The Articles of Confederation were the first constitution of the United States, accepted by all 13 states in 1781 after being established by the Second Continental Congress in 1777.
The Articles of Confederation formed a loose union of states in which the central government had little power and local governments retained the majority of their autonomy.
The government was made up of a single legislative body, the Continental Congress, which could make decisions on behalf of the states but lacked the authority to carry them out.
The Articles also established a diplomatic system with other governments and Indian tribes, a currency and coinage system, and a foundation for state military alliances.
The Articles of Confederation established foundations for many different activities, including as trade and resolving disputes, but it ultimately lacked any significant means of enforcing any of its rules or decisions.
Despite their virtues, the Articles of Confederation were insufficient in coping with the nation’s increasing economic and political problems, prompting their replacement with the current United States Constitution in 1787.
Articles of Confederation Facts
1. The Articles of Confederation were first proposed by John Dickinson in 1776, but were not adopted by the Continental Congress until 1777.
In 1776, John Dickinson, a Delaware lawyer and politician, presented the Articles of Confederation as a mechanism to unite the 13 colonies and provide for mutual defense against foreign threats.
The Continental Congress, the colonies’ governing body at the time, debated and examined the concept for several months before adopting the Articles of Confederation in 1777.
Also Read: The Constitution vs Articles of Confederation
The reason for the delay was that the colonies were divided on the nature of the proposed government and the powers that it should have.
Despite this delay, the Articles of Confederation were eventually ratified as the United States’ first constitution, governing the country from 1781 to 1789.
2. The drafting of the Articles of Confederation was heavily influenced by the political and economic conditions of the time.
The political and economic factors of the time, particularly a desire for a limited central authority and a fear of dictatorship, strongly affected the Articles of Confederation.
The colonies had just gained independence from Great Britain and were leery of establishing a powerful centralized administration that could become repressive, similar to the British authority they had just rebelled against.
As a result of the Articles of Confederation, a loose confederation of states was established, with a weak central government with limited powers and authority.
The states kept the majority of power and authority, with the central government primarily responsible for mutual defense and dealing with foreign nations. Furthermore, the economic conditions of the time influenced the Articles’ writing.
The colonies were predominantly agrarian cultures that relied significantly on trade with the United Kingdom, raising concerns about economic dependence on a powerful centralized authority.
3. The Articles of Confederation were modeled after the Iroquois Confederation, a group of Native American tribes that had a decentralized system of government.
The central government was given extremely limited power and jurisdiction under the Articles of Confederation, with the majority of power remaining with the constituent states.
The Articles of Confederation established a unicameral government, with only one legislative body, the Continental Congress, comprised of members from each state.
Under the Articles of Confederation, the central government had no authority to regulate interstate commerce, collect taxes, or manage the currency, resulting in economic concerns.
Under the Articles of Confederation, the government was unable to pay off war debts, which caused financial difficulties and contributed to growing discontent with the government.
The government had no authority to administer the western regions under the Articles of Confederation, which resulted in land disputes between states and Indian tribes.
The government under the Articles of Confederation lacked executive and judicial institutions, resulting in ineffective law administration and enforcement.
Under the Articles of Confederation, the government was unable to respond effectively to foreign threats and had little capacity to establish treaties or alliances.
4. The Articles of Confederation were primarily written by John Dickinson, James Wilson, and Roger Sherman.
John Dickinson, James Wilson, and Roger Sherman were all notable members of the Continental Congress who helped create the Articles of Confederation.
Also Read: First Continental Congress Facts
Dickinson, a Delaware lawyer and politician, was the principal author of the initial draft of the Articles. Wilson, a Pennsylvania lawyer and politician, was an important contributor to the Articles of Confederation, notably in terms of the balance of power between the states and the federal government.
Sherman, a Connecticut lawyer and politician, was also an important contributor to the Articles, particularly the provision for a unified system of currency and coinage.
These three men worked together to shape the final form of the Articles of Confederation that the Continental Congress accepted.
5. The Articles of Confederation were adopted by the Continental Congress on November 15, 1777 and were ratified by all 13 states by 1781.
The Continental Congress established the Articles of Confederation on November 15, 1777, and all 13 states ratified them by 1781.
However, the document was not completely enforced until March 1, 1781, when Maryland became the final state to ratify the Articles.
The Articles of Confederation established a federal government for the newly independent nation and functioned as the first constitution of the United States.
Despite its adoption, the Articles of Confederation had problems, and many criticized the government’s lack of power and inability to administer the country successfully. This eventually led to the creation and approval of the current United States Constitution in 1787.
6. The Articles of Confederation served as the supreme law of the land until they were replaced by the U.S. Constitution in 1788.
The Articles of Confederation functioned as the United States’ first constitution, but it rapidly became evident that the instrument had major flaws.
The central government had limited power and authority, and it was unable to administer the country properly. The federal government lacked the authority to regulate interstate commerce, enforce laws, organize an army or navy, form treaties or alliances, regulate money, or settle disputes over western territory.
Furthermore, the government lacked executive and judicial institutions, making it difficult to execute laws and settle disputes. Despite these flaws, the Articles of Confederation provided a foundation for the new nation and played a significant role in the establishment of the United States.
However, it was eventually superseded by the United States Constitution in 1788, which provided for a stronger central authority and solved many of the Articles of Confederation’s faults.
7. The main purpose of the Articles of Confederation was to provide a unified government for the 13 colonies and to provide for mutual defense against foreign threats.
The Articles of Confederation also created a method for admitting new states to the Union and a framework for the settlement of western areas.
Furthermore, they safeguarded the autonomy of separate states and limited the power of the central government. The Articles also established a legal foundation for interstate enterprise and commerce, as well as a system of diplomacy with foreign governments and Indian tribes.
The Articles also established a system of currency and coinage for the use of the states, encouraged communication and collaboration among the states through the Continental Congress, empowered states to settle boundary issues among themselves, and provided a postal service to connect the states.
Despite these guarantees, the Articles of Confederation had several fundamental problems and limitations, including a weak central government, a lack of authority to regulate interstate commerce, and a lack of authority to enforce laws or organize an army.
These constraints eventually led to the ratification of the United States Constitution as a means of strengthening the federal government and providing the nation with a more effective form of government.
8. The Articles of Confederation had a unicameral Congress, with each state having one vote, regardless of population.
Smaller states were concerned that larger states would dominate decision-making in a bicameral Congress, thus this system of government was created to defend their interests.
This approach, however, resulted in a lack of representation for larger states and ineffective decision-making in Congress.
Furthermore, because the unicameral Congress had limited powers and was unable to successfully manage the country, the United States Constitution was eventually drafted and ratified.
9. It was the first time that the thirteen colonies were referred to as The United States of America
The phrase “The United States of America” was first used to refer to the newly formed union in the Articles of Confederation.
This was the first time that the thirteen colonies ever publicly referred to themselves as a single nation, rather than as separate entities. Prior to this, they had always referred to themselves as separate nations.
It was a key step toward constructing a cohesive country and the development of a sense of national identity in the process of forming a nation.
10. After the Articles of Confederation were ratified, there was little change to the procedures that were followed.
The primary purpose of the Articles of Confederation was to formalize the preexisting government system rather than to make any fundamental adjustments to that organization.
The Continental Congress continued to serve as the primary governing body, and the majority of its powers and responsibilities did not alter at all throughout this time.
The Articles of Confederation served two primary functions: the first was to establish the name of the union as “The United States of America,” and the second was to provide a more formal and legal structure for the government.