How Did the States Limit the Powers of the Central Government Under the Articles of Confederation?
The Articles of Confederation, the document that outlined how the United States would be governed prior to the Constitution, was written in 1775 on the principle of individual state independence and gave no power to the central government. The Articles outlined a loose alliance of sovereign states rather than a country, but because the central government could not even levy taxes, the Constitution was drafted in 1787.
When the Articles of Confederation were created, the budding American nation was in the process of fighting for its freedom from an oppressive distant government. Benjamin Franklin, a proponent of independence, drafted a set of articles that gave power almost entirely to local government.
According to the Articles, the central government would have no executive branch or direct judicial system. It would not be able to levy taxes or draft an army. In fact, it would not be able to directly act on its citizens at all. In theory, the central government would be involved in decisions that affected the thirteen states, but each of the states had power to overrule the very weak federal government. The Constitution written in 1787 was built on a system of checks and balances, but the Articles of Confederation offered no measures to keep individual states in check, even if their policies hurt the nation as a whole.