THE ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION


he Articles of Confederation (AoC) was the first official constitution of the United States and legally established the Union. The Second Continental Congress appointed a committee to draft the AoC in 1776, and a draft was sent to the state for ratification in November 1777. The AoC was ratified in March 1781, establishing independent, sovereign states. Essentially, it placed emphasis on state rights and limited government, which enraged oppositional figures such as Alexander Hamilton and George Washington, who believed in a strong, centralized federal government that would supersede state rights.

The AoC's powers gave the confederation the ability to wage war, negotiate diplomatic agreements, and resolve issues about the Western territories. Other stipulations it stated were freedom of movement between states, funding by state legislatures, setting weight and measures in currency, requiring the approval of nine states for the admission of a new state, and declaring the AoC as perpetual, requiring approval of Congress with ratification of all state legislatures for any alteration to be implemented. Unfortunately, it was limited in that it had to request taxes from states, and Federalists wanted a government that could give land grants, impose tariffs, and assume unpaid state war debts. Additionally, Federalists criticized that it lacked balance between small and large states in the legislative decision-making process. Furthermore, it provided no clauses requiring state compliance to requests of troops or revenue from Congress. Essentially, Congress could make decisions, but they at moot in that they could not enforce them.

The weaknesses of the AoC would lead to the downfall of its short-lived existence

1. It's absence of power to enforce and collect taxes left it with a lack of capital.
2. Congress lacked the power to regulate interstate or foreign trade, leading to unresolved economic quarrels between states which they could not intervene to resolve.
3. Congress had no power to enforce its laws, which led state laws that would confuse those who were moving to or visiting a state.
4. The approval of nine states were needed to enforce its laws, making it difficult to enact them.
5. Amendments to the AoC required the consent of all thirteen states, making it practically impossible to change government powers.
6. The government had no executive branch, so there was no way to coordinate work in the government.
7. There was no national court system, so they could not settle state disputes.


external image Articles_page1.jpg
The Thirteen Articles of the AoC contained the following:

Article I entitled the Confederation as "The United States of America."
Article II maintained that each state would maintain its sovereignty, freedom, independence, as well as every power, jurisdiction, and right not expressly delegated to the Confederation.
Article III stated that every state would enter a powerful friendship, an alliance, for the purpose of common defense, securing liberties, mutual and general welfare, and assisting each other on attacks made upon them on the basis of religion, trade, sovereignty, or any pretense whatsoever
Article IV allowed citizen movement among states and gave them the same rights, regardless of their state of origin. It also stated that if a person was to be found guilty of any crime and flee from a state, he'd be delivered back to the state from which he fled and brought to trial there, regardless of where in the United States he was found.
Article V gave one vote in Congress to each state and stated that members were to be appointed by state legislatures.
Article VI restricted states from conducting foreign relations and declaring war without the approval of Congress.
Article VII declared that when any state had to raise forces for common defense, all officers of a ranking of Colonel or below would be appointed by the state.
Article VIII stated that all charges of war and all other expenses used for general welfare or defense would by paid by funds raised by state legislatures, and paid in proportion to the property values of each individual state.
Article IX defined the powers of the central government - to set weight and measures, to declare war, and to use Congress as the final court for disputes between states.
Article X defined a Committee of States, specifically comprising of any nine states in decision-making, to be a government in the absence of Congress.
Article XI required the approval of nine states for the admission of any new state into the confederacy.
Article XII stated that the Confederation would accept all war debts acquired by Congress prior to the AoC
Article XIII declared that the articles were to be perpetually followed by all states, and that any alteration of the articles would require approval of Congress with the ratification of all state legislatures.


Sources:
AMSCO
Textbook
http://www.usconstitution.net/articles.html
http://libertyonline.hypermall.com/ArtConfed.html
http://www.earlyamerica.com/earlyamerica/milestones/articles/