To what extent were the Articles of Confederation successful?

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Despite a great deal of social upheaval and a number of serious political and economic issues, the United States did not descend into civil war or division after the American Revolution. When we look at other revolutions around the world, including the French, we can see how significant this is. While many historians credit the stability imposed by the counter-revolution that was the U.S. Constitution, it is also true that the Articles of Confederation, as a limited form of government, provided perhaps the greatest degree of national unity that was conceivable in the immediate aftermath of independence. It established a framework for more unified government even as it proved inadequate to deal with the challenges the nation faced in the so-called "critical period." The government under the Articles was successful in providing for western expansion, a crucial issue at the time. The Land Ordinance of 1785 provided for the parceling of land in the Northwest Territory, enabling the orderly sale of federal lands in the region. The Northwest Ordinance, passed two years later (ironically while the Constitutional Convention was underway in Philadelphia) created a process by which territorial, and eventually state, governments could be established. So the Articles, while ultimately inadequate, were not a total failure. 

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