How did the weakness of the Articles of Confederation affect U.S. relations?  

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davmor1973 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Quite simply, the fundamental weakness of the Articles of Confederation meant that the United States wasn't taken seriously on the international stage. And it's not surprising. Without a Federal government able to raise tax revenue, the United States couldn't pay the enormous debts incurred during the Revolutionary War. Any monies raised would have to be requested from the state governments, who were under no obligation to pay up. So long as Congress had to go cap-in-hand to the states for money, other countries would be unwilling to trade with the United States as there would always be a danger of defaulting on loans.

It was also impossible for the United States to have a coherent foreign policy as ultimate sovereignty resided with the individual states. This was a highly dangerous position for the new nation to find itself in, as the threat from Britain had not entirely receded. Not only that, but the Spanish were becoming increasingly aggressive in relation to territorial disputes over Florida.

The (unratified) Articles of Confederation had proved surprisingly adept at enabling the United States to win the war with Britain. Unfortunately, they were of considerably less value in building the peace, in preparing the United States to take its place among the international community. The victory over the British had been forged in the heat of ideological fervor; but relations with other states were conducted on a more mundane level, one involving legal and diplomatic technicalities. The Articles of Confederation, whatever their undoubted worth as instruments of waging revolutionary war, or as expressions of republican liberty, were ultimately incapable of navigating the new nation through the stormy seas of international relations.

mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Articles of Confederation created a weak federal government for our new country. Other countries knew this, and they were going to test us to see how we would respond. Under the plan developed by the Articles of Confederation, the government couldn’t force people to join the military. The Congress had limited powers. Congress couldn’t tax or control trade. As a result of these weaknesses, foreign countries took advantage of us.

We had boundaries issues with Spain regarding Florida and the use of the Mississippi River. Spain insisted Florida’s boundary was further north than we said it was. Spain also made it difficult for us to use the Mississippi River and the port of New Orleans. Spain and Britain blocked our trade with other countries. We were powerless to deal with this militarily. Britain also wouldn’t leave forts in western lands. There wasn’t much we could do about this at the time. As a result of the weak federal government created by the Articles of Confederation, other countries tried to test us and take advantage of our weaknesses. It was until after the Constitution was developed that some of these issues were resolved.