The Articles of Confederation was the first constitution of the United States of America. It was adopted by the Continental Congress on November 15, 1777 and ratified by all 13 states on March 1, 1781. The Articles created a confederation of the 13 states, which were sovereign and independent, and only loosely bound together by the Articles.
One of the inherent weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation was its inability to raise funds. The Articles granted Congress the authority to request funds from the states, but they had no power to tax the states directly. This meant that Congress was often unable to fund the military or pay off debts. The lack of funding also meant that Congress was unable to pay for public works projects or finance economic development.
Another weakness of the Articles of Confederation was the lack of a strong central government. The Articles created a weak federal government with limited powers. Congress had no power to regulate commerce, and there was no executive branch to enforce laws. This meant that the states were often at odds with one another, and there was no central authority to resolve disputes.
The Articles of Confederation also lacked a national court system. This meant that there was no way to settle disputes between states or enforce the laws of the federal government. Instead, disputes had to be settled by separate state courts, which often had conflicting rulings.
The inherent weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation led to the calling of the Constitutional Convention in 1787. The Convention was tasked with creating a new constitution that would strengthen the federal government and address the weaknesses of the Articles. The result was the United States Constitution, which created a strong federal government with the power to tax, regulate commerce, and enforce laws.
In conclusion, the Articles of Confederation was a flawed document that was unable to provide a strong central government or raise funds for public works projects or economic development. Its weaknesses led to the calling of the Constitutional Convention and the creation of the United States Constitution.
Prior to the final draft of the Articles of Confederation, John Dickinson, the head of the drafting committee of the Articles of Confederation expressed his concern about the lack of power attributed to a central government in the post-Revolutionary War establishment of gubernatorial doctrines.
Initially refusing to sign even the Declaration of Independence, as a result of the lack of presence it allowed to the central government, Dickinson had hoped to solidify a stable yet democratic governmental presence.
However, the citizens and leaders of the new United States of America were overcome by their apprehension to allow any newly-formed centralized government the same power that the British monarchy had possessed. As a result, the Articles of Confederation manifested itself as extremist legislation considered by Alexander Hamilton and James Madison – the authors of The Federalist Papers and advocates of the Constitution – to be an unstable schematic devoid of governmental structure. Hamilton was adamant in his concern that the Articles of Confederation lacked a substantial gubernatorial presence, and therefore, paradoxically lacked the means to enforce the laws set forth in the doctrine itself.
The Articles of Confederation was considered by Federalists to be a reactionary piece of legislation, founded impulsively rather than logically. Though the monarchy under George II proved to be antithetical to liberty and democracy, Hamilton maintained that combating one extreme with another – in this case, independent sovereignty in the place of a monarchy – was a careless diagnosis. Hamilton continued to express his concerns with the lack of governmental presence, constructing The Federalist Papers in hopes of alleviating the dysfunction created by The Articles of Confederation.
Though the individual states enjoyed their respective sovereignty as a result of the implementation of the Articles of Confederation, matters arose in which they had no choice but to seek out a consultation with the existing, albeit weak, central government. For instance, many State borders were indistinguishable, and as a result of each State existing as a sovereign entity, they were powerless over one another.
In addition, the states that bordered on the then-uncharted western territories wanted to extend their borders, while the states that were landlocked were against the notion and requested that the profits earned as a result of expansion were to be shared equally amongst the nation. As a result, the role of the central government became more akin to ‘pro re nata’, rather than maintain a definitive role.
Though the central government retained the ability to settle disputes between individual states, both states involved in the dispute had to agree to rely on the decision-making authority. If one of the states refused, then the central government was unable to get involved in a potential settlement.
An additional flaw found in the Articles of Confederation was considered to be the inability of the central government to levy taxes from the individual, then sovereign, states. Though the centralized government retained the right to request suggested donations from the states themselves, it had no legal ability to enforce the refusal of payment. As a result, the central government became financially insoluble. The Federalists reasoned that the innate causality for the creation of the Articles of Confederation were fundamentally flawed.