.S. statehood.
Main article: Annexation movements of Canada
The implication is not without historical basis: The U.S. unsuccessfully invaded Canada during both the American Revolution and the War of 1812; a group of Irish raiders attacked Canada from the U.S. after the American Civil War. Several U.S. politicians in the 19th century also spoke in favor of annexing Canada.
In modern times, becoming "the 51st state" is usually raised either as a potential consequence of adopting policies that propose greater integration or cooperation with the United States (such as the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement in 1988, or the current debate over the creation of a common defense perimeter), or as a potential consequence of not adopting proposals intended to resolve the issue of Quebec sovereignty (such as the Charlottetown Accord in 1992, or the Clarity Act in 1999).
The phrase is usually used in local political debates, in polemic writing or in private conversations. It is rarely used by politicians themselves in a public context, although at certain times in Canadian history political parties have used other similarly loaded imagery. In the 1988 federal election, the Liberals asserted that the proposed Free Trade Agreement amounted to an American takeover of Canada — notably, the party ran an ad in which Tory strategists, upon the adoption of the agreement, slowly erased the Canada-U.S. border from a desktop map of North America. Within days, however, the Tories responded with an ad which featured the border being drawn back on, as an announcer intoned "Here's where we draw the line."
A few fringe groups in Canada have actively campaigned in favor of joining the United States. These annexationist movements have not attracted much mainstream attention, although surveys have found that a minority of Canadians expressed some support for the concept, ranging from as many as 19% in a Léger Marketing survey in 2001 to just seven per cent in another survey by the same company in 2004.
One notable recent allusion to "51st state" discourse came from the Canadian indie rock group Octoberman, whose 2009 album Fortresses includes a song titled "51", which describes the narrator's reaction to an announcement that Canada has been annexed by the United States.
In the United States, use of the term "the 51st state" when applied to Canada can serve as either a positive or negative reference, depending on the context. In some circumstances, the term is used from a U.S. perspective to highlight the similarities and close relationship between Canada and the United States. However, the term is more often used disparagingly, intended to deride Canada, or make it appear as an unimportant or inconsequential neighbor of the United States.
Realistically, were an annexation scenario to ever occur, Canada, as a whole, would be unlikely to become a single "51st state", but rather its individual provinces would become states.
Alberta is referred to as "the Texas of the north"; the two share similarities in terms of conservative social values and an economy defined by cattle ranching and petroleum extraction and processing. A small number of Albertans have expressed dissatisfaction at Canada's policies towards the province, particularly with regards to national energy policy and equalization payments. Some Albertans accuse the Canadian federal government of stealing money from the province's vast oil reserves to distribute to the rest of the country; however the redistribution of windfall provincial earnings as equalization payments to most provinces is standard practice, and all provinces have been the recipient of this funding at some point in time, including Alberta, although this sentiment was not directly tied to union with the United States. An August 2005 poll commissioned by the Western Standard pegged support for the idea that "Western Canadians should begin to explore their options outside of Canada" at 42% in Alberta and 35.6% across the four Western provinces. Separatist feelings in Alberta began largely out of the feeling that Canada's National Energy Program took significant revenue from the province. Although many Canadians feel this stance is one of greed, especially from a province who was a payment recipient in the past.
Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island
During the Quebec referendum, 1995, there was media speculation that one potential consequence of Quebec's secession from Canada might be that the three Maritime Provinces of Canada, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, would be economically disadvantaged by their geographic isolation from the remaining Canadian provinces, and would therefore secede from Canada and be admitted to the United States as three new states. However, each of the provincial legislatures deny there is or ever was any intent to join the United States.
In the Quebec general election, 1989, Parti 51 ran for elections proposing secession of Quebec from Canada and annexation to the US. The party attracted just 3,846 votes across the entire province, 0.11 per cent of the total votes cast.
Due to geographical proximity of the Central American countries to the U.S. which has powerful economic influences and political importance in the Americas (including periods of U.S. military occupations), there were several movements and proposals by the United States during the 19th and 20th centuries to annex some or all of the 6 or 7 Central American republics (Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras with the formerly British-ruled Bay Islands, Nicaragua, Panama which has the U.S.-ruled Canal Zone territory from 1903 to 1979, and formerly British Honduras or Belize since 1981). These movements and proposals all failed.
