Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation, and explain how they contributed to the creation of a new US constitution in 1787.

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mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Articles of Confederation had strengths and weaknesses. Ultimately, the weaknesses became such a concern that a new plan of government was written.

There were some strong points of the Articles of Confederation. The Land Ordinance of 1785 did a wonderful job of organizing our western lands and making them available for sale. The western lands were divided into townships, which were six miles long and six miles wide. They were divided into 36 sections. Each section had 640 acres, and the land was sold for $1.00 an acre. This was also a good way for the government to raise money. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 created a process for how a territory could become a state. When a territory reached 5,000 free men, an assembly could be elected to work with the governor. When there were 60,000 free citizens, the territory could ask to become a state. This process was also used for future territories to follow when they wanted to become a state.

The period of time after the Revolutionary War was a difficult time. The plan of government created by the Articles of Confederation got us through the early years of our independence. However, there were significant issues that existed with this plan of government that suggested the Articles of Confederation needed to be replaced.

There were problems with the Articles of Confederation. The federal government had financial issues. The federal government could not tax, which made it hard for the government to raise money. The federal government could not make people join the army. As a result, when Great Britain would not leave the forts in the west and when other countries began to interfere with our trade, we did not have the ability to do much about this from a military standpoint. The federal government had trouble keeping order at home. When Shays’ Rebellion occurred, the federal government did not act to stop the rebellion. There also was no federal court system. Thus, no place existed where the states could go to resolve disputes that they had with each other. Additionally, it was difficult to pass a law and to revise the Articles of Confederation. Nine of the thirteen states needed to vote for a law to pass. All thirteen states needed to agree to revise the Articles of Confederation.

These issues led people to believe the Articles of Confederation had to be replaced with a new plan of government. This new plan was called the Constitution of the United States.