The Articles of Confederation

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What were the strengths and weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation?

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I think that since the Articles of Confederation were replaced, any potential strength would be overshadowed by its weaknesses.  However, the Articles featured some distinct strengths that have to be acknowledged.  The first would be that it was the first.  The Articles of Confederation represented the first step towards a new government for the new nation.  Emerging from the shadow of Colonial rule, the Colonists, now Americans, had never formed their own government or written their own codified approach to institutional practices. The Articles of Confederation represented a first attempt at government. Along these lines, given how the Americans emerged from Revolution with a deep disdain of centralized rule that was seen in King George's actions, the Articles were strong in their defense of decentralized liberty.  Freedom was the guiding principle of the Articles of Confederation. The Articles went very far in ensuring that centralized tyranny would be avoided in granting states rights that could serve as a type of check on national government.  The Articles respected states to a degree that their veto power could literally stop taxation or the use of national forces.  This makes the Articles definitive in its assertion of freedom and decentralized notions of the good.  Given how the Articles had to be revised, it was clear that these advantages were not enough to save the document from being revised and completely changed at the Constitutional Convention.

The Articles created a "loose confederation of states."  This would be one of its weaknesses.  There was not a national or coherent vision of effective centralized authority.  The Articles created state veto power to such a level that effective governance was near impossible.  The nation could not collect taxes to pay off the debt incurred from the Revolutionary War and it could not effectively defend itself from foreign threats without consent from the states.  Jefferson noted this condition:  "It will be said there is no money in the treasury. There never will be money in the treasury till the Confederacy shows its teeth. The states must see the rod."  The Articles of Confederation were designed in such a way that states' rights trumped national government.  Another weakness in the Articles of Confederation reflected this penchant to support state autonomy over a national vision.  There was a lack of a national currency as states had taken to printing their own currency, thereby reducing the strength of the American economy.  This hampered attempts to broker trade agreements with foreign nations.  Finally, the inability of the Articles of Confederation to stop an event like Shays' Rebellion became the clarion call for revision.  Even those who were the most vociferous in their defense of state governments and states rights could not subordinate the bloodshed caused by and lack of coherent response to Shays' Rebellion.  As a result, the call to revise the Articles of Confederation became louder, setting the stage for the drafting of the United States Constitution.

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