The Articles Of Confederation


The Articles Of Confederation Essay, Research Paper

As the Revolutionary War came to a close, the Continental Congress introduced a

new form of government as it instituted the Articles of Confederation. The articles

established a democratic government that granted the states sufficient power to control

their own laws and regulations. However, the Articles of Confederation were ineffective

and, hence; they failed to provide a strong government. During this time in an American

history, often known as the “Critical Period”, regionalism and anarchism began to expand

as a result of the following reasons. The Continental Congress controlled public affairs,

but the Articles of Confederation neglected to grant the Congress power to enforce laws

or unify the States. Under the Articles, the United States lacked a solid monetary system

to ensure that taxes would be paid and to protect commerce, both nationally and foreign

trade. Also, without leading national figure, the strong unity America gained during the

Revolutionary War began to diminish along with the nations overall strength.

Being that Congress had only the power to recommend actions to the states, the

Articles were incompetent. Law and recommendations could not be further enforced

by Congress. Each state obtained its own form of a constitution, monetary system and

method to enforce the laws. Each state committed strongly to the state laws and self

interests rather than to the recommendations of Congress. America’s sense of unity

began to plummet as regionalism pitted one state against another. For example, Rhode

Island voted to reject Congress’s recommendation of an impost on imported goods

because its leaders felt the idea objected the state’s constitution. (Document A)

Also, the Articles neglected to provide a solid and adequate monetary system to

ensure that taxes would be paid and to protect commerce. Congress was unable to collect

taxes that were established to pay pre-war debts. This yielded a period of chaos and

anarchism, as unpaid soldiers marched on to Philadelphia, and consequently,

Congress was forced to flee to Princeton, New Jersey.(Document C) The states

individually controlled their monetary system rather than one central and national

monetary system. Hence, one state’s currency was invalid after it crossed its state’s

borders. Therefore, Americans were forced to introduce the barter system within the

states. As a result, during this era economic progression and growth became stagnate

despite the increase in population growth. (Document B) Also, self interest of the states

and individuals produced additional problems. For example, John Jay attempted to create

a treaty with Great Britain that would have paid off war debts, but would have also been

tragic to American merchants. “You will represent in strong terms the losses which

many of our and also of their merchants will sustain if the former be unseasonably and

immoderately pressed for the payment of debts contracted before the war.” (Document


The Articles of Confederation also began to cause the unified nation to divide.

Without a present leader or court system, unification lacked significantly. New land

territories were claimed by individual states rather than the nation as a whole. As

borders became inconsistent, a negative effect was added to the loyalty of citizens along

with the economy of each area. (Document E) Without a national court system, laws and

regulations to protect the nation could not be established or enforced. Also, without a

president, the nation lacked a leading figure to look to during this “Critical Period”. A

president was also needed to take a stand against enemies of the United States. Foreign

powers could have easily overthrown the American government. For example, Britain

still maintained posts within the United States’ boundaries, and the Spain also controlled

the lower half of the Mississippi River. “Many fruitless arguments passed between us;

and tho’ he would admit that the only any thing to complain of; yet he would still insist

that the Mississippi must be shut against us….”(Document F) Congress was unable to

act to gain the use of the Mississippi, and it could only negotiate a treaty with Spain, but

it was ineffective.

During this “Critical Period”, the Articles of Confederation failed to provide the

United States with an effective and powerful government. The American sense of

unification began to dissolve compared to the colonists’ attitudes during the

Revolutionary War. The states were divided separately into one nation, rather than

unified into one nation. Each state, with its own interests, currency, and government

debilitated economic progression. Congress had no authority to enforce

recommendations, or to unify the states. Without the presence of a president or national

court system, it became impossible to make necessary changes within the nation. If this

young nation was to survive, the Articles of Confederation needed to be altered or


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