The Articles of Confederation

Start Free Trial

Describe two limitations in the Articles of Confederation. The Articles of Confederation spelled out states' powers and Congress's powers, serving as the government of the US from 1781 until 1788. These powers were extremely limited. There are at least five limitations.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

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, which addressed many of the problems found with the Articles.

Posted on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

As you indicate, there were many ways in which the Articles of Confederation set up a national government that was too weak.  Two of the major limitations on the national government were that it A) had no executive branch and B) did not have the power to tax the people.

The lack of an executive branch meant that the national government could do little or nothing to carry out the laws that it made.  This meant that it would have to rely on states to enforce the laws and the states could simply ignore laws if they did not like them.

The inability to tax meant that there was no way that the government could reliably raise revenue to fund any government operations (even essential ones such as defense).  The national government had to ask the states for money and the states could easily refuse.

These were two of the major ways in which the national government was limited under the Articles of Confederation.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
Soaring plane image

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial