A Failed Experiment: The Articles of Confederation
War-torn and economically weak, the United States in the late 1700s, was in desperate need of government and law. The solution drawn up by Congress was the Articles of Confederation. This document acted as the law of the land until it was superseded by the Constitution in 1789. In fear of tyranny, the Articles created a very weak central government, with federal power consolidated in a unicameral legislature. There was no executive or judicial branch, and the vast majority of power was left to the states. The states were essentially assembled into a loose confederation under Congress. This confederation, as others before and after it, had strengths and weaknesses. While achieving the original goals of limiting federal power and safely navigating international relations, the federal government created by the Articles was too weak to sustain a growing nation. In foreign and domestic policy-making immediately after the war, the Articles of Confederation succeeded. The government set up by the Articles successfully negotiated the Treaty of Paris, Signed in 1783, the Treaty of Paris recognized America as an independent nation and called for the British to vacate America. Congress was able to end the war this way because of their right to make treaties. The Northwest Ordinance was another policy-making success, which allowed for America to slowly grow in land and population for the future. Using its exclusive right to organize and sell the unsettled territory located West of the Appalachians, Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance, which gave Congress authority over the region, and set parameters as to when and how inhabitants of the region could apply for statehood. By 1792, New York and Virginia had ceded Western land to the federal government to become part of new states. (Document E). The ordinance created an orderly way to expand the confederation while minimizing tensions between the northern...
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