Articles of Confederation

The Initial Plan.

The Articles of Confederation was the first form of government created during the American Revolution in 1777 and was the first form of government for the United States. Under these, the states remained sovereign and independent, with Congress serving as the last resort on appeal of disputes. The Articles of Confederation were eventually replaced by the United States Constitution.  To get an understanding of this foundational document, read and consider  these quotes below from several of the Articles of the document.  After you finish, please complete the questions that follow.

Article II “Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.”

Article III “The said States hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other, for their common defense, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other, against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretense whatever.”

Article V “…In determining questions in the United States in Congress assembled, each State shall have one vote.”

Article VIII “The taxes for paying that proportion shall be laid and levied by the authority and direction of the legislatures of the several States within the time agreed upon by the United States in Congress assembled.”

Article X “The Committee of the States, or any nine of them, shall be authorized to execute, in the recess of Congress, such of the powers of Congress as the United States in Congress assembled, by the consent of the nine States, shall from time to time think expedient to vest them with; provided that no power be delegated to the said Committee, for the exercise of which, by the Articles of Confederation, the voice of nine States in the Congress of the United States assembled be requisite.”

Article XIII “Every State shall abide by the determination of the United States in Congress assembled, on all questions which by this confederation are submitted to them. And the Articles of this Confederation shall be inviolably observed by every State, and the Union shall be perpetual; nor shall any alteration at any time hereafter be made in any of them; unless such alteration be agreed to in a Congress of the United States, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every State.” Articles of Confederation

Analyze and Interpret

1.  Why do you think the authors of Articles used the term “league of friendship?” What is the significance of this?

2.  Based on what you have read, what are some weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation? In other words, why did the Articles fail?

3.  What changes would you recommend to strengthen the Articles of Confederation? Why?

The full version of the Articles of Confederation is available at the Avalon Project at Yale University.


Photo/Image: U.S. Postal Stamp, Bureau of Engraving and Printing, 1977