How did the US Constitution overcome the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation?
The Articles of Confederation had several weaknesses. As a result, a new plan of government, the Constitution, was written to clear up the weaknesses. Under the Articles of Confederation, there were many things the federal government couldn’t do. It couldn’t tax, make trade treaties, resolve disputes between states, keep order, and pay its debts. To help solve these issues, the writers of the Constitution created a federal government with three branches. Each branch had distinct powers to carry out its responsibilities.
For example, the legislative branch, made up of the Senate and House of Representatives, had the power to make laws. This included the power to tax, to print money, and to control trade. The judicial branch, or the court system, had the power to settle disputes, including those between the states.
Additionally, the government had the ability to create an army. This army could be used to keep order at home as well as fight wars with other countries if needed. The Articles of Confederation can’t be criticized for being a weak government because it was set up to be a weak government.
However, the Constitution was much better, in part because the writers of the Constitution learned from the past mistakes that were made. They also included an amendment process to correct future problems that might arise. The Constitution was written, in part, to correct the mistakes and resolve the issues that existed in the Articles of Confederation.
The Articles of Confederation lacked the power to tax. They could not raise money at the federal level to pay off national debts. After the American Revolution, each state sought to only pay what it regarded as its fair share; this led to chaos for the nation. The Constitution gave Congress the power to tax in Article I, thus alleviating this problem. It also gave Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce and to create a currency. This brought the states together in that they had to cooperate economically. Article I also gave the Senate the power to ratify treaties—now diplomacy was at the federal level instead of the state level.
The Articles of Confederation also only had a legislative body, whereas the Constitution has three branches of government. The Constitution provides for a bicameral legislature with the lower house's representation being based on a state's population. In the upper house, each state gets two senators. This solved the problem of creating a system fair to both large and small states. The most important part of the Constitution is that it gives a Bill of Rights which spell out the rights of Americans. While these rights are often subject to interpretation, they were necessary to get the Constitution passed as there were still many in America who feared the central government that the Constitution would provide.
The Articles of Confederation was written to provide a framework that would guide the relationship between the autonomous states since there were concerns around a strong national government. Thus, the Articles of Confederation allowed the states to function independently. For instance, the states printed their own money, which was useless in the other states because they did not share the currency.
The arrangement set by the Articles of Confederation only seemed to help the states remain united to fend off invasions, address internal territorial issues, and deal with foreign relations. However, power remained at the state level, and the Continental Congress remained subject to the authority of the states.
The Constitution sought to address these challenges by including the judicial and executive branches of government at the federal level. The changes provided the federal government with the capacity to not only make laws but also enforce them across all the states. Although states were allowed some level of independence, they effectively became subject to the federal government. Additionally, the federal government was also handed the power to collect taxes and regulate trade, which made it a stronger institution.