As tension between American colonies and Britain heightened, a series of meetings led to the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1774, which marked the birth of the United States of America. However, the British did not acknowledge the Declaration and sent more soldiers to control the rebellion. As the war continued, the new government sought to establish a wartime atmosphere, contributing to the 1776 drafting of the Articles of Confederation. The Articles of Confederation was the first United States constitution that bridged the federal government, provided under the 1787 US constitution and the initial government by the Continental Congress (Totten, 2020). Under the Articles, the government unified the states that fought in the American Revolution. The writers of the Articles purposely created a confederation of sovereign states because British central authority experiences were clear in colonial minds. In other words, the Articles of Confederation was drafted to keep the national government as weak as possible. Congress adopted it on November 16, 1777, but the state failed to ratify the Articles completely until March 1, 1781.
On papers, the Articles of Confederation gave Congress the power to issue bills of credit, control Indian affairs, and determine the value of the coin. Additionally, the Articles authorized Congress to borrow money, regulate foreign affairs, appoint military officers, and regulate war and postal services. However, in reality, Congress had no power to administer its requests to the state for troops or money, and towards the end of 1786, the government was no longer effective (Totten, 2020). The government awarded the states the most powers, and the central government comprised only a legislature. Importantly, the colonists sought to protect their liberties, but the weakness of the central government was more disastrous. It could not keep the states from circulating their currencies or regulating trade. National courts could not resolve disputes among states, and no chief executive could decide on an issue.
The new country ran into a serious economic crisis, and there were quarrels over tariffs and boundaries lines among states. The financial crisis left states and ordinary citizens such as merchants and farmers in deep debt. Angry farmers organized a protest known as Shay’s Rebellion in Massachusetts to convey their distress and dissatisfaction with the government. Although the Massachusetts military dissolved the rebellion, it indicated the inability of the central government to maintain law and order (Totten, 2020). In retaliation, Alexander Hamilton organized meetings that overthrew the Articles of Confederation to write the Constitution. According to the British, freedom preservation sought by the American Revolution established a government that could not keep law and order under the Articles of Confederation.
However, the Articles of Confederation rectified the imbalance between the Constitution they produced and liberty. The Articles settled certain claims to western lands, and the 1787 Northwest Ordinance developed the essential pattern of evolving governance, especially in the territories north of the Ohio River. The Articles of Confederation was also vital since it established a new self-governing nation under a drafted document. The weakness of the Articles set the stage for the 1787 Constitutional Convection and the current form of the United States Government.
In conclusion, the Articles of Confederation was the first governing system in the US. It entailed the nation’s first Constitution between 1776 and 1789, creating a weak central government and powerful states. The lack of authority by the central government faltered the US economy. The government lacked the power to regulate commerce and enforce tax laws. It also led to an uprising of Revolutionary War Veterans (Shay’s Rebellion) in Massachusetts. Due to weak and decentralized military power, the state and the national government struggled to address the rebellion, illustrating the importance of a stronger government.
Totten, R. J. (2020). The Articles of Confederation State System, Early American International Systems, and Antebellum Foreign Policy Analytical Frameworks. A Companion to US Foreign Relations: Colonial Era to the Present, 65-92.