The Articles of Confederation

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From 1781 to 1789, did the Articles of Confederation provide the United States with an effective government?

One could argue that from 1781 to 1789, the Articles of Confederation did not provide the United States with effective government. They may have helped America win the Revolutionary War, but they couldn't help the country win peace. Under the Articles, American government was too weak and too decentralized to meet the challenges of building a new nation.

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Although the Articles of Confederation had proved themselves to be highly effective in coordinating the efforts of the states in fighting the Revolutionary War, they were totally unsuited to the challenges of building a nation once the war had been won. This was because American government under the Articles was weak and decentralized, with ultimate power residing with the individual states.

Such an arrangement was entirely deliberate, as the American colonists wanted to avoid any kind of arrangement that smacked of what they regarded as the centralized tyranny that had been imposed upon them by the British. And so America became a loose confederation of individual states without much federal government to speak of.

Once the war was over, the severe limitations of the Articles of Confederation became all too clear. For one thing, law and order could only be secured on the basis of close cooperation between the states. However, if this wasn't forthcoming, as in the case of Shay's...

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Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on December 1, 2020