What is the structure of the Articles of Confederation?

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The Articles of Confederation were the first constitution of the United States.  They were written in 1777 and ratified in 1781.  This constitution is structured into 13 articles.  Each article deals with a separate topic.  Most of the articles are very short.  Article IX is by far the longest while Article V and Article VI are shorter than Article IX but longer than the other articles.

Article I simply says that the country would be a confederacy and that its name would be “The United States of America.”

Article II says that each state retains its sovereignty in all matters not explicitly given to the national government.

Article III says that all of the states promise to “enter into a firm league of friendship” in which they will help and defend one another.

Article IV gives people the right to move from one state to another and says that the states will honor each other’s laws.

Article V sets up the Congress of the new country, saying that each state will get one vote.

Article VI limits what the states can do.  It prevents them from doing things like declaring war or having standing armies.

Article VII says that the states will get to appoint officers below the rank of general when an army is raised.

Article VIII says how the US government will get its money.

Article IX is very long.  It sets out the powers that the Congress (the national government) has.

Article X allows Congress to set up a committee of states to take care of business when Congress is not assembled.

Article XI says that Canada can join the confederacy if it likes.

Article XII says that the US will honor the debts that it incurred in fighting the Revolutionary War even though those debts were contracted before the Articles were ratified.

Article XIII says that the Articles can only be altered by approval of Congress and all of the states.

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How were the Articles of Confederation structured?

The Articles of Confederation were drafted by a committee of the Second Continental Congress in 1776 and were later ratified by all the states. Each of the 13 states had one vote in the Congress of the Confederation and could send 2 to 7 delegates to the Congress. The delegates were chosen by state legislatures. The federal government under the Articles of Confederation had no executive, and its powers included the ability to declare war and conduct foreign relations. The states, not the federal government, were required to keep well-maintained militias, and the state legislatures were responsible for raising money for the use of the federal government. This system led to a weak federal government that was constantly strapped for funds, as the federal government could not tax people and was reliant on state funds that often did not arrive or that arrived late. In addition, the lack of one chief executive made it difficult for the U.S. to conduct foreign affairs. The Articles were replaced by the Constitution in 1789.

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