The articles of confederation and the constitution Essay

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The articles of confederation and the constitution


The simple difference between the Articles of Confederation and US Constitution is that the articles were not strong enough to hold our young nation together. The articles operated the US as separate states. Under the articles, it was very difficult to pass laws since the requirement of 9 out of the 13 states’ approval was needed for ratification. The Articles created a loose confederation of sovereign states and a weak central government, leaving most of the power with the state governments.

The need for a stronger Federal government soon became apparent and eventually led to the Constitutional Convention in 1787. The members of the Constitutional Convention signed the United States Constitution on September 17, 1787 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Constitutional Convention convened in response to dissatisfaction with the Articles of Confederation and the need for a strong centralized government. After four months of secret debate and many compromises, the proposed Constitution was submitted to the states for approval. Although the vote was close in some states, the Constitution was eventually ratified and the new Federal government came into existence in 1789.

Articles of Confederation and Constitution

There were many differences between the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution. At the end of the American Revolution the free states needed some sort of control that would generate to a unified country. Issues arose such as: How should power be divided between local and national governments? How should laws be made, and by whom? Who should be authorized to govern those laws? How could the government be designed to protect the unalienable individual rights? Their first attempt at solving this issue was the Articles of Confederation, which was a failure for the most part, but not completely. After the failure of the articles, the state delegates tried to revise the articles, but instead, constructed the Constitution. There were so many changes made and very little remained the same.

The Articles of Confederation were approved by Congress on November 15, 1777 and ratified by the states on March 1, 1781. It was a modest attempt by a new country to unite itself and form a national government. The Articles set up a Confederation that gave most of the power to the states. Many problems arose and so a new Constitution was written in 1787 in Independence Hall. The new Constitution called for a much more unified government with a lot more power.

One of the key differences between the Constitution and the Articles of Confederation is in the way that they set up the Legislature. The thirteen states formed a Confederation referred to as the “league of friendship” in order to find a solution for common problems such as foreign affairs. The Articles of Confederation was the nation’s first Constitution. The articles created a loose Confederation of independent states that gave limited powers to the central government.

Under the Articles each state could send between 2 and 7 delegates to Congress. In the Constitution each state was allowed 2 members in the Senate and 1 representative per 30,000 people (this number has now increased greatly) in the House of Representatives. The states with bigger populations wanted representation to be based solely off of population. The states with smaller populations wanted there to be a fixed number of representatives per state, each state would have one vote in the house of Congress, no matter the size of the population.

Under the articles, there wasn’t a strong independent executive, it established as a unicameral legislature, which it refers to as a Congress. The Constitution on the other hand establishes a bicameral legislature with an upper house, the Senate, and a lower house, the House of Representatives. In the articles, There wasn’t any judicial branch but Congress had the authority to arbitrate disputes between states. Congress was responsible for conducting foreign affairs, declaring war or peace, maintaining an army and navy and a variety of other lesser functions.

But the articles denied Congress the power to collect taxes, regulate interstate commerce and enforce laws. Because of this, the central government had to request donations from the states to finance its operations and raise armed forces. The states attempted to limit the power of the national government because they feared that it would become a monarchy. In an effort to limit the power of the national government, Congress created one without enough power to govern effectively, which led to serious national and international problems.

George Washington called for a convention in late May 1787; in order speak about the nation’s political and economical problems and revise the Articles. Delegates from eleven out of the thirteen states attended this convention. They decided on a government consisting of three branches: legislative (Congress), executive (the President), and judicial (Supreme Court). These branches were under the checks-and-balances in order to maintain balance in powers and to prevent tyranny in the country. The Great Compromise solved the issue that arose between the delegates that believed the separation of powers into three different branches would ensure that the United States would not become another monarchy.

The Great Compromise resolved the representation issue by forming the two houses that we have today by using the idea of a two-house legislature in order to satisfy both sides. It proposed a legislature in which each state would be represented by two senators (Senate) and another legislature that would be distributed based on the state population (House of Representatives). Voting in Congress was different in the Articles and the Constitution. Under the Articles of Confederation, each state received 1 vote regardless of how many representatives it had.

While in contrast to the constitution where in one house, the Senate, every state is represented equally regardless of population. In the lower house, the House of Representatives each state receives one representative for a set number of people. This meant that people could now be represented on a more personal level through the House of Representatives. This satisfied all of the states and helped resolve one of the greatest conflicts while writing the Constitution. Also, in the Three-Fifths clause, delegates agreed that each slave would be counted as three-fifths of a person when determining the population and thus the number of representatives in the House of each state.

