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The Articles of Confederation, which really went into effect in 1781, was described at the time as a "firm league of friendship." It's most important characteristic was that it reserved most powers to the states, granting very few to the central government. The central government itself was composed of a unicameral legislature in which each state got one vote. This Congress was unable to levy taxes on the states and unable to force states (though it could ask) to send troops in case of military crisis. It also lacked the power to regulate interstate commerce. The major powers it did have were to make war and peace, to coin money, and to conduct diplomacy. There was also no federal executive (though there was a President of Congress) to enforce the laws the Congress could make, and no federal judiciary. The Articles are often derided, but it should be understood that the state leaders, fighting to secure independence from Great Britain, were not terribly enthusiastic about establishing a strong central government. Another paralyzing aspect of the Articles, however, was the stipulation that a unanimous vote was needed to amend the Articles. The Articles were discarded as a form of government after the ratification of the Constitution in 1789.
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