Articles of Confederation

Articles of Confederation

Overview
The Articles of Confederation, formally the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, was an agreement among the 13 founding states that legally established the United States of America as a confederation of sovereign states and served as its first constitution. Its drafting by the Continental Congress
Continental Congress
The Continental Congress was a convention of delegates called together from the Thirteen Colonies that became the governing body of the United States during the American Revolution....

 began in mid 1776 and an approved version was sent to the states for ratification in late 1777.
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Encyclopedia
The Articles of Confederation, formally the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, was an agreement among the 13 founding states that legally established the United States of America as a confederation of sovereign states and served as its first constitution. Its drafting by the Continental Congress
Continental Congress
The Continental Congress was a convention of delegates called together from the Thirteen Colonies that became the governing body of the United States during the American Revolution....

 began in mid 1776 and an approved version was sent to the states for ratification in late 1777. The formal ratification by all 13 states was completed in early 1781. Even if not yet ratified, the Articles gave legitimacy to the Continental Congress to direct the American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

, conduct diplomacy with Europe and deal with territorial issues and Indian relations. Nevertheless, a perceived weak government created by the Articles became a matter of concern for key nationalists
Annapolis Convention (1786)
The Annapolis Convention was a meeting in 1786 at Annapolis, Maryland, of 12 delegates from five states that unanimously called for a constitutional convention. The formal title of the meeting was a Meeting of Commissioners to Remedy Defects of the Federal Government...

 and in 1789 the Articles were replaced with the U.S. Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

. It provided for a much stronger national government with a chief executive (the president), courts, and taxing powers.

Background


The political push for the colonies to increase cooperation began with the Albany Congress
Albany Congress
The Albany Congress, also known as the Albany Conference and "The Conference of Albany" or "The Conference in Albany", was a meeting of representatives from seven of the thirteen British North American colonies in 1754...

 in 1754 when Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin
Dr. Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat...

 proposed an intercolonial collaboration that resembled the Articles. Starting in 1775, the Second Continental Congress
Second Continental Congress
The Second Continental Congress was a convention of delegates from the Thirteen Colonies that started meeting on May 10, 1775, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, soon after warfare in the American Revolutionary War had begun. It succeeded the First Continental Congress, which met briefly during 1774,...

 acted as the provisional government
Provisional government
A provisional government is an emergency or interim government set up when a political void has been created by the collapse of a very large government. The early provisional governments were created to prepare for the return of royal rule...

 that ran the American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

. It was an era of constitution writing—most states were busy at the task—and leaders felt the new nation must have a written constitution, even though other nations did not have them. During the war Congress exercised an unprecedented level of political, diplomatic, military, and economic authority. It adopted trade restrictions, established and maintained an army, issued fiat money, created a military code, and negotiated with foreign governments.

Drafting



The Second Continental Congress
Second Continental Congress
The Second Continental Congress was a convention of delegates from the Thirteen Colonies that started meeting on May 10, 1775, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, soon after warfare in the American Revolutionary War had begun. It succeeded the First Continental Congress, which met briefly during 1774,...

 appointed a committee to draft the Articles in June 1776 and sent the draft to the states for ratification in November 1777. There were long debates on such issues as sovereignty, the exact powers to be given the confederal government, whether to have a judiciary, and voting procedures. 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
United States Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence was a statement adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies then at war with Great Britain regarded themselves as independent states, and no longer a part of the British Empire. John Adams put forth a...

, the Second Continental Congress resolved to appoint a committee of 13 to prepare a draft of a constitution for a union of the states. The final draft of the Articles was prepared 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
De facto
De facto is a Latin expression that means "concerning fact." In law, it often means "in practice but not necessarily ordained by law" or "in practice or actuality, but not officially established." It is commonly used in contrast to de jure when referring to matters of law, governance, or...

 system of government used by the Congress ("the United States in Congress assembled") until it became de jure
De jure
De jure is an expression that means "concerning law", as contrasted with de facto, which means "concerning fact".De jure = 'Legally', De facto = 'In fact'....

 by final ratification on March 1, 1781; at which point Congress became the Congress of the Confederation
Congress of the Confederation
The Congress of the Confederation or the United States in Congress Assembled was the governing body of the United States of America that existed from March 1, 1781, to March 4, 1789. It comprised delegates appointed by the legislatures of the states. It was the immediate successor to the Second...

. 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
Perpetual Union
The Perpetual Union is a feature of the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, which established the United States of America as a national entity...

".

Operation


The Articles were created by delegates from the states in the Second Continental Congress out of a need to have "a plan of confederacy for securing the freedom, sovereignty, and independence of the United States." After the war, nationalists, especially those who had been active in the Continental Army, complained that the Articles were too weak for an effective government. There was no president, no executive agencies, no judiciary and no tax base. The absence of tax base meant that there was no way to pay off state and national debts from the war years except by requesting money from the states, which seldom arrived. In 1788, with the approval of Congress, the Articles were replaced by the United States Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

 and the new government began operations in 1789.

Ratification


Congress began to move for ratification of the Articles of Confederation in 1777:

"Permit us, then, earnestly to recommend these articles to the immediate and dispassionate attention of the legislatures of the respective states. Let them be candidly reviewed under a sense of the difficulty of combining in one general system the various sentiments and interests of a continent divided into so many sovereign and independent communities, under a conviction of the absolute necessity of uniting all our councils and all our strength, to maintain and defend our common liberties...


The document could not become officially effective until it was ratified
Ratification
Ratification is a principal's approval of an act of its agent where the agent lacked authority to legally bind the principal. The term applies to private contract law, international treaties, and constitutionals in federations such as the United States and Canada.- Private law :In contract law, the...

 by all 13 colonies. The first state to ratify was Virginia
Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

 on December 16, 1777.

Dates of ratification are given as follows in American Constitutions:

South Carolina, February 5, 1778; New York, February 6, 1778; Rhode Island, February 9, 1778; Connecticut, February 12, 1778; Georgia, February 26, 1778; New Hampshire, March 4, 1778; Pennsylvania, March 5, 1778; Massachusetts, March 10, 1778; North Carolina, April 5, 1778; New Jersey, November 19, 1778; Virginia, December 15, 1778; Delaware, February 1, 1779; Maryland, March 1, 1781.

The process dragged on for several years, stalled by the refusal of some states to rescind their claims to land in the West. Maryland
Maryland
Maryland is a U.S. state located in the Mid Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and Delaware to its east...

 was the last holdout; it refused to go along until Virginia
Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

 and New York agreed to cede their claims
State cessions
The state cessions are those areas of the United States that the separate states ceded to the federal government in the late 18th and early 19th century...

 in the Ohio River
Ohio River
The Ohio River is the largest tributary, by volume, of the Mississippi River. At the confluence, the Ohio is even bigger than the Mississippi and, thus, is hydrologically the main stream of the whole river system, including the Allegheny River further upstream...

 Valley. A little over three years passed before Maryland's ratification on March 1, 1781.

The Articles provided for a blanket acceptance of Province of Quebec (referred to as "Canada" in the Articles) into the United States if it chose to do so. It did not, and the subsequent Constitution carried no such special provision of admission.

