How does the US Constitution overcome the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation?

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The US Constitution gave the United States a fully-functioning central government, something it had never had under the Articles of Confederation. Having just thrown off the yoke of what they regarded as British tyranny, the American colonists wanted to ensure that government was as decentralized as possible. This meant that,...

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The US Constitution gave the United States a fully-functioning central government, something it had never had under the Articles of Confederation. Having just thrown off the yoke of what they regarded as British tyranny, the American colonists wanted to ensure that government was as decentralized as possible. This meant that, under the Articles of Confederation, ultimate sovereignty lay with the states; there was no central government to speak of.

As time went by, it became patently obvious that the existing system was no longer fit for purpose. The system of government that had stood the United States in good stead during the Revolutionary War proved wholly inadequate to deal with the new nation's many post-War challenges.

For one thing, the lack of a central government meant that the United States was unable to pay off the large debts it had accrued during the War. It was also impossible for the United States to speak with one voice on the international stage as there wasn't one foreign policy, but thirteen different ones, some of them mutually contradictory.

In establishing a central government the US Constitution addressed these concerns and many more, thus laying the foundations for a prosperous modern state ready and able to take its place among the intentional family of nations.

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The Article of Confederation was the first constitution of the United States of America. It was established in 1776 and lasted until 1789—taking the early United States through the Revolutionary War. However, once the war was finished, it became apparent that the Articles were not strong enough to keep the country afloat.

The Articles of Confederation created a weak central government and provided the individual states much more power and authority. Among the notable weaknesses were the inability of the federal government to collect taxes, impose tariffs, keep a standing army, and pay its debts. Many of the issues with the federal government under the Articles of Confederation came down to economics. The individual states held nearly all the power under the Articles, and as a result, the federal government was left asking for things like money to pay debts or soldiers to fill an army.

The US Constitution was drafted between 1787 and 1789 to remedy some of the issues in the Articles of Confederation. The breaking point for many of the state governments was the fiasco of Shay’s Rebellion, where Massachusetts couldn’t fight a rebellion, and the federal government couldn’t supply troops to combat the rebels. The Constitution reorganized the federal government entirely. Some of the main changes were:

  • The House of Representatives was established with proportionate representation—meaning there were representatives for every thirty thousand citizens. The Articles’ congress was not proportionate, favoring small states.
  • The US Senate was established that had equal representation—which meant smaller states were not going to be outvoted.
  • Both houses of Congress were required to pass many laws, which is meant as a check and balance of power.
  • A president was established who would sign bills once passed. The veto power was established as a check and balance of power.
  • Congress was granted the power to impose taxes, tariffs, and other means of making money for the US; further, they were able to take on debts for the country.
  • While Congress could raise money for an army, the army was presided over by the president. A standing army was established, as well as a way to fund it.
  • States were prohibited from taxing one another, something that frequently happened under the Articles.
  • The three branches of the government were established, each with a duty and as a balance of power. The Articles only provided for a weak congress.
  • Altering the Constitution could be done by both congress or state convention. The threshold for percentage agreement needed for change was also lowered from 100% to just 66%.

The US Constitution was very different from the Articles of Confederation and established a much stronger central government. The new government also drafted ten initial amendments that granted rights to the people, something that was also not written about under the Articles of Confederation.

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The Articles of Confederation was our first plan of government. It was designed to create a weak federal government. This led to many problems that eventually needed to be addressed. A meeting was held to write a new plan of government. This new plan was called the Constitution. The Constitution tried to resolve some of the issues that existed under the Articles of Confederation.

One thing the Constitution did was to give the federal government power to deal with financial issues. Under the Articles of Confederation, the federal government couldn’t levy taxes. This led to financial issues. Under the Constitution, the federal government had the power to levy taxes. This helped the federal government raise money to pay our debts and meet our obligations. The Constitution also gave the federal government the power to print money. Under the Articles of Confederation, the state governments and the federal government could print money. This created issues as people didn’t have confidence in the paper money that was issued. With only the federal government issuing money, this was not a real concern.

The Constitution also gave the federal government more power to deal with disorder in our country. Under the Articles of Confederation, the federal government couldn’t make people join the army. Under the Constitution, the federal government could do this if needed. This helped the federal government deal with internal dissent as well as issues with other countries.

The federal government also was allowed to make treaties with other countries. This allowed our government to deal with countries that weren’t treating us well. Jay’s Treaty and Pinckney’s treaty are examples of treaties we signed to resolve issues we had with other countries.

By giving the federal government more power to operate, the Constitution was able to overcome some of the problems that existed under the Articles of Confederation.

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