Articles of the Confederation

Many recognize that the Articles of the Confederation were a failure, and yes they did fail but they served when the United Stated readily called desperately for a structure and also they pointed out what we needed to put in the constitution. From 1781-1789 the Articles of the Confederation held the nation together but only with a small non-effective government that was weak, ineffective and non-wealthy. In 1789 a council met to discuss all the changes and the weaknesses of the A.

O.C. They discussed that under the A.O.C. congress was too weak because they couldn’t enforce taxation upon states, regulate trade throughout the states, and enforce its laws and decisions upon the states. They also discussed that the A.O.C. didn’t give enough power to the central government; the majority of the power actually went to the states themselves, who actually could individually prevent the A.O.C. from being amended. So because these grievances were all stated the need for a new constitution for the United States arose.

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One of the main reasons for the reform of the state of our government i.e. drafting a new constitution was the fact the states held almost all of the power in the union under the Articles of the constitution. States such as Rhode Island rejected taxes and trade restrictions put into place by the national government or congress. Under the A.O.C. congress could create taxes but they had absolutely no power to enforce these taxes if the states rejected them (Document A).

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Also along with the A.O.C. the government had no power to coin or regulate money. So each state had their own currency so when the government could actually collect taxes from states, they each had their own currency. Some states didn’t accept other’s currency and some was worth much less because much more would be printed off in some states. Because under the Articles of the Confederation, the government had no power to collect taxes or coin money, they couldn’t amass enough money to pay back revolutionary debts (Document C). When congress couldn’t pay back their debts, this outraged people that bought war bonds, soldiers that were promised payment for fighting in the revolutionary war, and lastly pay back foreign debts from abroad.

When the government tried to regulate commerce through the states it was also hard because they had no power to enforce these laws. Some states even refused to pay for goods that they bought so the government had to pick up the bill. A great sign that the A.O.C. couldn’t regulate trade and that that was a huge downfall with the articles was our trade with Great Britain. During the time before the revolution estimated market value of exports to G.B. amassed peaking at $6,555,000 at a population of 2,463,000. During 1784-1792 the Emv fell to only $4,134,000 with populations peaking at 4,194,000 (Document B).

The government had very little say with statehood and where the boarders were. The only firm set boundaries were the Canadian, Mississippi river and Floridian boundaries from the French and Spanish. Because of this the same land where modern day Kentucky, Illinoi, Indiana and Ohio are, were all disputed by at least 4 different states. They had all been claimed by New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Virginia and in some places, Massachusetts (Document E). These left the government with no power to differentiate the boarders from each of the states. Government did have the power to break up the territories and set townships. But this still left each territory up to dispute.

One of the biggest complaints on many people’s minds was that there was minimal judicial branch and also there was no executive branch. America had no head of state. People were scared of the fact that there was no setup in place for what could over-rule the state legislature and also tell the local judges and court systems what was right and what was wrong. People were scared that the good people, the socially acceptable and organized people would turn to break laws and there would be no repercussions on what would happen because there wasn’t a higher power to set “the bar” on what was legal and what wasn’t (Document G).

So a man could go to jail for murder in New York and get away with it because he had just cause to do it in, the west at the time, Kentucky. Because there wasn’t a system of checks and balances set in place reformation was needed. It was necessary to reform or amend the Articles of the Confederation because, put simply, it failed. (Document H). You can defend it by saying that it provided a set of laws in place to keep composure of the confederation. But if you look further into this theory, you see that to pass a national law, you needed 9 out of 13 states approval or 69% of the states to agree to the law and accept it.

You can also look forward that there was needed 13 out of 13 states or 100% of the states to accept an amendment. Someone can also say that it provided a government. Well yes but that government has as much power as the British queen and king have power. A small joke but still true, the government could barely justify being powerful. They could present laws, make treaties, declare wars, break up territories, and present taxes, and oh yes borrow money from afar. So yes there was a government but would you like a government who was unable to do anything. Yes the Articles of the Confederation failed. They needed reformation but had there not been all these grievances towards the Articles of the Confederation, we wouldn’t have the Constitution that we have today.

Updated: Feb 23, 2021
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Articles of the Confederation. (2017, Feb 09). Retrieved from

Articles of the Confederation essay
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