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Articles of Confederation

Articles of Confederation

The Articles of Confederation were the first constitution of the United States. During 1776–1777, a congressional committee led by john dickinson of Pennsylvania (who had drafted the Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking up Arms in 1775) wrote the Articles and submitted them to the states for ratification in 1777. Ratification was delayed by disputes between the states with extensive western lands and the "landless" states such as Maryland. On March 1, 1781, after the landed states agreed to cede their lands to Congress, the new government came into existence.

The Articles of Confederation reflected the new nation's fear of centralized power and authority. Under the Articles the states were more powerful than the central government, which consisted only of a Congress. Each state had one vote in Congress, with that vote determined by a delegation of from two to seven representatives. Though the Congress had the authority to regulate foreign affairs, wage war, and maintain the postal system, it had no power to levy and collect taxes or regulate interstate commerce.

Critics of the Articles multiplied until finally, in 1787, Congress summoned a convention to draft a revised constitution. On March 4, 1789, the new U.S. Constitution took effect, superseding the Articles of Confederation.

Articles of Confederation

To all to whom these Presents shall come, we the undersigned Delegates of the States affixed to our Names send greeting

Whereas the Delegates of the United States of America in Congress assembled did on the fifteenth day of November in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy-seven, and in the Second Year of the Independence of America agree to certain articles of Confederation and perpetual Union between the States of Newhampshire, Massachusetts-bay, Rhode-island, and Provi dence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North-Carolina, South-Carolina and Georgia in the Words following, viz.

Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union between the States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts-bay, Rhode-island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New-York, New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North-Carolina, South-Carolina and Georgia

Source: Ben Perley Poore, ed., The Federal and State Constitutions, Colonial Charters, and Other Organic Laws of the United States, vol. 1 (1878), pp. 7–12.

ARTICLE I

The stile of this confederacy shall be "The United States of America."

ARTICLE II

Each State retains its sovereignty, freedom and independence, and every power, jurisdiction and right, which is not by this confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.

ARTICLE III

The said States hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other, for their common defense, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other, against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty trade or any other pretence whatever.

ARTICLE IV

The better to secure and perpetuate mutual friendship and intercourse among the people of the different States in this Union, the free inhabitants of each of these States, paupers, vagabonds and fugitives from justice excepted, shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of free citizens in the several States; and the people of each State shall have free ingress and regress to and from any other State, and shall enjoy therein all the privileges of trade and commerce, subject to the same duties, impositions and restrictions as the inhabitants thereof respectively, provided that such restrictions shall not exceed so far as to prevent the removal of property imported into any State, to any other State of which the owner is an inhabitant; provided also that no imposition, duties or restriction shall be laid by any State, on the property of the United States, or either of them.

If any person guilty of, or charged with treason, felony, or other high misdemeanor in any State, shall flee from justice, and be found in any of the United States, he shall upon demand of the Governor or Executive power, of the State from which he fled, be delivered up and removed to the State having jurisdiction of his offense.

Full faith and credit shall be given in each of these States to the records, acts and judicial proceedings to the courts and magistrates of every other State.

ARTICLE V

For the more convenient management of the general interests of the United States, delegates shall be annually appointed in such manner as the legislature of each State shall direct, to meet in Congress on the first Monday in November, in every year, with a power reserved to each State, to recall its delegates, or any of them, at any time within the year, and to send others in their stead, for the remainder of the year.

No State shall be represented in Congress by less than two, nor by more than seven members; and no person shall be capable of being a delegate for more than three years in any term of six years; nor shall any person, being a delegate, be capable of holding any office under the United States, for which he, or another for his benefit receives any salary, fees or emolument of any kind.

Each State shall maintain its own delegates in a meeting of the States, and while they act as members of the committee of the States.

In determining questions in the United States, in Congress assembled, each State shall have one vote.

Freedom of speech and debate in Congress shall not be impeached or questioned in any court, or place out of Congress, and the members of Congress shall be protected in their persons from arrests and imprisonments, during the time of their going to and from, and attendance on Congress, except for treason, felony, or breach of the peace.

ARTICLE VI

No State without the consent of the United States in Congress assembled, shall send any embassy to, or receive any embassy from, or enter into any conference, agreement, alliance or treaty with any king, prince or state; nor shall any person holding any office or profit or trust under the United States, or any of them, accept of any present, emolument, office or title of any kind whatever from any king, prince or foreign state; nor shall the United States in Congress assembled or any of them, grant any title of nobility.

No two or more States shall enter into any treaty, confederation or alliance whatever between them, without the consent of the United States in Congress assembled, specifying accurately the purposes for which the same is to be entered into, and how long it shall continue.

No State shall lay any imposts or duties, which may interfere with any stipulations in treaties, entered into by the United States in Congress assembled, with any king, prince or state, in pursuance of any treaties already proposed by Congress, to the courts of France and Spain.

No vessels of war shall be kept up in time of peace by any State, except such number only, as shall be deemed necessary by the United States in Congress assembled, for the defence of such State, or its trade; nor shall any body of forces be kept up by any State, in time of peace, except such number only, as in the judgment of the United States, in Congress assembled, shall be deemed requisite to garrison the forts necessary for the defence of such State; but every State shall always keep up a well regulated and disciplined militia, sufficiently armed and accoutered, and shall provide and constantly have ready for use, in public stores, a due number of field pieces and tents, and a proper quantity of arms, ammunition and camp equipage.

No State shall engage in any way without the consent of the United States in Congress assembled, unless such State be actually invaded by enemies, or shall have received certain advice of a resolution being formed by some nation of Indians to invade such State, and the danger is so imminent as not to admit of a delay, till the United States in Congress assembled can be consulted: nor shall any State grant commissions to any ships or vessels of war, nor letters of marque or reprisal, except it be after a declaration of war by the United States in Congress assembled, and then only against the kingdom or state and the subject thereof, against which war has been so declared and under such regulations as shall be established by the United States in Congress assembled, unless such State be infested by pirates, in which case vessels of war may be fitted out for that occasion, and kept so long as the danger shall continue, or until the United States in Congress assembled shall determine otherwise.

ARTICLE VII

When land-forces are raised by any State for the common defence, all officers of or under the rank of colonel, shall be appointed by the Legislature of each State respectively by whom such forces shall be raised, or in such manner as such State shall direct, and all vacancies shall be filled up by the State which first made the appointment.

ARTICLE VIII

All charges of war, and all other expenses that shall be incurred for the common defence or general welfare, and allowed by the United States in Congress assembled, shall be defrayed out of a common treasury, which shall be supplied by the several States, in proportion to the value of all land within each State, granted to or surveyed for any person, as such land and the buildings and improvements thereon shall be estimated according to such mode as the United States in Congress assembled, shall from time to time direct and appoint.

The taxes for paying that proportion shall be laid and levied by the authority and direction of the Legislatures of the several States within the time agreed upon by the United States in Congress Assembled.

ARTICLE IX

The United States in Congress assembled, shall have the sole and exclusive right and power of determining on peace and war, except in the cases mentioned in the sixth article—of sending and receiving ambassadors—entering into treaties and alliances, provided that no treaty of commerce shall be made whereby the legislative power of the respective States shall be restrained from imposing such imposts and duties on foreigners, as their own people are subjected to, or from prohibiting the exportation or importation of any species of goods or commodities whatsoever—of establishing rules for deciding in all cases, what captures on land or water shall be legal, and in what manner prizes taken by land or naval forces in the service of the United States shall be divided or appropriated—of granting letters of marque and reprisal in times of peace—appointing courts for trial of piracies and felonies committed on the high seas and establishing courts for receiving and determining finally appeals in all cases of captures, provided that no member of Congress shall be appointed a judge of any of the said courts.

The United States in Congress assembled shall also be the last resort on appeal in all disputes and differences now subsisting or that hereafter may arise between two or more States concerning boundary, jurisdiction or any other cause whatever; which authority shall always be exercised in the manner following. Whenever the legislative or executive authority or lawful agent of any State in controversy with another shall present a petition to Congress, stating the matter in question and praying for a hearing, notice thereof shall be given by order of Congress to the legislative or executive authority of the other State in controversy, and a day assigned for the appearance of the parties by their lawful agents, who shall then be directed to appoint by joint consent, commissioners or judges to constitute a court for hearing and determining the matter in question: but if they cannot agree, Congress shall name three persons out of each of the United States, and from the list of such persons each party shall alternately strike out one, the petitioners beginning, until the number shall be reduced to thirteen; and from that number not less than seven, nor more than nine names as Congress shall direct, shall, in the presence of Congress be drawn out by lot, and the persons whose names shall be so drawn or any five of them, shall be commissioners or judges, to hear and finally determine the controversy, so always as a major part of the judges who shall hear the cause shall agree in the determination: and if either party shall neglect to attend at the day appointed, without showing reasons, which Congress shall judge sufficient, or being present shall refuse to strike, the Congress shall proceed to nominate three persons out of each State, and the Secretary of Congress shall strike in behalf of such party absent or refusing; and the judgment and sentence of the court to be appointed, in the manner before prescribed, shall be final and conclusive; and if any of the parties shall refuse to submit to the authority of such court, or to appear or defend their claim or cause, the court shall nevertheless proceed to pronounce sentence, or judgment, which shall in like manner be final and decisive, the judgment or sentence and other proceedings being in either case transmitted to Congress, and lodged among the acts of Congress for the security of the parties concerned: provided that every commissioner, before he sits in judgment, shall take an oath to be administered by one of the judges of the supreme court of the State where the cause shall be tried, "well and truly to hear and determine the matter in question, according to the best of his judgment, without favour, affection or hope of reward:" provided also that no State shall be deprived of territory for the benefit of the United States.

All controversies concerning the private right of soil claimed under different grants of two or more States, whose jurisdiction as they may respect such lands, and the States which passed such grants are adjusted, the said grants or either of them being at the same time claimed to have originated antecedent to such settlement of jurisdiction, shall on the petition of either party to the Congress of the United States, be finally determined as near as may be in the same manner as is before prescribed for deciding disputes respecting territorial jurisdiction between different States.

The United States in Congress assembled shall also have the sole and exclusive right and power of regulating the alloy and value of coin struck by their own authority, or by that of the respective States.—fixing the standard of weights and measures throughout the United States.—regulating the trade and managing all affairs with the Indians, not members of any of the States, provided that the legislative right of any State within its own limits be not infringed or violated—establishing and regulating post-offices from one State to another, throughout all the United States, and exacting such postage on the papers passing thro' the same as may be requisite to defray the expenses of the said office—appointing all officers of the land forces, in the service of the United States, excepting regimental officers—appointing all the officers of the naval forces, and commissioning all officers whatever in the service of the United States—making rules for the government and regulation of the said land and naval forces, and directing their operations.

