How did the U.S. Constitution succeed when the Articles of Confederation failed?
America's first formal attempt to organize itself as an independent country commenced with the adoption of the Articles of Confederation in 1781. This document reflected America's wariness over centralized authority and the tendency for governments to control and tyrannize their member states.
After recently separating itself from the oppressive control of the British, American leaders were in no mood to relinquish control to a governing entity of their own country. When they drafted and passed the Articles of Confederation, they made the federal government weak. Unfortunately, they also made it ineffectual in several important respects.
Taxation: The federal government could not levy taxes. America was struggling to repay war debts and could not do so without money. The Constitution provided means to tax, although the U.S. still did not have a federal income tax for many years.
Executive Leadership: The Articles did not authorize the election or appointment of a national leader—a position we now refer to as a president. Without a national leader, it is difficult to organize and motivate member states to act in the national interest. The Constitution provided for the election of a president.
Trade: The weak federal government could not regulate trade with foreign countries, leaving states to make their own treaties. States worked against each other in this respect. There was also no national currency, which impeded interstate economic activity. The Constitution gave the federal government the power to negotiate trade deals with other countries and establish a national monetary system.
These are just a few of the major problems associated with the Articles of Confederation. In 1789, the Constitution as we now know it was enacted. It greatly increased the power of the central government in all the areas listed above.
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