Land of the Brave

The Articles of Confederation

Colonial America - Land of the Brave

The Articles of Confederation
The Meaning and Definition of the Articles of Confederation: The Articles of Confederation were the first governing document and the original constitution of the US. The Articles of Confederation contained the terms, agreed by the 13 new states, by which they agreed to participate in a centralized form of government, in addition to their self-rule.

Under the Articles of Confederation each of the states retained their:

 "sovereignty, freedom and independence."

Six drafts of the Articles of Confederation were prepared before they were adopted by Congress on November 15, 1777. The Articles of Confederation were effective from March 1, 1781 to March 4, 1789 and were the basis of the national government of the US during the American Revolutionary War. The Articles of Confederation were replaced by the US Constitution that went into effect in 1789.

Articles of Confederation - Colonies to States
Following the Declaration of Independence, the members of the Continental Congress realized that it would be necessary to set up a national government. The 13 Colonies had asked Congress to adopt the Continental army and direct the war. Congress, unexpectedly, became the governing body, and began to act as advisor as the Colonies changed into States. On May 15, 1776 Congress advised all the colonies to form governments for themselves. The Articles of Confederation served as the written document that established the functions of the national government of the United States after it declared independence from Great Britain. 

Articles of Confederation - Why State Constitutions limited the power of Congress
The men who created the State Constitutions took heed from the history of British tyranny whilst adhering to  the aspirations of the Declaration of Independence. These led to a number of new ideas and ideals that Americans, across the newly established states, being included in their own, fully documented, State Constitutions. The State Constitutions emphasized the following points:

  • A Separation of powers: State Constitutions separated executive, legislative and judicial powers in order to distribute authority away from the executive branch to preserve individual liberty and prevent and forms of tyranny

  • The Basic rights of the people should be constitutionally protected:  Massachusetts, for example, committed part of their constitutions to “A Declaration of the Rights of the Inhabitants” of their state. For the first time the rights of the people were fully documented for all to see and protected accordingly

  • Power comes from the people: The newly formed states had endured the rule of powerful governors and the British monarchy and had no intention of being dominated by another form of executive power.

The representatives of the new 13 states agree to create a confederacy called the United States of America, in which each state maintains its own sovereignty and all rights to govern, except those rights specifically granted to Congress. The determination of the new states not to be dominated by another form of executive power - including Congress which had become the National Government - led to many problems and issues due to their limited powers.

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