Article summaries


Even though the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution were established by many of the same people, the two documents are very different. The original five-page Articles contained a preamble, 13 articles, a conclusion, and a signatory section.
The preamble states that the signatory states "agree to certain articles of Confederation and perpetual Union" between the 13 states.
The following list contains short summaries of each of the 13 articles.
  1. Establishes the name of the confederation with these words: "The Style of this confederacy shall be "The United States of America."
  2. Asserts the sovereignty of each state, except for the specific powers delegated to the confederation government, i.e. "Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated."
  3. Does not call the United States of America a "nation" or "government," but instead says, "The said States hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other, for their common defense, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other, against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretense whatever."
  4. Establishes freedom of movement
    Freedom of movement
    Freedom of movement, mobility rights or the right to travel is a human right concept that the constitutions of numerous states respect...

    —anyone could pass freely between the states, excluding "paupers, vagabonds
    Vagabond (person)
    A vagabond is a drifter and an itinerant wanderer who roams wherever they please, following the whim of the moment. Vagabonds may lack residence, a job, and even citizenship....

    , and fugitive
    Fugitive
    A fugitive is a person who is fleeing from custody, whether it be from private slavery, a government arrest, government or non-government questioning, vigilante violence, or outraged private individuals...

    s from justice." All people are entitled to the rights established by the state into which he travels. If a crime is committed in one state and the perpetrator flees to another state, he will be extradited
    Extradition
    Extradition is the official process whereby one nation or state surrenders a suspected or convicted criminal to another nation or state. Between nation states, extradition is regulated by treaties...

     to and tried in the state in which the crime was committed.
  5. Allocates one vote in the Congress of the Confederation
    Congress of the Confederation
    The Congress of the Confederation or the United States in Congress Assembled was the governing body of the United States of America that existed from March 1, 1781, to March 4, 1789. It comprised delegates appointed by the legislatures of the states. It was the immediate successor to the Second...

     (the "United States in Congress Assembled") to each state, which was entitled to a delegation of between two and seven members. Members of Congress were appointed by state legislatures. Also, individuals could not serve more than three out of any six years.
  6. Only the central government was allowed to conduct foreign relations and to declare war. No states could have navies or standing armies, or engage in war, without permission of Congress (although the existence of state militias is encouraged).
  7. Whenever an army is raised for common defense, colonels and military ranks below colonel will be named by the state legislatures.
  8. Expenditures by the United States of America will be paid by funds raised by state legislatures, and apportioned to the states based on the real property values of each.
  9. Defines the powers of the United States of America: to declare war, to set weights and measures (including coins), and for Congress to serve as a final court for disputes between states.
  10. Defines a Committee of the States
    Committee of the States
    The Committee of the States was an arm of the United States government, under the Articles of Confederation. The Committee consisted of one member from each state, and carried out the functions of government while the Congress of the Confederation was in recess.The Committee was set up in 1784 on...

     to be a government when Congress is not in session.
  11. Requires nine states to approve the admission of a new state into the confederacy. It pre-approved the British held Province of Quebec (referred to as "Canada"), if it had applied for membership.
  12. Reaffirms that the Confederation accepts war debt incurred by Congress before the existence of the Articles.
  13. Declares that the Articles are perpetual, and can only be altered by approval of Congress with ratification by all the state legislatures.


While still at war with Britain, the Founding Fathers were divided between those seeking a powerful, centralized national government, and those seeking a loosely structured one. Jealously guarding their new independence, members of the Continental Congress arrived at a compromise solution dividing sovereignty between the states and the Federal government, with a unicameral legislature that protected the liberty of the individual states. While calling on Congress to regulate military and monetary affairs, for example, the Articles of Confederation provided no mechanism with which to compel the States to comply with requests for either troops or revenue. At times, this left the military without adequate funding, supplies or even food.

The end of the Revolutionary War


The Treaty of Paris (1783)
Treaty of Paris (1783)
The Treaty of Paris, signed on September 3, 1783, ended the American Revolutionary War between Great Britain on the one hand and the United States of America and its allies on the other. The other combatant nations, France, Spain and the Dutch Republic had separate agreements; for details of...

, which ended hostilities with Great Britain, languished in Congress for months because several state representatives failed to attend sessions of the national legislature to ratify it. Yet Congress had no power to enforce attendance. In September 1783, George Washington complained that Congress was paralyzed. Many revolutionaries had gone to their respective home countries after the war, and local government and self-rule seemed quite satisfactory.

The Army


The Articles supported the Congressional direction of the Continental Army
Continental Army
The Continental Army was formed after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War by the colonies that became the United States of America. Established by a resolution of the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775, it was created to coordinate the military efforts of the Thirteen Colonies in...

, and allowed the states to present a unified front when dealing with the European powers. As a tool to build a centralized war-making government, they were largely a failure: Historian Bruce Chadwick wrote:
The Continental Congress, before the Articles were approved, had promised soldiers a pension of half pay for life. However Congress had no power to compel the states to fund this obligation, and as the war wound down after the victory at Yorktown the sense of urgency to support the military was no longer a factor. No progress was made in Congress during the winter of 1783–84. General Henry Knox, who would later become the first Secretary of War under the Constitution, blamed the weaknesses of the Articles for the inability of the government to fund the army. The army had long been supportive of a strong union. Knox wrote:
As Congress failed to act on the petitions, Knox wrote to Gouverneur Morris, four years before the Philadelphia Convention was convened, "As the present Constitution is so defective, why do not you great men call the people together and tell them so; that is, to have a convention of the States to form a better Constitution."

Once the war had been won, the Continental Army
Continental Army
The Continental Army was formed after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War by the colonies that became the United States of America. Established by a resolution of the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775, it was created to coordinate the military efforts of the Thirteen Colonies in...

 was largely disbanded. A very small national force was maintained to man the frontier forts and to protect against Native American
Indigenous peoples of the Americas
The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of North and South America, their descendants and other ethnic groups who are identified with those peoples. Indigenous peoples are known in Canada as Aboriginal peoples, and in the United States as Native Americans...

 attacks. Meanwhile, each of the states had an army (or militia), and 11 of them had Navies. The wartime promises of bounties and land grants to be paid for service were not being met. In 1783, George Washington
George Washington
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

 defused the Newburgh conspiracy
Newburgh conspiracy
The Newburgh Conspiracy was unrest in 1783 among officers of the American Continental Army due to many officers and men of the Army not receiving pay for many years. Commander-in-Chief George Washington stopped any serious talk by appealing successfully to his officers to support the supremacy of...

, but riots by unpaid Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

 veterans forced Congress to leave Philadelphia temporarily.

The Congress from time to time during the Revolutionary War requisitioned troops from the states. Any contributions were voluntary, and in the debates of 1788 the Federalists (who supported the proposed new Constitution) claimed that state politicians acted unilaterally, and contributed when the Continental army protected their state's interests. The Anti-Federalists claimed that state politicians understood their duty to the Union and contributed to advance its needs. Dougherty (2009) concludes that generally the States' behavior validated the Federalist analysis. This helps explain why the Articles of Confederation needed reforms.