In 1855, American filibuster William Walker staged a coup in civil war-torn Nicaragua with the intent of adding additional slave states to the Union. He installed himself as president in 1856, but was overthrown by a coalition of Central American nations.
Home to 500,000 American land owners before the outbreak of the Spanish–American War, Cuba was projected to become US territory through a potential purchase from the Spanish empire. In 1859, Senator John Slidell introduced a bill to place thirty million dollars into the hands of the President, to be applied towards the purchase of Cuba from Spain.
The pro-independence movement in Cuba was funded and supported by the U.S., as guerrilla leaders pleaded for annexation for statehood in the 1880s and early 1890s, but Cuban revolutionary leader José Martí objected and called for Cuban nationhood. The Teller Amendment to the congressional reply to President William McKinley's War Message imposed a condition of the United States military action in Cuba that the U.S. could not annex Cuba but only leave "control of the island to its people." In the Treaty of Paris which ended the Spanish–American War, Spain relinquished all claim of sovereignty over Cuba, but did not cede it to the U.S. as it did other territories. Despite this the Platt Amendment, which superseded the Teller amendment in 1901, allowed the United States certain rights and it was several years before U.S. troops were withdrawn.
From 1903 to 1958, the U.S. opted to back every government, most notably the General Fulgencio Batista regime who was ousted in 1959 by Fidel Castro. Castro erected an independent socialist/communist government which has been in power ever since.
In 1898 one or more news outlets in the Caribbean noted growing sentiments of resentment of British rule in Dominica, including the system of administration over the country. These publications attempted to gauge sentiments of annexation to the United States as a way to change this system of administration.
In 1869, Dominican president Buenaventura Báez tried to persuade the United States to annex his debt-ridden, war-torn nation. U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant supported this plan, but the annexation treaty failed in the 56-member Senate 28-28, falling well short of the two-thirds required by the Constitution.
There is an organization dedicated to the integration of Guyana with the United States, GuyanaUSA. Their claim is based on the idea that Guyana has strong connections with the United States in terms of people (100,000 people have joint Guyanese-American citizenship and 350,000 Guyanese live in the U.S., half as many as remain in Guyana). It is the only South American country with English as its official language. Guyana, however, appears to have partly committed itself to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and also the South American integration organization, becoming a founding member of the Union of South American Nations in 2008.
Time Magazine columnist Mark Thompson suggested that Haiti had effectively become the 51st state after the 2010 Haiti earthquake. The widespread destruction from the earthquake prompted a quick and extensive response from the United States and the U.S. military utilized Haitian air and sea ports to facilitate foreign aid.
The idea of incorporating Mexico as several new states of the United States has existed ever since the Mexican–American War of 1846-1848, when the All Mexico Movement proposed annexing Mexico by force. Today this idea stresses the strong economic and political connections between Mexico and the United States and the high recurring cost of defending a 2,000-mile (3,200 km) border. In 1913 during border skirmishes between the United States and Mexico, it was proposed by some that the U.S. annex Chihuahua.
The northeast region, consisting of the states of Tamaulipas, Coahuila, and Nuevo León (where claims about federal taxes and water usage are similar to the proposed U.S. states complaints) is frequently alleged to be more alike in general mentality to Texas than to the rest of Mexico. These three states formed the core of the short-lived 19th century Republic of the Rio Grande.
Groups that suggest this union use several arguments to support their views, such as that both countries are federal republics, that their cultures are compatible despite the language difference as proved by the integration of millions of Mexicans into the U.S. via the 1986 U.S. Amnesty, that Mexico is extremely rich in natural resources with the potential to be a prosperous country but that this is being prevented mainly by a long series of corrupt governments dominated by a small rich elite which is a major reason for illegal immigration to the United States, and that therefore by dissolving the Mexican government along with the border, both countries would prosper better as an enlarged United States, with Mexicans turned into U.S. citizens and no longer treated as illegal aliens.
In 1853, filibuster William Walker conquered the Mexican states of Baja California and Sonora with the intent of adding new slave states to the Union. Within three months he had incorporated both states into the independent Republic of Sonora, but a lack of support from the US Government and increasing pressure from the Mexican Government forced him to retreat.
