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What were the limitations of the national government under the Articles of Confederation?

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The essential problem with the Articles of Confederation was that it was a very weak system of government. The Americans had just overthrown what they saw as the tyranny of centralized British rule and the last thing they wanted was to see it reestablished on American soil by way of a strong Federal government. So they put in place a loose confederation in which ultimate sovereignty resided with the states, where power was as radically decentralized as possible.

The shortcomings of such a system soon became clear as the new nation began to take its first tentative steps on the international stage. Without a strong central government, the United States was unable to pay off the enormous debts it had accrued during the Revolutionary War. This greatly diminished America's credibility as an international trading partner.

To make matters worse, without a centralized government the United States was unable to develop a coherent foreign policy. Among other things, this meant that territorial...

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