Foreign policy


Even after peace had been achieved in 1783, the weakness of the Confederation government frustrated the ability of the government to conduct foreign policy. In 1786, Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson
Thomas Jefferson was the principal author of the United States Declaration of Independence and the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom , the third President of the United States and founder of the University of Virginia...

, concerned over the failure to fund an American naval force to confront the Barbary pirates
Barbary Coast
The Barbary Coast, or Barbary, was the term used by Europeans from the 16th until the 19th century to refer to much of the collective land of the Berber people. Today, the terms Maghreb and "Tamazgha" correspond roughly to "Barbary"...

, wrote to James Monroe
James Monroe
James Monroe was the fifth President of the United States . Monroe was the last president who was a Founding Father of the United States, and the last president from the Virginia dynasty and the Republican Generation...

, "It will be said there is no money in the treasury. There never will be money in the treasury till the Confederacy shows its teeth. The states must see the rod.”

Also, the Jay-Gardoqui Treaty
Jay-Gardoqui Treaty
The Jay–Gardoqui Treaty of 1789 between the United States and Spain guaranteed Spain's exclusive right to navigate the Mississippi River for 30 years. It also opened Spain's European and West Indian seaports to American shipping...

 with Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 in 1786 also showed weakness in foreign policy. In this treaty—which was never ratified due to its immense unpopularity—the United States was to give up rights to use the Mississippi River
Mississippi River
The Mississippi River is the largest river system in North America. Flowing entirely in the United States, this river rises in western Minnesota and meanders slowly southwards for to the Mississippi River Delta at the Gulf of Mexico. With its many tributaries, the Mississippi's watershed drains...

 for 30 years, which would have economically strangled the settlers west of the Appalachian Mountains
Appalachian Mountains
The Appalachian Mountains #Whether the stressed vowel is or ,#Whether the "ch" is pronounced as a fricative or an affricate , and#Whether the final vowel is the monophthong or the diphthong .), often called the Appalachians, are a system of mountains in eastern North America. The Appalachians...

. Finally, due to the Confederation's military weakness, it could not compel the British army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 to leave frontier forts which were on American soil—forts which the British promised to leave in 1783. This violation of the Treaty of Paris (1783)
Treaty of Paris (1783)
The Treaty of Paris, signed on September 3, 1783, ended the American Revolutionary War between Great Britain on the one hand and the United States of America and its allies on the other. The other combatant nations, France, Spain and the Dutch Republic had separate agreements; for details of...

 was corrected by Jay's Treaty in 1795 under the new U.S. Constitution.

Taxation and commerce


Under the Articles of Confederation, the central government's power was kept quite limited. The Confederation Congress could make decisions, but lacked enforcement powers. Implementation of most decisions, including modifications to the Articles, required unanimous approval of all thirteen state legislatures.

Congress was denied any powers of taxation: it could only request money from the states. The states often failed to meet these requests in full, leaving both Congress and the Continental Army chronically short of money. As more money was printed by Congress, the continental dollars depreciated. In 1779, George Washington wrote to John Jay
John Jay
John Jay was an American politician, statesman, revolutionary, diplomat, a Founding Father of the United States, and the first Chief Justice of the United States ....

, who was serving as the president of the Continental Congress, "that a wagon load of money will scarcely purchase a wagon load of provisions." Mr. Jay and the Congress responded in May by requesting $45 million from the States. In an appeal to the States to comply, Jay wrote that the taxes were "the price of liberty, the peace, and the safety of yourselves and posterity." He argued that Americans should avoid having it said "that America had no sooner become independent than she became insolvent" or that "her infant glories and growing fame were obscured and tarnished by broken contracts and violated faith." The States did not respond with any of the money requested from them.

Congress had also been denied the power to regulate either foreign trade or interstate commerce and, as a result, all of the States maintained control over their own trade policies. The states and the Confederation Congress both incurred large debts during the Revolutionary War, and how to repay those debts became a major issue of debate following the War. Some States paid off their war debts and others did not. Federal assumption of the states' war debts became a major issue in the deliberations of the Constitutional Convention.

Accomplishments of the Confederation


Nevertheless, the Confederation Congress did take two actions with longlasting impact. The Land Ordinance of 1785
Land Ordinance of 1785
The Land Ordinance of 1785 was adopted by the United States Congress on May 20, 1785. Under the Articles of Confederation, Congress did not have the power to raise revenue by direct taxation of the inhabitants of the United States...

 and Northwest Ordinance
Northwest Ordinance
The Northwest Ordinance was an act of the Congress of the Confederation of the United States, passed July 13, 1787...

 created territorial government, set up protocols for the admission of new states, the division of land into useful units, and set aside land in each township for public use. This system represented a sharp break from imperial colonization, as in Europe, and provided the basis for the rest of American continental expansion through the 19th Century.

The Land Ordinance of 1785
Land Ordinance of 1785
The Land Ordinance of 1785 was adopted by the United States Congress on May 20, 1785. Under the Articles of Confederation, Congress did not have the power to raise revenue by direct taxation of the inhabitants of the United States...

 established both the general practices of land surveying in the west and northwest and the land ownership provisions used throughout the later westward expansion beyond the Mississippi River
Mississippi River
The Mississippi River is the largest river system in North America. Flowing entirely in the United States, this river rises in western Minnesota and meanders slowly southwards for to the Mississippi River Delta at the Gulf of Mexico. With its many tributaries, the Mississippi's watershed drains...

. The Northwest Ordinance
Northwest Ordinance
The Northwest Ordinance was an act of the Congress of the Confederation of the United States, passed July 13, 1787...

 of 1787 noted the agreement of the original states to give up northwestern land claims
State cessions
The state cessions are those areas of the United States that the separate states ceded to the federal government in the late 18th and early 19th century...

, organized the Northwest Territory
Northwest Territory
The Territory Northwest of the River Ohio, more commonly known as the Northwest Territory, was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from July 13, 1787, until March 1, 1803, when the southeastern portion of the territory was admitted to the Union as the state of Ohio...

 and thus cleared the way for the entry of five new states, and part of a sixth to the Union. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 also made great advances in the abolition of slavery. New states admitted to the union in said territory would never be slave states.

To be specific, these states gave up all of their claims to land north of the Ohio River
Ohio River
The Ohio River is the largest tributary, by volume, of the Mississippi River. At the confluence, the Ohio is even bigger than the Mississippi and, thus, is hydrologically the main stream of the whole river system, including the Allegheny River further upstream...

 and west of the (present) western border of Pennsylvania: Massachusetts
Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

, Connecticut
Connecticut
Connecticut is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It is bordered by Rhode Island to the east, Massachusetts to the north, and the state of New York to the west and the south .Connecticut is named for the Connecticut River, the major U.S. river that approximately...

, New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

, Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

, and Virginia
Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

. From this land, over several decades were formed the new states of Ohio
Ohio
Ohio is a Midwestern state in the United States. The 34th largest state by area in the U.S.,it is the 7th‑most populous with over 11.5 million residents, containing several major American cities and seven metropolitan areas with populations of 500,000 or more.The state's capital is Columbus...