The United States in Congress assembled shall have authority to appoint a committee, to sit in the recess of Congress, to be denominated "a Committee of the States," and to consist of one delegate from each State; and to appoint such other committees and civil officers as may be necessary for managing the general affairs of the United States under their direction—to appoint one of their number to preside, provided that no person be allowed to serve in the office of president more than one year in any term of three years; to ascertain the necessary sums of money to be raised for the service of the United States, and to appropriate and apply the same for defraying the public expenses—to borrow money or emit bills on the credit of the United States transmitting every half year to the respective States an account of the sums of money so borrowed or emitted,—to build and equip a navy—to agree upon the number of land forces, and to make requisitions from each State for its quota, in proportion to the number of white inhabitants in such State; which requisition shall be binding, and thereupon the Legislature of each State shall appoint the regimental officers, raise the men and cloath, arm and equip them in a soldier like manner, at the expense of the United States; and the officers and men so cloathed, armed and equipped shall march to the place appointed, and within the time agreed on by the United States in Congress assembled: but if the United States in Congress assembled shall, on consideration of circumstances judge proper that any State should not raise men, or should raise a smaller number than its quota, and that any other State should raise a greater number of men than the quota thereof, such extra number shall be raised, officered, cloathed, armed and equipped in the same manner as the quota of such State, unless the legislature of such State shall judge that such extra number cannot be safely spared out of the same, in which case they shall raise officer, cloath, arm and equip as many of such extra number as they judge can be safely spared. And the officers and men so cloathed, armed, and equipped, shall march to the place appointed, and within the time agreed on by the United States in Congress assembled.

The United States in Congress assembled shall never engage in a war, nor grant letters of marque and reprisal in time of peace, nor enter into any treaties or alliances, nor coin money, nor regulate the value thereof, nor ascertain the sums and expenses necessary for the defence and welfare of the United States, or any of them, nor emit bills, nor borrow money on the credit of the United States, nor appropriate money, nor agree upon the number of vessels of war, to be built or purchased, or the number of land or sea forces to be raised, nor appoint a commander in chief of the army or navy, unless nine States assent to the same: nor shall a question on any other point, except for adjourning from day to day be determined, unless by the votes of a majority of the United States in Congress assembled.

The Congress of the United States shall have power to adjourn to any time within the year, and to any place within the United States, so that no period of adjournment be for a longer duration than the space of six months, and shall publish the journal of their proceedings monthly, except such parts thereof relating to treaties, alliances or military operations, as in their judgment require secresy; and the yeas and nays of the delegates of each State on any question shall be entered on the journal, when it is desired by any delegate; and the delegates of a State, or any of them, at his or her request shall be furnished with a transcript of the said journal, except such parts as are above excepted, to lay before the Legislatures of the several States.

ARTICLE X

The committee of the States, or any nine of them, shall be authorized to execute in the recess of Congress, such of the powers of Congress as the United States in Congress assembled, by the consent of nine States, shall from time to time think expedient to vest them with; provided that no power be delegated to the said committee, for the exercise of which, by the articles of confederation, the voice of nine States in the Congress of the United States assembled is requisite.

ARTICLE XI

Canada acceding to this confederation, and joining in the measures of the United States, shall be admitted into, and entitled to all the advantages of this Union: but no other colony shall be admitted into the same, unless such admission be agreed to by nine States.

ARTICLE XII

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.

ARTICLE XIII

Every State shall abide by the determinations of the United States in Congress assembled, on all questions which by this confederation are submitted to them. And the articles of this confederation shall be inviolably observed by every State, and the Union shall be perpetual; nor shall any alteration at any time hereafter be made in any of them; unless such alteration be agreed to in a Congress of the United States, and be afterwards confirmed by the Legislatures of every State.

And whereas it has pleased the Great Governor of the world to incline the hearts of the Legislatures we respectively represent in Congress, to approve of, and to authorize us to ratify the said articles of confederation and perpetual union. Know ye that we the undersigned delegates, by virtue of the power and authority to us given for that purpose, do by these presents, in the name and in behalf of our respective constituents, fully and entirely ratify and confirm each and every of the said articles of confederation and perpetual union, and all and singular the matters and things therein contained: and we do further solemnly plight and engage the faith of our respective constituents, that they shall abide by the determinations of the United States in Congress assembled, on all questions, which by the said confederation are submitted to them. And that the articles thereof shall be inviolably observed by the States we re[s]pectively represent, and that the Union shall be perpetual.

In witness whereof we have hereunto set our hands in Congress.

Done at Philadelphia in the State of Pennsylvania the ninth day of July in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and seventy-eight, and in the third year of the independence of America.

On the part and behalf of the State of New Hampshire

JOSIAH BARTLETT, August 8th, 1778.
JOHN WENTWORTH, Junr.,

On the part and behalf of the State of Massachusetts Bay

JOHN HANCOCK,     FRANCIS DANA,
SAMUEL ADAMS,     JAMES LOVELL,
ELBRIDGE GERRY,     SAMUEL HOLTEN.

On the part and behalf of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations

WILLIAM ELLERY,     JOHN COLLINS.
HENRY MARCHANT,

On the part and behalf of the State of Connecticut

ROGER SHERMAN,     TITUS HOSMER,
SAMUEL HUNTINGTON,
OLIVER WOLCOTT,     ANDREW ADAMS.

On the part and behalf of the State of New York

JAS. DUANE,     WM. DUER,
FRA. LEWIS,     GOUV. MORRIS.

On the part and in behalf of the State of New Jersey, Novr. 26, 1778

JNO. WITHERSPOON,     NATHL. SCUDDER.

On the part and behalf of the State of Pennsylvania

ROBT. MORRIS,     WILLIAM CLINGAN,
DANIEL ROBERDEAU,     JOSEPH REED,
JONA. BAYARD SMITH,     22d July, 1778.

On the part & behalf of the State of Delaware

THO. M'KEAN, Feby. 12, 1779.
NICHOLAS VAN DYKE.
JOHN DICKINSON, May 5th, 1779

On the part and behalf of the State of Maryland

JOHN HANSON, Mar. 1, 1781.
DANIEL CARROLL, March 1, 1781.

On the part and behalf of the State of Virginia

RICHARD HENRY LEE,     JNO. HARVIE,
JOHN BANISTER,     THOMAS ADAMS,
FRANCIS LIGHTFOOT LEE.

On the part and behalf of the State of No. Carolina

JOHN PENN, July 21st, 1778.
CORNS. HARNETT,     JNO. WILLIAMS.

On the part & behalf of the State of South Carolina

HENRY LAURENS,     RICHD. HUTSON,
WILLIAM HENRY DRAYTON,
JNO. MATHEWS,     THOS. HEYWARD, Junr.

On the part & behalf of the State of Georgia

JNO. WALTON, 24th July, 1778.
EDWD. TELFAIR
EDWD. LANGWORTHY.

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Confederation, Articles of

Articles of Confederation, in U.S. history, ratified in 1781 and superseded by the Constitution of the United States in 1789. The imperative need for unity among the new states created by the American Revolution and the necessity of defining the relative powers of the Continental Congress and the individual states led Congress to entrust the drafting of a federal constitution to a committee headed by John Dickinson. In the Articles of Confederation submitted by the committee to the Second Continental Congress on July 12, 1776, three points provoked much argument—the apportionment of taxes according to population, the granting of one vote to each state, and the right of the federal government to dispose of public lands in the West. After several revisions were made, however, this constitution, comprising a preamble and 13 articles, was adopted by Congress on Nov. 15, 1777. In their final form, the Articles retained the vote by states, but based the apportionment of taxes on the value of buildings and land, and specified that no state should be deprived of territory for the benefit of the United States.

The Articles

The preamble and Article 1 established a perpetual union of the Thirteen Colonies under the style of the United States of America. Article 2 asserted that each state retained its sovereignty and every right not expressly delegated to the central government, while Article 3 characterized the confederation as a "league of friendship," for common defense. In Article 4, the free inhabitants of each state were granted the privileges of free citizens in all the states, extradition was provided for, and it was stipulated that full faith and credit be given the records, acts, and judicial proceedings of the courts of one state by the courts of every other state.

Article 5 provided that each state send annually not less than two nor more than seven delegates to Congress, though each state was to have only one vote. Article 6 left the conduct of war to Congress, and Article 7 empowered the state legislatures to appoint military officers up to and including the rank of colonel. Article 8 provided that the charges of war and other expenses incurred for the common defense should be defrayed out of a common treasury.

Besides placing the conduct of foreign affairs in the hands of Congress, Article 9 authorized a system of settling disputes between states, granted Congress partial control over the currency, sanctioned the establishment of post offices by Congress, and established the Committee of the States, with one delegate from each state, to sit in recess of Congress. The authority of the central government was drastically restricted by this article, which forbade Congress to engage in war, negotiate treaties or alliances, coin money, emit bills of credit, or borrow and appropriate money without obtaining the consent of a majority of the states.

Provisions for the functioning of the Committee of the States and for the possible admission of Canada were made in Articles 10 and 11. Article 12 stated that pecuniary obligations of Congress were to be deemed a charge against the United States. Article 13 stipulated that the Articles of Confederation were to be unanimously ratified by the states before going into effect and that no alteration could be made unless agreed to both by Congress and by the legislature of every state.

By 1779 all the states had ratified the Articles except Maryland, which refused its assent until states claiming territory NW of the Ohio River relinquished their claims, thus guaranteeing the equitable right of all states to the Western lands. When New York, followed by Virginia and Connecticut, offered to cede to Congress its claims to Western territory, Maryland ratified (Mar. 1, 1781) the articles.

Shortcomings

While this constitution was a contribution to the techniques of government and a step toward national unity, most American historians hold that the Articles of Confederation proved wholly unsatisfactory because of the subordinate position occupied by the central government. Congress, dependent upon the states for its funds and for the execution of its decrees, became a legislative-executive body attempting to reconcile the policies of the various states. It could not extend its jurisdiction to individuals, command respect abroad by stabilizing credit, unify foreign and domestic policies, pass navigation regulations, or enforce treaty obligations.

Because of its inherent weaknesses, the government commanded little respect, and its prestige was further diminished by its inability to cope with internal uprisings such as Shays's Rebellion. Many capable statesmen who held key posts—e.g., Robert Morris, John Jay, and Benjamin Lincoln—were thwarted by this organization of government, while others, equally able, shunned service in Congress in favor of state politics. The unanimity rule enabled one state to prevent the passage of a measure desired by all the others. Thus, New York alone blocked the establishment of a vitally important tariff.

