Articles of Confederation

Essay by barrymoose June 2004

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Articles of Confederation

The Articles of Confederation was the first constitution of the United States of America. The Continental Congress in Philadelphia Pennsylvania first drafted the Articles of Confederation in 1777. A man named John Dickinson in 1776 prepared this first draft. Even before the first ratifying convention met, a clamor rose from every quarter of the nation for a specific bill of rights. The Articles were then ratified in 1781. The cause for the changes to be made was due to state jealousies and widespread distrust of the central authority. This jealousy then led to the emasculation of the document. As adopted, the articles provided only for a "firm league of friendship" in which each of the 13 states expressly held "its sovereignty, freedom, and independence."

The People of each state were given equal privileges and rights, freedom of movement was guaranteed, and procedures for the trials of accused criminals were outlined.

The Articles established a national legislature called the Congress, consisting of two to seven delegates from each state; each state had one vote, according to its size or population. No executive or judicial branches were provided for. Congress was charged with responsibility for conducting foreign relations, declaring war or peace, maintaining an army and navy, settling boundary disputes, establishing and maintaining a postal service, and various

lesser functions.

Some of these responsibilities were shared with the states, and in one way or another Congress was dependent upon the cooperation of the states for carrying out any of them. Four visible weaknesses of the articles, apart from those of organization, made it impossible for Congress to execute its constitutional duties.

These were analyzed in numbers 15-22 of The FEDERALIST, the political essays in which Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay argued the case for the U.S. CONSTITUTION...