The Articles of Confederation

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What type of legislature did the Articles of Confederation set up, and how did this differ from the legislature set up by the Constitution?

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The Articles of Confederation established a legislature that was unicameral—meaning that there was only one chamber, or governing body, that comprised the entire legislature. This contrasts with the bicameral legislature later established by the Constitution. In the bicameral model of governance, the legislature consists of two chambers, or governing bodies. Here in the United States, the two chambers that form our bicameral legislature are called the House of Representatives and the Senate. Collectively, these governing bodies form what we call Congress.

The legislature established by the Articles of Confederation allotted one vote for each state. Furthermore, the representatives of each state were not elected by voters. Rather, they were appointed by their respective state legislatures. This contrasts with the House of Representatives established by the Constitution. Representatives to the House are directly elected by the voters in their home districts. Additionally, representation of each state in the House is based on the population of each respective state. For example, the state of Wisconsin currently has eight representatives in the House, whereas California, a much more populous state compared to Wisconsin, currently has 53 seats in the House.

In what may be regarded as a remnant that carried over from the old legislative model under the Articles of Confederation, the Senate has equal representation from each state, as well. Instead of each state having one vote, though, as was the case with the legislature established by the Articles, each state in the Senate has two votes. Until the 17th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in 1913, the Senate shared something else in common with the old Articles legislature—Senators were appointed by their state legislatures, not directly elected by voters. The 17th Amendment changed this.

Finally, the legislature under the Articles of Confederation did not have conscription, taxing, or trade regulation authority. The Congress established by the Constitution, meanwhile, does possess such authority.

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The legislature set up by the Articles of Confederation was different than the legislature set up by the Constitution. In the Articles of Confederation, there was one house of Congress. Each state had one vote on issues regardless of its size. Congress also had limited power. It couldn’t tax, it couldn’t control trade, and it couldn’t force people to join the military.

The legislature set up by the Constitution had more parts and more power. There were two houses of Congress. These were the House of Representatives and the Senate. In the House of Representatives, large states had more representatives and votes than small states. In the Senate, each state had two senators regardless of the size of the state. Congress also had more power. Congress could levy taxes, print money, control interstate trade, and require people to join the military.

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