The Articles of Confederation and the Constitution - Answer to a former DBQ (Document Based Question)for an AP US History class

Essay by rachelgirlwonderHigh School, 11th gradeA+, May 2004

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Question: "From 1781 to 1789 the Articles of Confederation provided the Unites States with an effective government. Use the documents and your knowledge of the period to evaluate this statement."

Although the Articles of Confederation provided a working government for the United States, it was not necessarily an effectively working government; an effective government would be one that not only establishes control and authority, but one under which the nation flourishes. Certainly the Articles set down a basic government with the idea of a democratic republic. However, the Articles of Confederation didn't impose an effective government as much as it set the basis for one. It was unable to enforce many laws and many of those set were also unequal in operation, as unfair to some states as fair to others. Thus, from 1781 to 1789, the Articles of Confederation established a working, yet ineffective government, with very little control or authority over foreign relations, the economy, and western lands.

In foreign relations, the government set down by the Articles of Confederation had minimal, if any, control and authority over diplomatic efforts with Spain, France, Britain, and the foreign presences in America. One contributing factor to this was the lack of an executive branch. Congress was the chief coordinating agency of any war efforts and almost every action of meaning. During a disagreement over foreign policy, the argument could possibly have lasted for weeks with no decision or compromise set, leaving the problem standing unresolved. What authority Congress did have over commerce was shown in some unfair tariffs on foreign trade, that consequentially affected foreign relations. There was a marked decline in the estimated market of United States exports to Great Britain; in those, there was a definite per capita drop [Document B]. There was much difficulty with diplomatic efforts...