The Articles of Confederation

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Under the Articles of Confederation, how were the states represented in Congress?

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The Articles of Confederation was our first plan of government. Each state was allowed to have between two and seven members representing that state in Congress. However, each state had only one vote on any issue that needed to be decided. Congress had several powers. These included the power to make laws, to go to war, and to make treaties. It took a vote of nine states in order for a law to pass. Thirteen votes were needed to change the Articles of Confederation.

By design, the power of the federal government was limited. We did not want to have a strong federal government, because we feared it might abuse its powers. Since we had just fought to be free from a powerful government, we did not want to create that type of government after the Revolutionary War ended.

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The Articles of Confederation was the controlling document of the United States from 1781-1787.  Initially approved by all states except Maryland in 1777, they did not take effect until March 1781.  The Articles created a loose coalition of mutually supportive states.  The goal was to allow each state to maintain their sovereignty but allow a central government to handle foreign affairs and regulate commerce among the states only to ensure each state treated the others fairly.

Article Five detailed the manner of representation for each state.  Congress would be a unicameral legislature, meaning it had only one house or voting bloc.  Each state would decide how to nominate their delegates to Congress.  The states would send at least two, but not more than seven delegates.  Each state was allowed to determine how many they wanted to send.  However, regardless of how many delegates were sent to Congress each state had only one vote.  This ensured no state would wield more power than another.

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