What were three shortcomings of the Articles of Confederation?

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1). The United States had incurred substantial debt in order to pay for its war against the British. Yet without a central bank or any kind of federal authority, it was unable to do this. The American economy, already reeling from the after-effects of the war, was damaged further by...

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1). The United States had incurred substantial debt in order to pay for its war against the British. Yet without a central bank or any kind of federal authority, it was unable to do this. The American economy, already reeling from the after-effects of the war, was damaged further by the loose, decentralized structure of the Articles of Confederation.

2). Under the Articles of Confederation, territorial disputes with foreign powers could not be fully addressed or resolved. Although such disputes affected the security of the United States as a whole, they could only be dealt with at the local level by individual states. The lack of a central government made it impossible for the United States to adopt a firm, coherent policy when it came to dealing with foreign powers.

3). Issues of domestic law and order were inadequately dealt with under the terms of the Articles of Confederation. If there was a serious public order disturbance—such as Shay's Rebellion, for example—then it could only be handled by the state authorities. Yet if the individual state concerned was unable or unwilling to deal with the relevant disorder, then there was no possibility of concerted action at a nationwide level.

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There were several shortcomings with the Articles of Confederation. One problem was that it was very difficult to pass a law or to make changes to the Articles of Confederation. In order to pass a law, nine states needed to approve the proposed law, while all thirteen states needed to approve any proposed changes to the Articles of Confederation.

Another issue is that the federal government had very limited power. It didn’t have the power to tax, which made it difficult for the government to raise money. The country had significant financial issues because of this shortcoming. The federal government also couldn’t make people join the military, which made it more difficult to respond when other countries, such as Great Britain and Spain, were interfering with American trade and were encouraging Native American attacks on the United States. It also made it difficult to keep order at home. When Shays’ Rebellion occurred, the state militia ended it, not the American army.

A third issue with the Articles of Confederation was that there were no federal courts. This made it difficult for states to resolve disputes that they had with each other since there was no place for the states to take their disputes in order to get them resolved.

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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.  

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