Strengths and weaknesses of Articles of Confederation, purpose and accomplishments

The United States’ first constitution was the Articles of Confederation. It was first developed in 1777, in the midst of the American Revolution. The 13 founding states of the United States of America came to an agreement known as the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union. Except for the privileges expressly provided to Congress, each state retains its independence and all other governmental rights.

However, the Second Continental Congress finally agreed to it on November 15, 1777, after much discussion. The Articles of Confederation became effective as a result on March 1, 1781.

The text outlined the “league of friendship” (Perpetual Union) that would be formed between the states. The Congress looked to the Articles for direction as it conducted business during the ratification process, guiding the war effort, engaging in diplomacy with other nations, resolving territorial disputes, and managing ties with Native Americans. After the Articles of Confederation came into force, little in terms of politics changed because ratification essentially did little more than make what the Continental Congress had been doing lawful.

Although it now goes by the name Congress of the Confederation, the majority of Americans still refer to it as the Continental Congress because of how it was still organised.

Delegates found that the restrictions placed on the central government proved it ineffectual at managing the steadily expanding U.S. states as the Confederation Congress intended to do.

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Articles of Confederation purpose

The 13 colonies were brought together by the Articles of Confederation to form a loose confederation or alliance. The Articles of Confederation were greatly impacted by this important principle. The concept was that the United States of America needed to be more closely united after having to defend itself against Great Britain in case they had to protect themselves against another attack. They were combined to create a nation with particular interests and objectives rather than 13 autonomous entities.

After the American Revolution, the people of the several states wished to unite. They defined the function of the federal government, which also aided in defining the function of the states. The Continental Congress approved the Articles of Confederation on November 15, 1777, and all 13 states confirmed them on March 1, 1781. So, 1781 was the actual date of the Articles of Confederation. They continued up to 1789.

Articles of Confederation timeline

  • January 1776: Publication of Article of Confederation and Perpetual Union.
  • June 7, 1776: Richard Henry Lee proposes Independence in Congress.
  • June 12, 1776: Committee appointed to draft Article of Confederation.
  • July 2, 1776: Draft of the Articles submitted to Congress.
  • July 4, 1776: the U.S declares Independence.
  • November 15, 1777: Congress completes the Articles of Confederation.
  • July 9, 1778: Eight among the thirteen states officially ratify the Articles.
  • March 1, 1781: The Articles of Confederation take influence (Establishment of the U.S Government)
  • September 3, 1783: Signing of the Treaty of Paris.
  • January 25, 1787: Shay’s Rebellion
  • September 11-14,1786: The Annapolis Convention asked for amending the Article of Confederation
  • September 17, 1987: Draft of Constitution submitted to the states for ratification.

Articles of Confederation Summary

The 13 parts that made up the Articles of Confederation were referred to as “articles.” The complete and original wording of the Articles of Confederation should be read. The Articles of Confederation accomplished what? What kind of governance were established by the Articles of Confederation? The details of each article are as follows:

Article 1 of Articles of Confederation

The name of the country would be ”The United States of America.”

Article 2 of Articles of Confederation

Every one of the 13 states would continue to remain autonomous and retain any authority not expressly granted to the federal government by the Articles of Confederation.

Article 3  of Articles of Confederation

States would form a league of friendship so they could aid in defending one another from an attack.

Article 4 of Articles of Confederation

In the United States, people had unrestricted access to interstate travel. Additionally, anyone accused of serious crimes who escaped the state where the offence was committed may be returned there.

Article 5 of Articles of Confederation

Each state would be represented by two to seven representatives in the annual meetings of the United States Congress. If necessary, Congress could be reconvened. On matters brought before Congress, each state would have one vote.

Article 6 of Articles of Confederation

The Congress was in charge of foreign trade and, if necessary, war declarations. Every state was expected to have a militia of trained soldiers who were prepared to defend their nation or state.

Article 7 of Articles of Confederation

Each state was free to choose the military commanders it wanted.

To fund war, national defence, and the general welfare of American citizens, all states were mandated to levy taxes that they would then transfer to the federal government.

