AP®︎/College US Government and Politics
A high-level overview of the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation, which led states to call for a convention to revise or replace them.
The Articles of Confederation formed the first governing system of the United States of America, which linked the states during the turbulent years of the American Revolution. Under the Articles of Confederation, which linked the states in a ‘loose league of friendship,’ the central government had no power to tax or to compel individual states to abide by its decisions.
After the Revolutionary War, a series of problems, including economic problems, disputes between states, and an armed rebellion, made it clear that the United States needed a stronger central government to address its challenges.
|Articles of Confederation||The first government system of the United States, which lasted from 1776 until 1789. The Articles placed most power in the hands of state governments. Government under the Articles lacked an executive or a judicial branch.|
|Confederation Congress||The central government under the Articles of Confederation, composed of delegates chosen by state governments. Each state had one vote in the Congress, regardless of its population. The Congress had difficulty legislating as the Articles required nine of the thirteen states to vote to approve any measure, and a unanimous vote in order to amend the Articles themselves.|
|Shays' Rebellion||An uprising of Revolutionary War veterans in Massachusetts, who had not been paid for their military service as the federal government lacked the power to raise funds through taxation. Led by veteran Daniel Shays, the rebellion demonstrated the weaknesses of the federal government under the Articles, as it could neither raise the money to pay the veterans nor raise an army to put down the uprising.|
Problems of the Articles of Confederation
|The national government could not tax citizens directly, only request money from the states.||The states rarely contributed money, meaning the national government could not pay its debts or fund initiatives.|
|The national government could not regulate international or interstate trade.||The national government could not stop states from undermining it by making their own trade agreements with foreign nations.|
|The national government could not raise an army, only request that the states send soldiers.||States could refuse to send soldiers, making it difficult to defend the nation.|
|Each state only had one vote in Congress, regardless of its population.||The citizens of small states had proportionally more political power than the citizens of large states.|
|The national government had no executive branch.||The national government had no way of implementing or enforcing its legislative decisions.|
|The national government had no judicial branch.||There was no effective way to resolve disputes between states, such as competing claims to the same territory.|
|Passing laws required the approval of nine states, and amending the Articles required the approval of all thirteen states.||It was difficult to get enough consensus to make laws and nearly impossible to fix the Articles themselves.|
Key takeaways from this lesson
The first draft of a constitutional government: The Articles of Confederation were the first national constitution, which outlined the structure, functions, and limitations of the US government. This “first draft” of a constitution demonstrated that the new United States government would be both a republic (a government of elected representatives) and a limited government (restricted by laws).
The weak central government established in the Articles made a lot of sense during the American Revolution, when it brought together a group of former colonies to coordinate a war against the government of Great Britain, which the American patriots perceived as far too powerful. Although the Articles ultimately proved unequal to the task of governing the country after the Revolution, they were an important first step toward the current US Constitution.
Balancing state and national power: The Articles of Confederation created a national governing system that placed most power in the hands of the states. The Founders feared giving too much power to a central government, which might become tyrannical. But they overdid it, leaving a central government that could not fund itself, resolve disputes between its component states, or defend the country.
In the Constitutional Convention, delegates from the states would attempt to address these weaknesses while still limiting the power of government.
Name three major problems of the Articles of Confederation, and explain the implications of those problems.
In what ways was the governmental system established in the Articles of Confederation similar to US government today? In what ways was it different?
Want to join the conversation?
- What are the strengths of the Articles of Confederation?(15 votes)
- From the author:The Articles of Confederation had a couple of strengths. For one, it established a government that was able to sign treaties with France and Britain and organized the end of the Revolutionary War. Under the Articles of Confederation, Congress was incredibly powerful and could settle disputes between states and solve territorial issues by passing legislation like the Northwest Ordinance of 1787.
Even with those strengths though, the federal government wasn't strong enough to solve the problems of the new nation. That's why several of the Framers proposed replacing the Articles of Confederation with the Constitution!(31 votes)
- How long did it take to spread the word of a new laws back then?(8 votes)
- An excellent question to which there is no specific answer. Here's an answer, though: Most people living in civilizations would get a newspaper back then, and most other people wouldn't have anyone around to enforce the laws anyway.
I hope this helps to answer your question.(2 votes)
- 1.: The Articles of Confederation made for the government unable to tax the citizens but to politely ask the states, making for a weak economy.
2: The AOC was unable of conscripting soldiers, therefore making a weak national defense.
3: The AOC did not have an executive branch, which made the country unable to enforce laws.(3 votes)
- 1. The AOC could not tax citizens directly, only request money from the states. - The states rarely contributed money, meaning the national government could not pay its debts or fund initiatives.
2. The AOC could not regulate international or interstate trade. - The national government could not stop states from undermining it by making their own trade agreements with foreign nations.
3. The AOC could not raise an army, only request that the states send soldiers. - States could refuse to send soldiers, making it weak defense.(3 votes)
- So what about intra-state disputes. Did the government under the articled of confederation have the power to get involved?(3 votes)
- It did not, which was one of the main reasons for the constitution to be created.
I hope this helps to answer your question.(1 vote)
- Why were the Articles of Confederation written to give states more power?(2 votes)
- The United States had gained independence from a monarchy, Britain. The reason the started the war for independence was because they thought they had no representation. Moreover, they didn't like the monarchy, where all power came from a single person (and his puppets), so they gave a great deal of power to each state to reduce the power in a single person's hand.(2 votes)
- The weak central government established in the Articles made a lot of sense during the American Revolution, when it brought together a group of former colonies to coordinate a war against the government of Great Britain, which the American patriots perceived as far too powerful.(2 votes)
- 1. The AOC didn't allow the federal government to tax citizens at all, but only request money from the states, many of whom would not supply the national government with funds. This meant a crippled federal government that couldn't pay its bills, leading to things like Shay's Rebellion, and couldn't pay for any army or defence force.
2. Continuing from that, the federal government could not raise an army and had to request soldiers from the states. This made America weak and vulnerable to enemies.
3. The AOC outlined impractical lawmaking and law enforcement mechanisms for the federal government. Its mandate that 9 of the 13 states had to agree to any new law tabled in the Confederation Congress and that any change to the Articles required unanimous vote meant that hardly anything got done. And without an executive branch, the laws that did manage to get passed were almost impossible to enforce. The lack of a judicial branch also made it very difficult to arbitrate and settle disputes between the states.
As for question 2, I believe the only real way the Articles of Confederation are similar to the US Constitution and the US system of government today is the idea of limited government, but a lot more reasonable than what was first outlined.
A major difference is that the US Constitution codifies a much more united and national identity than the Articles of Confederation did, which still saw the 13 states as essentially individual countries coming together to form a Union, much like how the nations of Europe comprise the European Union - they have free travel between each other, free trade, etc, but they are not one united country.
The US Constitution reestablished America as THE United States rather than THESE United States. And this paved the way for all the advancements that would come later.(2 votes)
- 1) Three major problems of the AOC were that they had no ability to directly tax the citizens leading to a problem of them being completely unable to repay debts. Another problem was that there was no way to properly raise an army as they had to ask the states to send people in to help, this was a problem as the states could refuse to send help leading to an inadequate army to try and most likely fail to protect the nation. A final problem was that in order to approve a law you needed 9 states to agree and to amend anything you needed all 13 states to approve, leading to the problem that it was difficult get a law passed and next to impossible for them to amend the constitutions they needed to fix.
2) The government was established for the people, by the people back then and is technically supposed to be running that way currently. Some differences though was a lack of three branches of government. As it had lacked the executive and judicial branches that out government has now.(1 vote)