Asia and Pacific
Since World War II, Australian culture has been increasingly dominated by influences from the US. The US shares major joint military and government interests with Australia in part of the ANZUS Mutual Defense Treaty of 1951. Australia is an English-speaking country and is regarded as a close ally to the USA. The USA and Australia also have, remarkably, very similar governments, political systems and histories. While Australia is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, with Queen Elizabeth II as head of state in her role as Queen of Australia, both governments are federal, have a House of Representatives and a Senate that are elected in similar fashions, and State governments that operate in similar fashion. The United States and Australia were also both largely formed from British subjects who were disgruntled, albeit for differing reasons, resulting in a common frontier mentality and self image in which the nations were carved out of a wilderness and formed into a free, prosperous nation. The similarities in both politics and culture between Australia and the United States have been remarked upon throughout history, and can be seen reflected in the close relations between the two nations at virtually every level and type of relationship that exists between them.
In Australia, the term '51st State' is used as a disparagement of a perceived invasion of American cultural or political influence.
Several publications suggest that the Iraq War is a neocolonial war to make Iraq the 51st state, usually a tongue-in-cheek statement.
Several websites assert that Israel is the 51st state due to the annual funding and defense support it receives from the United States. An example of this concept can be found in 2003 when Martine Rothblatt published a book called "Two Stars for Peace" that argued for the addition of Israel and the Palestinian Territories as the 51st and 52nd states in the Union. "The American State of Canaan", is a book published by Prof. Alfred de Grazia, political science and sociologist, in March 2009, proposing the creation of a 51st from both Israel and Palestine.
Despite the United Nations guarantee of the protection and preservation of Japanese sovereignty, some American congressmen insisted they should annex a war-defeated Japan. The U.S. armed forces rejected such a plan during the Japanese Instrument of Surrender on the USS Missouri.
However, in Article 3 of the Treaty of San Francisco between the Allied Powers and Japan, which came into force in April 1952, the U.S. put the outlying islands of the Ryukyus, including the island of Okinawa–home to over 1,000,000 Okinawans related to the Japanese–and the Bonin Islands, the Volcano Islands, and Iwo Jima into U.S. trusteeship. All these trusteeships were slowly returned to Japanese rule. Okinawa was returned on May 15, 1972, but the U.S. continues to station troops in the island's bases, an emotional subject for many Okinawans who despised foreign occupation left over from the World War II era.
The Philippines has a small grassroots movement for statehood. Originally part of the platform of the Progressive Party, then known as the Federalista Party, the party dropped it in 1907 which coincided with the name change. As recently as 2004, the concept has been part of a political platform in the Philippines. Supporters of this movement have mainly been Filipinos that had fought as members of the United States armed forces in various wars during the Commonwealth period.
Various suggestions for Philippine statehood have included its entry as a whole or the partial entry of the westernized north, leaving the predominantly Muslim parts of Mindanao to form its own country (see Moro National Liberation Front) or join Indonesia. The movement initially had a significant impact during the early American colonial period, however in recent history it is no longer a mainstream movement, and is primarily a minor social movement.
When the Treaty of San Francisco and Treaty of Taipei were finalized, the United States, as leader of the World War II Allies and in its position as "principal occupying power" under the treaties, was given the internationally agreed responsibility of administration of the former Formosa, which it then continued to delegate (in the form of an "agency" relationship) to Chiang Kai-shek's Republic of China. The ongoing debates and disagreements in regard to the legal and political status of Taiwan remains, with some commentators believing it to be an independent or quasi-independent state that seeks more international recognition from members of the United Nations, functioning under the Formosa government. Neither the San Francisco Peace Treaty nor the Treaty of Taipei specified who should exercise sovereignty over Taiwan after the Allied Forces had relinquished control. The People's Republic of China was not a signatory to either treaty.
A poll in 2003 among Taiwanese residents aged between 13 and 22 revealed that, when given the options of either becoming a province of China or a state within the U.S., 55% of the respondents preferred statehood while 36% chose joining with China.
Albania is often cited as the 51st state due to its perceived strongly pro-USA positions mainly because of the Kosovo policy of the U.S. In reference to President George W. Bush's 2007 European tour, Edi Rama, Tirana's mayor and leader of the opposition Socialists, said: "Albania is for sure the most pro-American country in Europe, maybe even in the world ... Nowhere else can you find such respect and hospitality for the President of the United States. Even in Michigan, he wouldn't be as welcome." At the time of ex-Secretary of State James Baker's visit in 1991, there was even a move to hold a referendum declaring the country as the 51st American state.
