The Articles of Confederation

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What was the reasoning behind the colonists creating a weak central government?

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The leaders of the new American nation were wary of creating a system of government reminiscent of what they had seen under the colonial rule of England. The colonists had felt betrayed by their "mother" country. Taxes, especially after the French-Indian War, became more numerous and punitive in nature. They had seen first hand the power wielded by a monarch and were dead set on not yielding to an oppressive government again.

Under that backdrop, the first written plan of government was created. The Articles of Confederation were designed to give a majority of power to the individual states instead of a central government. As a result, many problems quickly rose to the surface.

Without sufficient power in the central government, Congress was unable to pass any measures of importance. Actually getting a law passed required 9 of the 13 states to be in agreement. To complicate matters further, the Articles allowed for no executive branch to ensure new laws would be carried out. Laws that were created would not be interpreted or upheld by a judicial branch, as that branch was non-existent as well.

Correcting any problems in the document was next to impossible, as amending the Articles of Confederation required a unanimous vote. Finances were a major problem under the Articles. Congress was given no power to collect tax and could only request money from the individual states.

Fear of being under the oppressive rule of a strong, central government drove early Americans to make a plan to govern themselves that had virtually no chance of success. This period in American history is known as "The Critical Period," as the very existence of the nation was not a certainty as long as the Articles reigned.

Eventually, the Articles would be scrapped and a new Constitution created. This new document would be the perfect compromise between federal power and state power and continues to serve to this day.

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The colonists had their reasons for creating a weak central (federal) government under the Articles of Confederation.  After fighting the Revolutionary War, the colonists were determined not to repeat the events which led to the outbreak of the war. The colonists believed the English government and the King had way too much power.  The colonists believed the English government taxed too much, abused military power, and restricted freedoms of the colonists.  The colonists had little to no say in any of these matters.  Therefore, the colonists intentionally created a federal government which was weak in nature.  The colonists believed the power should be in the hands of the people.  Not only did they create a weak federal government, they restricted the powers of the state governors because they were so concerned about the leaders abusing their power.  The federal government couldn't do many things which it can do today.  This included not having the power to tax, control trade, or force people to join the army.  While this sounded good on paper, in practice it created many problems.  Eventually, the Constitution was written to replace the weak Articles of Confederation.  The Constitution gave the federal government much more power than it had under the Articles of Confederation.

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