One of the main weaknesses under the Articles of Confederation was its incapability to regulate trade and levy taxes. The states controlled all of their “cash flows.” Sometimes, the states were in debt because of tariff wars that they would engage in with one another. Because of these debts, the states refused to give the national government the money it needed. Hence, the government could not pay off the debts it had gained during the revolution, including paying soldiers who had fought in the war and citizens who had provided supplies to the cause. Congress could not pass needed measures because they lacked the nine-state majority required to become laws and couldn’t amend articles because unanimous consent of the all states was required.

The states largely ignored Congress, which was powerless to enforce cooperation, and it was therefore unable to carry out its duties. The national government could not force the states to adhere to the terms of the Treaty of Paris of 1783 ending the American Revolution. Foreign countries saw lack of unity in states. Because of the lack of income the national government collected, the new nation was unable to defend its borders from British and Spanish abuse because it could not pay for an army when the states would not contribute the necessary funds. The country would not get rich as a whole because states controlled all interstate commerce. States coined their own money and regulated its supply, so values of currency varied from state to state.

Under the Constitution, Congress had the right to levy taxes and regulate commerce. The delegates – b_elieved that a strong central government was a threat to American liberties and rights. Usually they were states’ rights advocates, backcountry farmers, poor farmers, the ill-educated and illiterate, debtors, and paper-money advocates; the low-income classes of society_ – had an easier time outlining presidential powers. Although some delegates had extreme opinions-Alexander Hamilton proposed a legitimate monarchy headed by an American king-most agreed that a new executive or president was needed to give the country the strong leadership that it had lacked under the Articles.

The primary aim of the Constitution was to create a strong elected government that was responsive to the will of the people, although there is some controversy over this. Many of the Founding Fathers believed that the new government needed to be insulated from the will of the people; hence the design of such features as the Electoral College or the election of Senators by the state legislatures. The concept of self-government did not originate with the Americans; indeed, a measure of self-government existed in the United Kingdom at the time. But the degree to which the Constitution committed the United States to rule by the people was unique, even revolutionary, in comparison with other governments around the world.

In addition to dividing the executive departments into four, the Judiciary Act of 1789 was created. The Judiciary Act of 1789 is a law that created the Supreme Court, thirteen district courts and three circuit courts. This act gave the Supreme Court the right to review state laws and state court decisions to determine whether an act or law is constitutional or not. Laws, acts, civil liberties were protected by the act as well. The delegates wanted to build a government for the people. On the opposing side, there were the Federalists. Federalists were supporters of the Constitution that desired a strong central government. Federalists felt that the Articles of Confederation were weak and ineffective. They felt that National government would protect the rights of the people.

Over two hundred suggestions were submitted to Congress in order to protect American citizen rights, but only 10 were chosen. These 10 suggestions became the first ten amendments, known as our Bill Of Rights.

The Articles of Confederation are a major part of the US’s roots. Some of the ideas and theories from the Articles were strong and did try to better the US but they weren’t applied the strong enough. Ideas such as the Bill of Rights derived from the Articles. When I think back to how great the Constitution has worked it truly amazes me. It has lasted for over two centuries and continues to help our government function today. The US was able to build upon the mistakes of the Confederation’s first government. Living by the phrase “united we stand and divided we fall” the US has been able to build a strong government for its people, making changes as time goes by.


“Comparing the Articles and the Constitution – The U.S. Constitution Online –” _Comparing the Articles and the Constitution – The U.S. Constitution Online – USConstitution.net_. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.

Feldmeth, Greg D. “Articles of Confederation vs. the Constitution.” _Articles of Confederation vs. the Constitution_. 31 Mar. 1998. Web. 28 Sept. 2014.

“Journals of the Continental Congress –THE ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION, WITH AMENDMENTS :: :: :: APRIL–OCTOBER, 1777.” _Journals of the Continental Congress –THE ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION, WITH AMENDMENTS :: :: :: APRIL–OCTOBER, 1777_. Web. 20 Sept. 2014.

“S. Doc. 108-17 – Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis, and Interpretation – 2002 Edition.” _S. Doc. 108-17 – Constitution of the United States of America: Analysis, and Interpretation – 2002 Edition_. 28 Jan. 2002. Web. 23 Sept. 2014.

“Welcome to” _Welcome to OurDocuments.gov_. National Archives Education Staff. The Constitution: Evolution of a Government. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, Inc., 2001. Web. 22 Sept. 2014.

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