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Faults and Weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation




The articles of Confederation had many faults and weaknesses. Firstly, it had a unicameral legislature to one vote per state. A 2/3 majority needed to pass legislation and vote to amend Articles. The unicameral legislature left the states with one legislative or parliamentary chamber. This left the 13 states and the central government with no separation of powers. The central government had no national executive or court system. Along with those problems the central government had no power to collect taxes, raise an army, or even regulate trade. With one vote per state to change or amend the Articles a unanimous agreement. This left the 13 states and the central government with no separation of powers. This intern left the central government weak since the states maintained a majority of the power. With a 2/3 majority need to pass laws made change to the articles difficult. In order to pass any major laws they needed 9 of the 13 states to approve which was very difficult. I believe the Articles were created weak because many of the states and citizens believed and felt that they were separate entities. They were suspicious of a strong central government because of the British rule. In essence the Articles created a loose confederation of individual states. The government had little power over the states which they keep to themselves. With no power to raise funds by taxes the government could not raise an army. Or even regulate monies by creating universal money; they couldn't regulate trade between states or even to other countries. This also led to poor foreign relations. In conclusion the articles left a loose central government. With little to no power to execute executive powers— like trade, commerce, and foreign affairs—the ability to amend the Articles or even vote when a majority was needed, which a majority vote was need when states seemed to worry about just themselves. Without the states identifying themselves as a nation and as Americans the Articles were bound to fail.

People say that the Articles of Confederation was not good and there are a lot of reason’s to think that. For example they couldn’t regulate trade with other countries which lead to poor foreign relations, and it left little power for the government over the states, In the end this lead to a poor loose government.

While the Articles of Confederation had more than several reasons why it was a bad idea, there were some reasons that makes are country what it is today. The most important reason is that it is how we got called “the United States of America”. It also came up with two great ordinances called the Land Ordinance of 1785 and the Northwest Ordinance which created territorial government, set up protocols for the admission of new states, the division of land into useful units, and set aside land in each township for public use. Another big one was that only the central government was allowed to conduct foreign relations and to declare war. This means that no state could have navies or standing armies, or engage in war, unless there was permission from congress which we still have today. Another one is the establishment of freedom of movement. Which means that anyone pass freely through states excluding fugitives and paupers. All people are entitled to the rights established by the state into which it travels. Finally if a crime is committed in one state than the perpetrator flees to another state, he will extradited to and tried for that crime in the state in which he made the crime.

However the Articles of Confederation might have had some things that make our country what it is today, there were a lot more things wrong with it than good things. It made for a loose central government that gave the government not as much power as it needed. So in all in all as you can see there were some good and bad things wrong with the Articles of Confederation. Obviously it is no longer here because the government at the time and the people drawing it up thought it hurt us more than helped us which they were right it hurt us more.

Although this article presents the reasons why the Articles of Confederation failed, I believe that we as a country gained some positives from the documents. The first positive aspect out of the Articles of Confederation comes in Article I. Article I states, “The Stile of this Confederacy shall be "The United States of America." (The Articles of Confederation) This article established what we still call our country today. I believe this presented the people of the new born country with an obvious sense of unity. After the American Revolution the Articles of Confederation provided a sense of relief because it was the first attempt at a government for this new country. This government would be an attempt at rebuilding and giving a sense of hope to the people after the devastating American Revolution. Along with coining the name “United States of America”, the Articles of Confederation set up a Congress. Although the Congress did not have as much power as it does today, it still had the power to “declare war and make peace, to make treaties and alliances, to coin or borrow money, and to regulate trade with the Native Americans.” (Ginsberg, 31). Also, the Articles of Confederation set up the National Debt. This is covered in Article XII when it states, “All bills of credit emitted, monies borrowed, and debts contracted by, or under the authority of congress, before the assembling of the United States, in pursuance of the present confederation, shall be deemed and considered as a charge against the United States, for payment and satisfaction whereof the said United States, and the public faith are hereby solemnly pledged.” (The Articles of Confederation) This can be viewed as either a negative or positive aspect. It is positive because the national debt allowed the government to take out money for rebuilding, but it is also negative because today the debt is enormous and cannot be paid back. Overall, I believe the Articles of Confederation paved the way for the United States Constitution and provided a sense of relief to the American people. Even though the articles might not have been the ideal form of government, they still presented positive aspects for later structures of government.

