Articles of Confederation





Articles of Confederation

Powers of the States and the National Government

The Articles of Confederation mainly comprised the first constitution ever drafted for the United States four years after achieving independence. Despite undergoing an effective proposal in 1777 under the support of the Continental Congress, ratification of the said document would eventually take place in 1781 (Ginsberg et al. 29). The Articles signified a triumph for the parties that favored the sovereignty of the state. Article 2 of the document declared that each state had the power to retain its sovereignty, independence, and freedom as well as every form of authority not explicitly designated to the United States (United States 340. In its form, the Articles of Confederation posed as an imperative document based on the powers it ascribed to the states and the national government as well. Aside from this, the Articles of Confederation established a national government expressly defined by a Congress. In this respect, the Congress had the authority to proclaim war, engage in the appointment of military officers, endorse treaties, establish alliances, initiate the appointment of foreign ambassadors, and participate in the management of relations with Native Americans.

With the Congress maintaining such powers, the Articles of Confederation provided the states with an equal chance of representation within the overall federal government. In this case, for a bill to be passed into official law, nine out of the total 13 states were required to approve (Ginsberg et al. 35). Additionally, the Articles of Confederation provided the states with the authority to carry out taxation. However, this was particularly different from the powers awarded to the Congress in terms of raising operational funds. Accordingly, the national government (via the Congress) could only raise money by requesting it from the states. Additionally, the power to raise funds for the national government extended to practices such as borrowing from other international governments, or engaging in the sale of western lands.

The Articles of Confederation were also responsible for regulating the national government through limitations (Ginsberg et al. 33). One of the measures that the Articles took involved the regulation of the central government. At the time, Americans feared the possibilities that would arise from excessively powerful states within the respective decentralized system. Additionally, Americans were convinced that the management of a national government mostly involved the restriction of excess power. Such restrictions were imperative since they limited America from turning into a dictatorship. Hence, in order to do this, the Articles established a weak National Congress. For most, the Congress would solely function as a decision-making entity that was responsible for tying states loosely for the sake of the common good.  As such, the states that were present during this Confederation era were nearly sovereign and independent.

Aside from issues of sovereignty and power, the Articles of Confederation further weakened the national government at a benefit of the states (Ginsberg et al. 33). At the time, the respective document restricted the federal government from engaging in the imposition of taxes on American citizens. In this respect, states were given the power to set taxes. The follow up to tax limitations specifically for the Congress comprised the concerns of interstate commerce (Ginsberg et al. 33). With restrictions directed towards the federal government in terms of laws, processes, and actions, the Articles of Confederation seemed to strengthen the states at the expense of the national government. In this case, Congress was restricted from the management of interstate commerce. On the other hand, states were given the freedom to propose regulations that focused on the control of cross-border transactions in terms of trade.

Governance Problems under the Articles

The main reason for the drafting of a new Constitution comprised the negative implications that the Articles of Confederation imposed on the government. On one hand, the Articles had focused considerable authoritative power on the states. Even though this was preferable by American citizens, it was rather weak for the country as a whole. Alternately, the powers granted to the national government were limiting and therefore, established a united and frail country at the time. One of the key issues of governance established under the applications of the Articles of Confederation comprised the lack of a president (Miller and Parrish 45). In order to prevent excess power from entering into the wrong hands, the Articles ensured that the national government was weakened considerably. With tyrants such as George III prior to the occurrence of the Independence War, American citizens were more inclined to avoid such forms of authoritarian leadership (Ginsberg et al. 30).

Aside from weakening the government by failing to facilitate the establishment of a president, the Articles of Confederation created further governance problems by limiting the time meant to serve office by delegates. Accordingly, the respective document restricted delegates from serving over three years within a six-year timeframe within the government. Hence, with such policies as well as others, the Articles had succeeded in creating a significantly frail central government. Notably, the Congress for the confederation of the states was incapable of mustering a quorum in order to facilitate the ratification on the agreement that awarded independence to America promptly (Ginsberg et al. 36). In addition to this, the Congress for the states was also incapable of reimbursing the costs arising from sending the approved agreement back to the European colonialists. Such outcomes were a result of the highly restrictive regulations that the Articles of Confederation developed in order to maintain a power imbalance between the national government and the states.

Relative Powers of the National Government and States under the New Constitution

With the Articles positioning the United States for a possible destructive end, the ratification of the New Constitution was the ideal and most beneficial strategy for averting the problem. Due to the unfair division of powers between the states and the national government under the Articles, the novel Constitution ultimately focused on creating a federal system that balanced the powers of the states and the national government (Finkelman 67). Establishing cooperation by delegating the necessary authorities to these divisions developed America into one of the greatest countries of all time. In this respect, the main strategy used in order to establish a cooperative framework comprised federalism. With the aspect of federalism, the separation of power within the United States became based on the sharing of power between the personalized state governments and the national government. Simply, the Constitution focused on the distribution of power equally to both parties (Ginsberg et al. 40). Foremost, the Constitution established the powers that would be shared among the states and the national government. The first of these powers comprised the enforcement of the law. The Constitution became the supreme legal document for the states as well as the government. Secondly, both parties were given the power to engage in the taxation process, which became an imperative source of funding. Lastly, the borrowing of funds was also issued as a shared power between the states and the national governments. On the other hand, states explicitly focused on public health and safety management and amendment ratification while the national government supervised foreign trade and declarations of war.

Works Cited

Finkelman, Paul, and Bruce A. Lesh. Milestone Documents in American History: Exploring the Primary Sources That Shaped America. Dallas: Schlager Group, 2008. Print.

Ginsberg, Benjamin, Theodore J. Lowi, Margaret Weir, Caroline J. Tolbert, and Robert J. Spitzer. We the People: An Introduction to American Politics. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2013. Print.

Miller, Joel, and Kristen Parrish. The Portable Patriot: Documents, Speeches, and Sermons That Compose the American Soul. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010. Print.

United States. The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America. Washington: U.S. Govt. Print. Off, 2014. Print.

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