Composed in 1776 and formally ratified in 1781, the Articles of Confederation gave the fledgling United States the internal structure and cohesion it needed to form a government and fight its way out from under British rule. The Articles were redrafted multiple times, but proved potent as an ordering force even before official ratification.
The foremost benefit of the Articles of Confederation was its conferral of legitimacy upon the United States in the eyes of the international community. The first battle the United States had to fight was the battle of appearing as an independent and functional state, and the Articles gave them the framework they needed.
The Articles of Confederation gave the Continental Congress clear authority to do the following:
- Wage war against the British Crown
- Negotiate with foreign powers
- Negotiate with Native Americans
- Fund and supply the Continental Army
With the Articles of Confederation to bolster their legitimacy, the Continental Congress took its first steps toward becoming a bona fide governing body. Later, the Articles provided the foundations for the drafting and ratification of the Constitution of the United States. The flexibility of this earlier government gave way to a stronger federal government, more direct executive powers, and an overall more robust and entrenched bureaucratic system of governance.