Articles of Confederation
Adopted by Congress in 1777 and ratified and in force by 1784.
- Unify in defense and war
- Foreign policy
Basic principles of articles for states to maintain control under central government assigned specific powers.
Organization of government:
- One legislative house – unicameral legislature – passes laws
- 2-7 delegates per state
- 9 votes required to pass law
- 13/unanimous votes needed to amend Articles
- Defense – army, navy, and treaties with Indians
- Foreign affairs – war
- Money – borrowing, spending, printing, determining value, coining
- Internal affairs – Judge disputes in special court hearings between states
Enforcement laws determined by state; therefore, enforcement was selective to state desires and rarely done.
State restrictions – states could not make war, treaties, international tariffs, and coin money.
Duties of state – states must provide money/army when requested by Congress. States must pay taxes based on land.
Weaknesses of Articles:
- Trade regulation – Congress had no power to regulate trade – done by states – caused:
- Tariffs on imports and exports established by states
- States competed over control of waterways
- Foreign trade was diminishing; interstate trade was also stopping because of tariffs on each other making trade difficult
a) The central government had no enforcement/executive branch.
b) Rules were mostly ignored.
1) Taxes were decided by Congress based on land, to be paid by states. However, they didn’t pay, and Congress had to borrow. The land basis was bad for the South, as there were few people and a lot of land.
2) There was no income for the army, and the regulated number of soldiers per state was not given. They kept it for their own defense. The result was Shay’s Rebellion, which was begun by Daniel Shay, a farmer in Massachusetts who wanted to begin his own government and revolted. Massachusetts didn’t have enough army to quell the rebellion, as the soldiers were also farmers and on the other side. They asked Congress for help, but the appeal was to no avail. The states didn’t listen to Congress because they didn’t care, and the rebellion continued for six months.
3) The Treaty of Paris was not enforced, as the states refused to compensate loyalists for property lost and collect debts owed to British merchants. The money was all used for the war effort. Therefore, England also violated and moved troops to the Northwest Territory (fur trade). Spain and England restricted trade on the Mississippi and the right of deposit in New Orleans.
Each state illegally made its own currency, and Congress could not prevent it. There were 14 forms of currency, causing it to be worthless and inflation. This made Congress and the states suffer, and foreign countries were unwilling to trade and lend money.
IV. Passing laws:
It was difficult to get 9 states to agree.
There was severe post-war depression, which usually lasts only a short while and is normal after a war. England cut off trade with the states, and state power under Articles to regulate foreign trade caused trade to lessen because of expenses, tariffs, and regulations. Merchants and farmers who sold outside their state suffered from tariffs between states. Small farmers and southerners were fine because tobacco was needed and received special treatment and less regulation. They were the first to pull out of the depression because of this, and the Planter Aristocracy had laws beneficial to them and their trade. Different currencies in the US discouraged trade.
Prices and wages rose, which helped debtors (pay back less) but was bad for bankers (received back less, gave more). When inflation occurred (like among farmers who are constantly in debt), it meant cheap currency. Dear currency meant stable currency, which meant less inflation and stable prices for traders.
Increased power/democracy in state government often caused chaos.
How many people have a say:
The rules by which the government operated contained fundamental law (received idea from charters). States wrote new constitutions with stronger democracy, including a Bill of Rights (things the government cannot do), an executive branch (governor elected by the people), a legislative branch (bicameral elected by the people), and a judicial branch (courts appointed by the governor and sometimes elected by the people).
All were lowered (lowest – highest = NE-M-S), and most religious qualifications were removed.
The legislature was given more power than governors.
Achievements under Articles:
1. The US won the revolution.
Northwest Ordinance of 1785:
- History: Conflicting state claims led to attempts at resolution in 1784 and 1785. Speculators interested in selling land lobbied Congress.
- Principle: Territories ceded would be admitted as equal states.
- Terms: Disputed territories were divided into five future states: Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
- Conditions for admission:
- 5,000 male adults
- Congress appoints governor
- People elect legislature with power to make laws
- 60,000 adult males
- Write constitution including Bill of Rights
- No slavery in any part of the territory
Thank you Shiffy for typing up these lovely notes. – American History