Soon after the Revolutionary War in America, a new government was started when the Articles of Confederation were adopted by the Continental Congress. The Articles set up a democratic government that gave the States the power to make their own laws and to enforce them. However, the Articles were ineffective and failed to provide a strong government. During this critical period in the history of the United States, pandemonium and anarchy were growing due to: controlled public, nothing in the Articles that gave Congress the power to enforce laws, no solid monetary system, and also the country lacked unity and strength
The Preamble of the Constitution of the United States of America classifies an effective government as one that "establish[s] justice, insure[s] domestic tranquility, provide[s] for the common defense, promote[s] the general welfare, and secure[s] the blessings of liberty." Based on these standards, the Articles of Confederation were effective to a certain degree at the time, but in the end, were too liberal to be effective. Because its main purpose was to ensure the blessings of liberty, the Articles of Confederation had to sacrifice stability and security, which ultimately led to its downfall.
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.
The Articles of Confederation were incapable of providing the United States with an effective form of government. The Articles of Confederation presided weakly over the government as it allowed little or no power to tax, control trade, and branches of government were missing. In addition to this, the thirteen states acted as separate nations and the national government had little control over them.
In the late 1780s, prominent political leaders in the United States came to realize that the government created under the Articles of Confederation was ineffective and impractical and could not serve a nation in managing relationships among states nor handle foreign nations. The fear of creating a government that was too powerful was the basis for foundation of the Articles of Confederation. It created a weak national government that allowed for most of the power to be under the control of the state legislatures. Under the Articles, Congress had no means to prevent war or security against foreign invasion. The federal government could not check the quarrels between states or regulate interstate trade, collect taxes, enforce laws.
The American Revolution stirred political unity and motivated the need for change in the nation. Because many Americans fought for a more balanced government in the Revolutionary War, they initially created a weak national government that hampered the country's growth and expansion. In the Letter from Abigail Adams to Thomas Jefferson, Mrs. Adams complained about the inadequacy of power that the American government had to regulate domestic affairs. The Articles of Confederation was created to be weak because many had feared a similar governing experience that they had just eliminated with Britain. The alliance of states united the 13 local governments but lacked power to deal with important issues or to regulate diplomatic affairs. Congress did not have the power to tax, regulate trade, or draft people for war. This put the American citizens at stake because States had the power to refuse requests for taxes and troops (Document G). The weakened national government could not do anything about uprisings or small-scale protests because it did not have the power to put together an army. The deficiencies of the confederation government inspired the drafting of the American Constitution. The document itself embodied the principle of a national government prepared to deal with the nation's problems. In James Madison's Federalist Paper, he persuades the American public to adopt the Constitution so that the government can protect humans from their nature and keep them out of conflicts.
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 Federalist Papers, perhaps was the most famous exploration of American political philosophy, originally was a series of 85 anonymous letters in several New York state newspapers (Berkin & Berlin, 2008). The Federalist Papers was first published on October 27, 1787. It consisted of eighty-five articles that were published on several New York newspapers for roughly seven months between October 27, 1787 and May 28, 1788. Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison wrote the articles under the pseudonym “Publius”. Later, it was also published as a book titled The Federalist on 1788. The book, although firstly was only intended to be read by the people of New York, were spread and circulated wildly among all United States' community in general (Peacock, n.d.). The urge to write these articles came due to the disagreement to the Articles of Confederation. By Hamilton, Jay, and Madison, The Articles of Confederation was judged as a weak government system. Moreover, the articles were also perceived as tyrannical because it limited the individual liberty and gave the government too much power (Foner & Garraty, 1991). The Publius’s main goals were to persuade New York voters to ratify the proposed constitution, which were thought suited the America’s principles of liberty and equity best (Whitten, n.d.)
In the history of the United States of America, our government has been defined by two very important documents. Reflecting on all governments of the past, they laid forth an impressive jumble of ideas that would lead the way to where we are today. These two documents are the Article of Confederation and the U.S Constitution. These two documents of precedent are both similar and unique, each with its own pros and cons, and neither being perfect. Both these documents addressed the prominent vital in national vs. state sovereignty, legislative selection process, and executive authority.
When the American Revolutionary War ended, it did not mark the end of the American Revolution as a whole. Rather it marked the first step in a long and difficult process of forming a nation with a strong central government. Even before the Revolutionary War began, leaders of the thirteen American colonies recognized the importance and necessity of some form of centralized government. The Second Continental Congress, held in 1775 , was the first serious attempt to bring organization and unity to the thirteen individual and self- interested American colonies. At the Second Continental Congress, a committee was formed to produce the framework of a governmental system. The result, the Articles of Confederation, were weak and ineffective because they simply reinforced the idea of state soverngty and did not supply the Congress with the necessary power to form and run a strong central government. The Articles led this country down a path towards political and economic chaos, and drove Federalist leaders to make drastic changes in the powers supplied to the central government.