Article 9 of Articles of Confederation

All disagreements between states over borders or other matters might be resolved in the Congress of the United States. Individual states could not declare war on other nations, only Congress could.

Article 10 of Articles of Confederation

A committee made up of delegates from all 13 states, or at least nine of them, might take the place of Congress if it wasn’t in session.

Article 11 of Articles of Confederation

Canada may apply for admission to the United States and join the country if it so desired.

Article 12 of Articles of Confederation

All debts incurred prior to the nation’s founding, such as those resulting from the Revolutionary War, would be settled by the United States.

Article 13 of Articles of Confederation

Any changes to the Articles of Confederation had to be made by Congress and approved by all 13 states.

Article of Confederation Accomplishments

The Confederation Congress did, however, make two decisions that had a lasting effect. The Northwest Ordinance and the Land Ordinance of 1785 established a territorial administration, established procedures for the admission of additional states, divided the land into usable parcels, and set aside a portion of each township for public use. This arrangement marked a significant departure from imperial colonialism. It created the precedent, just like in Europe.

The property ownership provisions utilised during the latter westward expansion beyond the Mississippi River were created by the Land Ordinance of 1785, which also established standard land surveying techniques in the west and northwest. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 established the Northwest Territory, made note of the original states’ agreement to renounce their claims to the region’s lands, and created the foundation for the eventual formation of new states. Although it wasn’t specified in the articles, the territory Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia ceded north of the Ohio River and west of the current western border of Pennsylvania eventually became the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin, as well as the portion of Minnesota east of the Mississippi River. Significant strides toward the abolition of slavery were also achieved by the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. In this region, there would never be any new slave states admitted to the union.

Under the Articles of Confederation, no additional states were allowed to join the Union. If Quebec elected to enter the United States, it would be automatically accepted under the terms of the Articles. It did not, and the ensuing Constitution did not include such a unique admissions clause. Additionally, there were ordinances to join the Union for Vermont, Kentucky, and Frankland, but none of these were accepted.

Article of Confederation Strengths and Weaknesses

The Articles’ strengths weren’t many. It was successful in achieving a number of objectives, including uniting the states and building a powerful legislature. The legislature was well-liked by the populace because it allowed them a say in politics. The Land Ordinance of 1785 and the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which were plans for creating additional states as well as paying off the national debt, were also established by the colonists under the Articles of Confederation. The “old northwest” region of western lands was primarily the focus of the Land Ordinance.

The area was to be divided up, surveyed, and then offered for sale. The national debt would subsequently be settled using the proceeds from the sale of these lands. More of these new lands’ administration was covered by the Northwest Ordinance. When a territory had 60,000 or more residents, it could be submitted to congress as a state. It also divided the sections and set aside some for the construction of public schools. Despite how significant these revisions were, the Articles of Confederation remained a flawed document, which eventually prompted a convention to update them.

Given how unpopular the Articles of Confederation quickly were, it is hardly surprising that few historians today discuss their advantages. Due to the fear of a monarchy, the Articles did establish Congress, the parliamentary body, as the ultimate authority in the country. Congress had the exclusive authority to declare war, make treaties, promote international relations, and run post offices. State-level disputes and territorial issues were to be reported to Congress. The document also stated that Canada may join the Union if they so chose.

Strengths

The primary constitution of the United States of America was contained in the written document known as the Articles of Confederation.

Foreign Affairs:

The right to manage foreign affairs, including the ability to declare and keep peace, form alliances, and sign treaties, was granted to Congress by the Articles of Confederation.

Indian Affairs:

The Articles of Confederation granted Congress the power to control Native Indian affairs.

Military Affairs:

The Articles of Confederation helped the Congressional direction of the Continental Army

Interstate Affairs:

Congress settled conflicts between states under the Articles of Confederation, which improved cooperation and coordination between the various states.

Territorial Government:

The 1784 and 1785 Ordinance and the 1987 Northwest Ordinance were started by the government as part of the Articles of Confederation and outlined plans for the quick and orderly growth of the new country.

