Paper 3

3. Why did the Articles of Confederation fail to provide strong government?

Camilla Burkot
Intro/Background Info:

  • - Articles of Confederation – drafted by the Continental Congress in 1777 as the first national constitution (while each new state was writing its own constitution)
  • - However, once the Articles were sent to the colonies for ratification, it soon became clear that this was an ineffectual approach to governing the nation
  • - The Articles did not allow the federal government to impose taxes or tariffs or to raise an army. There was no national executive and no federal court system. Any changes to the articles had to be made unanimously (meaning that changing the Articles was near impossible)

Thesis: After finally winning independence from a powerful, dominating nation, the new United States hoped to design a new, less intrusive government to mimic the ideal of freedom and democracy. Yet, in its attempt to avoid governing with too strong a hand, as most Americans felt England had, the Articles of Confederation restricted the federal government to the point that it held virtually no power to enable freedom and democracy to flourish.

A. Internal Financial Problems

  • a. The new federal government was faced with a huge bill from having fought the War for Independence
  • b. The Articles prohibited the levying of taxes—Congress could only request money from the states, but these requests were largely ignored or not paid in full
  • c. So, to pay for the war simply more money was printed – this led to rapid inflation
  • d. Problems of inflation were compounded by the fact that individual states printed their own currencies

B. Trade Problems

  • a. Due in part to the inflation and orphaned economy, overseas trade and commerce was essential for the new states to stay afloat. The colonies had been developed by England primarily for trade purposes (mercantilism – tobacco, cotton, etc.), so this is what the US economy was (almost) totally dependent upon
  • b. The British were extremely punitive in their trade policies after the war – US merchandisers were denied access to trade with other British colonies (such as in the Caribbean), while British merchants dumped their goods on the American markets
  • c. The Articles denied Congress the power to regulate trade or enact trade tariffs, so hardly any national revenue was generated (which contributed to the internal debt/tax problems)
  • d. Simultaneously, the creation of individual state currencies and state tariffs drastically reduced interstate commerce

C. Political Problems

  • a. The federal government left state governments responsible for the compensation of Loyalists (colonists who supported the British) who lost property in the Independence War.
    • i. The state governments were in disarray and had very little money themselves after the war, so they were slow to act in compensating Loyalists
    • ii. As a result, British soldiers refused to abandon their posts in the US on grounds that they were protecting the Loyalists’ rights
  • b. The Articles prohibited the formation of a national army, which kept the federal government from forcing the British out of the US, which resulted in turmoil and discontent among (non-Loyalist) Americans
    • i. Shays’ Rebellion (1787) – 1,500 farmers marched on Boston to protest unfair political and economic policies
    • ii. Shays’ Rebellion served as a wake-up call, especially to the elite, and convinced many that a stronger central government was necessary in order to maintain order


  • - By 1787, it became clear that a better, stronger document than the Articles of Confederation was necessary for the smooth and effective governance of the nation
    • o Therefore, the Constitutional Convention met in 1787 to craft the Constitution
  • - Although the Articles of Confederation intentionally avoided giving the federal government power, it was ultimately determined that a stronger government was necessary for effective governance
    • In case you want to throw a quote in there, George Washington commented that the US under the Articles of Confederation was “little more than a shadow without substance”.

Introduction: The Articles of the Confederation were an attempt to show that the newly independent United States could form a credible government, and organize the thirteen states that had so recently gained their freedom. However, they were plagued with problems ranging from inefficiency to lack of funding. Due to these reasons and several others, the Articles of Confederation failed as an effective, long term government for the United States.

II. Problems with Congress
- The Congress was full of problems that caused it to be slow and ineffective
- Firstly, while Congress did have the power to make decisions, but was left with no way to enforce those decisions
- Congress was denied the power of taxation, and was left only with the ability to request money from states, which the states largely tended to ignore, leaving the Congress under funded constantly
- Congress was also denied the power of trade regulation, resulting in many squabbles between states
III. Other problems
- Since the people were afraid of another tyrannical government like the one they had just freed themselves from, they made the central government extremely weak, and gave the states much of the law making power
- Any modifications to the Articles of Confederation required unanimous approval from all thirteen colonies, so it was very hard to accomplish changes
- Also, passing any kind of law required the approval of a majority of the states
IV. Conclusion
- These problems resulted in the Articles of Confederation being weak and slow
- The states had too much leeway, and therefore were constantly disagreeing, while the Congress did not have enough power to make a serious impact on anything
- The fear of tyranny coming back caused the colonies to effectively neuter their government

3. Why did the Articles of Confederation fail to provide strong government?
I. Introduction:
• Declaration of Independence- advocates independence from Great Britain.
• The Declaration of Independence does not propose a plan for America's first form of government.
• The Articles of Confederation were a plan composed by the Continental Congress in 1777 during the Revolutionary War- first form of government decided by Congress.

Thesis: Although the Articles of Confederation attempted to set up the nation's first government, disunity among the 13 states and their desire not to give Congress power ultimately led the Articles of Confederation to be a failure in making the United Stated unified as its name suggests.

