What Was Wrong With the Articles of Confederation?

The Articles of Confederation, an interim constitution the 13 colonies adopted during the Revolutionary War, were too weak to form an effective central government. Although they provided for the management of the war effort and foreign diplomacy, they did not touch on taxation, commerce regulation, courts or a chief executive.

The drafting of the Articles of Confederation began soon after the Declaration of Independence was approved on July 4, 1776. Due to the concerns of individual states about an overly strong central government, the power of taxation remained with the states. However, Congress had the power to maintain military forces, declare war, coin currency, handle Indian affairs and create a postal service.

Obstacles to ratification included land claims made by various states and the issue of slavery. Some considerations were put off due to the urgent need for a strong government over the union. Although many state delegates realized that the Articles of Confederation were insufficient to meet the needs of the new nation, they were ratified by all 13 states on March 1, 1781.

After the Treaty of Paris of 1783 that ended the Revolutionary War, state delegates realized that the Articles needed revision. Amendments needed a unanimous vote, however, and the states failed to reach a consensus. Eventually the need became apparent to draft and ratify a new constitution implementing a more powerful form of federal government. The Constitutional Convention convened on May 25, 1787, and government under the new U.S. Constitution began on March 4, 1789.