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Which was better, the Articles of Confederation or the Constitution?

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lilstunna10 | Student, Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted November 27, 2011 at 8:02 AM via web

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Which was better, the Articles of Confederation or the Constitution?

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martinjmurphy | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted November 27, 2011 at 11:59 PM (Answer #1)

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I think the argument can be made that the Constitution is better than the Articles of Confederation. The Constitution has survived for over 220 years while the Articles failed after just 8 years. The Articles of Confederation failed because they did not give Congress and the national government enough power.  The new United States just fought a war to end what they considered tyrannical rule of a strong government that overpowered local government and the leaders of the U.S. feared a powerful central government.  Because of this, they did not give the central government the power it needed to rule effectively.  It did not give Congress the power to tax, so the government ended up printing money which caused inflation. It did not give Congress the power to draft troops, so the U.S. military was small leaving the U.S. weak.  Congress did not have the power to control interstate commerce or stop states from printing their own money, causing economic chaos within the U.S. The Articles did not give Congress the power to place tariffs on foreign goods, hurting American businesses that could not compete with cheaper British goods. The U.S. government had no chief executive so there was no one to enforce the laws that were passed.  The list can go on. With the rebellion led by Daniel Shays in Massachusetts, the leaders of the U.S. realized the Articles were not working which led to the Constitutional Convention where the Articles were abandoned and the new U.S. Constitution was written.

The new Constitution addressed many of the problems created by the Articles by creating a federal system of government with a much more powerful national government. It gave the national government the power to tax, draft troops, control interstate commerce, etc.   It also created an executive branch and a federal court system, both of which were lacking under the Articles of Confederation.  The greatest argument against the new Constitution was that it gave the national government too much power.  This argument was addressed by the framers by creating a system of checks and balances, creating a system with three branches, each with its own separate powers (separation of powers), and creating a federal system where powers were divided between the federal government and state governments, with some powers delegated to the federal government, some reserved to the states and some shared by both.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted November 27, 2011 at 8:07 AM (Answer #2)

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Most people would say the Constitution was better.  It created a system with a central government that could actually be in control of the country.  This allowed the US to have a bigger and more prosperous economy because it did not allow states to engage in trade wars with one another.  It made the US stronger because it allowed the federal government to impose taxes that it could use to create a military.

Some would argue the Articles were better because they allowed the states to have more freedom.  The Articles created a very weak national government and many people today wish the national government were still weak.  They believe the US would be better off if states retained more power than they do now.

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