The Period in American History from 1781 to 1789, When the United States Was Organized Under the Articles of Confederation, Was Not Characterized by a Strong and Effective Government, but Instead Provided the Framework

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The period in American History from 1781 to 1789, when the United States was organized under the Articles of Confederation, was not characterized by a strong and effective government, but instead provided the framework upon which a more effective government could be built. The Articles of Confederation, since they prevented a strong central government from having power over states' rights, tended to create problems for a government that wished to rule with any amount of authority. This was particularly evident in the areas of foreign relations, internal discontent over tariffs, and political party struggles. While the United States was attempting to establish itself in diplomatic affairs, this became increasingly difficult to do since the federal government had little power when it came to tariffs and import duties, and also because it had no way of enforcing any agreement which it made with other countries. John Jay's Treaty with Great Britain proposed measures which would improve relations between Great Britain and the U.S., but because the U.S. was not a strong military power, it lacked the means to enforce the agreements of Jay's Treaty. A similar type of situation occurred when the U.S. tried to negotiate with Spain over the right to navigate on the Mississippi River. Because of the weakness of the government under the Articles of Confederation, the United States did not reach a peaceful settlement concerning the Mississippi River until the Pinckney Treaty of the 1790's. Political party struggles (or struggles between the beginnings of political parties) also tended to bring about disunity in the early government, thereby weakening its effectiveness. Rawlin Lowndes reflected the attitudes of the pre-Constitutional era in his speech to the South Carolina House of Representatives, when he stated that, rather than tear down the existing government and adopt a constitution, attempts should be made to improve the existing structure. Further conflicts over the...
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