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The Articles of Confederation


The 13 colonies had fought for self-government. Each new state had a constitution to protect its citizens. Americans did not want to give up their power to a strong, central government.


In 1781, the Articles of Confederation made Congress the national government and each state had one vote in Congress. The states had more power than the national government. Congress could declare war, borrow and print money, and make treaties with other nations. It could not start an army, create taxes, or control trade. People wanted to settle on land won in the Revolutionary War. Congress passed two ordinances to control what happened in the Northwest Territories. These explained how the land would be measured, divided, and sold. They also described how a territory could become a state and outlawed slavery in the territories.


Problems for the New Nation


Congress owed money to banks and to other countries for the Revolutionary War. Congress could not raise money because it could not collect taxes. The states were not working together. They printed their own money. People could not agree on how much the money was worth. In Massachusetts, many farmers did not earn enough money to pay their debts and high state taxes. If farmers did not pay, the state took their farms. In 1786, Daniel Shays led a rebellion of armed farmers. They demanded more time to pay debts. The state militia stopped them. Shays's Rebellion showed that a weak national government could not keep order. George Washington worried the government was not strong enough to protect people's rights. In February 1787, Congress invited state delegates to meet and change the Articles of Confederation to make the nation stronger.