, Indiana
Indiana
Indiana is a US state, admitted to the United States as the 19th on December 11, 1816. It is located in the Midwestern United States and Great Lakes Region. With 6,483,802 residents, the state is ranked 15th in population and 16th in population density. Indiana is ranked 38th in land area and is...

, Illinois
Illinois
Illinois is the fifth-most populous state of the United States of America, and is often noted for being a microcosm of the entire country. With Chicago in the northeast, small industrial cities and great agricultural productivity in central and northern Illinois, and natural resources like coal,...

, Michigan
Michigan
Michigan is a U.S. state located in the Great Lakes Region of the United States of America. The name Michigan is the French form of the Ojibwa word mishigamaa, meaning "large water" or "large lake"....

, and Wisconsin
Wisconsin
Wisconsin is a U.S. state located in the north-central United States and is part of the Midwest. It is bordered by Minnesota to the west, Iowa to the southwest, Illinois to the south, Lake Michigan to the east, Michigan to the northeast, and Lake Superior to the north. Wisconsin's capital is...

, and the part of Minnesota
Minnesota
Minnesota is a U.S. state located in the Midwestern United States. The twelfth largest state of the U.S., it is the twenty-first most populous, with 5.3 million residents. Minnesota was carved out of the eastern half of the Minnesota Territory and admitted to the Union as the thirty-second state...

 east of the Mississippi River.

By the Land Ordinance of 1785, these were surveyed into the now-familiar squares of land called the township
Township
The word township is used to refer to different kinds of settlements in different countries. Township is generally associated with an urban area. However there are many exceptions to this rule. In Australia, the United States, and Canada, they may be settlements too small to be considered urban...

 (36 square miles), the section
Section (United States land surveying)
In U.S. land surveying under the Public Land Survey System , a section is an area nominally one square mile, containing , with 36 sections making up one survey township on a rectangular grid....

 (one square mile), and the quarter section (160 acre
Acre
The acre is a unit of area in a number of different systems, including the imperial and U.S. customary systems. The most commonly used acres today are the international acre and, in the United States, the survey acre. The most common use of the acre is to measure tracts of land.The acre is related...

s). This system was carried forward to most of the States west of the Mississippi (excluding areas of Texas
Texas
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...

 and California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

 that had already been surveyed and divided up by the Spanish Empire
Spanish Empire
The Spanish Empire comprised territories and colonies administered directly by Spain in Europe, in America, Africa, Asia and Oceania. It originated during the Age of Exploration and was therefore one of the first global empires. At the time of Habsburgs, Spain reached the peak of its world power....

). Then, when the Homestead Act
Homestead Act
A homestead act is one of three United States federal laws that gave an applicant freehold title to an area called a "homestead" – typically 160 acres of undeveloped federal land west of the Mississippi River....

 was enacted in 1867, the quarter section became the basic unit of land that was granted to new settler-farmers.

America under the articles


The peace treaty left the United States independent and at peace but with an unsettled governmental structure. The Articles envisioned a permanent confederation, but granted to the Congress—the only federal institution—little power to finance itself or to ensure that its resolutions were enforced. There was no president and no national court. Although historians generally agree that the Articles were too weak to hold the fast-growing nation together, they do give credit to the settlement of the western issue, as the states voluntarily turned over their lands to national control.

By 1783, with the end of the British blockade, the new nation was regaining its prosperity. However, trade opportunities were restricted by the mercantilism of the British and French empires. The ports of the British West Indies were closed to all staple products which were not carried in British ships. France and Spain established similar policies. Simultaneously, new manufacturers faced sharp competition from British products which were suddenly available again. Political unrest in several states and efforts by debtors to use popular government to erase their debts increased the anxiety of the political and economic elites which had led the Revolution. The apparent inability of the Congress to redeem the public obligations (debts) incurred during the war, or to become a forum for productive cooperation among the states to encourage commerce and economic development, only aggravated a gloomy situation. In 1786–87, Shays' Rebellion
Shays' Rebellion
Shays' Rebellion was an armed uprising in central and western Massachusetts from 1786 to 1787. The rebellion is named after Daniel Shays, a veteran of the American Revolutionary War....

, an uprising of farmers in western Massachusetts against the state court system, threatened the stability of state government.

The Continental Congress printed paper money which was so depreciated that it ceased to pass as currency, spawning the expression "not worth a continental". Congress could not levy taxes and could only make requisitions upon the States. Less than a million and a half dollars came into the treasury between 1781 and 1784, although the governors had been asked for two million in 1783 alone.

When Adams went to London in 1785 as the first representative of the United States, he found it impossible to secure a treaty for unrestricted commerce. Demands were made for favors and there was no assurance that individual states would agree to a treaty. Adams stated it was necessary for the States to confer the power of passing navigation laws to Congress, or that the States themselves pass retaliatory acts against Great Britain. Congress had already requested and failed to get power over navigation laws. Meanwhile, each State acted individually against Great Britain to little effect. When other New England states closed their ports to British shipping, Connecticut hastened to profit by opening its ports.

By 1787 Congress was unable to protect manufacturing and shipping. State legislatures were unable or unwilling to resist attacks upon private contracts and public credit. Land speculators expected no rise in values when the government could not defend its borders nor protect its frontier population.

The idea of a convention to revise the Articles of Confederation grew in favor. Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton was a Founding Father, soldier, economist, political philosopher, one of America's first constitutional lawyers and the first United States Secretary of the Treasury...

 realized while serving as Washington's top aide that a strong central government was necessary to avoid foreign intervention and allay the frustrations due to an ineffectual Congress. Hamilton led a group of like-minded nationalists, won Washington's endorsement, and convened the Annapolis Convention
Annapolis Convention (1786)
The Annapolis Convention was a meeting in 1786 at Annapolis, Maryland, of 12 delegates from five states that unanimously called for a constitutional convention. The formal title of the meeting was a Meeting of Commissioners to Remedy Defects of the Federal Government...

 in 1786 to petition Congress to call a constitutional convention to meet in Philadelphia to remedy the long-term crisis.

Signatures


The Second Continental Congress approved the Articles for distribution to the states on November 15, 1777. A copy was made for each state and one was kept by the Congress
Continental Congress
The Continental Congress was a convention of delegates called together from the Thirteen Colonies that became the governing body of the United States during the American Revolution....

. The copies sent to the states for ratification were unsigned, and a cover letter had only the signatures of Henry Laurens
Henry Laurens
Henry Laurens was an American merchant and rice planter from South Carolina who became a political leader during the Revolutionary War. A delegate to the Second Continental Congress, Laurens succeeded John Hancock as President of the Congress...

 and Charles Thomson
Charles Thomson
Charles Thomson was a Patriot leader in Philadelphia during the American Revolution and the secretary of the Continental Congress throughout its existence.-Biography:...

, who were the President
President of the Continental Congress
The President of the Continental Congress was the presiding officer of the Continental Congress, the convention of delegates that emerged as the first national government of the United States during the American Revolution...

 and Secretary to the Congress.