When it became apparent that government under the Articles of Confederation was, in the words of George Washington, "little more than the shadow without the substance," agitation for a stronger federal government began. This agitation resulted in the Annapolis Convention of 1786 and the Federal Constitutional Convention of 1787, which drafted the Constitution of the United States. Perhaps the most significant event of the Confederation period was the adoption of the Ordinance of 1787 concerning the Northwest Territory.

Bibliography

See A. Nevins, The American States during and after the Revolution, 1775–1789 (1924, repr. 1971). A more favorable view of the Articles of Confederation is given in the scholarly studies of M. Jensen, The Articles of Confederation (1940, repr. 1963) and The New Nation (1950, repr. 1962). See also study by S. A. Pleasants 3d (1968).

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Articles of Confederation

ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION

ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION. Between September 1774 and June 1776, delegates to the Continental Congress devised and debated several plans for establishing an independent constitutional union among the American colonies. In July 1775, Benjamin Franklin presented Congress with the first written plan for a new national government, the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union. Other plans also were introduced during the following year, but it was not until 11 June 1776 that the Continental Congress appointed one committee to draft the Declaration of Independence and a second committee, composed of a single delegate from each colony, to prepare a plan of confederation. A month later, the latter committee presented Congress with a draft constitution known as the Articles of Confederation. The committee's constitution assigned broad powers to the new national government, including the authority to tax, to determine state boundaries, and to dispose of all other unsettled "Lands for the general Benefit." The draft document also placed restrictions upon the authority of the states; divided national expenses proportionally among the states according to their population; and most contentiously, granted each state delegation a single vote within a unicameral national Congress.

Despite general agreement for the Declaration of Independence and a widespread recognition of the need to provision the military resistance against Great Britain, there was no immediate constitutional consensus concerning the terms of a new national government. Rather, during the next year and one-half, state delegates discussed, debated, and periodically attempted to amend the original draft of the Articles of Confederation. A confluence of factors—including the norms of international protocol, wartime economic disruptions, the possibility of military defeat, and several critical changes in the draft constitution that weakened Congress's authority—helped secure Congress's endorsement of the Articles of Confederation on 15 November 1777. Several state legislatures quickly ratified the Articles, but others expressed strong reservations about one or more of its provisions. Indeed, about half of the states had approved the Articles of Confederation by the 10 March 1778 deadline established by Congress, yet unanimous approval was required to make the Articles effective. One of the most vocal state opponents, Maryland, objected to the lack of national control over the vast western territories and the state withheld its consent until Virginia in January 1781 agreed to a conditional cession of part of its western territorial claims. In March 1781, Maryland became the final state to ratify the Articles of Confederation.

Although the Articles remained in force until the new U.S. Constitution took effect in 1788, many provisions of this first national constitution had enduring constitutional effects. Article I, for example, identified the new union as "the United States of America." Article II determined that "each State retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence." Article III bound the states together into a "league of friendship" for their "common defense, the security of their Liberties, and their mutual and general welfare." Article IV guaranteed free inhabitants "all privileges and immunities" of the other states, and the right to travel freely across state boundaries. Article V granted each state a single vote in Congress. Article VI prohibited the states from making treaties with or war upon other countries without the consent of Congress. Article IX empowered Congress to make war and treaties; to borrow, to coin, and to regulate the value of money; and to appoint the commander in chief of the army or navy. That Article's powers, however, required the consent of nine of the thirteen states. Finally, Article XIII determined that the Articles could be amended with the approval of Congress and the unanimous consent of the state legislatures.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Kromkowski, Charles A. Recreating the American Republic: Rules of Apportionment, Constitutional Change, and American Political Development, 1700–1870. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Matson, Cathy D., and Peter S. Onuf. A Union of Interests: Political and Economic Thought in Revolutionary America. Lawrence: Kansas University Press, 1990.

Rakove, Jack N. The Beginnings of National Politics: An Interpretive History of the Continental Congress. New York: Knopf, 1979.

Charles A.Kromkowski

See alsoConstitution of the United States ; Continental Congress ; andvol. 9:From Annapolis to Philadelphia .

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Articles of Confederation

ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION

The document that set forth the terms under which the original thirteen states agreed to participate in a centralized form of government, in addition to their self-rule, and that was in effect from March 1, 1781, to March 4, 1789, prior to the adoption of the Constitution.

The Articles of Confederation served as the first constitution of the newly formed United States. As it was originally drafted in 1776, the document provided for a strong central government. However, by the time it was ratified in 1781, advocates of states' rights had greatly weakened its provisions. Many of these advocates feared a centralization of power and wished to preserve a great degree of independence and sovereignty for each state. Accordingly, the Articles as they were ratified provided only for a "firm league of friendship," in which, according to article II of the document, "[e]ach State retains its sovereignty, freedom and independence."

The Articles included provisions for military cooperation between the states, freedom of travel, extradition of criminal suspects, and equal privileges and immunities for citizens. They also created a national legislature called the Congress. Each state had one vote in this body, that vote to be determined by a delegation of from two to seven representatives. The Articles called for Congress to conduct foreign relations, maintain a national army and navy, establish and maintain a postal service, and perform a number of other duties. The Articles did not create, as the Constitution later did, executive and judicial branches of government.

The Congress created by the Articles was successful on a number of fronts. In 1783, it negotiated with Great Britain a peace treaty that officially ended the Revolutionary War; it arranged to pay war debts; and it passed the northwest ordinance, which allowed for settlement and statehood in new regions in the western part of the United States. However, with time, it became apparent that the Articles had created an unsatisfactory union of the states, chiefly because they established a weak central government. For example, under the Articles of Confederation, Congress did not have the power to tax or to effectively regulate commerce. The resulting national government did not prove competent at such tasks as raising a military or creating a stable currency. In addition, because amendments to the Articles required a unanimous vote of all thirteen states, the Articles proved to be too inflexible to last.

A series of incidents in the 1780s made it clear to many early U.S. leaders that the Articles of Confederation would not serve as an effective constitution. Among these incidents was shays's rebellion, in 1786–87, an insurrection in which economically depressed farmers demanded debt relief and closed courts of law in western Massachusetts. The Congress of the Confederation was not able to raise a force to respond to this civil unrest, which was later put down by a state militia. george washington and other leaders perceived this as a grievous failure. Therefore, when a constitutional convention assembled in 1787 to amend the Articles, it quickly decided to abandon them altogether in favor of a new constitution. By June 21, 1788, nine states had ratified the new U.S. Constitution and made it effective. It has survived as the basis of U.S. government for over two hundred years.

further readings

Harrigan, John J. 1984. Politics and the American Future. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley.

Kesavan, Vasan. 2002. "When Did the Articles of Confederation Cease to Be Law? Notre Dame Law Review 78 (December): 35–82.

Levy, Michael B. 1982. Political Thought in America: An Anthology. Homewood, Ill.: Dorsey Press.

cross-references

"Articles of Confederation" (Appendix, Primary Document); Constitution; Constitution of the United States; Federalism; Shays's Rebellion; Washington, George.

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Articles of Confederation

ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION

The Articles of Confederation comprised the governing document that was the forerunner to the Constitution of the United States (1789). Drafted by the Second Continental Congress at York, Pennsylvania, on November 15, 1777, the Articles of Confederation went into effect on March 1, 1781, when the last state (Maryland) ratified the document.

The Articles provided the original thirteen states (Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Virginia) with more power than the central government. Each state was given sovereignty and one vote in Congress. Congress, unable to levy taxes, had to rely on the states to do so. It was also left to the states to carry out the acts of Congress, whose powers were limited to declaring war and peace, managing foreign relations, commanding the military (an army and a navy), and issuing and borrowing money. But Congress had no authority to regulate commerce and each state was free to set up its own taxes, tariffs, and trade policies.

The inadequacies of the Articles of Confederation became clear in the first few years after they went into effect. In particular, as the post-war economy suffered a depression, the non-payment of farm mortgages and of taxes led to courts seizing the property of their citizens. This enraged the farming population, many of whom were veterans of the American Revolution (17751783). Many of these hard pressed farmers decided that the present government was no better than the British had been.

The most significant manifestation of this discontent was Shay's Rebellion (17861787). Daniel Shays, who had been a captain in the Continental Army, led a band of several thousand disgruntled farmers throughout western Massachusetts stopping the courts from seizing land for non-payment of taxes. The money to put down the rebellion had to be loaned to the Continental Congress by Boston bankers. This crisis convinced many of the political leaders of the new nation to conclude that the Articles of Confederation had to be revised. Once the process of revision was underway, the entire document was replaced by the Constitution.

James Madison (17511736) was among those who realized that the Articles made for a weak national government. He and others such as Alexander Hamilton (17551804) led the movement to change that orientation even at the expense of the states. Eventually, Hamilton and Madison won the backing of the other leaders like George Washington (17321799), John Jay (17451829), and Thomas Jefferson (17431836). Thus, political consensus among the political elite of the new nation led to the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention (1787), where the U.S. Constitution was drawn up.

One lasting provision of the Articles of Confederation was the Ordinance of 1787. Adopted early in the era of westward expansion, the ordinance established guidelines for how the nation could enlarge itself. Un-surveyed wilderness would eventually attract settlers. A legislature would be elected as soon as the population included five thousand voting citizens (men only) and the territory would be eligible for statehood once its population had reached sixty thousand.

See also: Constitution, Continental Congress (Second), Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, Shays' Rebellion, George Washington

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Articles of Confederation

Articles of Confederation (1781) First Federal constitution of the USA, drafted by the Continental Congress in 1777. Distrust of central authority and state rivalries produced a weak central government, with Congress dependent on the states and unable to enforce its own legislation. Alexander Hamilton and James Madison analysed the weakness of the Articles in The Federalist, and the Constitutional Convention met in 1787 to draft the Constitution of the United States.

http://www.usconstitution.net/articles.html

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Confederation, Articles of

Confederation, Articles of See Articles of Confederation

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Articles of Confederation

Articles of Confederation

The Articles of Confederation, written in 1776, became the first constitution adopted by the rebelling American colonies to unite them under a common government. The Articles bridged the gap between the time the thirteen colonies broke from Great Britain in 1776 and adopted the Constitution of the United States of America in 1788.

Prior to the revolutionary period, the American colonies functioned separately. By standing together against the imperial conduct of Great Britain during the 1760s and 1770s, the colonies began to feel a sense of unity. As talk of independence spread, revolutionaries turned their thoughts to establishing a new nation.

Beginning in May 1775, delegates from the colonies gathered at the Second Continental Congress to discuss independence from Britain and to define an independent government. (See Continental Congress, Second .) While one committee produced the Declaration of Independence , another sought to create a document that would bring the independent states together under a central government.

