Articles of Confederation

From 1781 to 1789 the Articles of Confederation provided the United States with an
ineffective government, however there were some strong steps taken in the articles to try and
make the United States a better country. The articles created a loose confederation of
independent states that gave limited powers to a central government, known as Congress.
Some actions taken by Congress, such as the Treaty of Paris, and certain powers that were
given to them were sometimes beneficial to the United States. Nevertheless, in attempting to
limit the power of the central government, the Second Continental Congress created one
without sufficient power to govern effectively, which led to serious national and international
problems. The greatest weakness of the federal government under the Articles of
Confederation was its inability to regulate trade and levy taxes. In the long run, the Articles
of Confederation was a shot in the arm for the United States.
The Articles of Confederation arranged a national government that would consist of a
single house of Congress, where each state would have one vote. Congress had the power to
set up a postal department, to estimate the costs of the government and request donations
from the states, and to raise armed forces. Congress could also borrow money as well as
declare war and enter into treaties and alliances with foreign nations. With this power,
Congress was able to make the Articles of Confederation look good by signing the Treaty of
Paris in 1783. This treaty, signed along with Great Britain, concluded the American
Revolution. By its terms, Great Britain recognized the thirteen colonies as the free and
independent United States of America. However, the most important power was that
Congress had the right to obtain territory and control development of the western territories,
which was previously controlled by their mother country, Great Britain. (Doc D) With the
Articles of Confederation, the United States was able to break away from their mother
country and become a free nation, setting up their own government.
Although the articles set the United States free, it was unable to provide them with a
solid government. Leaders like John Jay and James Madison criticized the Articles of
Confederation because of the weak government. (Doc G) There were several problems
between the states and the central government. For instance, sometimes the states refused to
give the government the money it needed, and they engaged in tariff wars with one another,
bringing interstate trading to a halt. The government could not pay off the debts it had
incurred during the revolution, including paying soldiers who had fought in the war and
citizens who had provided supplies to the cause. (Doc C) In addition, the new nation was
unable to defend its borders from British and Spanish encroachment because it could not pay
for an army when the states would not contribute the necessary funds. Another serious
problem was that Congress could not pass needed measures because they lacked nine-state
majority required to become laws. The states largely ignored Congress, which was powerless
to enforce cooperation, and it was therefore unable to carry out its duties; duties such as trade
regulation, which began to crumble with the entrance of the articles. The United States was
unable to expand their market value with the population. (Doc B)
With all of the difficulty between the people and the government, it is obvious that
the Articles of Confederation weakened the United States. Congress did gain some control,
and did some good deeds, but their control was too limited, and they could not get along with
the people. The central government could not manage the trade regulation, nor could they
levy taxes on the people. With no money being brought into the government, no country is
able to be successful.