What Was the Purpose of the Articles of Confederation?

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After seceding from the British government, the 13 North American colonies drafted the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union to aid in governing the newly formed states, according to HowStuffWorks. This early federal constitution was in effect from 1781 to 1789. Its name is commonly shortened to the Articles of Confederation.

As the independent colonies were in the process of drafting individual state constitutions, Britain’s oppressive rule made many citizens reluctant to grant too much power to the central government. Although the states were determined to maintain their sovereignty, the Continental Congress recognized a need for uniformity on interstate matters, such as currency, civil disputes and military preparation, according to the Independence Hall Association.

The Articles of Confederation defined the powers of the federal government and the 13 states. Regardless of size, each state contributed one vote to the Confederation Congress, and federal laws required a nine-vote majority for passage. States retained most of their power, including the right to enact laws, print money and determine how military forces were distributed, according to the Independence Hall Association. Many of the privileges granted to the federal government were negated by lack of authority. For example, the Articles of Confederation enabled the formation of the Continental Army, but the states were empowered to decide whether they would provide troops or funding. The government could request monetary aid, but had no power to institute taxes.

In 1781, the Articles of Confederation took effect after four years of waiting for all 13 states to ratify it, according to HowStuffWorks. Because the doctrine’s countless inconsistencies created a weak federal government, a host of political difficulties ensued, leading the states to draft the U.S. Constitution.