Articles Of ConfederationIn the 1770’s, as America’s great thinkers and writers were declaring their desire for independence; they also established a committee to lay the foundation for the American form of government. These brilliant writers and philosophers hesitantly began designing the national level of government for use in America and named their final draft the Articles of Confederation . Out of their utter distrust of a centralized government, due to their association with the English monarchial system, the drafters deliberately established these articles as a loose confederation of states, rather than a firmly united nation. Life under the Articles of Confederation was filled with hardships and uncertainty, and the political scene was paralyzed with inability due to the lack of sovereignty in a central executive branch and the unanimous state consent required for the ratification of an amendment together with the lack of a taxation privilege . However, despite its inherent flaws, the Confederation government did prove capable to accomplish a few foreign and domestic achievements.
Under the authority of the Confederation, the United States began to introduce itself in the global scene. The United States determined its place in the community of nations by establishing diplomatic relations and its participation in the world economy. The Confederation Congress also accomplished something many historians overlook. They successfully managed, organized, and eventually won the Revolutionary War . After winning the war, the Congress went on to successfully negotiate the Treaty of Paris and compelled the British to recognize American independence. On the domestic home front, the Congress began to effectively solve the land ordnance problem. The Confederation Congress established a procedure for governing the new territories and organized them into prospective states, giving each prospective state full and equal status with the original thirteen states. Furthermore, they institutionalized systems of local government, and public education . Moreover, while accomplishing all this, the congress managed to keep the national economy afloat. This proved to be an enormous feat because the economy was suffering from the loss of colonial privileges. These major achievements were all accomplished despite the inherent flaws in the basic structure of the Confederation government.
The Articles of Confederation created a unicameral Confederation Congress, with each state having only one vote. On most political matters this legislative body required the approval of 9 out of 13 states to ratify any proposed Congressional intention. In Article 13, the Articles declared that in order to ratify an amendment to the Articles the consent of all 13 states were required . This left the national government, running through the Confederation Congress, powerless and unable to proceed with the most trivial matters of politics. The Confederation Government, under the Articles, lacked an executive and judicial branch. This caused Congress to be severely handicapped when it came to the enforcement of her requests. This lack of an executive, coupled with the Congress’s negated power of taxation, caused a crippling financial difficulties. The Congress, having only enough power to request essential national funds from the states, found that many refused to pay, or were late in doing so. Due to the lack of an executive branch, Congress soon found itself facing a mounting national debt that it was unable to pay on its own or force states to assume their share of the burden. Since change was virtually impossible, due to the unanimous amendment process, the Articles remained unchanged and hardships continued to mount for many Americans.
The major hardships of America in the period of Confederation rule were primarily between the debtor and the creditor . The economic downturn of the mid 1780’s, caused by the removal of the guaranteed English markets, left many farmers ruined and inundated with debt . These farmers pleaded with their state governments for help, but in most cases states refused to interfere, in one case in particular, these angered mobs of farmers rebelled against the government. This rebellion was known as Shays’ Rebellion in 1786 . Alarmed by the rebellion, other state governments agreed to help the angry farmers to thwart these rebellions. Their help came in the form of coining money to cause inflation, thus making the debt seem smaller and smaller. Under the Articles, this coinage was completely legal and it caused terrible interstate controversies. Congress, lacking the power to regulate interstate commerce, could only helplessly watch as rival states began a series of tariff wars over the inflation. These tariff wars, which devastated the national trade, coupled with Shays rebellion, seemed to be the culmination of all the downfalls and weaknesses of the fledgling government and change was deemed to be necessary .
By 1887, some of the American leaders realized if the country was to survive a new plan of government needed to be considered. Thus, the Annapolis Convention of 1786 was held to address regional issues such as trade, but delegates were soon calling for a national convention . At this convention in Philadelphia 1787, the authors of a new plan proposed change of the loose confederation of states to a solid national union. They then changed the mode of representation in Article 1, section 3, as to better represent the people of America. In article 1, section 8, they empowered congress to regulate trade among states, raise revenue through taxation, coin national money, discontinue state coining, and enforce federal laws and treaties . The Constitution also imposed a federal executive and judicial branch to act directly on the individual citizens of America and to execute and interpret the laws of Congress.
The Articles of Confederation, which were in force from 1781 to 1789, had many shortcomings and flaws, most due to the inherent distrust of a strong central power. These weaknesses caused many problems in America. Inflation grew, tariff wars between states commenced, and the uncertainty of a possible mob-rule lived in the minds of many. However, despite the flaws and setbacks imposed by the Articles, the fledgling Congress proved capable enough to establish mechanisms for westward expansion, establish the United States in the World Scene, and maintain a running economy . Still, a need for constitutional change was illustrated by the severe problems, and the Philadelphia convention answered the call. The drafters of the new constitution looked at all the mistakes created by the Articles, and to their great credit, successfully learned from them. They used the Articles as a foundation, and established the United States Constitution which today still stands as the greatest republic known to man.