THE PROBLEMS FACED BY THE UNITED STATES
UNDER THE ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION
AND HOW THE CONSTITUTION ADDRESSED THEM
Advanced U.S. History/ IB History of the Americas
December 19, 2008
What problems did the United States face under the Articles of Confederation and to what extent did the Constitution address them?
Part A: Plan of Investigation
This investigation assesses the problems the United States faced under the Articles of Confederation and the extent to which the Constitution addressed them. To achieve this, the investigation analyzes five defects of the Articles: (1) Lack of a proper legislative authority to regulate commerce between states and with foreign nations; (2) The State Quota System for recruiting soldiers; (3) Unfair representation in a unicameral Congress; (4) The lack of a Supreme Court to define and interpret laws; and (5) The division the Articles caused due to a lack of support from the general public. A number of sources are referenced in the assessment to evaluate the problems posed by the Articles of Confederation. Finally, two sources are analyzed for their origins, purposes, values, and limitations. Sources include an excerpt from The Federalist Without Tears compiled by Jean Stearns, and Decisions in Philadelphia: The Constitutional Convention of 1787 by Christopher Collier.
Word count: 150
Part B: Summary of Evidence
Five problems of the Government under the Articles of Confederations according to Alexander Hamilton • Lack of proper legislative authority to regulate commerce between states in the Union and between the United States and foreign nations. • Soldiers were recruited according to a State Quota system, which states only followed when it included their personal interest. • Unicameral Congress: representation based on population- This posed issues as 7 of the states made up less than one third of the United States’ population. Because of the imbalance the most powerful section of the government susceptible to corruption and foreign influence in the absence of proper checks and balances. • According to Hamilton, the greatest defect was the lack of a Supreme Court. He defined a Supreme Court as an institution to “define and interpret laws, and define the terms of treaties.” • Hamilton said an effective governing document requires the “consent of the governed.” The Articles of Confederation were ratified by state legislatures rather than seeking a general consensus. Positions of Power
• Congress representatives were paid; hence they were always capable of being recalled. No state could send less than two or more than seven representatives, and no representative could serve more than three years in six or hold two United States Official jobs at once. • The closest position to an executive power was the President of Congress, who merely chaired meetings. • The Secretary for Foreign Affairs and the Secretary for War had little power. In the end, any important decision needed unanimous consent of the Congress. • The only power given to the Superintendent of Finance was the power to authorize Admiralty and Land Dispute courts, which was only used once during an interstate dispute. Enacting Laws
• Every state had the same number of votes in Congress (1), which angered states with large population. • Any amendments to be made to the Articles required unanimous consent of the Congress. • Under the Articles, states were “sovereign.” Authorities used this as an excuse to ignore taxes, especially post-revolution taxes to support a standing army. The resulting army of 700 ill-equipped men was not sufficient to drive out Spanish occupants of Mississippi, the British from the Great Lakes, of defend the citizens from Natives that were being supplied and encouraged to attack frontier settlers by Britain and Spain. • As there...
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