The Articles of Confederation was the first document written to serve as an American constitution. The Articles put restraints on the powers of the federal government that made it seem weak in comparison to the federal government today. The three governmental branches were not separated until the necessary changes were made in order to ratify the U.S. Constitution. Instead, the legislative branch took care of both the executive and the judicial affairs. Since the three branches were not separated, a system of checks and balances was not possible. In order to pass a new amendment, a unanimous vote by all thirteen states was required. Congress was only required to have a unicameral legislature which left out the Senate. Instead of having state senators and representatives, two to seven people represented each state. These delegates were appointed once a year by state legislatures rather than voted in by citizens through elections.
The Constitution made it possible to have both a House of Representatives, where the number of representatives was based on each stateÃÂs population, and a Senate, where two senators represented each state.
According to the Articles, the executive branch did not even exist as a separate branch of government. One person was chosen by delegates to serve as president, and had no power to veto bills, appoint officials, or enforce laws. Functions of government were carried out by the Committee of States, which consisted of single-headed departments, instead of the president being over all of these departments. The U.S. Constitution made the executive branch separate and allowed the president to be elected every four years. Once elected to office, the president had the power to veto bills, enforce laws, and appoint people to serve under the different branches of government.
The Articles stated that state disagreements were to be resolved inside state and local courts. The final court where these differences were negotiated was Congress. The Constitution separates this judiciary power from the legislative branch. The Supreme Court was designated as the highest level of law interpretation. State and local courts were still put to use.
Other revisions besides the separation of the three governmental branches were made to the Articles in order to ratify the Constitution. Besides the individual statesÃÂ ability to levy taxes within their own states, the federal government was granted the power to tax the states since requisitions for state donations were not enough to fund financial support. Foreign commerce was no longer regulated by treaty alone; state regulations also required approval through Congress. A Bill of Rights, including the first ten amendments of the Constitution, was finally added in order to satisfy anti-Federalist views (a group labeled the Antifederalists) before ratification was made. States, wishing to protect their sovereignty, were also strongly in favor of the addition of the Bill of Rights.
1. America: Past & Present: Volume I & II