Explain the Weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation
Hope Greamo PSC 201 Chapter 1; Explain the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation - Explain the Weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation introduction. The Articles of Confederation delivered the United States with an operational government from 1781 to 1789. It was a model of what a loose Confederation should be. The Articles succeeded in maintaining the union of the thirteen states as well as clearly outlining the general powers of the centralized government. Yet, despite these positive deeds, there were many setbacks. One major setback was the weak government designed to prevent any future abuse of power.
However, with all things that have come into play, good or bad, the Constitution that now shapes America would have never been formed without first evolving from the flawed Articles of Confederation. (Magleby) The Articles of Confederation was drafted in 1776 by a congress appointed committee even before America had declared their independence. It became effective on March 1, 1781 when the last of the thirteen states, which was Maryland, finally ratified the constitution. The Articles was the first written constitution of the Republic of the United States.
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Thomas Jefferson addressed the Articles as the best one “existing or ever did exist. ” (Magleby) There were many accomplishments of the Articles of Confederation that have helped provide the United States with a basis for a foundation of government which include the development of Congress. The Congress was the chief agency of government comprised of delegates or representatives from each state. The Congress was responsible for conducting foreign affairs, declaring war and peace, maintaining an army and navy as well as establishing the postal service.
The Congress took part in important businesses of the country during the last two years of the Revolution, helped to negotiate treaty of Paris in 1782 and produced two epic pieces of legislation. (Magleby) The first historical legislation that was passed by the Congress was The Land Ordinance of 1785. The fortunate states such as Virginia and New York owned a lot of land in the Old Northwest on the basis of earlier charter grants while the smaller, land hungry states cried injustice. As a result, Congress devised a plan in which the states were to abandon their western territory for the benefit of the “common good. The land was sold and the proceeds were used for the benefit of public schools as well as to pay off national debt. (Martin) The second important legislation that was passed by Congress was the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. This act concerned the governing of the Old Northwest territory. The Northwestern “colonies” would be inferior to the federal government and when their population reached sixty thousand they would be admitted into the Union by Congress with all the rights and privileges of its thirteen other members.
Both the Land Ordinance and Northwest Ordinance proved to be so successful that their basic principles that were eventually carried over to other frontline areas. (Martin) Nevertheless, as successful as the Articles of Confederation was, most of its accomplishments were outweighed by its many weaknesses. Manufactured during the Revolutionary War, the Articles reflected the tiredness and the awareness of the Americans due to the strong central government like that of Britain.
The American people were fearful of the government that had ignored the individual needs and the abuse that resulted from a strong centralized government. As a result, the Articles purposely established a large share of power to the individual states. Also, due to the fear of abuse of power the Articles denied Congress power to collect tax but were able to plead the states to contribute on a voluntary basis. In addition the Congress was not allowed power over interstate and foreign commerce. (Martin) The Continental Congress had been careful to give the states as much independence as possible.
There were no executive or judicial branches and no federal court systems. The states were so free that the federal laws were enforced by state courts and the central government that they could not even act directly upon the people. The weaknesses of the Articles further divided the union and as a result the government was not able to properly handle international crises. In 1784 the Mississippi port, controlled by Spain, was closed off to American commerce. This act not only threatened the west’s ability to grow productive but also the up-and-coming American economy.
John Jay’s negotiations with Spain’s Minister Diego de Gardoqui proved to be fruitless due in part because of the weaknesses and constraints that bound him as a government official. Also, foreign relations with Britain were still strained during the years of the Articles. Britain declined to make a commercial treaty or repeal the ancient Navigation Laws. Even when there was trade between America and Britain that had occurred as United States population increased, meaning more goods, the estimated market value for American exports to Great Britain still remained the same.
Although America’s complaints and demands presented to Britain were all on fair grounds the American government still could not even control its own commerce. These crises along with Shay’s rebellion sparked the need for a stronger constitution. (Martin) By the late 18th century it was clear that the United States would not succeed under the Articles of Confederation. George Washington described the situation under the Articles as “a half-starved limping government, which appears to be always moving upon crutches and tottering at every step. The American people under the Articles of Confederation grew out of the revolutionary spirit that despised any superior government. Although the call for a new constitution would be opposed by some, the need for an even stronger one was agreed on by all. (Magleby) References: Magleby, Light, Nemacheck; Government by the People, 2011, Pearson education inc. Kelley. “American History. ” Why did the Articles of confederation Fail?. 2012. About. com. 2012. http://americanhistory. about. com/od/governmentandpolitics/f/articles_of_confederation_fails. htm