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The Articles of

During the Revolution, the new United States
needed a functioning government
After the colonies declared their independence
in 1776, the leaders needed a government to
oversee the operation of the war and, if
victorious, help the country settle the peace.

Fundamental issues needed to be addressed.

How much political power should be given to
the central government when cooperation
among the states was so important?
Would France gamble on aiding the fledgling
nation if the United States appeared weak?
How would the central government speak for
all the states while each state maintained its

The Articles of Confederation were crafted from

a combination of urgent necessity and past
1777 Continental Congress adopted
the Articles of Confederation
Created a type of government called a
In a confederacy all national power is
considered to be derived from the
1781 Articles of Confederation were
ratified by the 13 states.

Modeled after colonial governments.

Each state retains its independence and
There would be a Congress with limited powers
Each state gets one vote in Congress
regardless of size
Founders were fearful of concentrated power
due to past experience with the British
Bills were passed on nine of thirteen votes
Amending the Articles took unanimous consent
of the states.
Selection and payment of delegates to Congress
left to states
Articles established a firm league of friendship
among the states

The Articles established a government which it

characterized as a league of friendship for common
defense, communication with other nations, and to
administer and operate the government.
It was assumed that most legislation and enforcement of
laws would occur within the states and that laws passed
by the national Congress would only be to administer
the powers it was given.
Even so, any law passed would have to be carried by a
supermajority of over 67 percent, with nine of thirteen
states voting in the affirmative.
To further insure that the central government would not
be granted any increase in power, any amendment to the
Articles needed the unanimous consent of all the states.

Structure of Government
Unicameral (single house) legislative
Each state had one vote regardless of
population or size
Congress given sole authority to govern
the country
An executive committee oversaw
government when Congress was not in
Congress would establish temporary
courts to hear disputes among the states

The creators of the Articles believed that

government was an agreement with the people
and that power originated from the people.
They further believed the best form of
government was a republic, in which the
peoples wishes were addressed by chosen
The legislative body would be elected by and
directly responsible to the people.

Powers Granted to
Government under the
Articles of Confederation

Declare war and make peace

Make treaties with foreign countries
Establish an army and navy
Appoint high-ranking military officials
Requisition, print, and borrow money
Establish weights and measures
Hear disputes among the states
related to trade or boundaries

Congress was given the responsibility for

governing the country; however, it wasnt
given much power to do so.
An executive committee was meant to oversee
the operations of the government, but it ended
up serving more like a cabinet of advisors than
as actual leadership.
Congress had the authority to establish
temporary courts to hear disputes among the
states, but these courts could act only as
mediators because they and the executive
committee had no power to enforce the laws.

The Articles of Confederation granted

Congress important powers to operate the
When the document was drafted in 1777, the
immediate concern was conducting the war
and hopefully crafting a favorable peace treaty.
To carry out the war, Congress needed the
power to make treaties with foreign nations
and to establish an army and navy and appoint
military officers.
Such powers gave Congress authority over
affairs with foreign nations.

To help pay for the war and for the operation

of the government after independence had
been won, Congress would need to requisition
funds and to print and borrow money.
This requisitioning power allowed Congress to
ask the states for funds, which the states would
provide if they were able or inclined to do so.

Under the Articles, Congress also had the

power to hear disputes among the states
related to trade and boundaries.
During and after the war, individual states
sometimes established tariffs in order to raise
revenue and discourage the sale of imports
from foreign countries or neighboring states
that competed with homegrown products.
Other states targeted by these tariffs usually
retaliated in kind.

Powers Denied to
No power to raise funds for an army or
No power to tax, impose tariffs, or collect
No executive branch to enforce laws
No power to control trade among the states
No power to force states to honor
No power to regulate the value of currency

The Articles didnt provide the government

with enough authority to fully carry out the
tasks it was given.
Though Congress could declare war and raise
military forces, it couldnt pay for them
because it lacked the power to tax.
Congress could requisition funds from the
states, but had no power to make them part
with their money.
Congress could borrow money, but had no way
to raise funds to pay off the debt except to ask
the states for funds.

If a state disagreed with the way Congress

spent the funds, it would refuse or delay
Congress could appoint a court to hear the
disputes between states, but it couldnt enforce
decisions the courts made.
Thus, if a court ruled in favor of one state over
another, the losing state wouldnt have to
comply with the decision.

After the war, the Treaty of Paris stipulated

that British citizens still living in the former
colonies would receive compensation for land
or property seized.
However, individual states did not force their
citizens to make such restitution and Congress
had no authority to compel the states to obey
the treatys provisions.

To pay off the debt from the war, Congress

was authorized to print money; however, each
of the states had the power to print money as
The resulting increase in currency, combined
with a slowdown in the postwar economy, sent
the young country into a deep economic
Inflation rose so high that the Continental
Dollar became virtually worthless.

Accomplishments of the
Articles of Confederation
Though they had many shortcomings, the
Articles of Confederation cannot be
considered a total failure.
Under them, the government operated for
nearly 12 years and managed to conduct a
successful war of rebellion against what was
then the most powerful country in the world.

Under the Articles, the United States also

negotiated a very favorable peace treaty in
which Britain formally recognized the United
States and agreed to remove all British troops
from U.S. territory.
From the land granted to the United States as a
result of the treaty, the country doubled in size,
gaining land that today holds the states of
Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin,
and part of Minnesota.

Many historians view the Northwest

Ordinance as the most important piece of
legislation to come out of this period.
The Ordinance provided a method for
admitting new states into the Union and for
placing them on an equal footing with existing
Thus, citizens from these new states would
enjoy all the rights for which Americans had
fought in the Revolution.
The Ordinance even provided a bill of rights,
something both the Articles and the original
Constitution lacked.

