The Articles of Confederation

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Evaluate the effectiveness of the Articles of Confederation as it would pertain to a new nation.

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There were a number of serious deficiencies to the Articles of Confederation that made it completely ineffective for governing the new nation of the United States. I will briefly discuss some of these below.

First of all, the Articles of Confederation created a very weak national government. There was no executive power. The national government could not collect taxes and instead relied on the states to voluntarily fund it.

Furthermore, there was no independent national system of courts. Instead, the national government had to rely on the state courts to set judicial precedent. In fact, state courts could overturn or simply ignore federal law in their individual jurisdictions. As a result, there was little the national government could do to enforce its laws in the states.

The Articles of Confederation gave Congress the power to declare war but left it no means to raise a military. Because it was up to the state militias to provide a fighting force, it was a slow and clumsy process to mobilize the military in the face of threats.

It was also very difficult to pass laws under the Articles of Confederation. Nine of the thirteen states were required to pass laws. That meant that a minority of states could easily block the passage of legislation that the majority of states favored. Since each state had just one vote in this process regardless of population, a small portion of the country's total population could prevent the passage of useful legislation.

Indeed, it would have been very hard to fix the Articles of Confederation piecemeal. The amendment process required the approval of every state. Considering the diversity of the country, it would be nearly impossible for every state to agree on an amendment. Therefore, once the other failures of this system were made clear, it was decided to abandon the Articles of Confederation completely and create a "more perfect" system under the US Constitution.

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The Articles of Confederation were really ineffective as it pertains to the new nation. 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.

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The Articles of Confederation were basically not effective for the purposes of establishing a new nation. However, they served as a starting point in the process of compromise that was necessary to formulate a viable government.

"Confederation" means a loose grouping or association, which is what the newly independent states wanted. They did not want to yield any more power than absolutely necessary to any central governmental body or person. Creating a confederation allowed the states to maintain many separate functions. The national government was given the authority to declare war, but the individual states had responsibility for contributing financial support to pay for the war. The national government was responsible for foreign policy but had no finances to enforce military actions against foreign powers taking advantage of the new nation. Congress had no authority to regulate business between the states, which led to conflicts and uprisings.

As a result of living under the Articles of Confederation, representatives of the states realized the need to find a way to create a stronger central government that would have the authority needed to control and unify the new nation.

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