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Advantages and Disadvantages of the Articles of Confederation Essay

From their landing in the New World in the early 1600s, the British subjects, or colonists, were under the rule of the British King. Some colonies had more power with their own legislatures, but the British King and/or Parliament always had the final rule. Some of the British Kings tended to be more lenient than others, but when the Restoration occurred in 1660, Charles II was restored to power in England and he planned on ruling with a complete monarchy. This would cause further conflict between the colonies and England and eventually in the 1700s, a Revolution. Through this revolution, since the colonies weren’t going to be ruled by England, a new, central government had to be drawn up. This new government, however, couldn’t be too powerful due to the Americans’ fear of tyranny. The Articles of Confederation was the perfect government system for the 11 years that it held America together for. It was too weak, however, to last any longer than that.

During the time of Revolution, the Articles of Confederation was the right form of central government for America, but its weaknesses in state control led to its rejection and the creation of the U.S. Constitution because they didn’t allow the federal government to control taxation and they were too weak. The Articles of Confederation was satisfying in its’ role as the central government in America during the Revolution because it held the states together and it signed the Peace Treaty of Paris, which ended the Revolutionary War. The Articles of Confederation was too weak, however, due to the fact that there was no hard currency and unruly state taxation which caused a group of farmers led by Daniel Shay to rebel against it. This rebellion, deemed Shay’s Rebellion, led to the passage of the U.S. Constitution.

The Articles of Confederation was the government that allowed the states to finally centralize their government. This Confederation was very beneficial because it provided for a loose union where each state still has its sovereignty and freedoms. The Articles of Confederation had the power to declare war, make treaties with foreign countries, solve debates between states, borrow and print money, and requisition funds from the states. Because the Confederation was allowed to make treaties with foreign countries, the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783, virtually ending the American Revolution and giving the Americans the Western land they had been waiting for and also the land to the Mississippi. The Confederation was allowed to make this treaty, and by doing so ended the Revolutionary War. This gave America its’ freedom and independence from a monarchy at last. The Articles of Confederation was important here because it was able to do what had not been done before, which was break away from English rule and have the ability to expand westward.

The Articles of Confederation also allowed for the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 to be created. This allowed for new Northwestern territories such as Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio to apply for statehood under the Articles. The Northwest Ordinance abolished slavery in the North, which hadn’t been attempted before, and it also emphasized the importance of education in the Northwestern area in the attempt of making an educated generation. Also due to the Articles of Confederation, the country was held together under one body for the 11 years during the Revolutionary War. The Patriots envisioned a centralized government when they declared their independence in 1776. The Articles of Confederation, drawn up by John Dickinson, gave them just that. The Americans at this time, however, had a great fear of tyranny. They didn’t want the new government to be too strong and take away state powers, which is why the Confederation was created as a weak government. It was too weak, however.

Even though the Articles of Confederation was successful in keeping America together and expanding its size, there were too many weaknesses that were exposed to some people. The Articles of Confederation lacked the power to control taxation. According to America’s History, “by 1780, the central government was nearly bankrupt” (201). This caused the army and General Washington to be bankrupt as well. To raise revenue, Washington called for a national tax system. With Robert Morris as his superintendent of finance, these Patriots attempted to persuade Congress to allow taxation and to levy a 5% import tax. This idea of taxation was shut down, and instead, Congress raised revenue by selling western land. At this point, people were trying to expand the power in which the Articles of Confederation holds, in the form of taxation and lack of hard currency, which caused more conflict with the lower class people.

Daniel Shay and his band of angry farmers rebelled against these unruly taxes and won control of the Massachusetts legislature (there were no chief executive or judicial branches) in order to cut taxes. This rebellion, deemed Shay’s Rebellion, was more of a symbol than a rebellion. It was a symbol of the weakness of the Articles of Confederation. This rebellion showed the Americans that this form of government was too weak and that they needed a new government that could satisfy both the states and the nation. Due to Shay’s Rebellion showing that the Articles of Confederation were too weak, the Constitution was passed.

After the Articles of Confederation were rejected, the United States Constitution was created. After Shay’s Rebellion, Congress called for a Convention to revise the Articles of Confederation. Two plans were drawn up at this Convention: The Virginia and New Jersey Plans. These plans were drawn up by the different groups called the Federalists and the Antifederalists. The Federalists supported a federal union where the nation had power over the states and the Constitution, whereas the Antifederalists wanted states to have control over their own laws and have equality in representation – one vote per state – and did not support the Constitution. The Antifederalists didn’t support the Constitution because they believed that it would decrease state powers, lack a declaration of individual rights, and that the government would be run by wealthy men instead of having representatives of the yeomanry.

The Federalists responded with a series of 85 essays appropriately titled The Federalist. These essays promised that the authority would be divided among three branches of government, each limited with checks and balances on the others. They also promised the addition of a Bill of Rights in the near future. These essays allowed for the ratification of the Constitution. This new form of government was notably stronger than the Articles of Confederation because it enjoyed the popular support of the people.

Even though the Articles of Confederation were appropriate during the time of Revolution in the U.S. To keep the states together, it had too many weaknesses which led to its rejection and the creation of the U.S. Constitution.


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