The Articles, however, were unsigned, and the date was blank. Congress began the signing process by examining their copy of the Articles on June 27, 1778. They ordered a final copy prepared (the one in the National Archives), and that delegates should inform the secretary of their authority for ratification.

On July 9, 1778, the prepared copy was ready. They dated it, and began to sign. They also requested each of the remaining states to notify its delegation when ratification was completed. On that date, delegates present from New Hampshire
New Hampshire
New Hampshire is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. The state was named after the southern English county of Hampshire. It is bordered by Massachusetts to the south, Vermont to the west, Maine and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Canadian...

, Massachusetts
Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

, Rhode Island
Rhode Island
The state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, more commonly referred to as Rhode Island , is a state in the New England region of the United States. It is the smallest U.S. state by area...

, Connecticut
Connecticut
Connecticut is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It is bordered by Rhode Island to the east, Massachusetts to the north, and the state of New York to the west and the south .Connecticut is named for the Connecticut River, the major U.S. river that approximately...

, New York
New York
New York is a state in the Northeastern region of the United States. It is the nation's third most populous state. New York is bordered by New Jersey and Pennsylvania to the south, and by Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont to the east...

, Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

, Virginia
Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

 and South Carolina
South Carolina
South Carolina is a state in the Deep South of the United States that borders Georgia to the south, North Carolina to the north, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Originally part of the Province of Carolina, the Province of South Carolina was one of the 13 colonies that declared independence...

 signed the Articles to indicate that their states had ratified. New Jersey
New Jersey
New Jersey is a state in the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic regions of the United States. , its population was 8,791,894. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York, on the southeast and south by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Pennsylvania and on the southwest by Delaware...

, Delaware
Delaware
Delaware is a U.S. state located on the Atlantic Coast in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. It is bordered to the south and west by Maryland, and to the north by Pennsylvania...

 and Maryland
Maryland
Maryland is a U.S. state located in the Mid Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and Delaware to its east...

 could not, since their states had not ratified. North Carolina
North Carolina
North Carolina is a state located in the southeastern United States. The state borders South Carolina and Georgia to the south, Tennessee to the west and Virginia to the north. North Carolina contains 100 counties. Its capital is Raleigh, and its largest city is Charlotte...

 and Georgia
Georgia (U.S. state)
Georgia is a state located in the southeastern United States. It was established in 1732, the last of the original Thirteen Colonies. The state is named after King George II of Great Britain. Georgia was the fourth state to ratify the United States Constitution, on January 2, 1788...

 also didn't sign that day, since their delegations were absent.

After the first signing, some delegates signed at the next meeting they attended. For example, John Wentworth of New Hampshire added his name on August 8. John Penn was the first of North Carolina's delegates to arrive (on July 10), and the delegation signed the Articles on July 21, 1778.

The other states had to wait until they ratified the Articles and notified their Congressional delegation. Georgia signed on July 24, New Jersey on November 26, and Delaware on February 12, 1779. Maryland refused to ratify the Articles until every state had ceded its western land claims.


On February 2, 1781, the much-awaited decision was taken by the Maryland General Assembly
Maryland General Assembly
The Maryland General Assembly is the state legislature of the U.S. state of Maryland. It is a bicameral body. The upper chamber, the Maryland State Senate, has 47 representatives and the lower chamber, the Maryland House of Delegates, has 141 representatives...

 in Annapolis. As the last piece of business during the afternoon Session, "among engrossed Bills" was "signed and sealed by Governor Thomas Sim Lee
Thomas Sim Lee
Thomas Sim Lee was an American planter and statesman of Frederick County, Maryland. Although not a signatory to the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation or the US Constitution, he was an important participant in the process of their creation...

 in the Senate Chamber, in the presence of the members of both Houses... an Act to empower the delegates of this state in Congress to subscribe and ratify the articles of confederation" and perpetual union among the states. The Senate then adjourned "to the first Monday in August next." The decision of Maryland to ratify the Articles was reported to the Continental Congress on February 12. The formal signing of the Articles by the Maryland delegates took place in Philadelphia at noon time on March 1, 1781 and was celebrated in the afternoon. With these events, the Articles entered into force and the United States came into being as a united, sovereign and national state.

Congress had debated the Articles for over a year and a half, and the ratification process had taken nearly three and a half years. Many participants in the original debates were no longer delegates, and some of the signers had only recently arrived. The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union were signed by a group of men who were never present in the Congress at the same time.

Signers


The signers and the states they represented were:
  • New Hampshire
    New Hampshire
    New Hampshire is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. The state was named after the southern English county of Hampshire. It is bordered by Massachusetts to the south, Vermont to the west, Maine and the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and the Canadian...

    : Josiah Bartlett
    Josiah Bartlett
    Josiah Bartlett was an American physician and statesman, delegate to the Continental Congress for New Hampshire and signatory of the Declaration of Independence...

     and John Wentworth Jr.
    John Wentworth Jr.
    John Wentworth, Jr. was a lawyer who served as a delegate to the Continental Congress for New Hampshire and a signer of the Articles of Confederation.-Biography:...

  • Massachusetts Bay
    Massachusetts
    The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

    : John Hancock
    John Hancock
    John Hancock was a merchant, statesman, and prominent Patriot of the American Revolution. He served as president of the Second Continental Congress and was the first and third Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts...

    , Samuel Adams
    Samuel Adams
    Samuel Adams was an American statesman, political philosopher, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. As a politician in colonial Massachusetts, Adams was a leader of the movement that became the American Revolution, and was one of the architects of the principles of American...

    , Elbridge Gerry
    Elbridge Gerry
    Elbridge Thomas Gerry was an American statesman and diplomat. As a Democratic-Republican he was selected as the fifth Vice President of the United States , serving under James Madison, until his death a year and a half into his term...

    , Francis Dana
    Francis Dana
    Francis Dana was an American lawyer, jurist, and statesman from Massachusetts. He served as a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1777-1778 and 1784. He signed the Articles of Confederation.-Biography:...

    , James Lovell
    James Lovell (delegate)
    James Lovell was an American educator and statesman from Boston, Massachusetts. He was a delegate for Massachusetts to the Continental Congress from 1777 to 1782. He was a signatory to the Articles of Confederation....

    , and Samuel Holten
    Samuel Holten
    Samuel Holten was an American physician and statesman from Danvers, Massachusetts. He represented Massachusetts as a delegate to the Continental Congress and as a Congressman in the U.S. House.-External links:...

  • Rhode Island and Providence Plantations
    Rhode Island
    The state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, more commonly referred to as Rhode Island , is a state in the New England region of the United States. It is the smallest U.S. state by area...

    : William Ellery, Henry Marchant
    Henry Marchant
    Henry Marchant was American lawyer from Newport, Rhode Island and United States federal judge. He was a delegate to the Continental Congress from 1777 to 1779, and was a signer of the Articles of Confederation for Rhode Island.-Life of service:Born in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, Marchant...

