The Articles of Confederation allowed for each of the 13 states to exist as independent, sovereign entities. As a result, the central government was unable to implement a single, national policy of any kind.
In order to pass a new law, the Articles of Confederation called for at least 9 out of the 13 states to agree to adopt the law’s proposal. Furthermore, in order to amend an existing law, the Articles of Confederation required a unanimous decision by all 13 states. However, because each state retained the ability to determine the validity of individual laws – both new, as well as those pre-existing – the central Government could only suggest that laws be followed. The central Government retained no jurisdiction over the individual states.
As a result, certain laws were upheld in certain states, while other states refused to abide by those same laws. Thus, a visitor to each of the 13 states would be subject to 13 different legislative systems. Furthermore, the Articles of Confederation allowed each individual State to establish its own tariffs, both international and domestic. The central government had no authority to regulate the trade of any kind. Finally, the central Government was forbidden to regulate the states’ spending of funds.
The Articles of Confederation allowed each of the 13 states full autonomy to spend however they wished. As a result, certain states had fully-functional roadways, while other states had dirt paths. Some states boasted impressive buildings and comfortable housing, while others settled for dilapidated shacks. Prior to the ratification of the Constitution, the presence of nationality in the United States had all but vanished.
Because the Articles of Confederation disallowed the central Government to regulate taxes and tariffs, there existed no uniform commercial regulations. As a result, excessive and unpredictable tariffs could be enforced between state borders. Certain states could not only extort other states, but they retained the ability to refuse trade altogether. This resulted in poor interstate relations.
The Articles of Confederation allowed each State to implement individual foreign policy. Without the existence of national foreign policy, foreign nations who wished to engage in trade with the United States of America were subject to 13 different foreign policies, as well as 13 different trade regulations. As a result, the central Government was neither able to regulate diplomacy, nor was it able to prevent the dissolution of foreign relations due to erratic, and sometimes unjust, foreign trade policy.
The expansion of the United States of America’s borders suffered as well. Because no national expansion policy existed, the states whose borders were located on the uncharted west were in control of their own expansion, while the coastal and landlocked states were not afforded the same opportunity.
While the Articles of Confederation placed the central Government in charge of westward expansion, each State retained the ability to choose whether or not to embrace the central Government’s policy. As a result, landlocked states demanded that the bounty of the west be evenly dispersed amongst all 13 individual states, while many of the states bordering on the west did not wish to share their prosperity.
Though the initial dissolution of a powerful centralized Government seemed to be a welcomed change, the 13 newly sovereign states soon discovered the ineffectiveness of the absence of nationalized policy. The Articles of Confederation’s removal of the central Government’s power seemed to have traded one bad situation for another.