Common Themes Found in the Articles of the Confederation and the Constitution

By: E. Leach

      The Articles of the Confederation were established in 1781 by the Continental Congress, and acted as the first constitution of the United States of America, as reported by Hall and Feldmeier of Constitutional Values; the official U.S. Constitution was adopted in 1787, however was not ratified by all thirteen colonies until 1790 (Hall & Feldmeier, 2009, p.13).  The two documents hold several differing philosophies as the Articles of the Confederation promote states' rights and support a “unicameral legislature”, while the Constitution upholds that the federal government maintains ultimate authority and establishes a “bicameral legislature”, according to Hall and Feldmeier (2009); however, they also advocate similar philosophies including independence, amicable and mutually beneficial relationships among the states of the union, federalism and democracy (p.25).

     The two founding documents both possess provisions that promote independence, as  Article III of the Articles of Confederation states that the “States hereby…enter into a firm league of friendship…for their common defense”, as published by the Yale University website (Yale Law School, 2008). Similarly, the Preamble of the Constitution, also has a clause which asserts that in order to form of the “more perfect union”, the document proclaims that states shall unite in order to “provide for the common defense”, as documented by the publication maintained by Cornell University Law School (Cornell University Law School, 2011).  These phrases indicate the intentions of the founding fathers of this nation in making certain that the states are bound together as one and must work together in an amicable nature in order to protect the security of the country.

   Additionally the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution illustrate a common philosophy pertaining to the subject of federalism, which Hall and Feldmeier (2009) define as system in which, as the Articles denote there are dual government entities, the national and the state governments (p.23).  The Articles designated that each state will be allowed at least to delegates to represent the territory in Congress, with Article VI establishing state actions that must be permitted the body, including but not limited to declaring war and entering into treaties with one and another or other entities (Yale Law School, 2008).  The Constitution also promotes a multi-level government and a balance of power through the foundation of the three levels of the federal government in the first three articles, but also upholds states rights by pronouncing that “full faith and credit shall be given in each of these States to the records, acts, and judicial proceedings of the courts” of the other States” (Cornell University, 2011). This clause ensures that a state is able to have differing regulations others, as states are bound to judicially hold an individual responsible for a crime in the manner that their state of residence would appropriate.

     Finally, these founding documents support the democratic nature of this country, as the Articles addresses the foundations of democracy, detailing that every State will appoint delegates who will attend the “meeting of the States” and that when Congressional questions arise “each State shall have one vote” (Yale Law School, 2008). The United States Constitution also encourages democracy in both Articles I & II, when designating the election of members to the executive and legislative branches of the government, as can be seen in Section 3 of Article I which mandates that U.S. Senate “shall be composed of two Senators from each state… and are to be chosen by the legislature thereof”; additionally, the concept of democracy is demonstrated through the procedures outlined for impeachment from the Presidency or the Congress can only take place after ascertaining an affirmative vote from two-thirds of the state representatives (Cornell University Law School, 2011)

© 2011, September 4