Articles of Confederation
Written By: Julie Gagliardi, Kathleen Lima, Sanjana Rahman and Michelle Voong

The Articles of Confederation were America's first constitution. They were adopted on November 15, 1777, yet they were not ratified until four months later. The Articles outlined a a league of independent states, also known as a confederation. This form government has a weak central government, with most of the power in the country going to the states. A confederation was chosen because many Americans feared being ruled by a single ruler, such as the monarchy they had just escaped from. Problems arose, however, such as the lack of an ability to raise national revenue through taxation or other methods, and that there was no common currency used across the country. Ultimately, the Articles of Confederation lasted for a mere eight years, before being replaced by the United States Constitution in 1787.

Federal Government Powers:

The Congress under the Articles of Confederations was made up delegates that were appointed by the states. Each state could not have less than two or more than seven delegates. Under the Articles of Confederation, Congress was granted certain specific powers, such as the power to declare wars, appoint officials, make peace, coin money, and to regulate foreign affairs. Congress was also the last resort for state disputes. Under the Articles of Confederation Congress raised funds by proposing an idea of how much money each state should pay (which is based on cost of lands), then the states decide to pay or not to pay.

Federal Restrictions:

Federal restrictions that the states once lusted over ultimately caused the Articles to fail. Under the Articles of Confederation the federal government was intensely restricted, the federal government could not collect taxes, regulate trade, raise an army, and had no control in foreign commerce. Congress could pass laws but could not force states to conform to them. Also, changing or amending the Articles of Confederation was exceptionally burdensome and intricately difficult because it required approval from nine out of the thirteen states, which is essentially preposterous. Since the amendment process was extremely difficult, the problems of the Articles of Confederation could not be corrected.
Shay’s Rebellion, ultimately resulted in the ratification of the current United States Constitution, and the trashing of the Article of Confederation.

State Rights:

Under the Articles of Confederation the states were the basic structure of the entire government system. The Articles were known as a Confederate System government, meaning that the national government derived its authority and power from the states. Therefore, it only made sense that the states were the center of all the rights and restrictions. Each state was given the right to rule as they saw fit without interruptions or inputs of the federal government. One of the decisions the states made was an alliance to help each other when there was foreign intervene. Another adaptation they made was a entitlement agreement. This meant that a person entering a different state had to abide by the rules and regulations of the state they were in. This was later adapted to be the Full Faith and Credit Clause in the constitution. In addition to that agreement, there was a "crime" agreement. If a crime was committed in one state and the criminal fled to a different state he must be sent back to the original state the crime occurred in. These agreements were later made the Extradition Clause.

State Restrictions:

Although the states were given many powers and freedoms they had a few restrictions as well, such as:
  • No state was allowed to have more than seven representatives in Congress and no less than two. These representatives had to represent their state and were the committee for their state. Only one vote per state.
  • No states were allowed to form alliances with other nations or creating titles of nobility.
  • No state was allowed to have vessels of war in a time of peace unless they were allowed by the federal government to protect the state. Contradictory, the states were allowed to have a fully functions militia that was sufficiently armed and ready for use. This militia was unsuccessful during the Shay's Rebellion.
  • The states were not allowed to declare war unless the state has been invaded and congress cannot meet fast enough.

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Ratification: To approve or give formal sanction to
Amendment: A change or addition to in a document
Confederate System: National Government derives authority from the states; a league of independent states
Full Faith and Credit Clause: Section of the Article IV of the constitution that ensures judicial decrees and contracts made in one state will be binding and enforceable in any other state.
Extradition Clause: Provision in Article IV in the constitution that provides an extradition of a criminal back to the state where he or she committed the crime.

Current Events:

Is It Time to Rewrite the Constitution?
Articles of Confederation

Section Review Questions:

1) What are the difference in views between the radicals and the conservatives?
2) What did the Shay's Rebellion lead to? Why?
3) What were the powers of Congress according to the Articles of Confederation?
4) Which was the last state to ratify the Articles of Confederation?
5) When was the Articles of Confederation adopted?
6) What is the purpose of the Articles of Confederation?

Works Cited: