What were three shortcomings of the Articles of Confederation?

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mrkirschner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The desire of the early political leaders of the United States to assign power to the states was quite evident in the Articles of Confederation.  What these leaders discovered, however, is that granting states unfettered rights was not healthy for the development of a strong republic.  There were many weaknesses in the Articles of Confederation that caused a number of problems for the early republic.

First, the national congress was created to be quite weak.  Each state had only one representative and to pass a law, 9 of the 13 states were required to ratify the law.  To change the Articles of Confederation itself required a unanimous vote.  This caused necessary lawmaking to proceed very slowly. The fact that Congress was hampered in creating policy put the national government at a great disadvantage.

A second error in the Articles of Confederation was that it did not allow for a national army.  The states would raise armies and in times of war, could voluntarily send troops if they desired.  This left the United States open to invasion or other international interference, particularly from Britain and France.  The federal government did not have the right to tax the people to even fund a national defense system.

A third weakness of the Articles of Confederation was the lack of a president or executive branch to enforce the laws of Congress. This further hampered the process of uniting the states.  The Articles of Confederation did not provide for a national court system to interpret laws. The end result of the lack of a strong federal government was the absence of a unity of purpose between the thirteen states.