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Home > History > Effects of the Revolutionary War - Articles of Confederation

Effects of the Revolutionary War - Articles of Confederation

This page describes the nation's first constitution - the Articles of Confederation.

Articles of Confederation

Articles of Confederation

During the first few years in which the Continental Congress was in operation, state or popular control had not yet been established. Nevertheless, the Continental Congress had initiated the establishment of the Continental Army and of a national currency.

A Need for a Formal Government

When America officially declared its independence from Great Britain in 1776, it recognized a need for a more formal governing body and a more official alliance between the states. Thus, the United States of America was established under the Articles of Confederation. The Articles were adopted in 1776, and ratified by March of 1781.

Weaknesses in the Articles

America’s new national government had a single legislative body, the Confederation Congress, in which each of thirteen states had one vote. However, the original government run under the Articles of Confederation was nothing like our representative government today. It had few powers and had no jurisdiction over American citizens. The Articles provided no authority to tax citizens, rather revenue would have to be generated by requesting money form the states. Furthermore, language within the Articles of Confederation made it very difficult to change laws. All 13 states had to agree if amendments were to be made. Although the Articles of Confederation were a stepping stone to the American Constitution, they were inadequate as a means to govern a new nation. Many of the states failed to pay their shares of the national budget, and there was a constant threat of uprisings among unpaid veterans of the Continental Army. Improvements were not made until the Philadelphia or Constitutional Convention was held in 1787.

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