    , and John Collins
    John Collins (delegate)
    John Collins , was the third Governor of the U.S. state of Rhode Island, born in Newport, the son of Samuel and Elizabeth Collins.He stood forth as a staunch advocate of the independence of the Thirteen Colonies...

  • Connecticut
    Connecticut
    Connecticut is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It is bordered by Rhode Island to the east, Massachusetts to the north, and the state of New York to the west and the south .Connecticut is named for the Connecticut River, the major U.S. river that approximately...

    : Roger Sherman
    Roger Sherman
    Roger Sherman was an early American lawyer and politician, as well as a founding father. He served as the first mayor of New Haven, Connecticut, and served on the Committee of Five that drafted the Declaration of Independence, and was also a representative and senator in the new republic...

    , Samuel Huntington
    Samuel Huntington (statesman)
    Samuel Huntington was a jurist, statesman, and Patriot in the American Revolution from Connecticut. As a delegate to the Continental Congress, he signed the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation...

    , Oliver Wolcott, Titus Hosmer
    Titus Hosmer
    Titus Hosmer was an American lawyer from Middletown, Connecticut. He was a delegate for Connecticut to the Continental Congress in 1778, where he signed the Articles of Confederation....

    , and Andrew Adams
    Andrew Adams (congressman)
    Andrew Adams was an American lawyer, jurist, and political leader in Litchfield, Connecticut, during the American Revolutionary War. He was a delegate for Connecticut to the Continental Congress and later Chief Justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court.Adams was born in Stratford, the son of Samuel...

  • New York: James Duane
    James Duane
    James Duane was an American lawyer, jurist, and Revolutionary leader from New York. He served as a delegate to the Continental Congress, New York state senator, Mayor of New York, and a U.S...

    , Francis Lewis
    Francis Lewis
    Francis Lewis was a signer of the United States Declaration of Independence as a representative of New York....

    , William Duer, and Gouverneur Morris
    Gouverneur Morris
    Gouverneur Morris , was an American statesman, a Founding Father of the United States, and a native of New York City who represented Pennsylvania in the Constitutional Convention of 1787. He was a signatory to the Articles of Confederation. Morris was also an author of large sections of the...

  • New Jersey
    New Jersey
    New Jersey is a state in the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic regions of the United States. , its population was 8,791,894. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York, on the southeast and south by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Pennsylvania and on the southwest by Delaware...

    : John Witherspoon
    John Witherspoon
    John Witherspoon was a signatory of the United States Declaration of Independence as a representative of New Jersey. As president of the College of New Jersey , he trained many leaders of the early nation and was the only active clergyman and the only college president to sign the Declaration...

     and Nathaniel Scudder
    Nathaniel Scudder
    Nathaniel Scudder was an American physician and patriot leader during the Revolutionary War. He served as a delegate for New Jersey to the Continental Congress, where he signed the Articles of Confederation....

  • Pennsylvania
    Pennsylvania
    The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is a U.S. state that is located in the Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The state borders Delaware and Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, New York and Ontario, Canada, to the north, and New Jersey to...

    : Robert Morris
    Robert Morris (merchant)
    Robert Morris, Jr. was a British-born American merchant, and signer of the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the United States Constitution...

    , Daniel Roberdeau
    Daniel Roberdeau
    Daniel Roberdeau was an American merchant residing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at the time of the American War of Independence. He represented Pennsylvania from 1777 to 1779 in the Continental Congress. Roberdeau served as a brigadier general in the Pennsylvania state militia during the war...

    , Jonathan Bayard Smith
    Jonathan Bayard Smith
    Jonathan Bayard Smith was an American merchant from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He served as a delegate for Pennsylvania to the Continental Congress in 1777 and 1778...

    , William Clingan
    William Clingan
    William Clingan was a delegate in the Continental Congress for Pennsylvania from 1777 to 1779. He signed the Articles of Confederation.-External links:...

    , and Joseph Reed
    Joseph Reed (jurist)
    Joseph Reed was a Pennsylvania lawyer, military officer, and statesman of the Revolutionary Era. He served as a delegate to the Continental Congress and, while in Congress, signed the Articles of Confederation...

  • Delaware
    Delaware
    Delaware is a U.S. state located on the Atlantic Coast in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States. It is bordered to the south and west by Maryland, and to the north by Pennsylvania...

    : Thomas McKean
    Thomas McKean
    Thomas McKean was an American lawyer and politician from New Castle, in New Castle County, Delaware and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. During the American Revolution he was a delegate to the Continental Congress where he signed the United States Declaration of Independence and the Articles of...

    , John Dickinson
    John Dickinson (delegate)
    John Dickinson was an American lawyer and politician from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Wilmington, Delaware. He was a militia officer during the American Revolution, a Continental Congressman from Pennsylvania and Delaware, a delegate to the U.S. Constitutional Convention of 1787, President of...

    , and Nicholas Van Dyke
    Nicholas Van Dyke (governor)
    Nicholas Van Dyke was an American lawyer and politician from New Castle, in New Castle County, Delaware. He served in the Delaware General Assembly, as a Continental Congressman from Delaware, and as President of Delaware.-Early life and family:Van Dyke was born at Berwick, his family's home in St...

  • Maryland
    Maryland
    Maryland is a U.S. state located in the Mid Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and Delaware to its east...

    : John Hanson
    John Hanson
    John Hanson was a merchant and public official from Maryland during the era of the American Revolution. After serving in a variety of roles for the Patriot cause in Maryland, in 1779 Hanson was elected as a delegate to the Continental Congress...

     and Daniel Carroll
    Daniel Carroll
    Daniel Carroll was a politician and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. He was a prominent member of one of the United States' great colonial Catholic families, whose members included his younger brother Archbishop John Carroll, the first Catholic bishop in the United States and...

  • Virginia
    Virginia
    The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

    : Richard Henry Lee
    Richard Henry Lee
    Richard Henry Lee was an American statesman from Virginia best known for the motion in the Second Continental Congress calling for the colonies' independence from Great Britain. He was a signatory to the Articles of Confederation and his famous resolution of June 1776 led to the United States...

    , John Banister, Thomas Adams
    Thomas Adams (politician)
    Thomas Adams was a politician and businessman from Virginia.Adams was born in New Kent County in 1730. His first political position was as a clerk of Henrico County, and later a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses...

    , John Harvie
    John Harvie
    John Harvie was an American lawyer and builder from Virginia. He was a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1777 and 1778, where he signed the Articles of Confederation....

    , and Francis Lightfoot Lee
    Francis Lightfoot Lee
    Francis Lightfoot Lee was a member of the House of Burgesses in the Colony of Virginia. As an active protester of issues such as the Stamp Act, Lee helped move the colony in the direction of independence from Britain. Lee was a delegate to the Virginia Conventions and the Continental Congress...

  • North Carolina
    North Carolina
    North Carolina is a state located in the southeastern United States. The state borders South Carolina and Georgia to the south, Tennessee to the west and Virginia to the north. North Carolina contains 100 counties. Its capital is Raleigh, and its largest city is Charlotte...

    : John Penn
    John Penn (delegate)
    John Penn was a signer of both the United States Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation as a representative of North Carolina. Penn was distantly related to William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania....

