The first set of laws in the United States were the Articles of Confederation, which were drafted and approved by the Continental Congress in November 1777. These rules were loosely based on how the government had been functioning for two years. The biggest weakness with the document was that it did not provide a strong branch of government to enforce it.
The Articles of Confederation were ratified by all the states by 1781, two years before Great Britain conceded defeat in the Revolutionary War. The Articles gave Congress control over international relations, printing money, and resolving disputes between states. Congress was also responsible for the formation of the Continental Army. But the central government was limited in its power and could not force states to comply with requests for soldiers. Each state was in charge of its own militia.
Congress operated as one governmental body back then, as there was no senate, executive or judicial branch. At the time, each state had one vote when it came to federal legislation. Nine out of thirteen states were required to pass a law affecting all states. Additionally, it took unanimous consent among the states to change any of the Articles.
One of the most significant weaknesses of the Articles was that they did not call for any method of collecting taxes or other revenue. Congress could only ask states to provide the money to operate a government. Consequently, the central government went bankrupt in 1780.
The United States Constitution strengthened the central government is several ways. Three branches of government were established, and congress was granted the power to tax and make laws affecting interstate trade. Prior to the Constitution, states were allowed to create their own currency. The Constitution clarified a stronger central government and monetary system.
Federalists such as George Washington, John Adams and Alexander Hamilton believed in a strong federal government, whereas Republicans such as Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe believed in minimal federal powers, with much of government rule-making given to the states.