A first draft of the Articles of Confederation was presented as early as July 12, 1776. Congress approved a final draft and sent it to the states on November 15, 1777. Every state was required to ratify, or accept, the document before it became official. The American Revolution (1775–83) and political differences between the states delayed ratification (acceptance) for nearly five years. Congress started to function as defined by the Articles as soon as a majority of states had accepted it, but the document was not fully ratified until March 1, 1781.

The Articles of Confederation reflected the conflicts between the colonies and the imposing rule of the British government. State independence was well protected under the Articles. States maintained control over imposing taxes, regulating commerce, and enlisting troops. States were to support national efforts through participation of their delegates at Congress and contributions of their troops and money to the central government.

Under the Articles, there were no balanced branches of government; Congress was the national government. Congress held power over war, foreign policy, foreign loans, regulation of money, and Indian trade. Each state sent two to seven delegates to Congress annually, but each state had only one vote. A simple majority of states normally decided issues, although for the most important ones the consent of nine states was required. Amendments to the Articles of Confederation required unanimous support.

The national government established by the Articles struggled to assert enough control to accomplish its tasks. Dependent on the generosity of the states for war expenses, soldiers, and military supplies, Congress had trouble managing the Revolutionary War. The politics of congressional committees, constantly changing delegates, and the nine-state requirement for approving some changes further hampered Congress's ability to function.

In spite of the difficulties presented by the Articles of Confederation, Congress functioned well enough to carry the new nation through its first years. Congress successfully organized a federal government and raised an army that waged an eventually victorious war. Congress took charge of negotiating foreign alliances and loans with France and other nations, as well as a peace treaty with Great Britain in September 1783. Congress worked to bring national stability and unity with such institutions as a national bank and a standard currency.

Eventually, however, the men who controlled the national government wanted it to have greater powers. With support from influential men such as George Washington (1732–1799; served 1789–97), the states called for a national constitutional convention in 1787. The Constitution written at that convention was ratified by the states in 1788, turning the Articles from a functional document into a historical one.

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Articles of Confederation

Articles of Confederation

Issued by the Second Continental Congress

Agreed to November 15, 1777; ratified and in effect March 1, 1781

Excerpted from American Memory (CD-ROM)

"The said States hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other, for their common defense, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other, against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretense whatever."

From the Articles of Confederation

Before the United States declared its independence in July 1776, each colony ran its own affairs. The closest thing the colonies had to a national government was the British Parliament. After their bad experiences with Parliament, which led to the outbreak of revolution, the colonies were not inclined to trust a strong national government; they preferred to keep power for themselves. But after declaring independence from England and its laws, Congress knew itself to be just a group of men without clearly defined authority or a constitution that would make Congress a legal body. This was going to make it very difficult to run a war.

Clearly, some kind of document was needed to help guide the new states through a war and the formation of a new country. Richard Henry Lee (1732–1794) proposed the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union (usually referred to simply as the Articles of Confederation) at the same time he offered the resolution for independence (June 1776) quoted earlier. A month later, John Dickinson (1732–1808) was appointed to a committee to study the idea of confederation (the union of a group of states for a common purpose). After a month of study, the first draft of the Articles was presented to Congress for consideration and adoption.

The first draft provided for a strong central government. Congress adopted a revised draft on November 15, 1777, that seemed to give the federal government many powers but actually made it secondary to the states.

Under the proposed Articles of Confederation, the states agreed to defend one another against outside threats. Citizens of each state would enjoy the same rights and privileges in every state, including the freedom to come and go from one state to another. There would be free trade among states, with no one paying higher taxes on trade than anyone else. The Articles also proposed a common treasury to pay for the expenses of government—expenses for "the common defense, or general welfare." Each state would pay into the treasury in proportion to the state's land area. That proposal would cause considerable controversy in the debate over adopting the Articles.

Things to remember while reading the Articles of Confederation:

  • While Congress was considering the document, word came that British general Sir William Howe (1729–1814) wished to discuss a compromise of the dispute between Great Britain and America. Massachusetts congressman John Adams (1735–1826), who was opposed to any such compromise, was appointed, along with fellow Continental congressmen Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790) and Edward Rutledge (1749–1800), to represent "the free, independent States of America" in a conference with Howe. Upon meeting with Howe, the congressmen were informed, according to Adams, that Howe "could not confer with Us as Members of Congress, or public Characters, but only as private Persons and British subjects." Howe proposed only that "the Colonies should return to their Allegiance and Obedience to the Government of Great Britain." Adams responded that this "was not now to be expected." The conference ended with no resolution. As a result, everyone's attention turned to conducting a war and away from the Articles of Confederation.
  • As expected, the difficulties of running a war without a central government soon became obvious. Whenever Congress requested the states to send money or supplies for soldiers, for example, many people in the states complained that the congressmen were reckless power seekers. On top of this, members of Congress fought constantly among themselves throughout the entire war. They grew irritable at the long hours they had to work—without pay. Their surroundings were uncomfortable and they were far from home and family. Wartime shortages made living difficult. As was true with the soldiers who fought the war, from time to time members of Congress would return home, to be replaced with amateurs. Under the circumstances, it was truly remarkable that they got anything done.
  • Debate over the Articles lasted for more than a year. Congress was repeatedly interrupted by more immediate concerns having to do with the war. Many congressmen feared their colonies would suffer if a republican, or central, government was established. Others believed the nation was simply too large to be adequately governed by the republican form of government that was being proposed. In such a form of government, power rests with the people, who exercise their power through elected representatives. Many citizens feared that legislators (law makers) of a large republic would lose touch with the people they represented, and soon those legislators would become tyrants.
  • The reality of the war finally won out over the fears of a central government. Wartime required instant decision making as well as foreign aid. The country had to have people who would be recognized by foreign countries as lawful representatives of an American government and therefore eligible to ask for assistance. Otherwise, foreign leaders might consider Americans to be British subjects. Furthermore, a feeling of nationalism was growing—the sense that America was and should be a united nation, not thirteen separate colonies.
  • Six versions of the Articles were prepared, and Congress settled on the final version, which follows, in 1777.

Articles of Confederation

To all to whom these Presents shall come, we the undersigned Delegates of the States affixed to our Names send greeting. Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union between the states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts-bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.

I. The Stile of this Confederacy shall be "The United States of America."

II. Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.

III. The said States hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other, for their common defense, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other, against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretense whatever.

IV. The better to secure and perpetuate mutual friendship and intercourse among the people of the different States in this Union, the free inhabitants of each of these States, paupers, vagabonds, and fugitives from justice excepted, shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of free citizens in the several States; and the people of each State shall have free ingress and regress to and from any other State, and shall enjoy therein all the privileges of trade and commerce, subject to the same duties, impositions, and restrictions as the inhabitants thereof respectively, provided that such restrictions shall not extend so far as to prevent the removal of property imported into any State, to any other State, of which the owner is an inhabitant; provided also that no imposition, duties or restriction shall be laid by any State, on the property of the United States, or either of them.

If any person guilty of, or charged with, treason, felony, or other high misdemeanor in any State, shall flee from justice, and be found in any of the United States, he shall, upon demand of the Governor or executive power of the State from which he fled, be delivered up and removed to the State having jurisdiction of his offense.

Full faith and credit shall be given in each of these States to the records, acts, and judicial proceedings of the courts and magistrates of every other State.

V. For the most convenient management of the general interests of the United States, delegates shall be annually appointed in such manner as the legislatures of each State shall direct, to meet in Congress on the first Monday in November, in every year, with a power reserved to each State to recall its delegates, or any of them, at any time within the year, and to send others in their stead for the remainder of the year.

No State shall be represented in Congress by less than two, nor more than seven members; and no person shall be capable of being a delegate for more than three years in any term of six years; nor shall any person, being a delegate, be capable of holding any office under the United States, for which he, or another one for his benefit, receives any salary, fees or emolument of any kind.

Each State shall maintain its own delegates in a meeting of the States, and while they act as members of the committee of the States.

In determining questions in the United States in Congress assembled, each State shall have one vote.

Freedom of speech and debate in Congress shall not be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Congress, and the members of Congress shall be protected in their persons from arrests or imprisonments, during the time of their going to and from, and attendance on Congress, except for treason, felony, or breach of the peace.

VI. No State, without the consent of the United States in Congress assembled, shall send any embassy to, or receive any embassy from, or enter into any conference, agreement, alliance or treaty with any King, Prince or State; nor shall any person holding any office of profit or trust under the United States, or any of them, accept any present, emolument, office or title of any kind whatever from any King, Prince or foreign State; nor shall the United States in Congress assembled, or any of them, grant any title of nobility.

No two or more States shall enter into any treaty, confederation or alliance whatever between them, without the consent of the United States in Congress assembled, specifying accurately the purposes for which the same is to be entered into, and how long it shall continue.

No State shall lay any imposts or duties, which may interfere with any stipulations in treaties, entered into by the United States inCongress assembled, with any King, Prince or State, in pursuance of any treaties already proposed by Congress, to the courts of France and Spain.

No vessel of war shall be kept up in time of peace by any State, except such number only, as shall be deemed necessary by the United States in Congress assembled, for the defense of such State, or its trade; nor shall any body of forces be kept up by any State in time of peace, except such number only, as in the judgement of the United States in Congress assembled, shall be deemed requisite to garrison the forts necessary for the defense of such State; but every State shall always keep up a well-regulated and disciplined militia, sufficiently armed and accoutered, and shall provide and constantly have ready for use, in public stores, a due number of field pieces and tents, and a proper quantity of arms, ammunition and camp equipage.

No State shall engage in any war without the consent of the United States in Congress assembled, unless such State be actually invaded by enemies, or shall have received certain advice of a resolution being formed by some nation of Indians to invade such State, and the danger is so imminent as not to admit of a delay till the United States in Congress assembled can be consulted; nor shall any State grant commissions to any ships or vessels of war, nor letters of marque or reprisal, except it be after a declaration of war by the United States in Congress assembled, and then only against the Kingdom or State and the subjects thereof, against which war has been so declared, and under such regulations as shall be established by the United States in Congress assembled, unless such State be infested by pirates, in which case vessels of war may be fitted out for that occasion, and kept so long as the danger shall continue, or until the United States in Congress assembled shall determine otherwise.

VII. When land forces are raised by any State for the common defense, all officers of or under the rank of colonel, shall be appointed by the legislature of each State respectively, by whom such forces shall be raised, or in such manner as such State shall direct, and all vacancies shall be filled up by the State which first made the appointment.

VIII. All charges of war, and all other expenses that shall be incurred for the common defense or general welfare, and allowed by the United States in Congress assembled, shall be defrayed out of a common treasury, which shall be supplied by the several States in proportion to the value of all land within each State, granted or surveyed for any person, as such land and the buildings and improvements thereon shall be estimated according to such mode as theUnited States in Congress assembled, shall from time to time direct and appoint.