“In essence the Articles created a loose confederation of individual states. The government had little power over the states, which they keep to themselves... They couldn't regulate trade between states or even to other countries. Which lead to poor foreign relations. In conclusion they articles left a loose central government.”

While this article provides several reasons as to why the Articles of Confederation were unable to support our ever-expanding nation, there were several portions of the articles that did good for America. The first being the official documentation of the name of our country, “The United States of America” which is still used as our official title to this day. Another positive that arrived with the signing of the Articles of Confederation was that people now had the freedom to move where they wanted and no longer had restrictions as to where they have to live (Tansill, 1). This also set the basis for the national protection we have enacted today because it allowed for fugitives to be extradited from the state they had fled to in order to be tried in state he/she committed the crime.

The documents also created a simple form of what we call Congress today. They gave this early Congress the power to declare war, coin money and conduct Foreign Relations just like today. The Articles of Confederation provided a basis or a shell for what would be known as the Constitution today and how our government should be controlled so it does not over power its citizens and abused like Britain did previously.

However, despite these claims that constructive responses came from the Articles of Confederation the fact still remains that the articles provided a horrible and weak government because it held almost no control over the states. The Articles of Confederation failed because nobody wanted to create a government that had full power over everything just like the British power they had finally escaped.

I would have to counter argue that the articles of confederation was not entirely a weak document. The articles of confederation also brought with it many strong benefits to the new country. It was the first document that really separated the states from any other country and laid out how Americans wanted to run their government. Even though it was not perfect it did provide the base for the American Government.

The document also passed two important tests that showed that it was useful in implementing freedom. The articles of confederation allowed a large number of diverse people to live side by side with minimal conflicts for several years as the government switched from being subjects of a monarchy to a country of self-governing men (Emory). If the document was entirely weak and faulty it would not have been able to govern so many people with diverse ideas for so many years without any major conflicts.

Within the actual document there were also some very strong points. The first article declared the territory the United States of America. This was the first time the colonists recognized their territories as a country separate from Britain. The second article declares that each state uphold freedom and independence. And the third article bonds each of the states together saying that they will come together to fight off any attacks or outside forces. These three articles are still the bases of the United States so they were very important and they were a strength of the articles of confederation.

The articles of confederation also officially marked the boundaries for different states in the nation. These boundaries were important and are still used today. The articles of confederation did a good job of laying out the power of the different states. There was the one weakness of providing too much power to the states and not enough to the federal government. However, it was better for the country to give not enough power to the federal government at first. They did not want to end up with another monarchy like they were under Britain. Therefore, it was ok to have a strong document with a few weaknesses that needed to be changed. Because it would be easier to make changes to an already existing document than to have to create something with no idea as to how it would work in the nation.

Overall, the articles of confederation were not entirely weak. It did provide some structure for the new nation and helped with the transition from being controlled by a monarchy to being self-governed and free.

On the other hand, some people believe that the Articles of Confederation provided a good system for the new government. For example, it introduced the idea of Habeas Corpus. This was the idea that there should always be a trial by jury in the judicial system. The Articles of Confederation also introduced freedom of religion. When America broke free from Great Britain, they wanted absolute freedom of religion. Under no circumstances did they want to have to deal with the problems that come along with creating a uniform religion for the whole country, and the Articles assured that this would not happen. Supporters of the Articles were also very fond of the idea of a weak central government, because they did not want America to turn out to be like Great Britain. The Articles were obviously centered on having little government control.

Although there were some good aspects of the Articles of Confederation, the negatives definitely outweighed the positives. Under the Articles, the government had very little influence on any of the individual states. This caused the different states to feel very distant from each other, which in turn caused an extreme lack of Nationalism. Most states did not even think of themselves as Americans, but as people specific to their states, such as ‘Massachusettians’. The Articles may also have promised Freedom of religion and a good judicial system, but none of that could ever exist if the country had no central government to regulate the states. If the country’s government system was based on the Articles, none of the states would feel that the government would have the right to regulate the state laws. All in all, the Articles of Confederation had a few good ideas, but lacked the power and control to turn the ideas into existing laws and regulations.

