While the Articles of Confederation had several weaknesses, three notable issues include Congress' lack of power to tax, no national court system and each state only had a single vote in Congress, regardless of size.Continue Reading
The Articles of Confederation were the original Constitution of the United States and the first governing document containing terms agreed upon by the 13 new states. This document was drafted to determine the function of the national government after the country declared independence from Britain. It gave more power to the states and established a weak government. In doing so, Congress didn't have the power to form a strong national government. As with many early documents, the Articles of Confederation had several weaknesses. Though the original structure of government was only in place for less than a decade, it served as the framework and basis for structure in place in present times.
Congress Did Not Have the Power to Tax One of the biggest issues with the Articles of Confederation was that Congress wasn't granted the power to tax. It had to rely on states willingly deciding to financially support the national government, and many did not. Additionally, since there was no executive branch in place to enforce any acts passed by Congress, states didn't obey national laws or respond to notices about taxation.
No National Court System The lack of a national court system posed a huge issue for both the national government and the citizens residing in the states. The government had no way to enforce laws, meaning that states could simply ignore any acts or decrees without fear of retribution. Additionally, if citizens had a grievance with the national government, they didn't have a venue or system in place to hear their lawsuit. Instead, the Articles of Confederation established judiciary branches for each state individually.
States Had a Single Vote in Congress The Articles of Confederation granted each state a single vote in Congress. This didn't take into account the size or population of each state. As such, states with large populations were represented disproportionately to those with small populations. Virginia had more than 10 times the population of Delaware and twice the population of all other states in the United States yet still had the same single vote in Congress as all the others. In essence, citizens in smaller states had a louder and larger voice than those in large states.
Addressing the Weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation The Articles of Confederation were drafted in 1777, but they didn't go into effect until all 13 states ratified them in 1781. The above mentioned items are just a few of the weaknesses in the early structure of government, so it should come as no surprise that the Articles of Confederation failed after just eight years. The government wasn't running smoothly, and by 1786 leaders met to discuss the weaknesses and other issues with the Articles of Confederation at the Annapolis Convention of 1786. This meeting led to the eventual drafting and signing of the United States Constitution in 1787 and the election of the first president, George Washington, in 1789.Learn more about US History