The Articles of Confederation

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What are the strengths and weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation? What were its achievements and failures?

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The Articles of Confederation had quite a few flaws. There was no Supreme Court to rule on the laws and there were no provisions in the Articles for the national government to demand taxes. This is probably their biggest flaw in that the United States owed money both foreign and domestically and it could not pay its debts without a centralized taxation system. The Founders were hesitant to create an aloof central government that would be unresponsive to the people; this is why the Articles lasted for so long. The Articles gave the states all the power but each state only wanted to pay what it perceived to be its fair share of the bill for the American Revolution. Also, the states were free to make deals with other nations. The states could also wage trade wars against other states as there was nothing to regulate interstate commerce.

The Articles did have some good points, however. They provided the framework government during the American Revolution. The Northwest Ordinance was also passed under the Articles. This would allow for the organization of new territory into states. The Northwest Ordinance also outlawed slavery in the new territories. The Articles provided a great deal of freedom and part of them still linger in the Tenth Amendment which gives any power not mentioned in the Constitution to the state governments.

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The plan of government created by the Articles of Confederation had strengths and weaknesses. It was the weaknesses that eventually led to a movement to replace this plan of government.

The strengths of the Articles of Confederation dealt mainly with getting our country running after the Revolutionary War ended. This period of time was going to be a difficult period no matter what plan of government was created. The Articles of Confederation allowed our people to elect their leaders. It also allowed the leaders to make laws that helped run the country.

Two laws that represent significant achievements of the Articles of Confederation were the Land Ordinance of 1785 and the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. The Land Ordinance of 1785 allowed the government to develop an organized plan to deal with the western lands and to sell those lands. This was one way the government was able to raise money. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 created a plan that became a model for how a territory could become a state. After certain population thresholds were met, the territory could apply for statehood.

There were several weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation. One weakness was that the government couldn’t levy taxes. This made it hard for the government to raise money and to pay its debts. The government also couldn’t require people to join the military. This made it difficult for our government to deal with issues we had with other countries or with issues within our own country. For example, when Spain and Great Britain interfered with our trade, there wasn’t much we could do about it. When some of our people rebelled against our government, as with Shays’ Rebellion, the federal government didn’t respond to this threat. The federal government also had financial problems. Since both the state government and the federal government could print money, inflation was a concern. People often lacked confidence in the value of our paper money. Another weakness was there was no federal court system. Thus, there was no place for states to take their disputes in order to resolve them.

As the weaknesses became more obvious, a decision was made to hold a meeting in Philadelphia in 1787 to discuss changing our plan of government. This led to the development of a new plan of government, which is known as the Constitution.

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