The Grievances of the Colonists Questions and Answers

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which statement best describes the early United States was a confederation?

The early United States was a confederation because there was no central federal authority. Technically, they were still subject to the law of England. Yet we see their confederation in their grievances to King George III. Though they're separate colonies and territories, they joined together to oppose taxes, maintain representation, champion fair trials, and advocate for more beneficial laws for their separate territories.

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Before we tell you our thoughts on which grievance most clearly suggests that the fledgling United States was a confederation, we should probably spend some time on confederation itself. What does the word mean? What's the difference between a confederation and a federation?

In a confederation, states that are relatively independent come together for a shared goal. In a confederation, all states keep their final say and serve as their own ultimate power. For example, if the United States was a confederation, no one could tell New York, Texas, or Minnesota what to do.

The United States is not a confederation, it's a federation. While states still maintain some rights, the federal government is the ultimate power. It can make states doing certain things, like recognize same-sex marriage.

One of the main grievances that shows that the early states were aligned but not operating under a federal government was when the colonists declared:

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

What does this mean? Who's he? He is King George III, the King of England at the time. The colonists are complaining that he won't pass laws to benefit states unless those states surrender their right to representation.

The focus on individual states points to the confederate nature of the early United States. It’s single states, not the states as a whole.

We see more of the confederate style of the early United States in their "right to representation." Each state has their own representatives. It’s as if each state is its own country with its own diplomats or semi-autonomous government.

By joining together in a confederacy, maybe the colonies thought they could exact changes from King George III. If you know your American/English history, you know what will happen.