Articles of Confederation



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Articles of Confederation

A. Background of the Articles of Confederation



  1. 13 states feared a powerful central government.

  2. The Continental Congress had been careful to give the states as much independence as possible.

  3. Deliberately established a confederation of sovereign states, carefully specifying the limited functions of the federal government.

  4. Ratification of the document took a long time.

    1. Disagreements included quarrels over boundary lines, conflicting decisions by state courts, differing tariff laws, and trade restrictions between states.

B. Power of the Articles of Confederation

1. Under the Articles, on paper, the Congress had power to regulate foreign affairs, war, and the postal service and to appoint military officers, control Indian affairs, borrow money, determine the value of coin, and issue bills of credit.

2. Articles gave the Congress no power to enforce its requests to the states for money or troops.

3. By the end of 1786 governmental effectiveness had broken down.

4. It provided for a unicameral legislature in which each state had one vote regardless of the size of its population or its delegation to the congress

a. Important legislation had to be approved by a two-thirds vote, or nine out of thirteen states.

4. The executive consisted of a committee of one delegate from each state

5. Any amendments had to be by unanimous consent.

C. Weaknesses

1. In attempting to limit the power of the central government, one was created without sufficient power to govern effectively, which led to serious national and international problems.

2. Inability to regulate trade and levy taxes.


  1. The government could not pay off the debts it had incurred during the revolution, including paying soldiers who had fought in the war and citizens who had provided supplies to the cause.

3. Congress could not pass needed measures because they lacked the nine-state majority required to become laws.

4. The states largely ignored Congress, which was powerless to enforce cooperation, and it was therefore unable to carry out its duties.

D. Relevance of the Articles of Confederation

1. It was the first attempt by the colonies to unite under one government.



2. Provided the basis for what not to do when constructing the current Constitution.


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