The National Archives, meanwhile, cite the first known use of the “formal term United States of America” as being the Declaration of Independence, which would recognize Jefferson as the originator. Written in June 1776, Jefferson’s “original Rough draught” placed the new name at the head of the business – “A Declaration by the Representatives of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA in General Congress assembled."
Jefferson clearly had an idea as to what would sound good by presenting the national moniker in capitalized letters. But in the final edit, the line was changed to read, “The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America.” The fact that “United States of America” appears in both versions of the Declaration may have been enough evidence to credit Jefferson with coining the phrase, but there is another example published three months earlier.
Beginning in March 1776, a series of anonymously written articles began appearing in The Virginia Gazette – one of three different Virginia Gazettes being published in Williamsburg at that time. Addressed to the “Inhabitants of Virginia,” the essays present an economic set of arguments promoting independence versus reconciliation with Great Britain. The author estimates total Colonial losses at $24 million and laments the possibility of truce without full reparation – and then voices for the first time what would become the name of our nation.
“What a prodigious sum for the united states of America to give up for the sake of a peace, that, very probably, itself would be one of the greatest misfortunes!” – A PLANTER
So who is A PLANTER?
Likely candidates could be well-known Virginians, like Richard Henry Lee, Patrick Henry, or even Jefferson. Some of the essay’s phrasing can be found in the writings of Jefferson. For example, “to bind us by their laws in all cases whatsoever,” appears in both the essay and Jefferson’s autobiography.