Articles of Confederation
Prior to the Constitution of the United States, the law of the land between March 1, 1781 and March 4, 1789 was the Articles of Confederation. It was used as the first constitution, written during the Revolutionary War, but was later replaced in 1789. The same people wrote both documents, but there were many changes later made in the U.S. Constitution.
The Articles of Confederation was only five pages, and was basically the agreement between the states and the government of how the government would function in America. There were thirteen articles written and agreed upon by the original 13 states or colonies at the time.
The thirteen articles were brief and to the point with each of them summarized.
Article I: It gave the new states a name: United States of America
Article II: This gave freedom to the states, independence from the national government in matters that were not part of the government.
Article III: Allowed the states to come together if necessary for defense, liberty, cooperation.
Article IV: Allowed citizens freedom of movement between each state, as well as each state respecting the other states' laws.
Article V: Set up the congress and permitted representatives from each state.
Article VI: Restricted states coming together to sign treaties to start a war without permission.
Article VII: Allowed the states to appoint officers when an army was needed for self-defense.
Article VIII: States were responsible for paying money to a national treasury for government expenses. Each state would owe an amount based on their size.
Article IX: Summarized the powers the government had over the states, including controlling the value of money used between the states.
Article X: Set up rules for a committee to work when the Congress was not in session.
Article XI: Stated 9 out of 13 states had to agree to allow a new state to join the country.
Article XII: America will pay all debts owed to other countries.
Article XIII: Made it mandatory for the states to follow the decisions of Congress, and the country would be perpetual (last forever). If any changes had to be made to the articles, it would require approval by the Congress and by all of the states.
The advantage of the articles was it brought the 13 states together, but on the other hand it gave the states more power than the national government. At the time the articles were written, there was also no executive branch, and the judicial branch of the government was very limited. Many people were worried their rights would not be respected if there was not a stronger central government. Basically, the Congress and the national government had very little power. This was the main reason the Articles of Confederation was replaced by the current United States Constitution, which included more government oversight and eventually gave more rights to the citizens of the United States.
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