On November 15, 1777, the first constitution of the United States of America was written and created. Referred to as the Articles of Confederation or the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, this document was ratified by the original 13 states of the U.S. and was later replaced by what we now have as the U.S. Constitution on September 13, 1788.
According to history, most of the first settlers in the United States came from Great Britain which begun to build settlements and later became to be known as the “Original Thirteen States”. Over the years, the settlers grew restless and wanted to gain independence from the British, which led to the outbreak of the Revolutionary War in 1775. On June 11, 1776, five men were commissioned by the Second Continental Congress to write a document that will officially proclaim the freedom of the colonies from the British rule. This was known as the “Declaration of Independence” and was also the birth of the United States of America.
It was also the Continental Congress which wrote the Articles of Confederation in order for the 13 states to have some form of government and be unified. The first state to ratify the document was Virginia on December 16, 1777 and the last one was Maryland on February 2, 1781. The 11 other states were South Carolina, New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Georgia, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, North Carolina, New Jersey and Delaware.
Although the creation of the Articles of Confederation was a significant part of the American History, it was also considered weak and people were also divided when it comes to their views on the benefits and setbacks of the first constitution. Here are the opposing views express by the two groups.
List of Pros of Articles of Confederation
1. It served as an agreement among the states and was the first constitution of the United States of America.
After the independence of the colonies from the British Empire, a need for an agreement was needed because this was also the time of territorial expansion and the 13 states did not have some form of government as a whole. Although it was not readily accepted because of the fear of a central authority, it paved the way for the states to unite and was the precursor of the New Constitution of the United States.
2. It gave the Congress the authority to deal with international affairs and brought about Congressional departments.
Proponents say that the Articles of Confederation was significant in giving the Congress the power to negotiate with other countries when it comes to conflicts. It gave authority to Congress to declare war and peace and one perfect example was the Treaty of Paris signed by the U.S with Great Britain. Also, it made possible the establishment of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Postal Service and the Department of Foreign Affairs. All of which are important for the nation and still remain integral parts of the United States government.
3. The states still remained independent.
Despite the agreement, advocates claim that the 13 states remained sovereign, movement to other states were not prohibited and trade was not restricted. This was beneficial because the people were given the chance to explore other places and improve their lives. Moreover, people are to be considered free citizens with privileges and immunities like any citizen of the state.
4. It strengthened friendship among the states.
Supporters of the first constitution say that this established a union among the 13 included states and created a bond among them which not only encouraged trade but also united them to fight against outside forces that might want to invade or disrupt the peace of these states as a nation.
List of Cons of the Articles of Confederation
1. It was a weak document and had flaws.
Critics say that the first constitution was not able to deliver what it offered because since the start, it was already weak. They talk about the reluctance of the states to approve the agreement, saying that it took at least four years. Moreover, there were other issues that were not tackled by the agreement. Apart from not having a president, there was no government nor army. The national government was not able impost laws over the states and there was no strong leadership by the Congress.
2. Despite the authority of Congress to intervene with foreign affairs, there were still failures.
Opponents of the Articles of Confederation argue that even though Congress was given the power over alliances and treaties, just like the Treaty of Paris, then why were the American merchants not allowed at the British West Indies? They also say that even if it was an American territory, British troops were still stationed at the Old Northwest.
3. It still had the flaws of the First and Second Continental Congresses.
Despite having drafted six times, the Articles of Confederation was still not an advantage to opponents because it was not able to give the Congress the power to impose taxes, just like the previous issue before its ratification. It was also not able to balance commerce and the taxes were just coming from the states, from the ownership of private land. Aside from the fact that all both states under trade can issue taxes for the transaction, there was also hyperinflation because all states issued their own money.
4. It led to the revision of the constitution.
According to those who were not satisfied with the Articles of Confederation, it has failed to serve its purpose and address the important issues like taxation. They say that if it was a success, then it would not have been changed to the U.S. Constitution. With regard to levying of taxes, there were two attempts to give power to Congress by amending the document but both failed. This was taken by critics as a sign that the first constitution was not ideal.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Masters Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.