What were the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation?

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kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Articles of Confederation were the first constitution of the United States and were adopted by Congress on November 15 1777. Although their purpose was to bind and unite the colonies, the Articles had more weaknesses than strengths. In essence, the Articles created a weak, central government which  consisted only of a legislature. In every other respect, the federal government was inferior to the power of individual states. Economically, for example, only the 13 states could collect taxes or print their own money so this plunged the federal government - and the country as a whole - into debt. Politically, the Articles also left the federal government powerless in any arguments between the states. If two states quarrelled over territory, for instance, Congress acted as the mediator and the judge but did not have the power to enforce any decisions. The same principle applied to the country's military: Congress could declare war but it was up to the individual states to provide soldiers and to finance the equipment they needed. If the states declined, the federal government was powerless to enforce its decision.

These weaknesses soon became apparent to the Americans and led directly to the drafting of the U.S. Constitution.