Between 1781 and 1789, the United States was governed by the Articles of Confederation. Following the rebellion against Great Britain, it was an agreement between representatives of the thirteen colonies to establish themselves as sovereign states with their own set of laws. However, while it provided a strong base for the constitution, without modifications it failed to effectively govern the United States.
Since the very beginning of the Articles in 1781, Americans had noticed the unusual changes in government immediately. In Document G, five years after the ratification of the Articles, John Jay wrote to George Washington describing his uncertainty. “I am uneasy and apprehensive… The case is now altered; we are going and doing wrong.” Jay explains how, although he initially thought the Articles of Confederation would be a successful document and provide a strong system of government for America, his beliefs are now changing.
One of the most problematic issues of this time period was the holding of power. Americans wanted control of the government to be held by each individual state as opposed to a single person or group. They feared that putting one ruler in charge would be too similar to what they experienced under Great Britain’s rule and therefore chose to divide the power. However, giving the states control over their own governments caused more problems than it prevented. The main reason for giving the states more power than the federal government was because of faults found in Congress by Americans. Firstly, as demonstrated in Document A, a letter from 1782 written by the Rhode Island Assembly expresses the beliefs that giving power to Congress would only hurt the states. If Congress had the power to collect and regulate taxes then they would unequally distribute them and impose higher duties on the commercial states, thus weakening the economy. Also, with each state having its own separate constitution, there were numerous limitations on what...
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