The Articles of Confederation
The Articles of Confederation was the first constitution of the United States of America. The Articles of Confederation were first drafted by the Continental Congress in Philadelphia Pennsylvania in 1777. This first draft was prepared by a man named John Dickinson in 1776. The Articles were then ratified in 1781.
A few hundred years ago, the United States first Constitution, the Articles of Confederation, was created. This Constitution created a weak central government in order to give the people the rights that they deserve. This plan of government, however, proved to be too weak and it could not control the people or pay the debts that the country had acquired from the Revolutionary War.
The inherent weakness of the Articles of Confederation stemmed from the fact that it called for a confederacy—which placed sovereign power in the hands of the states. This is most explicitly stated in Article II, which reads: “Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.” 2
The Americans after obtaining independence from England needed to establish a form of government. Before the war had ended, the Second Congress of the Confederation called for the drafting of a new government in order to govern this new country, which the Articles of Confederation established. The Articles of Confederation built a government solely based off republican ideals, such as civic virtue, the idea that the states and the people will make sacrifices to the common good in order to benefit everybody. Relying on civic virtue did not pull through as successful for the young country. The Articles of Confederation shone through as successful in organizing and establishing states in the Old Northwest, spreading republican ideals; however, the success of the Articles of Confederation was trumped by its failures. The Articles of Confederation failed to provide a new and young United States with an effective government in its inability to collect tax revenue to pay debts, controlling the mobocratic uprising of upset factions, and dealing with foreign policies; additionally, the failure of the Articles of Confederation revealed the inefficiency and failure of republicanism.
During the period when America was still in its early stage of development, there was a great dispute over how the United States government should be restructured, due to the weakness of the Articles of Confederation- written in 1776. There were many problems with the Articles of Confederation, such as the national government could not compel the states to follow its laws, it did not had the authority to tax and enforce laws, Congress did not had a sturdy/ firm leadership, etc. However, these problems came to sight during the economic depression in 1786, when many citizens was in debt. The citizens rebelled commonly known as “Shays Rebellion,” which indicated that there was disorder in the country. This showed that the central government was not strong enough to keep up with the law and order, thus leading to the creation of the Federalist and Anti- Federalist perspectives.
The thirteen states formed a Confederation referred to as the “league of friendship” in order to find a solution for common problems such as foreign affairs.The Articles of Confederation was the nation’s first Constitution. The articles created a loose Confederation of independent states that gave limited powers to the central government. Each state would have one vote in the house of Congress, no matter the size of the population. Members of the one-house Congress, such as Pennsylvania, agreed that the new government should be a unicameral legislature, without an executive branch or a separate judiciary. Under the articles, there wasn’t a strong independent executive. There wasn’t any judicial branch but Congress had the authority to arbitrate disputes between states. Congress was responsible for conducting foreign affairs, declaring war or peace, maintaining an army and navy and a variety of other lesser functions. But the articles denied Congress the power to collect taxes, regulate interstate commerce and enforce laws. Because of this, the central government had to request donations from the states to finance its operations and raise armed forces.
The American Revolution marked America’s independence from Great Britain. The American Revolution revealed many concerns for Americans. During the Revolutionary War, an internal rebellion known as Shays Rebellion demonstrated the need for a stronger government. After the war, Americans viewed The Articles of Confederation as an inadequate constitution. The Articles of Confederation allowed congress little to no power; it restricted congresses’ power to tax, which led the states to coin their own currency. Thus, each state had separate values for coins and dollars, making trade impractical. Each state was in charge of its own military; as a result, when the central government wanted to go to war; states could decide not to aid in the war. In addition, after the Revolutionary War, the national government had trouble collecting funds to pay the debt that proliferated during the war. Accordingly, twelve of the thirteen states met in Philadelphia State House where the delegates fought over the Virginia Plan or the New Jersey Plan. The Virginia Plan stated that representation was decided upon a states population. Where as, the New Jersey Plan wanted equal representation from each state. The Great Compromise resolved the argument by combining both plans together. It required a legislature which states would be represented based on population identical to the House of Representatives in modern day. The upper house states would be represented two members equally such as the Senate is currently. By giving power to the people and the creation of checks and balances, the Constitution of 1787 resolved the question of who was to be sovereign and the where the powers lie. Each state had to ratify this Constitution before it could be implemente...
For example, congress was not allowed to regulate trade. James Madison wrote a letter to Thomas Jefferson stating that each state was concerned with their own matters. He wrote “The states are every day giving proofs that separate regulations are more likely to set them by the ears than to attain the common object.” (Brackemyre, 2015). Congress was able to regulate trade and commerce with Native Americans, even then it could not stop each state’s ability from regulating its own trade. There was no system of National currency. States and the National government could both print money, this made trade very difficult among states and foreign entities. Under the articles the states only had the authority to impose taxes and raise money. This caused congress to request money from the states at times. In many occurrences the money was not raised in a timely manner and sometimes not at
The Articles provided the states with independence, but utilized the central government as a mediator of sorts (Schultz, 2009). The Continental Congress were responsible for five powers according to the Articles of Confederation which included: declaring war and making peace, make international treaties, control Indian affairs in the west, establish a currency, and create and maintain the postal service (Schultz, 2009, pg. 120). Whereas, the states were responsible for levying taxes and regulating commerce. However, this responsibility was a great one with everlasting effects. Ultimately, these two areas are fundamentally necessary to fund a war. If the states decisions produced lack of economical backing, the federal government was unable to assist them based on the Articles of Confederation.
The Articles of Confederation was the first government of the United States. The Articles had created a very weak national government. At the time the Articles were approved, they had served the will of the people. Americans had just fought a war to get freedom from a great national authority--King George III (Patterson 34). But after this government was put to use, it was evident that it was not going to keep peace between the states. The conflicts got so frequent and malicious that George Washington wondered if the “United” States should be called a Union (Patterson 35). Shays’ Rebellion finally made it evident to the public that the government needed a change.