American Revolution/Chapter 9: Articles of Confederation

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American Constitutional government is founded on concepts articulated in earlier documents, including the charters of the Virginia Company of London, the Declaration of Independence, and the Articles of Confederation.[edit]
  1. Virginia Company of London guaranteed the rights of Englishmen to the colonists.
  2. Declaration of Independence started grievances against King George III.
Declared colonies independent from Great Britian
Affirmed certain unalienable rights (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness).
Established that all people are equal under the law.
The Articles of Confederation was a constitution written during the revolutionary war to establish the powers of the new national government.[edit]
  1. Articles of Confederation established the first form of constitution government to establish the powers of the new national government. Here are some of the reasons why the Articles of Confederation did not work out for the USA:
  • The Articles provided for a weak national government.
  • The Articles gave Congress no power to tax or regulate trade among the states.
  • The Articles provided for no common currency.
  • The Artices provided for no executive or judicial branches of government.
  • The Articles gave each state one vote regardless of size.
The weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation led to many problems in the United States. [edit]
A dollar bill

It became known as a reactionary document.

The lack of federal judicial branch led to many land disputes between the states.

Congress did not have the power to collect taxes; therefore, they could not raise enough revenue to pay the Continental Army. This weakness led Spain and Great Britain to take advantage of the USA.

Finance was a serious issue. The more money was printed, therefore decreasing the value which leads to inflation. Profiteers try to get money out of the Revolutionary War by taking a well-wanted object and raking up the price. This is a nasty cycle, causing the economy to collapse. This affects the military, in which about 1783, they conspire to take over the Congress. George Washington was absolutely livid with his officers!

Borders, reduction of trade, states arguing over boundaries and debt were issues also included.

Shey's Rebellion was the last straw for Americans. Many realized the Articles of Confederation was not working for the new country. In the Summer of 1786, Captain Daniel Shays at age 39 leads a rebellion after the government comes after his land after he is unable to pay the crazily high state taxes. They could not pay the taxes because they have not been paid. He attacks debtor prisoners which house soldiers who couldn't pay their taxes. The congress of Massachusetts attempts to garner an army to fight the rebellion but no one showed up for the fight. The Massachusetts militia had to come and break it up.

Although not very important, some accomplishments were met[edit]

They won the Revolutionary War and established a type of governance for the Western Territory. They establish two good ordinances that benefit the country.

  • Land Ordinance of 1785: Lays out a grid system to survey the land west of the Appalachians (Louisiana, Indiana, Ohio, etc.). Inside each township, one plot of land should be reserved for public education. This must be away from the churches/places of worship, representing the policy of separation of church and state. Selling land can be used as a way of making money.
  • Northwest Ordinance of 1787: 1. Congress will practically govern the area by appointing governors and judges; 2. If 5,000 adult males are residing in the territory, the voters can agree on a temporary constitution and appoint a legislature; 3. When the population reaches 60,000 votes, they're able to ratify the state constitution. Congress will approve and therefore, statehood will be granted. Though, in each of these statehood constitutions, slavery was prohibited.


Annapolis Convention: James Madison, from Virginia, and Alexander Hamilton, from New York, called for a discussion about interstate trade (placing tariffs on other states' goods). Only 5 states attended, which proves the incompetence of the document. Another convention in Philadelphia took place so they can get a stronger speaker (George Washington). The Constitutional Convention occurs in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1787 and is attended by 12 states. They made the convention secret so that states don't pull out their delegates. George Washington is elected as the president of the convention.

The goal of the convention is to create a stronger central government (separation of powers and checks and balances). They also wanted to balance the powers of the small (RI and CT) and large states (NY and VA). James Madison is known as the "Father of the Constitution", the Constitution became the document that will set the rules for the country.


Virginia Plan is proposed by Madison, established a bicameral legislature, strong central government and gave Congress the right to veto state laws, tax and overall power to keep the states in check.

New Jersey Plan is proposed by Paterson, established a unicameral legislature, each state has a new vote and Congress has the right to tax and creates the supreme rulings over the land.

Hamilton Plan is proposed by Alexander Hamilton, states will have no sovereignty, establish a bicameral legislature, executive branch (Governor), and the national gov't could veto any local legislation.

Their agreement is the Connecticut Compromise with a bicameral congress. The Upper House has equal votes for each state while the Lower House has votes relative to the state's population.

The 3/5 Compromise is that each slave was counted as 3/5 of a person for taxation and representation. iN 1808, Congress can place a prohibition on the importation of slaves in an attempt to end slavery.

The states will regulate their trade within themselves. The federal government will regulate the trade within the state and trade with foreign nations.

There were concerns about the president being like a king as originally there were no limits with the number of terms a president could serve. But James Madison proves this argument fatal:

  • Enumerated Powers - Powers given to the national government to regulate foreign affairs, coin money, maintain the military and regulate interstate trade.
  • Reserved Powers - Powers given for the states to regulate trade within their area and establish marriage laws.
  • Shared Powers - Powers shared by the fed and the state.