The taxes for paying that proportion shall be laid and levied by the authority and direction of the legislatures of the several States within the time agreed upon by the United States in Congress assembled.

IX. The United States in Congress assembled, shall have the sole and exclusive right and power of determining on peace and war, except in the cases mentioned in the sixth article—of sending and receiving ambassadors—entering into treaties and alliances, provided that no treaty of commerce shall be made whereby the legislative power of the respective States shall be restrained from imposing such imposts and duties on foreigners, as their own people are subjected to, or from prohibiting the exportation or importation of any species of goods or commodities whatsoever—of establishing rules for deciding in all cases, what captures on land or water shall be legal, and in what manner prizes taken by land or naval forces in the service of the United States shall be divided or appropriated —of granting letters of marque and reprisal in times of peace—appointing courts for the trial of piracies and felonies committed on the high seas and establishing courts for receiving and determining finally appeals in all cases of captures, provided that no member of Congress shall be appointed a judge of any of the said courts.

The United States in Congress assembled shall also be the last resort on appeal in all disputes and differences now subsisting or that hereafter may arise between two or more States concerning boundary, jurisdiction or any other causes whatever; which authority shall always be exercised in the manner following. Whenever the legislative or executive authority or lawful agent of any State in controversy with another shall present a petition to Congress stating the matter in question and praying for a hearing, notice thereof shall be given by order of Congress to the legislative or executive authority of the other State in controversy, and a day assigned for the appearance of the parties by their lawful agents, who shall then be directed to appoint by joint consent, commissioners or judges to constitute a hearing and determining the matter in question: but if they cannot agree, Congress shall name three persons out of each of the United States, and from the list of such persons each party shall alternately strike out one, the petitioners beginning, until the number shall be reduced to thirteen; and from that number not less than seven, nor more than nine names as Congress shall direct, shall in the Congressbe drawn out by lot, and the persons whose names shall be so drawn or any five of them, shall be commissioners or judges, to hear and finally determine the controversy, so always as a major part of the judges who shall hear the cause shall agree in the determination; and if either party shall neglect to attend at the day appointed, without showing reasons, which Congress shall judge sufficient, or being present shall refuse to strike, the Congress shall proceed to nominate three persons out of each State, and the secretary of Congress shall strike in behalf of such party absent or refusing; and the judgement and sentence of the court to be appointed, in the manner before prescribed, shall be final and conclusive; and if any of the parties shall refuse to submit to the authority of such court, or to appear or defend their claim or cause, the court shall nevertheless proceed to pronounce sentence, or judgement, which shall in like manner be final and decisive, the judgement or sentence and other proceedings being in either case transmitted to Congress lodged among the acts of Congress for the security of the parties concerned; provided that every commissioner, before he sits in judgement, shall take an oath, to be administered by one of the judges of the supreme or superior court of the State, where the cause shall be tried, "well and truly to hear and determine the matter in question, according to the best of his judgement, without favor, affection, or hope of reward,": provided also that no State shall be deprived of territory for the benefit of the United States.

All controversies concerning the private right of soil claimed under different grants of two or more States, whose jurisdictions as they may respect such lands, and the States which have passed such grants are adjusted, the said grants or either of them being at the same time claimed to have originated antecedent to such settlement of jurisdiction, shall on the petition of either party to the Congress of the United States, be finally determined as near as may be in the same manner as is before prescribed for deciding disputes respecting territorial jurisdiction between different States.

The United States in Congress assembled shall also have the sole and exclusive right and power of regulating the alloy and value of coin struck by their own authority, or by that of the respective States— fixing the standards of weights and measures throughout the United States—regulating the trade and managing all affairs with the Indians, [who are] not members of any of the States, provided that the legislative right of any State within its own limits be not infringed or violated —establishing or regulating post offices fromone State to another, throughout all the United States, and exacting such postage on the papers passing through the same as may be requisite to defray the expenses of the said office —appointing all officers of the land forces, in the service of the United States, excepting regimental officers —appointing all the officers of the naval forces, and commissioning all officers whatever in the service of the United States—making rules for the government and regulation of the said land and naval forces, and directing their operations.

The United States in Congress assembled shall have authority to appoint a committee, to sit in the recess of Congress, to be denominated 'A Committee of the States,' and to consist of one delegate from each State; and to appoint such other committees and civil officers as may be necessary for managing the general affairs of the United States under their direction—to appoint one of their members to preside, provided that no person be allowed to serve in the office of president more than one year in any term of three years; to ascertain the necessary sums of money to be raised for the service of the United States, and to appropriate and apply the same for defraying the public expenses—to borrow money, or emit bills on the credit of the United States, transmitting every half-year to the respective States an account of the sums of money so borrowed or emitted—to build and equip a navy—to agree upon the number of land forces, and to make requisitions from each State for its quota, in proportion to the number of white inhabitants in such State; which requisition shall be binding, and thereupon the legislature of each State shall appoint the regimental officers, raise the men and cloath, arm and equip them in a solid-like manner, at the expense of the United States; and the officers and men so cloathed, armed and equipped shall march to the place appointed, and within the time agreed on by the United States in Congress assembled. But if the United States in Congress assembled shall, on consideration of circumstances judge proper that any State should not raise men, or should raise a smaller number of men than the quota thereof, such extra number shall be raised, officered, cloathed, armed and equipped in the same manner as the quota of each State, unless the legislature of such State shall judge that such extra number cannot be safely spread out in the same, in which case they shall raise, officer, cloath, arm and equip as many of such extra number as they judge can be safely spared. And the officers and men so cloathed, armed, and equipped, shall march to the place appointed, and within the time agreed on by the United States in Congress assembled.

The United States in Congress assembled shall never engage in a war, nor grant letters of marque or reprisal in time of peace, nor enter into any treaties or alliances, nor coin money, nor regulate the value thereof, nor ascertain the sums and expenses necessary for the defense and welfare of the United States, or any of them, nor emit bills, nor borrow money on the credit of the United States, nor appropriate money, nor agree upon the number of vessels of war, to be built or purchased, or the number of land or sea forces to be raised, nor appoint a commander in chief of the army or navy, unless nine States assent to the same; nor shall a question on any other point, except for adjourning from day to day be determined, unless by the votes of the majority of the United States in Congress assembled.

The Congress of the United States shall have power to adjourn to any time within the year, and to any place within the United States, so that no period of adjournment be for a longer duration than the space of six months, and shall publish the journal of their proceedings monthly, except such parts thereof relating to treaties, alliances or military operations, as in their judgement require secrecy; and the yeas and nays of the delegates of each State on any question shall be entered on the journal, when it is desired by any delegates of a State, or any of them, at his or their request shall be furnished with a transcript of the said journal, except such parts as are above excepted, to lay before the legislatures of the several States.

X. The Committee of the States, or any nine of them, shall be authorized to execute, in the recess of Congress, such of the powers of Congress as the United States in Congress assembled, by the consent of the nine States, shall from time to time think expedient to vest them with; provided that no power be delegated to the said Committee, for the exercise of which, by the Articles of Confederation, the voice of nine States in the Congress of the United States assembled be requisite.

XI. Canada acceding to this confederation, and adjoining in the measures of the United States, shall be admitted into, and entitled to all the advantages of this Union; but no other colony shall be admitted into the same, unless such admission be agreed to by nine States.

XII. 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.

XIII. Every State shall abide by the determination of the United States in Congress assembled, on all questions which by this confederationare submitted to them. And the Articles of this Confederation shall be inviolably observed by every State, and the Union shall be perpetual; nor shall any alteration at any time hereafter be made in any of them; unless such alteration be agreed to in a Congress of the United States, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every State.

And Whereas it hath pleased the Great Governor of the World to incline the hearts of the legislatures we respectively represent in Congress, to approve of, and to authorize us to ratify the said Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union. Know Ye that we the under-signed delegates, by virtue of the power and authority to us given for that purpose, do by these presents, in the name and in behalf of our respective constituents, fully and entirely ratify and confirm each and every of the said Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union, and all and singular the matters and things therein contained: And we do further solemnly plight and engage the faith of our respective constituents, that they shall abide by the determinations of the United States in Congress assembled, on all questions, which by the said Confederation are submitted to them. And that the Articles thereof shall be inviolably observed by the States we respectively represent, and that the Union shall be perpetual.

In Witness whereof we have hereunto set our hands in Congress. Done at Philadelphia in the State of Pennsylvania the ninth day of July in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy-Eight, and in the Third Year of the independence of America.

Agreed to by Congress 15 November 1777

In force after ratification by Maryland, 1 March 1781

[The Articles of Confederation were signed by forty-eight representatives of the thirteen colonies. In alphabetical order by state, they were:

Connecticut: Andrew Adams, Titus Hosmer, Samuel Huntington, Roger Sherman, and Oliver Wolcott; Delaware: John Dickinson, Thomas McKean, and Nicholas Van Dyke; Georgia: Edward Lang-worthy, Edward Telfair, and John Walton; Maryland: Daniel Carroll and John Hanson; Massachusetts: Samuel Adams, Francis Dana, Elbridge Gerry, John Hancock, Samuel Holten, and James Lovell; New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett and John Wentworth, Jr.; New Jersey: Nathaniel Scudder and John Witherspoon; New York: James Duane, William Duer, Francis Lewis, and Gouverneur Morris; North Carolina: Cornelius Harnett, John Penn, and John Williams; Pennsylvania:William Clingan, Robert Morris, Joseph Reed, Daniel Roberdeau, and John Bayard Smith; Rhode Island: John Collins, William Ellery, and Henry Marchant; South Carolina: William Henry Drayton, Thomas Heyward, Jr., Richard Hutson, Henry Laurens, and John Mathews; and Virginia: Thomas Adams, John Banister, John Harvie, Francis Lightfoot Lee, and Richard Henry Lee.] (American Journey [CD-ROM])

What happened next …

The Articles of Confederation had to be submitted to the thirteen states for approval. By 1779, the document had been approved by all the states except Maryland—and Maryland was stubbornly opposed. For two years, it seemed that the Articles of Confederation would fail because of Maryland's opposition. Maryland's point was this: Land west of the thirteen states should belong to the new United States, not to Virginia, the Carolinas, Georgia, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, all of whom claimed to extend to the Mississippi River. Maryland's representatives said they would not sign until the states with western land claims gave up their claims to the United States. One by one they did, and with this issue resolved, Maryland ratified the Articles, and they went into effect on March 1, 1781.