Problems Facing the New


Trade with foreign nations

Financing the nation
Foreign relations
Interstate relations

In the years after the Treaty of Paris, the

United States experienced a number of nearcrippling problems that made the task of
governing more difficult.
The leaders of the United States had virtually
no international experience beyond the
confines of the British Empire.
They would have to establish diplomatic and
economic relations with countries that had
been in existence for hundreds of years.
To guard their sovereignty, states blocked
enforcement of uniform commercial policy
and foreign treaties (prewar debts)

The new nation first had to re-establish trade

relations with foreign nations under its own
flag rather than that of the powerful British
In addition, Britain would no longer treat the
United States as its favorite child, and this
demotion in status would make establishing
trade relations with other countries even more
The U.S. also had to deal with financial
troubles. During the war, America had racked
up an impressive debt and owed money both to
foreign nations and to U.S. citizens.

The states of the new nation would soon prove to be

United in name only.
The colonies had always possessed a sense of
separation from one another in times of peace, and
had competed often with one another for British
favor and economic advantage.
The only time the states had truly come together was
during the Revolutionary War, and that had only
occurred because it suited their needs.
With most of the nations power residing in state
legislatures, the nation under the Articles of
Confederation had only a fragile unity at best.

Steps Leading to the Call for a


Annapolis Convention (1786) called

to discuss problems of commerce
Shays Rebellion (summer 1786),
uprising of farmers rebelled against
tax collectors and sheriffs trying to
seize their farms for unpaid debts,
raised concerns about the ability of
the government to protect the rights
of property

1787 Congress issued a call for a

convention to meet in Philadelphia for
the sole and express purpose of
revising the Articles of Confederation
to render the federal constitution
government and the preservation of the
The Constitutional Convention was a
large meeting held in Philadelphia,
Pennsylvania at Independence Hall from
May of 1787 to Sept. to 1787 where 55
delegates representing their states.

Articles of Confederation Constitution

Congress could request Congress has right to levy
states to pay taxes
taxes on
No system of federal
Court system created to deal
with issues between citizens,
Regulation of No provision to regulate Congress has right to
interstate trade
regulate trade
between states
No executive with power. Executive branch headed by
President of U.S. merely President who chooses
presided over Congress Cabinet and has checks on
power of judiciary and
13/13 needed to amend 2/3 of both houses of
Congress plus
3/4 of state legislatures or

Raising an army

Congress could not

draft troops,
dependent on states
to contribute forces

Congress can raise an

army to deal with
military situations

Interstate commerce

No control of trade
between states

Interstate commerce
controlled by

Disputes between

Complicated system
of arbitration

Federal court system

to handle disputes


Sovereignty resides in Constitution the

supreme law of the

Passing laws

9/13 needed to
approve legislation

50%+1 of both houses

plus signature of

Virginia Plan
Virginia Plan proposed by the larger
Establish a national government with 3
Establish a bicameral Congress.
People elect 1 house
That house elects 2nd house
Representation in both houses based on
state population

New Jersey plan

New Jersey plan proposed by small
Establish a unicameral Congress
Each state to have 1 vote
Equal representation
States equally represented similar to
the Articles of Confederation

important issues-especially if they are
in large groups and have diverse
interests-compromise must be reached
if agreement is to occur. Need for
compromise was clear in the case of
the Constitution with delegates from
all across the nation bringing with
them different needs and beliefs.



The amount of power for the national

contention at the convention.
Many feared a national government
as a threat to liberty, but most
wanted a more powerful government
than had existed under the Articles.

Federalism: Some powers under the
Constitution were given to the
national government, while some
were reserved for the states, and
others were shared.
Power shared is power limited.


Large states wanted representation
based on population-because this
would give them more representatives
and would allow them to control votes
in the legislature.
Small states wanted representation to
be the same for all states-which would
help them defend themselves against
the big states in the Congress

The Great Compromise:
was made bicameral (having two
houses) by the convention, and in
Representatives) representation was
based on population, while in the
other (the Senate) each state had
two representatives.

Some Northern states were moving in
the direction of abolition by 1787 since
they did not need slavery economically.
Southern states still very dependent
upon the institution.
The South was less populated than the
North, and Southerners wanted to
count slaves in their population when
determining the representation.
Northerners objected to this.

The Three-Fifths Compromise: Under
this agreement, 3/5 of the slaves would
count for determining representation.
Also, as a part of the general
compromise on the slavery issue,
Congress could not forbid importation
of slaves until 1808, but after that the
slave trade could be ended.

Democracy was not yet a positive
term in America in 1787.
Many considered democracy to mean
mob rule.
however, especially in the South,
that the common man should have a
powerful voice in government.

The creation of a Constitutional Republic:
Under the Constitution (as written in
Representatives to the House directly,
but elected their Senators and President
All of these individuals,
however, no matter how elected, could
not enforce the will of the people if it
Constitution was established as a
mechanism to defend minorities against
the majority.

Constitutional Convention
Compromise between two plans
2-house legislature: House directly
elected and w/ proportional
representation; Senate elected by
state legislatures2 per state
Slavery linked to new government:
3/5ths clause affects representation
in House and Constitution protects

Enumerate new powers for US

Government (tax, commerce) and
Supremacy Clause
Charge president w/ foreign affairs, C-inC
Delegates do not want the people to
elect directly either president or senators
Separation of powers within US
Government and between USG and
states prevents tyranny