The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, often shortened in common usage to the Articles of Confederation, was the first constitution of the fledgling United States of America. It was approved by Congress on November 15, 1777, and after ratification by all thirteen states, it finally came into force on March 1, 1781. It established a government and promoted free travel and trade. However, its inherent weaknesses made it necessary to draft and adopt a new and stronger US Constitution, which replaced the Articles of Confederation in early 1789.
There are several reasons why the Articles of Confederation failed. One of the main difficulties under the Articles of Confederation was the inability of the federal government to levy taxes. The United States had incurred substantial debt during the Revolutionary War, but without a system of federal taxation, the country was unable to pay back its creditors. The federal government had to request money from the states, and there was no system of enforcement to compel the states to honor their financial obligations to the government. To make up for the shortfall, Congress printed more money, causing the value of the currency to depreciate. Additionally, Congress did not have the authority to regulate commerce, which caused chaos as each state implemented individual trade policies.
The Articles allowed Congress to maintain a Continental Army in times of need, but it did not provide Congress with the authority to compel the states to supply troops, funds, and supplies. The states each maintained individual armies and navies, but this system made it difficult to unify in the face of a national threat.
The other major failure in the Articles of Confederation was the document's limited vision of what form the federal government would take. Under the Articles, Congress was the only federal institution, so there was no balance of power. The newer, stronger US Constitution provided for three branches of government: the executive branch (the president), the legislative branch (Congress), and the judicial branch (the Supreme Court and other federal courts). These three branches formed a system of checks and balances so that no single branch of government would become too powerful.