Ratified March 1, 1781, the Articles of Confederation joined the colonies of the American Revolution into a loose confederation. The implementation was short lived, being replaced by the United States Constitution seven short years later on September 13, 1788. Due to this short application in history, many are unaware that the Constitution was a replacement of this original founding document. They attempted to establish a government radically different from the current U.S. government. A deeper understanding of this original government can lead to a clearer understanding of the founding of the United States of America, and why the Constitution of the U.S. calls for a strong Central Government.
13 Articles of the Confederation
The Second Continental Congress appointed a committee to draft a constitution. Containing thirteen articles, the original being only five pages long. The following is a short summary of each article.
(1)Named the confederacy “The United States of America.”
(2)Establishes each individual State as sovereign, except the powers delegated to the confederation in the remaining articles.
(3)Contains a declaration of friendship between the States, and that they will come to each other’s aid in the event of being attacked.
(4)Establishes the freedom of residents of each state to move freely from one to another. This article also indicates that criminals be extradited to the State in which they committed a crime.
(5)Each State may have two to seven members of Congress, and those Members will be appointed by State legislatures . Also contains a limit of serving up to three years out of six. Each State will receive one vote.
(6)Restricts individual States from entering into alliances with or declare war against a foreign nation without Congressional approval. The same restrictions are true in commerce. Each State must maintain a “well-regulated” militia. This article also restricts any person holding an office in the U.S. from accepting titles of nobility from any foreign nation.
(7)Whenever an army is raised, all officers and position under the rank of colonel are appointed by each State.
(8)All debt incurred from war will be paid from a common treasury, which each State will contribute to, based on property values.
(9)Establishes sovereign authority of the U.S. Congress to determine peace and war, enter into treaties, and set up courts for the trial of pirates. Expressly restricts Congress members from serving as judges.
(10)During times that Congress is in recess, the Committee of the States has the ability to act in its place. This power is limited from powers requiring the consent of nine states while Congress is in session.
(11)Canada is able to join the U.S. if desired.
(12)Restates that the U.S. accepts war debt, including debt that existed before the Articles of Confederation.
(13)These articles are perpetual. Only upon approval of Congress, along with State legislatures ratification, can the articles be altered.
The Years Under the Articles of Confederation
Unlike most modern governments, this new nation did not have the ability to levy taxes. There was also no clear way to enforce the laws of the land. While the individual States had militias there was no standing army. The new government proved almost entirely ineffective. Despite this, the first years of this nation were incredibly significant. In 1783 the Treaty of Paris was signed. This treaty ended the Revolutionary War and established the United States as a sovereign nation entirely separate from England. The Continental Congress was able to pass the Land Ordinance of 1785 as well as the Northwest Ordinance of 1787.
A New Constitution
In February of 1787 Congress “Resolved that in the opinion of Congress it is expedient that on the second Monday in May next a Convention of delegates who shall have been appointed by the several states be held at Philadelphia for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation and reporting to Congress and the several legislatures such alterations and provisions therein as shall when agreed to in Congress and confirmed by the states render the federal constitution adequate to the exigencies of Government & the preservation of the Union.”
It was at this convention that the U.S. Constitution was drafted. Thus ended the implementation of the Articles of Confederation in the United States.
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