Last Updated 13 Apr 2020

Articles of Confederation

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After many long and hard years of constant fighting, turmoil, and endless bloodshed, the thirteen colonies finally separated itself from England. The country of America now had a new problem at hand, setting up an effective government that would be much better than the oppressive rule of the British. The first step, of course, is setting up a constitution. The Articles of Confederation, ratified in 1781, was the first constitution of America. The Articles of Confederation was strong in that it gave the central government the powers to conduct foreign affairs, regulate western lands, and set up departments.

This constitution was weak in that the central government was unable to impose taxes, control international trade, or enforce laws, and it was difficult to pass any law. Even though the Articles of Confederation had its strengths and weaknesses, its weaknesses outweighed its strengths rendering the document useless in governing the new country. The Articles of Confederation kept the central government weak due to the colonists’ fear of a tyrannical central government. Congress did not have the power to regulate international of interstate trade.

This was a significant weakness. International trade is a crucial part to any country’s economy as it is a way to earn money. Congress’s inability to regulate international trade impedes it to raise money, crippling the whole country. Levying taxes was another power deprived from Congress. Not having the ability to tax its citizens is a major disadvantage to any government. Taxing is a form of raising money for several services. These weaknesses economically hampered the country. Also, Congress could not enforce any laws. It could only suggest and appeal laws.

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By not being able to enforce laws, there is no central authority whatsoever. Therefore, it’s almost as if each state was an independent country. This was evident during Shay’s Rebellion. This was a rebellion of poor people in Massachusetts. The central government was unable to step in due to its lack of power. Lastly, it was virtually impossible for Congress to pass any new laws. A vote of two thirds of the states was required to pass any law. This was nearly impossible due to the fact that there were only thirteen states. The Articles of Confederation set up an extremely weak central government.

The central government was almost useless due to its lack of powers. The federal government did have some powers under the Articles of Confederation and were able to make some wise decisions. Congress had the ability to establish various departments. Departments of War, Treasury, Marine, and Foreign Affairs were established. This gives the government more organization. The departments established would eventually give rise to today’s cabinet departments. The federal government’s ability to conduct foreign affairs allowed it to sign the Treaty of Paris of 1783, which gave America more land.

This treaty allowed America to expand its boundaries to the Mississippi River. Obviously, this was a great land gain that favored the country greatly. Congress then was able to develop an effective plan for surveying and selling the land it got from the treaty. Congress passes the Land and Northwest Ordinances which split up the land. This was another good decision Congress was able to make under the Articles of Confederation. Congress did have some powers which allowed it to make wise decisions. The Articles of Confederation was the very first constitution that ruled the United States.

It was strongly influenced by the time spent by the colonies under British rule. Because the crown had been so tyrannical, the new country did not want another abusive central government. They looked to avoid this by hardly giving the federal government any power. Most of the power was given to the states. The document had its strengths and weaknesses, but overall, it was a failure. The weaknesses outweighed its little strengths. The Americans learned from this mistake and abandoned this constitution. They began work on a new and improved constitution.

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Articles of Confederation. (2017, Mar 17). Retrieved from

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