Others

  1. The creation of new states with a population of more than 60,000 people was permitted by the Articles of Confederation.
  2. The Department of Treasury, the Department of Postal Service, and the Department of Foreign Affairs were constructed by the Congress.
  3. There was set up a postal service.
  4. Courts for admiralty were established.
  5. Money in coins arrived.
  6. In 1778, the government ratified an alliance pact with France.
  7. The administration successfully waged war on the British to obtain independence.
  8. In the Treaty of Paris, which was signed in 1783, the government negotiated the end of the American Revolution.
  9. The government provided “all the privileges and immunities of free citizens in the different states” to the free residents of each state.
  10. The government made provisions for Canada’s final accession to the Confederation.
  11. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 was enacted by the government, allowing the Northwest Territories to set up their own governments. It permitted the eventual admission of no fewer than three, but no more than five, states “on an equal footing with the original states” to the Union. Slavery was outlawed in the area as well by the Ordinance.
  12. The Departments of Foreign Affairs, War, Marine, and Treasury were founded by the government.

Article of Confederation Weakness

Weak Central Government – Taxation

The ineffectiveness of the Articles of Confederation’s taxing of the states was arguably their largest shortcoming. Based on the value of privately owned land located inside each state, the states made financial contributions to the federal government. It was difficult to raise money, though, because the federal government was unable to set its own taxes and lacked an executive department to carry out legal orders.

The central government would issue requisitions, which are formal requests for money from the states, in accordance with the rules outlined in the Articles of Confederation. While indent requisitions included states paying interest on government bonds, specie requisitions were paid in gold or silver coinage. Sadly, because requisition demands were so difficult for the federal government to enforce, many states chose to disregard them.

The early American tax system was weak and ineffective, which had disastrous effects since it prevented the government from having the money it desperately needed to wage war against Great Britain. In a record of requisition requests from 1781 to 1789 compiled by founding father Alexander Hamilton, it was discovered that only around 25% of the cash demanded by the federal government were supplied by the states. If the early republic was to survive, a more straightforward, enforceable procedure was required.

Weak Central Government Commerce and Coinage

Additionally, the national government was unable to effectively regulate trade and commerce under the Articles of Confederation. Unbelievably, all interstate and international trade was to be managed by individual states, which would drastically hinder trade due to a lack of uniformity. States were permitted to levy tariffs on one another and enter into separate agreements with other countries.

These arrangements’ potential conflicts of interest might easily spark civil wars or wars with other countries. Despite the Articles of Confederation’s emphasis on the states’ cooperation in defending themselves, the current state of the economy and the weakening of the federal government have made it possible for some states to form alliances with foreign countries against their neighbours over trade disputes. It was unrealistic to think that individual states could effectively regulate commerce on their own.

Although Congress was explicitly given the power to define and control currency weights, values, and measurements, states were also allowed the freedom to create their own money. It is simple to imagine the economic turmoil that would result from individual states printing money given the intrinsic inadequacy of the federal authority in enforcing any rule. Individual states could manipulate their currencies to serve their own economic goals, disobeying the guidelines set forth by Congress regarding currency.

Legislative Proceedings

The Articles of Confederation’s legislative processes also created issues since they established rules that seemed to impede the openness of governmental processes. Congressmen met in private, behind closed doors. Public or spectator attendance was not permitted during the hearings.

The US Constitution’s openness to the public regarding government processes contrasted dramatically with the Articles of Confederation’s underlying secrecy. Although the members of the Constitutional Convention convened in secret, the federal government soon turned into a public forum for discussion when the new United States Constitution was founded. Given the emphasis on liberty and freedom that the nation was built on, it is unlikely that the federal government would have continued to convene in secret.

No Judicial Branch

The absence of a federal court system or judicial arm of government was one of the main long-term issues with the Articles of Confederation. A Supreme Court to limit the federal government’s power and find its laws unlawful was probably not something the Constitution’s authors anticipated becoming necessary. In the end, states were in charge of setting up courts and settling legal disputes both within their boundaries and among themselves.

