The Articles of Confederations

Report
One Nation’s Attempt to Avoid Devolution
In the Beginning
The Article's ratification (proposed in 1777)
was completed in 1781, legally uniting
the states by compact into the "United
States of America" as a union with a
confederation government. Under the
Articles (and the succeeding
Constitution) the states retained
sovereignty over all governmental
functions not specifically designated to
the central government.
The Rough Draft
The Articles were created by the chosen
representatives of the states in the Second
Continental Congress out of a perceived need
to have "a plan of confederacy for securing the
freedom, sovereignty, and independence of
the United States." Although serving a crucial
role in the victory in the American
Revolutionary War, a group of reformers,
known as "federalists", felt that the Articles
lacked the necessary provisions for a
sufficiently effective government.
Fundamentally, a federation was sought to
replace the confederation.
Problems from the Beginning
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
The Treaty of Paris (1783), which ended hostilities
with Great Britain, languished in Congress for
months because state representatives failed to
attend sessions of the national legislature. Yet
Congress had no power to enforce attendance.
Writing to George Clinton in September 1783,
George Washington complained:
Congress have come to no determination yet
respecting the Peace Establishment nor am I able to
say when they will. I have lately had a conference
with a Committee on this subject, and have
reiterated my former opinions, but it appears to me
that there is not a sufficient representation to discuss
Great National points.
No Chief Executive

Under the Articles, the president was the
presiding officer of Congress, chaired the
Cabinet (the Committee of the States)
when Congress was in recess, and
performed other administrative functions.
He was not, however, a chief executive in
the way the successor President of the
United States is a chief executive, but all of
the functions he executed were under the
auspices and in service of the Congress.
Why no Chief Executive

The authors of the Articles of
Confederation despised the King of
England and were wary of any office
that might resemble that of the king’s
Laws needed Approval by nine of
the 13 states
Requires nine states to approve the
admission of a new state into the
confederacy; pre-approves Canada, if it
applies for membership.
Problem with the need for 9 of 13
states needed to pass laws.

Because Congress met so infrequently
and needed a supermajority to pass
laws it became nearly impossible to
pass national legislation
Inability to tax citizens
Under the Articles of Confederation the
national government could not tax citizens,
instead it relied on the states to replenish
the treasury at a time when there was
significant debt due to the revolution
 Expenditures by the United States will be
paid by funds raised by state legislatures,
and apportioned to the states based on the
real property values of each.

Why did Articles of Confederation
deny the national government from
taxing citizens?

It was taxes in the first place like the Stamp
Act that caused the revolution. The new
leaders of the United States were not about to
go backwards.
Congress did not have the power
to draft an army.
Only the central government is allowed to
conduct foreign relations and to declare
war. No states may have navies or
standing armies, or engage in war,
without permission of Congress
(although the state militias are
encouraged).
Possible Problem: Congress did
not have the power to draft an
army.
States refused to submit troops to the
national military. Incidents like Shay’s
Rebellion in Massachusetts showed the
nation that the states were vulnerable to
foreign invasion
Shay’s Rebellion Threatened to
Disunite the new United States
No National Court System




There was no national court system.
The Articles of Confederation established freedom of
movement–anyone can pass freely between states,
excluding "paupers, vagabonds, and fugitives from
justice." All people are entitled to the rights
established by the state into which he travels. If a
crime is committed in one state and the perpetrator
flees to another state, he will be extradited to and
tried in the state in which the crime was committed.
Defines the powers of the central government: to
declare war, to set weights and measures (including
coins), and for Congress to serve as a final court for
disputes between states.
Criminals needed to be formally extradited to another
state before they could be tried.
No National Court System
Possible Problem
Justice was extremely difficult achieve due
to the extradition process and the
difference in legal systems throughout
the states. Indeed, even the money
each state used was different which
made collecting debts from individuals
and civil law suits very complicated
matters that stifled the expansion of
commerce and business.
Any Amendment Needed to be
Approved by all 13 States

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
The Articles of Confederation declared that the
Articles are perpetual, and can only be altered by
approval of Congress with ratification by all the state
legislatures.
“Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and
independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and
right, which is not by this Confederation expressly
delegated."
“Established the United States as a league of states
united ". . . for their common defense, the security of
their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare,
binding themselves to assist each other, against all
force offered to, or attacks made upon them . . . ."
Any Amendment Needed to be
Approved by all 13 States

This unanimity ensured states rights, but
made the Articles unchangeable,
essentially destroying their future
viability since they could never change
with the times.
Congress did not have the power
to collect state debts owed to the
federal government.
Expenditures by the United States will be paid by
funds raised by state legislatures, and
apportioned to the states based on the real
property values of each.
Congress did not have the power to
collect state debts owed to the
federal government.
Expenditures by the United States will be paid
by funds raised by state legislatures, and
apportioned to the states based on the real
property values of each.
Congress did not have the power
to collect state debts owed to the
federal government.
The inability to collect debts led to a nation
unable to pay the significant debts it incurred
during the revolutionary war particularly to
France.
 This resulted in part due to the lack of a
national military and national court system.
The national government had no ability to
collect its debts.

Congress did not have the power
to settle disputes among the
states.
Why?
 The Articles of Confederation was
developed by people who were
extremely suspicious of centralized
government and took every measure
possible to limit its scope.

Links About the Articles of
Confederation
Articles of Confederation- Actual Text
 Furhter Commentary on the Articles


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