#OnThisDay: Articles of Confederation & Why They Had to Be Replaced

If you’ve visited my blog today expecting to find out what books I read last month, please forgive me. I felt compelled to write about an event in American history today. I’ll share with you my thoughts about the books I read in February in my blog posts on March 8 and 15.

#OnThisDay

It was 240 years ago today that the Articles of Confederation were ratified by the State of Maryland – the last of the 13 states to ratify the document, making it the law of the land.

As a writer and reader of historical fiction and nonfiction, I need to keep in mind what the federal government could and could not do before 1789. Today’s blog post is a “crash course” about the Articles of Confederation. I hope it will be a painless way to refresh your memory about the document and some of the reasons it had to be replaced by the US Constitution.

What were the Articles of Confederation?

The Articles of Confederation were spelled out in a five-page document that served as a constitution for the former American colonies after they won independence from Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War. It took the Continental Congress 16 months to draw up the document. The document was adopted on November 15, 1777, in York, Pennsylvania. York was serving as the temporary capital of the new country.

The Articles of Confederation loosely held the 13 states together. It mandated a single house in Congress, and each state had one vote. The Articles gave Congress authority over foreign affairs, the power to raise a national army, and the power to declare war and declare peace; however, the Articles did not give the Congress the power to levy taxes.

How durable were the Articles of Confederation?

It didn’t take long for people to identify problems with the Articles of Confederation.

Not wanting to risk being accused of “taxation without representation” the framers of the Article of Confederation gave states the authority to impose taxes but they did not give that authority to the United States government. Having hindsight, we can see today that such a setup was unsustainable, and it’s difficult for me to see how the framers couldn’t anticipate that. Since the new nation was in debt at the end of the American Revolution, it was difficult to raise funds to pay off that indebtedness without the power to impose taxes.

Another problem with the Articles of Confederation was that each state could issue their own currency. Imagine if that were the case today!

Photo credit: Alexander Schimmeck on unsplash.com

The Articles of Confederation failed to create a sense of nation. With a weak central government, allegiances were often more to one’s state than to the country. Indeed, that mindset continued in some ranks and contributed to the formation of the Confederate States of America and the outbreak of the American Civil War. Robert E. Lee’s almost blind allegiance to the State of Virginia comes to mind.

The US Constitution

Seeing the problems with the Articles of Confederation, the US Constitution was drawn up. It replaced the Articles of Confederation on March 4, 1789. For more information about the creation of the US Constitution, please see my May 25, 2020 blog post, #OnThisDay: 1787 US Constitutional Convention.

Photo credit: Anthony Garand on unsplash.com

Since my last blog post

I’ve enjoyed reading some books that I’ll blog about later. After having trouble concentrating on anything in January, it’s been gratifying to once again enjoy reading.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read and quality writing time if you’re a writer, blogger, or like to journal just for your own edification. Writing is therapeutic.

I hope you have time to enjoy a favorite hobby.

Keep wearing that facemask out of respect for others.

Janet

23 thoughts on “#OnThisDay: Articles of Confederation & Why They Had to Be Replaced

  1. It’s always seemed to me that the fundamental conflict in the early history of US governance was the distribution of power between state and federal institutions, particularly with regard to that of tax revenue and the printing of money. People actually fought duels over the issue. The states wanted the security of unity… “Don’t tread on me,” and all that. But of course, no country can exist for very long if its central government can’t actually pay for things, such as raising an army. Objectively (no current politics either implied or supported) looking at the solution in the original Constitution, it barely qualified as “democratic”, and was pretty clearly created with the intent to make it possible, but difficult for the central government to levy taxes or to create debt without the broad agreement of a small group of those likely to bear the greatest burden. As an example of a country going the opposite direction with its confederation, Switzerland is an interesting study. But I wonder how the Civil War might ultimately have played out under such a system?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You bring up some interesting points. Yes, the original US Constitution wasn’t democratic in that it actually, without spelling it out in so many words, only protected the wealthy, land-owning, white males. It has held us together as a nation so far, with the except of the Civil War. The Swiss Constitution is an interesting comparison. Not allowing for a law enacted by the legislature to be ruled unconstitutional is frightening to me, and making it perhaps too easy to amend the document is as well, particularly in light of recent developments here in the US. Democracy is a fragile idea — in many instances stronger-sounding on paper than it is in practice. Thank you for taking the time to write such a detailed and thought-provoking comment.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You’re welcome, Laleh. I look forward to writing about the books I read in February next Monday and on March 8. You’ll have a book in both blog posts! I’ve left reviews of them on Amazon and on Goodreads. I hope you’ll be pleased with them.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m just now seeing your comment, Laleh, so please forgive me for not getting back to you sooner. I don’t know how to help you. Perhaps there was a delay in my review being posted. I just checked Goodreads and the review is there now. My account is Janet Morrison and I use the same photo on there that I use on my blog. I hope that helps you find me. If you still can’t find me on Goodreads, please let me know and I’ll see what I can do.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for this Janet. It’s good to see American history written about because it’s interesting, and not in a text book. What I remember mist about the articles of confederation is that a constitutional convention was called to amend them. Instead, our came a whole new document. Hence our reluctance to hold another. You just never know where it might lead.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you, Janet. I’m glad this struck a chord with you. Today I’m back to blogging about books. My audience seems to be dwindling after three history lessons in a row. I’m looking forward to getting back on track with you and your group on Wednesday night after having to miss in February!

    Like

  7. Very interesting indeed Janet. Your narrative fully explains the Articles of Confederation, their intrinsic weakness and the need to replace them with the Constitution. A wonderful way to learn US history I must say. All the best to you my friend,
    FBC

    Liked by 1 person

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