What was the effectiveness of the Articles of Confederation in dealing with national problems?I know that they were ineffective in establishing a strong central goverment and didnt give the...

What was the effectiveness of the Articles of Confederation in dealing with national problems?

I know that they were ineffective in establishing a strong central goverment and didnt give the government power and pretty much that they were only effective in uniting the states and dealing with western lands, but, i have to write an essay and I dont know how to make this long enough for an essay and i need more details. Thanks!


Expert Answers
brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator
The Articles of Confederation were, for the most part, ineffective in dealing with major national threats and issues of the time.  Without the power to tax, they could not raise the revenue necessary pay our $4 million Revolutionary War debt, nor could they raise an Army or build a Navy with which to protect the frontier or American shipping.  It toook a supermajority of 9/13 to pass a national law, which happened rarely, and a unanimous 13/13 to adopt an amendment and change the Articles themselves, which was really its fatal flaw. All of that being said, the central government under the Articles of Confederation did pass important legislation like the Land Ordinance of 1785, which created a public school system financed by the sale of public land and the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 which, among other things, prohibited slavery in the Ohio Country.  Government under the Articles also successfully negotiated the Treaty of Paris ending the Revolutionary War in 1783. Shays' Rebellion was really the last straw, as some farmers in western Massachusetts showed how truly weak the government was when it could not effectively respond to their riots and protests.
lalithareddy | Student

The purpose of the Articles of Confederation was to create a confederation of states whereby each state retained "its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right . . . not . . . expressly delegated to the United States in Congress assembled." In other words, every state was as independent as possible with the United States only responsible for the common defense, security of liberties, and the general welfare. To this effect, the Articles were purposely written to keep the national government as weak as possible. However, there were many problems that soon became apparent as the Articles took effect.

Weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation

Following is a list of the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation:

  • Each state only had one vote in Congress, regardless of size.
  • Congress had not have the power to tax.
  • Congress did not have the power to regulate foreign and interstate commerce.
  • There was no executive branch to enforce any acts passed by Congress.
  • There was no national court system.
  • Amendments to the Articles of Confederation required a unanimous vote.
  • Laws required a 9/13 majority to pass in Congress.

Under the Articles of Confederation, states often argued amongst themselves. They also refused to financially support the national government. The national government was powerless to enforce any acts it did pass. Some states began making agreements with foreign governments. Most had their own military. Each state printed its own money. There was no stable economy.

In 1786, Shays' Rebellion occurred in western Massachusetts as a protest to rising debt and economic chaos. However, the national government was unable to gather a combined military force amongst the states to help put down the rebellion.

Gathering of the Philadelphia Convention

As the economic and military weaknesses became apparent, individuals began asking for changes to the Articles that would create a stronger national government. Initially, some states met to deal with their trade and economic problems. As more states became interested in meeting to change the Articles, a meeting was set in Philadelphia on May 25, 1787. This became the Constitutional Convention.