The Party of Reconstruction in Sicily, which claimed 40,000 members in 1944, campaigned for Sicily to be admitted as a U.S. state. This party was one of several Sicilian separatist movements active after the downfall of Italian Fascism. Sicilians felt neglected or underrepresented by the Italian government, especially after the annexation of 1861 when Sicily was part of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies based in Naples. The large population of Sicilians in America and the American-led Allied invasion of Sicily in July-August 1943 may have contributed to the sentiment.
Following the Second World War there was also the Italian Unionist Movement, which called for Italy to become the 49th U.S. state. The party was able to elect one member of parliament, Ugo Damiani.
Poland is staunchly pro-American (see Poland – United States relations), dating back to General Tadeusz Kościuszko's leading American revolutionaries, and reinforced following favorable American interventions in World War I (leading to the creation of an independent Poland), World War II (re-creating an independent Poland), and the Cold War (culminating in a Polish state independent of Soviet influence), and contributing a large force in the "Coalition of the Willing" in Iraq. Poland has been referred to as "the 51st state" by CIA officials, especially in connection to extraordinary rendition.
The UK has sometimes been called the 51st state due to the close and "special" relationship between the two countries which began with Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill during World War II, and more recently continued during the premierships of Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair.
Related terms have been used in books and film. In the 1979 film Americathon, which is set in a fictional 1998, the United Kingdom (re-named as Limeyland) has become the 57th state, and the logos of a Safeway grocery store hangs on the Palace of Westminster. In the novel, 51st State, by Peter Preston (published in 1998), the United Kingdom leaves the European Union and becomes the 51st state of the USA. In The Light of Other Days, a 2000 novel by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter, the United Kingdom joins the United States, with the Prime Minister serving as governor and the Royal Family exiled to Australia. The 2001 British film The 51st State, starring Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Carlyle, is set in Liverpool, England that makes fun of US-UK relations. The film was released under the title Formula 51 in the United States and Canada due to sensitivity to the term "51st state" there.
The term has also been used in music. The 1986 album The Ghost of Cain by the English rock band New Model Army features a track called 51st State, which refers to the UK under Margaret Thatcher who herself proclaimed the UK to be the 51st state of America in one of her speeches. The song "Heartland" on the 1986 album Infected, by the English band The The, ends with the refrain "This is the 51st state of the U.S.A."
In 1969, writer Norman Mailer unsuccessfully ran for mayor of New York City in the Democratic Party primary race on a platform that featured the proposal that New York City become the 51st state of the United States.
Use in other organizational contexts
Frequently, organizations (NGOs, etc.) based primarily in the United States have smaller branches elsewhere. These branches may often be called the group's "51st state."
The Democratic National Committee recognizes each state for electoral purposes; however it also gives Democrats Abroad delegate votes to represent the approximately seven million U.S. citizens living abroad. In the context of the DNC, Democrats Abroad is often considered the "51st state."
51st state in popular culture
- Jules Verne's novel "The Chase of the Golden Meteor", published in 1908 (several years after the writer's death) takes place at an unspecified future time in which the US has 51 States and its flag therefore displays 51 stars. Verne did not specify which states had joined the Union to make up that number. (In an earlier novel, "Propeller Island" (published in 1895 as part of the Voyages Extraordinaires), Verne predicted the US annexing Canada and Central America).
- In the Star Trek: The Next Generation second season episode "The Royale," a 52 Star flag is shown on a piece of debris. The episode did not make clear where the 51st and 52nd states were, only that they joined in the 21st century. In the episode, Commander Riker says that the flag dates the debris between the years of 2033 and 2079.
- In The Simpsons, Saudi-Israelia (presumably a combination of Saudi Arabia and Israel) is mentioned as the 51st state in the episode "Future-Drama."
- The 2008 Canadian television film The Trojan Horse follows the aftermath of a referendum in which Canada votes to join the United States. Instead of Canada being one state, there are six, British Columbia (British Columbia & Yukon), Alberta (Alberta & Northwest Territories), Manitoba (Manitoba & Saskatchewan), Ontario (Ontario & Nunavut), Quebec and Terra Nova (the Atlantic Provinces)
- In the alternate history of Watchmen, intervention by Doctor Manhattan at the request of Nixon decides the Vietnam War in favour of US Forces. Vietnam ultimately becomes the 51st state.