Articles of Confederation

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The Articles of Confederation was the first constitution of the United States and specified how the Federal government was to operate, including adoption of an official name for the new nation, United States of America. The Second Continental Congress appointed a committee to draft the Articles in June 1776 and sent the draft to the states for ratification in November 1777.[1] In practice, the Articles were in use beginning in 1777. The ratification process was completed in March 1781. Under the Articles, the states retained sovereignty over all governmental functions not specifically relinquished to the national government.

On June 12, 1776, a day after appointing a committee to prepare a draft of the Declaration of Independence, the Second Continental Congress resolved to appoint a committee of thirteen to prepare a draft of a constitution for a confederate type of union. The last draft of the Articles was written in the summer of 1777 and the Second Continental Congress approved them for ratification by the States on November 15, 1777, after a year of debate. In practice, the final draft of the Articles served as the de facto system of government used by the Congress ("the United States in Congress assembled") until it became de jure by final ratification on March 1, 1781; at which point Congress became the Congress of the Confederation. The Articles set the rules for operations of the United States government. It was capable of making war, negotiating diplomatic agreements, and resolving issues regarding the western territories. Article XIII stipulated that "their provisions shall be inviolably observed by every state" and "the Union shall be perpetual".

The Articles were created by the representatives of the states in the Second Continental Congress out of a perceived need to have "a plan of confederacy for securing the freedom, sovereignty, and independence of the United States." Nationalists felt that the Articles lacked the necessary requirements for an effective government. There was no tax base, no executive agencies or judiciary. The absence of tax base meant that there was no way to pay off state and national debts from the war years. In 1788, with the approval of Congress, the Articles were replaced by the United States Constitution and the new government began operations in 1789.[2]


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