The Articles did not resolve all of the problems that had faced the First and Second Continental Congresses. The new Congress could still not levy taxes. Its operating funds would come from the states; each state would contribute according to the worth of privately owned land within its borders. But Congress now had power over foreign relations and could now make agreements with foreign governments. It could wage war and make peace, raise an army and navy, make money, set up a postal service, and it had many other powers it did not have before. The new country was governed by these Articles until Congress's next great document, the Constitution, was adopted in 1788.

The Continental Congresses were unique bodies in world history. They forged a new nation from thirteen separate colonies. Making up rules as they went along, with little authority or money, the Second Congress managed to direct and win a war against the mighty British Empire, then the most powerful nation in the world. Along the way, the Revolutionary Congresses composed several great documents that were the forerunners of the American Constitution. That document has lasted more than two hundred years as the basic law of the land.

Did you know …

  • The Articles of Confederation that were eventually adopted were largely the work of John Dickinson, who had been responsible for so many other congressional documents and political writings (see p. 63). John Adams was not on the committee that drafted the document, but as usual, he had much to say on the topic. He wrote his wife Abigail, explaining the major point that had kept the delegates arguing for so long. "If a confederation should take place, one great question is, how we shall vote," he told her. "Whether each colony shall count one; or whether each shall have a weight in proportion to its number, or wealth, or exports and imports, or a compound ratio of all."
  • Dickinson had proposed a system of one colony, one vote. Adams held that the delegates to Congress represented all the people, not the states, and that voting should be proportionate to a state's population. In the end, Dickinson's point of view carried the day.
  • The Articles contained a provision for the admission of Canada to the confederation. Americans had long fooled themselves that Canada, a British possession but home to mostly French speakers, would wish to become "the fourteenth colony." Surely, they thought, these people would want to throw off British domination, too! In 1775, the Second Continental Congress had prepared an address to the "oppressed Inhabitants of Canada." In it, Canadians were told: "We yet entertain hopes of your uniting with us in the defence of our common liberty." But the Canadians were not interested in Congress's proposal. Undaunted, in 1777, Congress again had invited them to join the confederation.
  • The 1781 ratification of the Articles of Confederation ended the Second Continental Congress. On March 2, 1781, it became "The United States in Congress Assembled."

Where to Learn More

American Journey (CD-ROM). Woodbridge, CT: Primary Source Media, 1995.

Boatner, Mark M. "Indians in the Colonial Wars and in the Revolution" in Encyclopedia of the American Revolution. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1994.

Burnett, Edmund Cody. The Continental Congress. New York: Norton, 1964.

Dictionary of American Biography. 21 volumes. New York: Scribner's, 1957.

Draper, Theodore. A Struggle for Power: The American Revolution. New York: Times Books, 1996.

"Journals of the Continental Congress—In Thirty-Four Volumes." [Online] http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/amlaw/lwjclink.html (accessed on March 19, 2000).

Marrin, Albert. The War for Independence: The Story of the American Revolution. New York: Atheneum, 1988.

Meltzer, Milton, ed. The American Revolutionaries: A History in Their Own Words, 1750–1800. New York: HarperTrophy, reprint edition, 1993.

Montross, Lynn. The Reluctant Rebels: The Story of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1950.

Revolutionary War Documents on the World Wide Web

One of the most interesting ways to start learning about the American Revolution is by looking at the historical documents produced during the Revolutionary period. But this information is housed in libraries, museums, and other places that are available only to the few who can afford the time and money to go and view the documents in person. But in an exciting development, the Internet is making these documents available to all. One of the leaders in the movement to share this knowledge with the world is the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

The Library of Congress, the inspiration of Thomas Jefferson, is the largest library in the United States. It is supported mainly by federal money, and it serves both Congress and the public. The Library of Congress owns 117 million items of all kinds relating to American history, including photographs of famous people and old baseball cards. Approximately four million of these items are available to users of the World Wide Web through the National Digital Library Program.

The American Memory Historical Collections (http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/amhome.html) is a major part of the National Digital Library Program. In the collection entitled "Documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, 1774–1789" (http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/bdsds/bdsdhome.html), all sorts of historical documents, including early printed versions of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, are available for viewing. Text versions of these documents are also available at this site.

Another Web site that features documents that range from newspaper articles to political documents is called Archiving Early America (http://earlyamerica.com/). At http://odur.let.rug.nl/~welling/usa/, users can find biographies, essays, and links to Revolutionary War–era documents. Finally, Yale Law School's Avalon Project features documents relating to law, history, government, and other topics (http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/avalon.htm).

Native Americans in the Revolution

When it became clear that a war with Great Britain was likely, members of the Second Continental Congress knew they would have problems with Native Americans. They knew that the Natives had many grievances against the colonists, because American settlers trespassed on their land and American traders cheated them. The Natives were friendlier towards England, who in 1763 had promised to keep American colonists out of lands claimed by the Natives west of the Appalachian Mountains.

The congressmen knew they were not likely to get cooperation from the Native Americans in a war, but they hoped to at least get neutrality (non-involvement) from them. So, Congress appointed commissioners to go out and deliver this speech to the Indians:

Brothers and friends! … This is a family quarrel between us and Old England. You Indians are not concerned in it. We don't wish you to take up the hatchet against the king's troops. We desire you to remain at home, and not join on either side, but keep the hatchet buried deep…. Brothers, observe well! What is itwe have asked of you? Nothing but peace … and if application should be made to you by any of the king's unwise and wicked ministers to join on their side, we only advise you to deliberate [think it over and discuss], with great caution, and in your wisdom look forward to the consequences of a compliance. For if the king's troops take away our property, and destroy us who are of the same blood as themselves, what can you, who are Indians, expect from them afterwards?"

The speech brought little if any good results for the Americans. Most of the tribes who joined the fight sided with Great Britain. The result was, when the war ended, the new American nation looked upon the Indians as enemies, no matter which side they had supported, and the Indians' British allies showed little gratitude for their help in the conflict.

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Articles of Confederation

ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION

On March 1, 1781, Congress proclaimed ratification of the constitution for a confederation named "the United States of America." People celebrated with fireworks and toasts, and a Philadelphia newspaper predicted that the day would forever be memorialized "in the annals of America.…" Another newspaper gave thanks because the states had at last made perpetual a union begun by the necessities of war.

The war was only three months old when benjamin franklin proposed the first continental constitution. He called it "Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union," a name that stuck. Because the war was then being fought to achieve a reconciliation with England on American terms, Congress would not even consider Franklin's plan. But a year later, when Congress appointed a committee to frame a declaration of independence, it also appointed a committee, consisting of one member from each state, to prepare "the form of a confederation to be entered into by these colonies." john dickinson of Pennsylvania, whom the committee entrusted to draft the document, borrowed heavily from Franklin's plan and seems not to have been influenced by other committee members. One complained that Dickinson's plan involved "the Idea of destroying all Provincial Distinctions and making every thing of the most minute kind bend to what they call the good of the whole."

Dickinson was a "nationalist" in the sense that he believed that a strong central government was needed to build a union that could effectively manage its own affairs and compete with other nations. Congress, which was directing the war, became the hub of the Confederation. It was a unicameral house in which each state delegation had a single vote, making the states equal, and Dickinson proposed no change. Franklin, by contrast, had recommended that representation in Congress be apportioned on the basis of population, with each delegate having one vote. Dickinson carried over Franklin's generous allocation of powers to Congress, except for a power over "general commerce." Neither Franklin nor Dickinson recommended a general tax power. Congress requisitioned monies from each state for a common treasury, leaving each state to raise its share by taxation. Congress had exclusive powers over war and peace, armies and navies, foreign affairs, the decision of disputes between states, admiralty and prize courts, the coinage of money and its value, borrowing money on the credit of the United States, Indian affairs, the western boundaries of the states claiming lands to the Pacific, the acquisition of new territory and the creation of new states, standards of weights and measures, and the post office. Dickinson also recommended a "council of state" or permanent executive agency that would enforce congressional measures and administer financial, diplomatic, and military matters. Dickinson proposed many limitations on state power, mainly to secure effective control over matters delegated to Congress. The states could not, for example, levy imposts or duties that violated treaties of the United States. Even the sovereign power of the states over their internal concerns was limited by the qualification in Article III, the crux of the Dickinson draft: "Each colony [Dickinson always referred to "colony" and not "state"] shall retain and enjoy as much of its present Laws, Rights and Customs, as it may think fit, and reserves to itself the sole and exclusive Regulation and Government of its internal police, in all matters that shall not interfere with the Articles of Confederation." Clearly Dickinson envisioned a confederation in which the states did not master the central government.

Nationalists who supported the Dickinson draft in Congress argued, as did john adams, that the purpose of the confederation was to meld the states into "one common mass. We shall no longer retain our separate individuality" on matters delegated to Congress. The four New England states had the same relation to Congress that "four counties bore to a single state," Adams declared. The states could build roads and enact poor laws but "they have no right to touch upon continental subjects." james wilson, another centralist, contended that the Congress should represent all the people, not the states, because "As to those matters which are referred to Congress, we are not so many states, we are one large state." Few Congressmen were nationalists, however, and few nationalists were consistent. Congressmen from Virginia, the largest state, rejected state equality in favor of proportional representation in Congress with each delegate voting; but because Virginia claimed a western boundary on the Pacific, it rejected the nationalist contention that Congress had succeeded to British sovereignty with respect to the West and should govern it for the benefit of all. Congressmen from Maryland, a small state without western claims, adamantly held to that nationalist position but argued for state equality—one state, one vote—on the issue of representation. How requisitions should be determined also provoked dissension based on little principle other than self-interest.

The disputes over representation, western lands, and the basis for requisitions deadlocked the Congress in 1776. The next year, however, state supremacists who feared centralization won a series of victories that decisively altered the character of the confederation proposed by Dickinson and championed by Franklin, Adams, and Wilson. Dickinson's Article III was replaced by a declaration that "Each State retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled." Thus, colonial control over internal police became state sovereignty over all reserved powers, and the central government received only "expressly delegated" powers rather than implied powers to control even internal police involving matters of continental concern. State supremacists also restricted the power of Congress to make commercial treaties: no treaty could prohibit imports or exports, and no treaty could prevent a state from imposing retaliatory imposts. The revised Articles also scrapped Dickinson's executive branch, accepted the state sovereignty principle that each state cast an equal vote, modified Congress's judicial authority to decide all intercolonial disputes, and denied the power of Congress to fix the western boundaries of states.

Maryland, however, refused to accept the decision on the boundary issue. Although Congress completed the Articles in November 1777, unanimous ratification by state legislatures came hard. By the beginning of 1779, however, Maryland stood alone, the only state that had not ratified, and Maryland was unmovable. As unanimity was necessary, Maryland had the advantage as well as a great cause, the creation of a national domain. In 1780 New York and Connecticut ceded their western lands to the United States. Congress then adopted a report recommending the cession of western claims by other states, and in October 1780, Congress yielded to Maryland by resolving that ceded lands should be disposed of for the common benefit of the United States and be formed into "republican states, which shall become members of the federal union" on equal terms with the original states. Virginia's acceptance in January 1781 was decisive. Maryland ratified.