II. Disunity in the United States
• 13 states were like 13 nations - did not want to obey laws proposed by Congress.
• 13 states wanted to be independent and did not want there to be a powerful
National government.
• The 13 states believed that if there was a powerful national government then they would lose their power.
• No national currency- each state had its own currency.
• 13 states controlled their trade with other states and nations.
• Debt after Revolutionary War led to led to tensions between states because
• the economy was plummeting.

III. Congress did not have much power
• Congress (unicameral) - 13 representatives from 13 states.
• 13 states could suppress the laws proposed by Congress.
• No national court system
• A law could be passed only after 9 out of 13 states agreed on it
• Modifying the Articles of Confederation needed the agreement of all 13 states - states did not agree on uniting.
• Congress cannot collect taxes- leading to problem in paying off the nation's debt - government projects and services were no established because money was needed.

IV. Conclusion
Since the goal of unifying the nation was not accomplished under the Articles of Confederation, a future meeting in Philadelphia involving representatives from the 13 states would compile theirideas in hopes of finally unifying the nation under the same body of law.

The Articles of confederation were drafted by the Contintental Congress in 1777 after the United States gained independence from Great Britain. It was an attempt to create a unifying constitution for the newly independent states. However, it very quickly became clear the Articles of Confederation were inadequate. The United States, having been governed by a very powerful, intrusive Britain was careful not to allow a Federal power to gain too much power. However, the Articles of Confederation failed to provide enough power to the federal government and therefore was not successful. Under the articles of confederation, the Congress was supposed to make decisions, but was given no power to enforce them. The failure can be attributed to a lack of power in two main arenas: political and economic.

II. Political
a. Unanimous approval was required for any change in the Articles of Confederation
b. The Articles prevented the formation of a national army which caused dissatisfaction among colonists

III. Economic
a. Congress was not allowed to create taxes, they could only request money from states. These requests were largely ignored. Thus, the US had no way of repaying the large debts accumulated from fighting the war of Independence.
b. To combat the shortage of money this resulted in, more money was printed leading to inflation
c. The Articles stopped congress from controlling trade, so very little national revenue was gained

IV. Conclusion
The Articles of Confederation failed because they did not allow enough power to the federal government. Congress did not have the economic power to help the struggling nation which had just come out of a very expensive war. In 1787, a large group of farmer’s marched on Boston to protest the political system in America. This event convinced people a stronger federal government was needed. In 1787, the Constitutional Convention dragged a new Constitution which gave more power to the federal government.

Paper Three: Question Three: Why did the Articles of Confederation fail to provide a strong government? ((KELSEY MASE!!!!)

a) Introduction
i) The first governing document, or constitution, of the United States of America.
ii) The thirteen states were formally thirteen independent countries ("states") until ratification of the Articles, proposed in 1777, was completed in 1781; at that point the "United States of America"
iii) The final draft of the Articles was written in the summer of 1777 and adopted by the Second Continental Congress on November 15, 1777 in York, Pennsylvania after a year of debate.
iv) The confederation was capable of making war, negotiating diplomatic agreements, and resolving issues regarding the western territories; it could mint coins and borrow inside and outside the US.
b) Weaknesses
i) Under the Articles there was only a unicameral legislature so that there was no separation of powers
The central government under the Articles was too weak since the majority of the power rested with the states.
ii) Congress, under the Articles, did not have the power to tax which meant that they could never put their finances in order.
iii) In order to change or amend the Articles, unanimous approval of the states was required which essentially meant that changes to the Articles were impossible.
iv) For any major laws to pass they had to be approved by 9 or the 13 states which proved difficult to do so that even the normal business of running a government was difficult.
v) Under the Articles, Congress did not have the power to regulate commerce which will cause competition between states as well as diplomatic issues
vi) No common currency
c) Conclusion
i) It prohibited the nation from efficiency and proficiency.

3. Why did the Articles of Confederation fail to provide a strong government?
• Articles of Confederation created in 1777 by Continental Congress
-accepted by 13 states and began its operation in 1781
-each state to be independent of one another and have equal power
-very limited national government
-stemmed from people’s want to be independent and fear of strong leaders like King George III
-National government made up of one house—Congress
-States had power to enforce laws made by Congress
-helped to establish the new nation of America, but had many weaknesses
• Weaknesses under the Articles of Confederation:
• Problems within Congress-
-Congress had trouble passing laws (9 of the 13 states had to agree before any laws could be passed)
-There was no president or executive branch (no way to make sure that laws passed by Congress were carried out)
- Congress did not have the power to collect the taxes needed to pay for the expenses of the national government
- Congress could not pay the nation's debt nor could it provide government programs and services since it could not force the states into paying money
- no judicial system:
no courts to interpret laws or to judge those that broke(national court system did not exist)
- changing the Articles of Confederation was nearly impossible (A unanimous vote of all 13 states was required before any changes could be made)
• Trade Problems-
-the national government could not control trade between the states or with foreign nations
-no uniform national currency
-made trading difficult process
• States not united
-behaved like separate nation
-often refused to follow orders of Congress
-States did not give national government enough power
-In 1787-Congress asked for states to send representatives to discuss what could be done to fix the national government

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