The Articles of Confederation

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What was government like under the Articles of Confederation?

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Under the Articles of Confederation, state governments held most of the power. The preamble to the Articles described the government they formed as a "firm league of friendship," and this is more or less what it was. The national government consisted only of a Congress composed of delegates from each state. Each state's delegation only had one vote, meaning that the smallest states held the same amount of political power as states with bigger populations. Congress lacked the power to tax, the power to regulate interstate commerce, and the power to require states to send troops for the national defense. This caused a number of problems, most critically the inability to pay the nation's growing debt from the Revolutionary War. Without the ability to pay the debt, the nation found it difficult to secure trade and loan agreements with the nations of Europe. Additionally, some states imposed tariffs on goods from other states, and many creditors refused to accept currency from other states as payment for debt. Internal disorder in many states threatened to become nationwide (a problem made clear by Shays' Rebellion in Massachusetts). In short, many political leaders across the new nation believed that the nation would descend into chaos without a stronger national government. The result was the Constitution written at the Philadelphia Convention of 1787.

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