If the states couldn’t settle their legal conflicts independently, the Articles of Confederation provided a basic judicial framework for doing so. To potentially act as a quasi-legal body in the case, Congress would choose three people from each state, for a total of 39 people. Until the list of people was reduced to 13, both parties to the legal issue would be instructed to direct members of this body to be eliminated, much like a jury selection procedure.

No Executive Branch

The absence of an executive arm of government, which was an overreaction to the disputes the early colonies had with King George III, was another serious flaw in the Articles of Confederation. The Founders felt that having an executive branch headed by a president would eventually lead to abuses of authority on the part of that person. The president of Congress was the sole official with even a semblance of central authority, yet even he or she could only hold office for one year every three years.

An executive branch of government was nevertheless required despite the reasonable concerns the original 13 American colonies had about the abuse of power by a president.

Warfare with other countries was better handled by a president. Besides dealing with legislative bodies, he also handles other national crises. It was more susceptible to rivalries and groups. Additionally, it was more practical to offer a lone, calming presence as the government’s representative while interacting with envoys and dignitaries from abroad.

Most crucially, the enforcement of legislation established by the legislative branch would depend on the president and other relevant figures connected to an executive branch.

Unicameral Legislative Branch

Since several republics across the world had already formed this form of government, the unicameral legislative branch established by the Articles of Confederation was not a novel arrangement. Even though the states are responsible for the majority of governance, this system nonetheless imposed a lot of obligations on the body. As the nation expanded, both a single executive officer and a single legislative body with control over federal authorities would have the potential to abuse their positions of authority.

Military Limitations

A national army or military during times of peace was expressly forbidden under the Articles of Confederation. It allowed states to garrison forts and defend trade and economic interests from Indian invasions or piracy by delegating all duty for military defence during times of peace to the states. States were also required to have a militia and a “proper number” of military supplies and equipment, however this requirement was relatively ambiguous and open to interpretation.

Articles of Confederation vs Constitution

In the end, the biggest difference between America’s two founding documents is that the Constitution considerably enlarged the federal government’s power while the Articles of Confederation placed sovereignty in the states.

FAQs on Article of Confederation

What are the Articles of Confederation and why are they important?

Ans. The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union was an agreement among the 13 original states of the United States of America. However, the Confederation provided the new nation with instructive experience in self-government under a written document.

What were the 4 major problems of the Articles of Confederation?

Ans. Congress had no power to lay or collect taxes. They had no power to regulate interstate or foreign trade. However, Congress had no power to enforce its laws. Approval of nine states was needed to enact laws. Amendments to the Articles required the consent of all thirteen states.

Why did the Articles of Confederation fail?

Ans.  The articles made the national government weak which is the only reason for the failure finally.

Who signed the Articles of Confederation?

Ans. 84 official peoples of 13 states of USA.

What are the similarities between the Articles of Confederation and the United States Constitution?

Ans. Both allow states to levy their militias, but they fall under the command of the Federal Government when deployed in times of war.

What powers did the articles of confederation not have?

The states possessed the authority to levy taxes under the articles, not congress. Only the states, foreign countries, or the sale of western lands could be used by Congress as a source of funding. Congress was also unable to control trade or the draught of soldiers.

What did the government look like under the articles of confederation?

The articles established a loose confederation of independent states with a meagre central administration that delegated most authority to the state legislatures. Soon after, it was clear that a larger federal government was necessary, which eventually sparked the 1787 constitutional convention.

Why were the articles of confederation a failure?

Simply put, weakness was the main reason the Articles of Confederation failed. The articles of confederation gave the federal government little power because it couldn’t carry out its legal obligations. The continental assembly was unable to pay off its debts since it had borrowed money to participate in the American Revolution.

What if we kept the articles of confederation?

The articles mandated that all 13 states must concur on a matter. It was virtually impossible to reach a compromise. The US is forced to continue on an uncertain course without changing its constitution. If it keeps acting in this way, the concept of a united confederacy loses a lot of support.

What was one of the biggest problems with the articles of confederation?

The fact that the national government lacked the authority to levy taxes was one of the main barriers. The articles of confederation only permitted state governments to charge taxes in order to prevent any perception of “taxation without representation.” The federal government had to ask the states for funding in order to cover its expenses.

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