Why Did the Federalists Want to Replace the Articles of Confederation?

The Federalists wanted to replace the original United States Articles of Confederation because they gave Congress limited power to govern or regulate domestic affairs. By 1786, the U.S. was bankrupt as a result of the cost of the Revolutionary War and the federal government had no powers of taxation. Congress was also unable to effectively resolve the growing trade and regional disputes developing at the state level and the Federalists sought to create a stronger federal government that could effectively intervene when needed.

The Federalists viewed the replacement of the 1777 Articles of Confederation as a vital step toward strengthening the federal government and providing a solution to the problems resulting from the lack of practical authority originally given to Congress. The armed insurrection against Massachusetts’ state government in 1786 known as Shays’ Rebellion further mobilized the Federalists’ call for a stronger central government. The federal government was unable to raise an army to respond to the rebellion, which was in part fueled by the debilitating economic situation created by Congress’ inability to remedy the effects of the debt created by the Revolutionary War.

Delegates from the states met in Philadelphia in 1787 to begin deliberations on revising the Articles of Confederation. The Federalists favored a replacement by a new U.S. Constitution while the Anti-Federalists argued that the federal government already had too much power and greater autonomy should be given to the states. After lengthy debates and a final agreement upon a system of checks and balances, a new U.S. Constitution was drafted. Owing to the support of George Washington and the ingenuity of its supporters, the new U.S. Constitution was ratified by the states and March 4, 1789, was set as the date for the new government to take power.