    , Cornelius Harnett
    Cornelius Harnett
    Cornelius Harnett was an American merchant, farmer, and statesman from Wilmington, North Carolina. He was a leading American Revolutionary in the Cape Fear region, and a delegate for North Carolina in the Continental Congress from 1777 to 1779.Harnett was born to Cornelius and Elizabeth Harnett in...

    , and John Williams
    John Williams (delegate)
    John Williams was a signer of the United States' Articles of Confederation. He was one of the founders of the University of North Carolina. During the American Revolutionary War, Williams was a colonel in the North Carolina militia. In 1777 and 1778, he was a member of the North Carolina House of...

  • South Carolina
    South Carolina
    South Carolina is a state in the Deep South of the United States that borders Georgia to the south, North Carolina to the north, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Originally part of the Province of Carolina, the Province of South Carolina was one of the 13 colonies that declared independence...

    : Henry Laurens
    Henry Laurens
    Henry Laurens was an American merchant and rice planter from South Carolina who became a political leader during the Revolutionary War. A delegate to the Second Continental Congress, Laurens succeeded John Hancock as President of the Congress...

    , William Henry Drayton
    William Henry Drayton
    Other notable men have similar names, see: William Drayton .William Henry Drayton was an American planter and lawyer from Charleston, South Carolina...

    , John Mathews
    John Mathews (lawyer)
    John Mathews was an American lawyer from Charleston, South Carolina. He was a delegate to the Continental Congress from 1778 to 1781 where he endorsed the Articles of Confederation on behalf of South Carolina. On his return, he was elected the 33rd Governor of South Carolina, serving a single term...

    , Richard Hutson
    Richard Hutson
    ' was an American lawyer, judge, and politician from Charleston, South Carolina. He represented South Carolina as a delegate to the Continental Congress, where he signed the Articles of Confederation. After the British captured Charleston in 1780, he was held as a prisoner at St. Augustine,...

    , and Thomas Heyward Jr.
  • Georgia
    Georgia (U.S. state)
    Georgia is a state located in the southeastern United States. It was established in 1732, the last of the original Thirteen Colonies. The state is named after King George II of Great Britain. Georgia was the fourth state to ratify the United States Constitution, on January 2, 1788...

    : John Walton, Edward Telfair
    Edward Telfair
    Edward Telfair was the Governor of the state of Georgia in 1786, and from 1790 through 1793. He was a member of the Continental Congress, and a signer of the Articles of Confederation.-Early Life:...

    , and Edward Langworthy
    Edward Langworthy
    Edward Langworthy was an American teacher who was a delegate to the Continental Congress from Georgia. He signed the Articles of Confederation....



Roger Sherman (Connecticut) was the only person to sign all four great state papers of the United States: the Continental Association, the United States Declaration of Independence
United States Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence was a statement adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies then at war with Great Britain regarded themselves as independent states, and no longer a part of the British Empire. John Adams put forth a...

, the Articles of Confederation and the United States Constitution.

Robert Morris (Pennsylvania) was the only person besides Sherman to sign three of the great state papers of the United States: the United States Declaration of Independence
United States Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence was a statement adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, which announced that the thirteen American colonies then at war with Great Britain regarded themselves as independent states, and no longer a part of the British Empire. John Adams put forth a...

, the Articles of Confederation and the United States Constitution.

John Dickinson (Delaware), Daniel Carroll (Maryland) and Gouverneur Morris (New York), along with Sherman and Robert Morris, were the only five people to sign both the Articles of Confederation and the United States Constitution (Gouverneur Morris represented Pennsylvania when signing the Constitution).

Presidents of the Congress


The following list is of those who led the Congress of the Confederation
Congress of the Confederation
The Congress of the Confederation or the United States in Congress Assembled was the governing body of the United States of America that existed from March 1, 1781, to March 4, 1789. It comprised delegates appointed by the legislatures of the states. It was the immediate successor to the Second...

 under the Articles of Confederation as the Presidents of the United States in Congress Assembled. Under the Articles, the president was the presiding officer of Congress, chaired the Committee of the States
Committee of the States
The Committee of the States was an arm of the United States government, under the Articles of Confederation. The Committee consisted of one member from each state, and carried out the functions of government while the Congress of the Confederation was in recess.The Committee was set up in 1784 on...

 when Congress was in recess, and performed other administrative functions. He was not, however, an executive in the way the successor President of the United States
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 is a chief executive, since all of the functions he executed were under the direct control of Congress.
  • Samuel Huntington
    Samuel Huntington (statesman)
    Samuel Huntington was a jurist, statesman, and Patriot in the American Revolution from Connecticut. As a delegate to the Continental Congress, he signed the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation...

     (March 1, 1781 – July 9, 1781)
  • Thomas McKean
    Thomas McKean
    Thomas McKean was an American lawyer and politician from New Castle, in New Castle County, Delaware and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. During the American Revolution he was a delegate to the Continental Congress where he signed the United States Declaration of Independence and the Articles of...

     (July 10, 1781 – November 4, 1781)
  • John Hanson
    John Hanson
    John Hanson was a merchant and public official from Maryland during the era of the American Revolution. After serving in a variety of roles for the Patriot cause in Maryland, in 1779 Hanson was elected as a delegate to the Continental Congress...

     (November 5, 1781 – November 3, 1782)
  • Elias Boudinot
    Elias Boudinot
    Elias Boudinot was a lawyer and statesman from Elizabeth, New Jersey who was a delegate to the Continental Congress and a U.S. Congressman for New Jersey...

     (November 4, 1782 – November 2, 1783)
  • Thomas Mifflin
    Thomas Mifflin
    Thomas Mifflin was an American merchant and politician from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was a major general in the Continental Army during the American Revolution, a member of the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly, a Continental Congressman from Pennsylvania, President of the Continental...

     (November 3, 1783 – October 31, 1784)
  • Richard Henry Lee
    Richard Henry Lee
    Richard Henry Lee was an American statesman from Virginia best known for the motion in the Second Continental Congress calling for the colonies' independence from Great Britain. He was a signatory to the Articles of Confederation and his famous resolution of June 1776 led to the United States...

     (November 30, 1784 – November 6, 1785)
  • John Hancock
    John Hancock
    John Hancock was a merchant, statesman, and prominent Patriot of the American Revolution. He served as president of the Second Continental Congress and was the first and third Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts...

     (November 23, 1785 – May 29, 1786)
  • Nathaniel Gorham
    Nathaniel Gorham
    Nathaniel Gorham was the fourteenth President of the United States in Congress assembled, under the Articles of Confederation...

     (June 6, 1786 – November 5, 1786)
  • Arthur St. Clair
    Arthur St. Clair
    Arthur St. Clair was an American soldier and politician. Born in Scotland, he served in the British Army during the French and Indian War before settling in Pennsylvania, where he held local office...

     (February 2, 1787 – November 4, 1787)
  • Cyrus Griffin
    Cyrus Griffin
    Cyrus Griffin was a lawyer and judge who served as the last President of the Continental Congress, holding office from January 22, 1788, to November 2, 1788. He resigned after the ratification of the United States Constitution rendered the old Congress obsolete, and was later a United States...