When Congress had submitted the Articles for ratification its accompanying letter accurately stated that its plan was the best possible under the circumstances; combining "in one general system" the conflicting interests of "a continent divided into so many sovereign … communities" was a "difficulty." The Articles were the product of the american revolution and constituted an extraordinary achievement. Congress had framed the first written constitution that established a federal system of government in which the sovereign powers were distributed between the central and local governments. Those powers that unquestionably belonged to Parliament were delegated to the United States. Under the Articles Congress possessed neither tax nor commerce powers, the two powers that Americans in the final stages of the controversy with Britain refused to recognize in Parliament. Americans were fighting largely because a central government claimed those powers, which Americans demanded for their provincial legislatures. Given the widespread identification of liberty with local autonomy, the commitment to limited government, and the hostility to centralization, the states yielded as much as could be expected at the time. Because Congress represented the states and the people of the states, to deny Congress the power to tax was not logical, but the opposition to centralized powers of taxation was so fierce that even nationalists supported the requisition system. "It takes time," as john jay remarked, "to make sovereigns of subjects."

The sovereignty claimed by the states existed—within a limited sphere of authority. The Articles made the United States sovereign, too, within its sphere of authority: it possessed "sole and exclusive" power over fundamental matters such as foreign affairs, war and peace, western lands, and Indian affairs. The reservation of some sovereign powers in the states meant the surrender of other sovereign powers to the central government. Americans believed that sovereignty was divisible and divided it. In part, federalism is a system of divided sovereign powers. The Articles had many defects, the greatest of which was that the United States acted on the states rather than the people and had no way of making the states or anyone but soldiers obey. The failure to create executive and judicial branches, the requirement for unanimity for amendments, and the refusal to concede to Congress what had been denied to Parliament resulted in the eventual breakdown of the Articles. They were, nevertheless, a necessary stage in the evolution of the Constitution of 1787 and contained many provisions that were carried over into that document.

(See constitutional history, 1776–1789.)

Leonard W. Levy
(1986)

Bibliography

Henderson, H. James 1974 Party Politics in the Continental Congress. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Jensen, Merrill 1963 (1940) Articles of Confederation: An Interpretation of the Social-Constitutional History of the American Revolution. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

Rakove, Jack N. 1979 The Beginnings of National Politics: An Interpretive History of the Continental Congress. New York: Knopf.

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Articles of Confederation

ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION

The first postcolonial government of the colonies, the Articles of Confederation grew directly out of the exigencies of war. When the first shots of the Revolutionary War were fired at Lexington and Concord in April 1775, most Americans still considered themselves to be English citizens. Indeed, in responding negatively to various taxes enacted by the British Parliament, colonists thought they were upholding their rights as English citizens to "no taxation without representation." The First Continental Congress, which met in 1774, and the Second Continental Congress, which began meeting in 1775, were not intended as a new form of government but a way of collecting colonial grievances and sending them to the English king. As George III proved no more willing than the British Parliament to back down from British policies, and as Thomas Paine undermined the idea of kingly rule and hereditary succession in his Common Sense (published in January 1776), the colonies inched closer to Revolution. This step was ultimately taken with the proclamation of independence in July 1776.

the writing and adoption of the articles of confederation

At the same time that the Second Continental Congress appointed a committee to write the Declaration of Independence, it also appointed committees to seek foreign allies and to draw up a form of government. Up to this point, colonies had been governed directly by Great Britain, which had, however, prior to the French and Indian War (1754–1763), often allowed for considerable colonial autonomy by exercising a policy now known as "salutary neglect." Given the separate histories and identities that the colonies had developed, it is not surprising that their first attempt at continental government, or at least government over that part of the continent represented by the thirteen former colonies, reflected relative jealousy of individual states' powers. This jealousy ultimately doomed the Articles to failure, but the Articles served a useful purpose during the period of transition between British rule and the inauguration of the new Constitution in 1789.

John Dickinson of Delaware was the primary author of the Articles of Confederation, but Congress was so preoccupied by war, that it took more than a year for the Second Continental Congress to send the proposal to the states (1777). During debates in Congress, Thomas Burke of North Carolina was particularly successful in seeing that the new government primarily embodied the principle of state sovereignty. Because of a running dispute between states like Maryland that did not have western land claims and those like Virginia that did, the Articles were not ratified by the final state (Maryland) until March 1, 1781, and, by 1787, states were meeting to reformulate the document.

the structure of the articles of confederation

The Articles of Confederation contained twelve articles, but Article II is the key. Introduced by Thomas Burke, it specified that "Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every Power, Jurisdiction and right, which is not by this confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled" (Solberg, p. 42). Similarly, Article III referred to the Articles as a "league of friendship" among the states, more along the order of a treaty than a common government.

As in such a league, although they could send from two to seven delegates, each state had only one vote in a unicameral Congress that had limited powers. For example, Congress did not have power, exercised by today's Congress, over interstate and foreign commerce. Moreover, Article IX provided that:

The united states in congress assembled shall never engage in a war, nor grant letters of marque and reprisal in time of peace, nor enter into any treaties or alliances, nor coin money, nor regulate the value thereof, nor ascertain the sums and expences necessary for the defence and welfare of the united states, or any of them, nor emit bills, nor borrow money on the credit of the united states, nor appropriate money, nor agree upon the number of vessels of war, to be built or purchased, or on the number of land or sea forces to be raised, nor appoint a commander in chief of the army or navy, unless nine states assent to the same.

Congress was especially hampered in the area of finances and defense. In the former area, Congress had the power to requisition the states for money, but no power to act directly upon states or individuals to collect it. Similarly, Congress had to raise troops for national defense by relying on similar requisition measures from the states. States were even permitted to have their own navies during times of war. Added to the overall weakness of the Articles was the fact that, even when defects were widely recognized, the document could not be changed without the consent of Congress and the unanimous approval of the states. Although some amendments had wide support, none was adopted during the period in which the Articles were in effect.

strengths and weaknesses of the articles

During the war, states often competed with one another for volunteers to meet their troop requisitions. State residents were far more willing to defend their state's own frontiers than to march in defense of the nation. Those who served in the nation's defense (and who were often underpaid), however, appear generally to have developed a more continental view. The Congress under the Articles of Confederation largely financed the war through issuing currency, which quickly lost value, and through foreign borrowing. Although U.S. forces succeeded under George Washington and the French allies in beating the British, it was not altogether certain that the resulting

nation would long survive. The government under the Articles proved inadequate to enforce the treaty that had ended the Revolutionary War and was continually plagued by its inability to raise revenue. Had George Washington been more ambitious, and less republicanminded, he could have probably taken over the government by military force.

Weak as it was, the Articles had provided the structure for the colonies to unite against a common foe and win the Revolution. Although financing was desultory during the war, it became even more impaired once the war had ended and the nation no longer faced a common enemy. Generally known for its failure, the most striking accomplishment of the Articles other than its role in winning the Revolutionary War was the passage of the Northwest Ordinance during the meeting of the Constitutional Convention. This farsighted measure, which was reaffirmed by the new government, allowed for the eventual inclusion of the western states on an equal basis as the original thirteen, thus preventing the United States from exercising colonial powers in the West. It also recognized congressional power to forbid slavery in the territories.

the end of the articles

The Articles eventually fell prey to governmental weaknesses. The central government proved unable to raise adequate revenue, to enforce treaties of peace that it had entered into, or to compete on an equal basis on the world stage. The national government proved largely impotent in the wake of Shays's Rebellion in western Massachusetts and other populist and taxpayer revolts at the state level. States, which had written their constitutions fairly hurriedly, often emphasized popular sovereignty in the selection of their legislatures over the kinds of checks and balances needed for wise and stable governments. Such instability, in turn, threatened the liberty for which the Revolutionary War had been fought. Hope for increased strength and stability at both state and local levels eventually led to a conference of five states over commercial matters known as the Annapolis Convention, held in 1786. This meeting in turn issued a call for the Constitutional Convention of 1787.

Although called to revise and enlarge the Articles of Confederation, the delegates instead embarked on a reworking of government that provided for three distinct branches of government and for a bicameral Congress (where states were represented according to population in the lower house) with power to act directly on individual citizens. Although the new government weakened state powers, it did not abolish the states as entities. Moreover, although the new Constitution invested Congress with increased powers to regulate commerce, to impose duties and excises, and the like, the structure of the new government, which emphasized separation of powers, checks and balances, and federalism, was still designed to secure both the rights of individuals and the rights of states. These concerns were reinforced by the early adoption of the Bill of Rights.

summary

Although it ultimately failed, the government under the Articles of Confederation made some notable achievements and gave the former colonists many important lessons in self-government. Today's Constitution would have been much different without such lessons. The U.S. Constitution strengthened the national authority while preserving significant roles for the states. Both systems of government preserved representative government, and both invested the national authority with limited powers. In sum, America's first constitution, known as the Articles of Confederation, was a product of war and colonial culture. The Articles reflected American fear of central authority and adherence to the principle of local self-rule. Both remain part of the nation's identity and political culture in the forms of federalism and states' rights.

bibliography

Edling, Max M. A Revolution in Favor of Government: Origins of the U.S. Constitution and the Making of the American State. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Hendrickson, David C. Peace Pact: The Lost World of the American Founding. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2003.

Jensen, Merrill. The Articles of Confederation. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1976.

McLaughlin, Andrew C. The Confederation and the Constitution, 1783–1789. In The American Nation, a History: From Original Sources by Associated Scholars, edited by Albert Bushnell Hart. New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1903.

Rakove, Jack. The Beginnings of National Politics: An Interpretive History of the Continental Congress. New York: Knopf, 1979.

Solberg, Winton, ed. The Federal Convention and the Formation of the Union of the American States. New York: Liberal Arts Press, 1958.

Wood, Gordon S. The Creation of the American Republic, 1776–1787. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1969.

John R. Vile

See also:Constitution: Creating a Republic; Continental Congresses; States and Nation Building, 1775–1783.

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Articles of Confederation

ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION

The Articles of Confederation were the first U.S. constitution, ratified in 1781. The Articles were a pragmatic compromise born of necessity in the American Revolution (1775–1783) and were in effect until replaced by a new constitution in 1789.

The Articles' principal purpose was to create a formal, limited authority for the wartime central government that at first was conducted informally by the Continental Congress. By July 1776, prior to the Articles, Congress had authorized the colonists to replace their British-created governments with new governments established "under the authority of the people"; appointed George Washington as the Continental Army's commanding general; provided for army staff appointments; and authorized the issuance of currency to raise war funds.