It is without a doubt that the Articles of Confederation showed there were more weaknesses than strengths. These weaknesses proved to be the strengths and foundation of the development of America. That is not saying that The Articles of Confederation didn't possess any strengths at all. Bringing all thirteen colonies together, ending wars, opening the gate for treaties and paving the way for bigger, more powerful documents were among its strengths.

According to (Naik, 2010), "By far the biggest strength of the Articles of Confederation was its ability to bring all the thirteen original states together, and establish a common legislature..." This shows how much Strength the Articles of Confederation actually did have. This brought all the states together and formed a respect for each other, laws and rules. Because of this weakness, different departments were formed such as the post office and treasury.

"The Articles also gave the national government power to deal with foreign nations and sign treaties with them. The national government used such powers for the development of the nation and to solve several problems affecting the nation as a whole."(Naik, 2010) Many peace treaties were put into effect due to the Articles of Confederation. The most well know treaty was the Peace Treaty with England. Along with the ability to form peace treaties, the Articles also gave the government some control over land and states. It aloud the Nation to take control of deserted land, which led to some national debts being paid off. In addition, the Articles of Confederation also gave the nation the right to create new townships and new states.
The Articles of Confederation was not around long. They lasted only a few short years. The weaknesses within the document proved to be over bearing and in need of something new. The weaknesses ended up being the most powerful. It gave the Country to ability to see that something was not working, and the chance to fix the problem to ensure success. In November of 1787, the Articles of Confederation was replaced with US Constitution.

The Articles of Confederation was in fact not weak, but very strong. Without it, who knows where, or what America would be in the future.

While the Articles of Confederation had inherited weaknesses, it provided a frame work for the thirteen independent states to unite against a common enemy. Despite the fact that the Articles of Confederation provided only a unicameral body, it was a method for the states to find common ground with one another. The Articles needs to be examined in the context for which it was written. The whole idea is that it was to be ultimately the collaboration of individual sovereign states. While some may say it was weak because it did not provide for the common aspects for a sovereign nation, like the ability to print money or levy taxes, the Articles of Confederation was a baby step toward those common aspects.

In order for the Articles to be ratified, every state needed to approve it. This helped provided for an acceptable way to divide the Northwest Territory. When Maryland refused to approve the articles because of what it felt was inequitable royal charters to other colonies, the other colonies ceded their land to the confederation. Under the articles of confederation the newly acquired Northwest Territory was not an area in which slavery would be legal. The Articles of Confederation also gave the Confederation the ability to create the ordinance of 1785 in which the new territory west of the Appalachian mountain range would be surveyed and divided by 36 square mile grids called townships. This grid system enabled the confederation to sell or distribute blocks of land in an orderly fashion. Under the Articles, the federal government also now had the power to deal with foreign nations and sign treaties with them. A good example of this is the peace treaty with England in 1783 (Naik, 2010). How the creation of new states would be formed was also a provision within the articles.

Even though the Articles of Confederation was weak as a whole, it provided a launching point for the Constitution which would replace the Articles in 1787.

Works Cited

Ginsberg, Benjamin. We the People: an Introduction to American Politics. New York: W.W. Norton, 2009. Print.

Hoffert, Robert W. A Politics of Tensions: The Articles of Confederation and American Political Ideas. Niwot: University Press of Colorado, 1992. [Catalog Record]

Tansill, C. C. (2008, January 1). Avalon Project - Articles of Confederation : March 1, 1781. Avalon Project - Documents in Law, History and Diplomacy. Retrieved April 16, 2011, from http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/artconf.asp

"The Articles of Confederation - The U.S. Constitution Online - USConstitution.net." Index Page - The U.S. Constitution Online - USConstitution.net. Web. 12 Apr. 2011. <http://www.usconstitution.net/articles.html>.

Emory, Bobby Y. "An Analysis of THE ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION." Free Nation Foundation. 1993. Web. 15 Apr. 2011. <http://freenation.org/a/ppe1.html>.

"Articles of Confederation" 27 February 2008. HowStuffWorks.com. <http://history.howstuffworks.com/revolutionary-war/articles-of-confederation.htm> 12 April 2011.

Naik, Abhijit. (2010). Articles of Confederation Strengths: Retrieved from www.buzzle.com/articles/articles-of-confederation-strengths.html , Retrieved April 17, 2011

Picture: www.conservapedia.com/Articles_of_Confederation (The Articles of Confederation)