     (January 22, 1788 – November 2, 1788)

For a full list of Presidents of the Congress Assembled and Presidents under the two Continental Congresses before the Articles, see President of the Continental Congress
President of the Continental Congress
The President of the Continental Congress was the presiding officer of the Continental Congress, the convention of delegates that emerged as the first national government of the United States during the American Revolution...

.

Revision and replacement


In May 1786, Charles Pinckney
Charles Pinckney (governor)
Charles Pinckney was an American politician who was a signer of the United States Constitution, the 37th Governor of South Carolina, a Senator and a member of the House of Representatives...

 of South Carolina
South Carolina
South Carolina is a state in the Deep South of the United States that borders Georgia to the south, North Carolina to the north, and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Originally part of the Province of Carolina, the Province of South Carolina was one of the 13 colonies that declared independence...

 proposed that Congress revise the Articles of Confederation. Recommended changes included granting Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

 power over foreign and domestic commerce, and providing means for Congress to collect money from state treasuries. Unanimous approval was necessary to make the alterations, however, and Congress failed to reach a consensus. The weakness of the Articles in establishing an effective unifying government was underscored by the threat of internal conflict both within and between the states, especially after Shays' Rebellion
Shays' Rebellion
Shays' Rebellion was an armed uprising in central and western Massachusetts from 1786 to 1787. The rebellion is named after Daniel Shays, a veteran of the American Revolutionary War....

 threatened to topple the state government of Massachusetts.

On January 21, 1786, the Virginia Legislature, following James Madison's
James Madison
James Madison, Jr. was an American statesman and political theorist. He was the fourth President of the United States and is hailed as the “Father of the Constitution” for being the primary author of the United States Constitution and at first an opponent of, and then a key author of the United...

 recommendation, invited all the states to send delegates to Annapolis, Maryland to discuss ways to reduce these interstate conflicts. At what came to be known as the Annapolis Convention
Annapolis Convention (1786)
The Annapolis Convention was a meeting in 1786 at Annapolis, Maryland, of 12 delegates from five states that unanimously called for a constitutional convention. The formal title of the meeting was a Meeting of Commissioners to Remedy Defects of the Federal Government...

, the few state delegates in attendance endorsed a motion that called for all states to meet in Philadelphia in May 1787 to discuss ways to improve the Articles of Confederation in a "Grand Convention." Although the states' representatives to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia were only authorized to amend the Articles, the representatives held secret, closed-door sessions and wrote a new constitution. The new Constitution gave much more power to the central government, but characterization of the result is disputed. The general goal of the authors was to get as close to a republic
Republic
A republic is a form of government in which the people, or some significant portion of them, have supreme control over the government and where offices of state are elected or chosen by elected people. In modern times, a common simplified definition of a republic is a government where the head of...

 as defined by the philosophers of the Age of Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

, while trying to address the many difficulties of the interstate relationships. Historian Forrest McDonald, using the ideas of James Madison from Federalist 39, describes the change this way:
Historian Ralph Ketcham comments on the opinions of Patrick Henry
Patrick Henry
Patrick Henry was an orator and politician who led the movement for independence in Virginia in the 1770s. A Founding Father, he served as the first and sixth post-colonial Governor of Virginia from 1776 to 1779 and subsequently, from 1784 to 1786...

, George Mason
George Mason
George Mason IV was an American Patriot, statesman and a delegate from Virginia to the U.S. Constitutional Convention...

, and other antifederalists
Anti-Federalism
Anti-Federalism refers to a movement that opposed the creation of a stronger U.S. federal government and which later opposed the ratification of the Constitution of 1787. The previous constitution, called the Articles of Confederation, gave state governments more authority...

 who were not so eager to give up the local autonomy won by the revolution:
Historians have given many reasons for the perceived need to replace the articles in 1787. Jillson and Wilson (1994) point to the financial weakness as well as the norms, rules and institutional structures of the Congress, and the propensity to divide along sectional lines.

Rakove (1988) identifies several factors that explain the collapse of the Confederation. The lack of compulsory direct taxation power was objectionable to those wanting a strong centralized state or expecting to benefit from such power. It could not collect customs after the war because tariffs were vetoed by Rhode Island
Rhode Island
The state of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, more commonly referred to as Rhode Island , is a state in the New England region of the United States. It is the smallest U.S. state by area...

. Rakove concludes that their failure to implement national measures "stemmed not from a heady sense of independence but rather from the enormous difficulties that all the states encountered in collecting taxes, mustering men, and gathering supplies from a war-weary populace." The second group of factors Rakove identified derived from the substantive nature of the problems the Continental Congress confronted after 1783, especially the inability to create a strong foreign policy. Finally, the Confederation's lack of coercive power reduced the likelihood for profit to be made by political means, thus potential rulers were uninspired to seek power.

When the war ended in 1783, certain special interests had incentives to create a new "merchant state," much like the British state people had rebelled against. In particular, holders of war scrip and land speculators wanted a central government to pay off scrip at face value and to legalize western land holdings with disputed claims. Also, manufacturers wanted a high tariff as a barrier to foreign goods, but competition among states made this impossible without a central government.

Political scientist David C. Hendrickson writes that two prominent political leaders in the Confederation, John Jay
John Jay
John Jay was an American politician, statesman, revolutionary, diplomat, a Founding Father of the United States, and the first Chief Justice of the United States ....

 of New York and Thomas Burke
Thomas Burke (governor)
Thomas Burke was an American physician, lawyer, and statesman from Hillsborough, North Carolina. He represented North Carolina as a delegate to the Continental Congress and was the third Governor of the state....

 of North Carolina believed that "the authority of the congress rested on the prior acts of the several states, to which the states gave their voluntary consent, and until those obligations were fulfilled, neither nullification of the authority of congress, exercising its due powers, nor secession from the compact itself was consistent with the terms of their original pledges."

Closing down


According to their own terms for modification (Article XIII), the Articles would still have been in effect until 1790, the year in which the last of the 13 states ratified the new Constitution.
The Congress under the Articles continued to sit until November 1788, overseeing the adoption of the new Constitution by the states, and setting elections.
By that date, 11 of the 13 states had ratified the new Constitution.
On September 13, 1788, it published an announcement that the new Constitution had been ratified by the necessary nine states, set the first Wednesday in February 1789 for the presidential electors to meet and select a new president, and set the first Wednesday of March 1789 as the day the new government would take over and the government under the Articles of Confederation would come to an end.

On that same September 13, it determined that New York would remain the national capital.

See also

  • History of the United States (1776–1789)
    History of the United States (1776–1789)
    Between 1776 and 1789, the United States emerged as an independent country, creating and ratifying its new constitution, and establishing its national government. In order to assert their traditional rights, American Patriots seized control of the colonies and launched a war for independence...

  • Perpetual Union
    Perpetual Union
    The Perpetual Union is a feature of the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, which established the United States of America as a national entity...

  • U.S. Constitution

External links