Describe the structure and weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation, and the debate over the Constitution's ratification, including the Bill of Rights.

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The Articles of Confederation served as the first constitution of the new country. The central government consisted only of a Congress. It had the power to conduct diplomacy, wage war, and deliver the mail. However, the states were very powerful, and the central government could not collect taxes or regulate commerce between the states.

One event that convinced many to scrap the Articles was Shay's Rebellion (1786–1787). Daniel Shays led a revolt because of severe economic problems. The event helped stir a fear of anarchy.

The Confederation government was not a complete failure, however. Its greatest accomplishment was the Ordinance of 1787. This measure organized the West and prepared the area for eventual admission as states: five states were eventually created out of the area. Also, the Articles of Confederation government was a learning experience for the new nation.

The Founding Fathers drew upon the experience of the Confederation to help them craft the US Constitution in 1787. The new government had executive, judicial, and legislative branches. Only the House of Representatives was to be chosen by the people. Senators were appointed by state legislatures; presidents were chosen by electors, who were appointed by state legislatures. It was a concise document, so much of it has been open to various interpretations throughout the years.

Many Americans opposed the new Constitution because they thought the new central government was too powerful. They feared that the states and individuals would be at the mercy of a mighty national government. Opponents wanted a more decentralized system. There were debates and arguments. Finally, ratification of the Constitution occurred only because of the Bill of Rights (otherwise known as the first ten Amendments to the Constitution).

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