The Articles gave the United States exclusive power to conduct national military and foreign policy. They also established the relationship between the states and the central Confederation government. The Articles gave Congress power to appropriate funds for the "common defence or general welfare." They granted Congress power to make commercial treaties and gave it judicial powers in capture disputes, all disputes between states, and certain private interstate land disputes. States retained virtually all authority in domestic policy. The Confederation government was conducted by a unicameral Congress without a separate executive or judicial branch.

Under the Articles, the United States had limited successes. Congress managed the Revolutionary War, including the creation of foreign alliances and the financing of the costly conflict, subsequent peace and commercial treaty negotiations with Great Britain and other European governments, and the beginning of land distribution from the national domain. In 1787 Congress created the first major U.S. territory, the Northwest Territory. Nevertheless, by 1787 many Americans had concluded that the Articles contained profound flaws.

Although confederation proposals had been made as early as 1775 by Benjamin Franklin and others, Congress was unwilling to consider confederation until after it had adopted its resolution declaring American independence on 2 July 1776. The Articles were not adopted by Congress until 15 November 1777 because war pressures and fundamental disagreements prevented completion of the document until it became apparent that completion would assist the United States in obtaining an alliance with France and in controlling wartime inflation.

the dickinson plan

On 22 July 1776 Congress began debate on a 12 July proposal reported after a month of deliberation by a committee chaired by John Dickinson of Pennsylvania, whose other members included Roger Sherman of Connecticut and Samuel Adams of Massachusetts. That proposal, commonly known as the Dickinson plan, reflected the committee's views on a draft apparently prepared by Dickinson, a wealthy lawyer trained in England.

Dickinson's draft, which granted Congress broad powers in military and foreign affairs, would also have limited state powers in important areas. For example, the draft protected both religious dissenters' rights and existing commercial rights and privileges against state interference and provided that Congress could raise troops without local participation.

Dickinson's proposals on religious dissenters and raising troops were rejected in committee. The panel's proposal nevertheless contained important limits on state powers. Its motives for this approach are uncertain but may have been mixed. Some delegates may have sought to eliminate as many sources of discord within and between the states as possible in order to strengthen the war effort, while others may have wanted to limit state interference in existing social and economic relations.

After debate by the full Congress, a revised version of the Dickinson proposal was ordered to be printed for the delegates on 20 August 1776. This draft omitted all limits on state power over commercial rights (later partially restored). There was no agreement among the delegates on several other essential provisions. Although the Articles were debated sporadically by Congress over the next year, little progress was made. Completion of the Articles became urgent only after the U.S. military victory at Saratoga, New York, on 17 October 1777, which made alliance with France a realistic possibility, in turn requiring a government that possessed formal legal authority to enter such an alliance.

major disputed issues

The four most heavily disputed issues concerning the Articles were the structure of congressional representation, the method for allocating national expenses to the states (that is, taxation), control over western lands claimed by states, and the relationship between state and Confederation powers. Debate on these issues was complicated by threats from delegates that unless their position was accepted, their states would not join the Confederation.

The Dickinson plan had proposed that each state would receive one vote in Congress. Large states, however, vigorously sought proportional representation based on wealth or population, but the "one-vote rule" was adopted, largely because failure to adopt it might have resulted in certain states rejecting the Confederation.

Debate over the taxation formula was similarly heated. During a 30 July 1776 debate on a motion by Samuel Chase of Maryland to exclude slaves from the taxation allocation formula, strenuously opposed by John Adams of Massachusetts and James Wilson of Pennsylvania, a southern delegate threatened that if slaves were not treated as property, "there is an end" to confederation. Congress agreed instead to use the value of land and improvements in allocating taxation, an impracticable system palatable to slaveholding states.

The compromises on representation and taxation reflected the leadership of statesmen from different regions. They included Richard Henry Lee of Virginia and John Adams, who recognized that compromises, even regarding important principles, were necessary to enable wartime national unity.

The Dickinson plan had proposed giving Congress the authority to fix the boundaries of states, some of which had vast western land claims extending to the "South Sea," and to dispose of lands in the national domain. These proposals were anathema to states like Virginia that had large claims, but were vociferously supported by "landless" states such as Maryland on revenue and growth grounds. The Articles denied Congress power to limit state land claims. (However, continued controversy later led several states to make large land cessions to the United States.)

Congress also debated the boundaries of state sovereignty. Thomas Burke of North Carolina attacked the Dickinson plan as an infringement on state autonomy. Burke successfully added a provision to the Articles preserving state sovereignty and retaining for the states every power not "expressly delegated to the United States."

Once these issues were resolved, congressional adoption followed quickly. By July 1778, after Congress had defeated thirty-six state-proposed amendments, most states agreed to ratify. Through January 1779, all but Maryland had done so; Maryland made it unanimous in 1781.

government under the confederation

For much of the period from 1781 to 1789, economic conditions in the United States were poor: prices and real wages were falling; there was a seriously adverse trade balance; indebtedness was growing; and related civil unrest, such as Shays's Rebellion of 1786–1787, was emerging. The Confederation government was unable to compel either the states or Great Britain to comply fully with the peace treaty of 1783. Congress could not effectively resolve interstate territorial disputes, such as those arising in Pennsylvania and from a separatist movement in Vermont. In 1784 Spain closed the Mississippi to American navigation, and in 1786 Congress disagreed along sectional lines over the U.S. foreign policy response. Americans increasingly questioned whether the Confederation's limited government could successfully meet the growing country's domestic and foreign policy problems.

In 1787 progress occurred on one important front. Congress adopted the Northwest Ordinance, which permitted the creation of new states in ceded lands north of the Ohio River (the Northwest Territory) and provided that slavery would be prohibited in the Territory.

By 1787, however, advocates of a stronger central government felt that the Confederation had very important weaknesses and needed fundamental reform. They argued that it lacked essential powers, such as those over taxation and interstate commerce, and was unable to pay its debts, including those owed to its war veterans. It could act only through the states and therefore could not enforce its laws or judicial decisions directly against individuals; nor, as a practical matter, could it do so against disobedient states. Many of its most essential decisions could be made only with the consent of nine states. Its Articles could be amended only with the unanimous consent of the states, and thus important amendments proposed during the 1780s to strengthen congressional powers over taxation and commerce failed despite widespread support. Finally, it had no ability to prevent abuse of economic, judicial, or other state powers that had interstate impact or to protect states against domestic violence.

the articles in historical context

Many of the Articles' flaws stemmed from their creation as a unifying measure to address the urgent necessities of wartime government. The Articles reflected a desire on the part of some to limit centralized government that arose both from colonial experience with Great Britain and from the belief that liberty and political power were inherent enemies. At the same time, however, as a pragmatic wartime compromise that sought a broad consensus and resolved only those issues requiring immediate resolution, the Articles provide only a limited insight into contemporary Americans' evolving views of freedom and government.

The Articles nevertheless serve as an exceptionally useful benchmark for understanding the fundamental changes in American government later made by the Constitution's establishment of national, majority control of areas such as federal taxation, commerce, and military appropriations, its creation of a federal separation of powers, and its authorization of enforcement of federal laws directly against individuals under a powerful regime of federal law supremacy, while at the same time preserving a significant constitutional role for the states.

See alsoAnnapolis Convention; Constitutional Convention; Constitutionalism: State Constitution Making; Continental Army; Currency and Coinage; Federalist Papers; Shays's Rebellion; Taxation, Public Finance, and Public Debt .

bibliography

Hendrickson, David C. Peace Pact: The Lost World of the American Founding. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 2003.

Jensen, Merrill. The New Nation: A History of the United States during the Confederation, 1781–1789. New York: Knopf, 1950.

——. The Articles of Confederation: An Interpretation of the Social-Constitutional History of the American Revolution 1774–1781. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1962.

Matson, Cathy D., and Peter S. Onuf. A Union of Interests: Political and Economic Thought in Revolutionary America. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1990.

Morris, Richard B. The Forging of the Union, 1781–1789. New York: Harper and Row, 1987.

Onuf, Peter S. The Origins of the Federal Republic: Jurisdictional Controversies in the United States 1775–1787. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1983.

Rakove, Jack N. The Beginnings of National Politics: An Interpretive History of the Continental Congress. New York: Knopf, 1979.

——. Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution. New York: Vintage, 1997.

George Van Cleve

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Articles of Confederation

Articles of Confederation

ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION. Adopted by Congress 15 November 1777; ratified 1 March 1781. Proposed by Richard Henry Lee on 7 June 1776 when he offered his resolution for independence, the idea of confederation was then studied by a thirteenmember committee. A month later, on 12 July 1776, it presented the "Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union" to Congress. Principally the work of John Dickinson, the articles proposed a loose union, in which the principal powers granted to Congress were exclusive authority to declare war and make peace, to conduct foreign relations, to provide central direction of the war effort, to resolve disputes among the states, and to provide for the disposal of western lands. After more than a year of intermittent debate, the thirteen articles were formally adopted on 15 November 1777 and sent two days later to the states for ratification. Congress adopted the articles on the basis that states would pay their share of governmental expenses, especially for wartime expenditures, in proportion to their land area. Ratification was delayed by Maryland because it refused to act until states with western land claims (the so-called "three-sided states") ceded those claims to the United States. Those lands would later be sold to pay off the national debt. Virginia yielded on 2 January 1781, Maryland signed on 27 February, and final ratification took place 1 March 1781. Ratification formally dissolved the Second Continental Congress, and on 2 March the delegates sat for the first time as "The United States in Congress Assembled." By then, the extraordinary strain of the war effort had shown the need for a more powerful central government, especially in the matter of the power to levy taxes. The articles were obsolescent before they were ratified.

The United States were governed under the Articles of Confederation until the ratification of the Federal Constitution on 21 November 1788. On 10 October 1788 the last Congress under the Articles transacted its last business, and on 4 March 1789 the first Congress under the Constitution met in New York City.

SEE ALSO Continental Congress; Dickinson, John; Lee, Richard Henry.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Ford, Worthington Chauncey. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1904–1937.

Henderson, H. James. Party Politics in the Continental Congress. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1987.

Jensen, Merrill. The Articles of Confederation: An Interpretation of the Social-Constitutional History of the American Revolution, 1774–1781. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1941.

―――――――. The New Nation: A History of the United States During the Confederation, 1781–1789. New York: Knopf, 1950.

Onuf, Peter S. The Origins of the Federal Republic: Jurisdictional Controversies in the United States. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1983.

Rakove, Jack N. The Beginnings of National Politics: An Interpretative History of the Continental Congress. New York: Knopf, 1979.

                                    revised by Harold E. Selesky

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Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.