The Articles of Confederation

The Articles of Confederation

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The Articles of Confederation


When confronted with the task of constructing a new nation, the founders of the United States had recently emerged from centuries of religious and political oppression by an overly strong central government. After winning their independence, one of the most pressing issues on their minds was the assurance that their new government would have limitations, disallowing it to molest their posterity. The patriarchs wanted a government that balanced between abuse and inefficiency. The first attempt to satiate this dream was the Articles of Confederation.
In the period directly following Cornwallis’s surrender, the fresh nation discovered a new task, governing their now-sovereign territories. A meeting of the minds, of the upper echelon of society, was convened to draft a document that would lay out the blueprints for the inaugural government. The resulting document was the Articles of Confederation. The Articles turned out to be a horrible system in practice. In theory they prevented central abuse of power by not allocating relevant power to the government and disallowing a head of state, a president. States squabbled with one another and resembled something of an early day United Nations. The Federal government could do nothing to settle inter-state disputes, nor could they levy taxes, hold a military, or enforce laws. Needless to say the government projected a national and international front that was poor, weak, and inefficient. The very founders who sought a limited government new that vast change was needed, and scrapping the Articles altogether was not out of the question.
The winds of frustration with the government swept through the states. The public was tired of the unreliable continental dollar, the inability to repay soldiers for war service, and the overall insufficiencies of the government. Angry, emblazoned citizens voiced their feelings through uprisings, like Bacon and Shay’s rebellions. Shockwaves of perturbed feelings resonated strongly in the minds of the leaders of the states and national government. It was time for the well bred, well fed, well wed, well read, and well read, to go back to the drawing board and supply the nation with a democratic, republic that worked. The Constitutional Convention that is so widely renowned throughout history, (and rightly so), was summoned to meet in Philadelphia, behind closed doors, to re-work the framework of our land.
The drafting of the Constitution was held in a city building in Philadelphia, with the windows battened, and hay spread against the foundation to muffle voices.

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The convention was to be bi-partisan and uninfluenced by the complaints of the people. Alexander Hamilton kept a diary of the proceedings but swore to keep it under wraps until the last of the members of the Convention died, so as to keep them from enduring any unnecessary flack. Many debates arose, but the main dissention was found between the delegates for the large states and those of the small, and the issue of slavery (which would continue for one hundred more years). The members of this body saw the need for drastic change, but still were wary of a government with too much centralized power. The result is the most magnificent, smoothest most successful government in the history of mankind, a government that serves the people, a government that could finally put the dreams and ponderings of great ancient and middle age philosophers to work. A government that has an executive officer but one who is limited by an extravagant, yet simple web of checks and balances. Virtually every process, decision, law, order, edict, ruler, representative, in our land is decided upon by the vote of the people, directly or indirectly. This control through voting is perhaps the most over-looked yet most effective restraint on government.
There exists no argument that the founders of our nation succeeded in their goal of producing a government, limited in the area of power, to insure against, any sort of violation of the citizen’s natural right. The constitution that provides basis for the governing of our society is magnificent in its simplicity, and ornate in its relative conciseness. The ability of the constitution the ebb and flow with the changing tides of society, keeps it from buckling.
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