What: The Articles of Confederation, whose full name was the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, was the first document that established a national government after the colonies asserted their freedom through the Declaration of Independence. The new nation was first called the United States of America in the Articles of Confederation. Under the Articles of Confederation, Congress had the ability to conduct foreign diplomacy and regulate foreign affairs, deal with Native Americans, maintain an army, and coin money. However, since Congress had no means of enforcing its requests to the states and could not levy taxes or regulate commerce, most of the power remained with the individual states. The weakness of the central government under the Articles of Confederation necessitated a more comprehensive document, which became the Constitution of the United States.
Why: After declaring independence from Great Britain, the separate states realized the need for unification and establishment of a new nation in their struggle for freedom. The first effort to realize this created the Articles of Confederation.
Who: Numerous drafts of the Articles of Confederation were drawn up before the final copy was agreed upon. The first author was Benjamin Franklin, but his draft was set aside. Next, Silas Deane from Connecticut presented a draft. The draft that was eventually used with revisions by Congress was drawn up by John Dickenson of Pennsylvania.
Where: The main work of drafting and finalizing the Articles of Confederation took place in Philadelphia. However, due to danger from British troops, Congress had to move twice during this work, once to Baltimore in 1776 and once to York, Pennsylvania, in 1777. Since all 13 states had to ratify the Articles of Confederation before it could take effect, ratification took place throughout the colonies.
When: The Articles of Confederation were written in 1776 and 1777, and Congress gave final approval on November 17, 1777. Virginia became the first state to ratify on December 16, 1777. However, it took until March 1, 1781, for all the states to finish ratifying the document. The Articles remained in effect from 1781 to 1789, when the Constitution of the United States replaced the Articles of Confederation.