The Articles of Confederation

Date: 1781-1789
  • Articles of Confederation provided for a loose confederation or “firm league of friendship.”
    In a confederation, the bulk of power is in the state governments and there is little national power.
  • Under the Articles, there was no executive branch, judicial was left to the states, and there was just 1 national congress. Each state had one vote in Congress – to pass a bill required 9/13 votes, and amendments of the Articles required 13/13 votes. This made the amending process unworkable, because unanimous vote was almost impossible.
  • Congress had no power to regulate commerce and no power to enforce tax-collection. They asked states for taxes on a voluntary basis.
  • The national government (based in Philadelphia) could not command any individual under a sovereign state.
  • Articles were praiseworthy as confederations went, but America really needed a tightly knit federation
  • Though the Articles were unsuccessful, they were a necessary stepping stone from the Association boycott agreement in 1774 to the Constitution of the United States. Articles were an intermediate stage that held states together until they were ripe for the establishment of a strong constitution by peaceful, evolutionary methods.
  • Land Ordinance of 1785: Provided that the acreage of the Old Northwest should be sold and the proceeds should be used to help pay off national debt. Area surveyed and divided into townships
  • Land Ordinance of 1787: Related to the governing of the Old Northwest. There would be two stages of governing for an are. First, it would submit to the federal government. Once the population of a territory reached 60,000, it will be admitted by Congress as a state, with all the privileges of the exiting 13 colonies. Also forbade slavery in the Old Northwest.
  • Advantages: Land Ordinance of 1785, Land Ordinance of 1787, perfect as confederations went, peaceful stepping stone – provided for evolution rather than revolution into the Constitution.
  • Disadvantages: No executive branch, and judicial left to states, 1 Congress,unanimous voting system made amending Articles almost impossible, Congress had no power to regulate commerce, Congress had no power to enforce tax-collection (state taxes voluntary), national government could not directly control citizens.
  • Significance: Flaws of Articles provided for the creation of the Constitution. Proved that majority of power in the states would be ineffective for a nation of this size.

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