The Articles of Confederation was an agreement between the United States of America's 13 founding states that established the country as a confederation of sovereign states and served as its first constitution. It was eventually replaced by the Constitution in 1788.
In 1776, a day after appointing a committee to draft the Declaration of Independence, a committee was formed to prepare a draft of a constitution for a union of the states. The first draft was presented in July, after debates over issues such as sovereignty and voting procedures.
The final draft was approved a year later and the articles were approved for ratification by the states on November 15th of the same year. Until they were ratified by all thirteen colonies, the articles could not become officially effective. The first state to ratify was Virginia in 1777, followed by (in alphabetical order, not order of ratification) Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and South Carolina in 1778; Delaware in 1779; and finally Maryland in 1781.
The original Articles of Confederation was five pages and contained a preamble (introduction), 13 articles, a conclusion and a signatory section. The preamble basically states that each of the 13 states agrees to the articles.
The first article establishes the name of the confederation as the United States of America. In the second article, the sovereignty of each state is asserted. Article three, in short, says that the states will agree with each other in a sort of friendship. The fourth article establishes equal treatment, freedom of movement and basic laws of extradition. Article five gives each state one vote in the Congress of Confederation. In article six, it is stated that only the government is allowed to declare war or make foreign relations.
Article seven states that the state legislatures are to name all military ranks below colonel. Funds raised by the aforementioned state legislatures will pay for the country's expenditures in article eight. Article nine lists decisions that Congress has the sole and exclusive right and power to execute. Article ten states that nine states have Congress' power in its absence. In article eleven, the province of Quebec can join the United States if it wishes to. Article twelve reaffirms that the Confederation accepts war debt incurred by Congress before the existence of the Articles. The final article, article thirteen, states that the articles can only be altered by Congress, and all the states must ratify again.