Articles of confederation and constitution essay

States were able to conduct their own foreign policies. States had their own money systems. The central government and the states each had separate money, which made trade between the states, and other countries, extremely difficult. The central government and the states owed huge debts to European countries and investors. Without the power to tax, and with no power to make trade between the states and other countries viable, the United States was in an economic mess by It had to rely on a state militia sponsored by private Boston business people.

These events alarmed Founders like George Washington, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton to the point where delegates from five states met at Annapolis, Maryland in September to discuss changing the Articles of Confederation.


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The group included Madison, Hamilton and John Dickinson, and it recommended that a meeting of all 13 states be held the following May in Philadelphia. The Confederation Congress agreed and the Constitutional Convention of effectively ended the era of the Articles of Confederation. Thomas Jefferson, a delegate from Virginia, drafted the document primarily as a list of grievances against the king.

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His most important words, however, clearly shaped the philosophical basis of the new government. The famous introduction clearly reflected John Locke's social contract theory : " The British, of course, did not recognize the Declaration and continued to send troops to contain the rebellion. The war continued until , so the new government had to be put in place in a wartime atmosphere. The Articles of Confederation, a compact among the thirteen original states, was written in but not ratified by the states until The loose "league of friendship" that it created reflected the founders' reaction to the central authority of King George III.

The government gave most powers to the states, and the central government consisted only of a legislature.

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Above all, the colonists wanted to preserve their liberties, but the central governments' lack of power proved to be disastrous. It could not regulate trade or keep the states from circulating their own currency. No chief executive could make real decisions, and no national court could settle disputes among states.

And perhaps most importantly, they could not efficiently conduct a war nor pay the debts incurred once the war was over. By the new country was in serious economic straits, and states were quarreling over boundary lines and tariffs. An economic depression left not only states in trouble, but also many ordinary citizens, such as farmers and merchants, were deep in debt as well. Shays' Rebellion , a revolt by angry farmers in Massachusetts, symbolized the chaos in the country. Even though the Massachusetts militia finally put the rebellion down, it pointed out the inability of the central government to maintain law and order.

In reaction, Alexander Hamilton of New York initiated the organization of a meeting in Philadelphia in This convention would eventually throw out the Articles of Confederation and draft the Constitution. So the freedom that the American Revolution sought to preserve proved to create a government under the Articles of Confederation that could not keep law and order. But the failure of the initial experiment helped the founders to find a more perfect balance between liberty and order in the Constitution they produced in Report broken link.

The Similarities and Differences in the US Constitution and the Articles of Confederation

In that treaty Great Britain acknowledged the independence, agreed to remove its troops from the Northwest forts, and granted very favorable territorial concessions to the United States. In more than doubling the size of the original thirteen colonies, the Confederation Congress achieved a major success. Despite many failures on the diplomatic front, the Confederation Congress appointed representatives who negotiated the very favorable Treaty of Paris of ending the Revolutionary War. Despite these successes, the inability of the Confederation Congress to resolve critical issues proved to be its downfall.

The lack of power to regulate interstate commerce left the government incapable of resolving trade wars that developed between the states. States placed tariffs on goods entering their boundaries from other states thus hampering economic development of the country as a whole. The inability of Congress to levy taxes left the national government on a very precarious financial footing as states were reluctant to pump money into a national government.

The lack of an executive branch of government left the Confederation Congress at the mercy of the states to enforce its laws. The lack of policing power also meant that the national government could not respond to civil unrest. Perhaps most importantly, the requirement of a unanimous vote to amend the Articles effectively meant that its shortcoming would not be corrected.

The national government under the Articles lacked prestige or respect as evidenced by the fact that the government wandered nomadically through the middle states looking for a permanent home and the fact that the Confederation Congress frequently lacked a quorum and could not officially conduct business. Led by Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, the convention in all likelihood would have met anyway even without Congressional authorization. Convention delegates quickly scrapped the idea of revising the Articles of Confederation and wrote the United States Constitution that created a more powerful national government and specifically addressed the major weaknesses of the Articles.

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The Articles of Confederation reflected something of an over-reaction to the perceived tyranny of placing too much power in the hands of the British government. Thus the pendulum swung to the position of making the states supreme over the national government. If nothing else, the Articles of Confederation held the country together, be it loosely, until the American people came to realize a more powerful central government was needed to foster peace and prosperity.


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The U. Constitution attempted to find a middle ground between those who feared tyranny too much power in the hands of the national government and those who feared anarchy too little power in the hands of the national government. While debate still rages about the correct position of the pendulum in a federal system that divides power between the national and state governments, it now swings in a much narrower range of possibilities.