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The Articles of Confederation served as the first constitution for America after the thirteen colonies gained independence from Britain. Because the colonies were so worried about trading one oppressive governing body for another, several of the colonists thought the purpose of the articles should be to ensure that there wouldn't be one governing body that was too strong and in charge of everything. Others thought a strong central government was needed to provide strength and unity in the face of future foreign adversaries. As a compromise, the articles sought to split the government responsibilities between individual state governments and the central government. A line from the Articles states, "Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated."
Unfortunately, this first constitution had several weaknesses. The states, once again trying to avoid the problems they faced when under British rule, did not include taxation in the Articles. This meant that there was no main source of funds for the government, and the debt accrued during the war couldn't be paid. The states were of course free to offer money to help pay these debts and support the central government, but, not surprisingly, they rarely did.
Another problem arose regarding military provisions. The central government was solely responsible for declaring war or peace time, but the states were expected to offer supplies or men to the service of the military. However, the Articles failed to include any incentives or threats to persude the states to actually comply with the request for these things. This left the military weak, frequently underfunded, and hungry.
Perhaps the most glaring problem with the Articles of Confederation was the overall lack of central government authority. In their haste to ensure no state would feel underrepresented or powerless, the colonists left the central government with too little ability to govern. There were no executive units and the position of President had not yet been created. Finally, there was not a specific judiciary branch to deal with matters of law and punishment. If a person committed a crime in one state and ran off to another, the person had to be expedited back to the original state and tried for the crime there according to that state's specific rules.
The Articles of confederation were the first system of laws put in place after Americas independence from the British. It has a weak central government, because it gave the states too much power. Also, certain parts of government had too much power. They realized they Articles were not working, so they decided to make a new one. Which was the Constitution, the foundation of our government that is still in place today.
For more about the Articles of Confederation, check out the study guides here on enotes.com
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