Constitution vs Articles of Confederation

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21 March 2016

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As one of the creators of the new Constitution of 1788, you are chosen to present its strengths as compared to the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation. What areas of importance will you stress in attempting to get it passed unanimously?

Give good well-reasoned arguments in a report of approximately 400 words. You will need to research the details of each document, using resources from the library, the Internet, or other sources. Be sure to use proper spelling and grammar.

Articles of Confederation

The Articles of Confederation were a written agreement, ratified by the thirteen original states of the United States of America, which laid the guidelines as to how the US government was supposed to function. Sometimes, simply referred to as Articles, this agreement was created in November 1777, and ratified by the 13 original states in March 1781. Within a few years of its ratification, it was subjected to severe criticism by the Founding Fathers of the United States. Eventually, it was decided that this agreement had to be revised to suit the needs of the nation as a whole. In May 1787, delegates from the 13 states met in Philadelphia to revise the Articles of Confederation. However, in course of convention all the delegation members came to a mutual conclusion that rewriting the entire Constitution was better than revising the existing Articles of the Confederation.

The US Constitution

The US Constitution, which is considered to be the supreme law in the United States of America today, is an agreement which provides the guidelines for the organization of the United States government, i.e. the federal government, and its relationship with various states and citizens of the country. Basically, the numerous problems with the Articles laid the foundation for a new constitution. When the delegates from all the thirteen states met to revise the Articles of Confederation, they came to a mutual conclusion that drafting a new constitution was much viable option than revising the existing one which was full of problems. The delegates involved in the Philadelphia Convention, where the new US Constitution was drafted, included some of the prominent names of the American history including James Madison, George Washington, William Pierce and Benjamin Franklin.

Articles of Confederation vs. the US Constitution

If you try to compare the Articles with the new Constitution, you realize that the former was full of drawbacks, while the latter had answers to all these drawbacks. The Articles was subjected to severe criticism for the very fact that it centralized all the powers in the hands of state government, and left the national government with no major powers at all. As opposed to the unicameral system which was facilitated by the Articles of Confederation, the US Constitution introduced the bicameral system of governance, which was divided into the upper house and lower house. Yet another difference between the two was pertaining to the number of votes each state had. While the Articles had a provision of one vote for every single state irrespective of its size, the US Constitution had the provision of one vote per representative or senator.

Similarly, the new Constitution also made provision for executive and judiciary branches of the government, something which the Articles of Confederation didn’t facilitate. When the Articles were the supreme law of the land, the national government required approval from 9 of the total 13 states to pass new laws. This was also changed in the new Constitution wherein approval of more than half of the total nominees of the states is enough to pass new laws. In order to amend the constitution, the national government required unanimous approval from all the 13 states. As per the new law though, the number was changed and only 2/3rd of the both houses and 3/4th of state legislatures was enough to amend the Constitution. This made the task of amending very easy, and the 27 amendments to the US Constitution highlight this very fact very well.

The federal courts were not in picture when the Articles of Confederation was the supreme law. But when the US Constitution was introduced, it did feature provision for federal courts, which were assigned the responsibility of resolving disputes between the citizens as well as the states. While the Articles didn’t give the national government the right to levy taxes on its citizens, the Constitution did give the federal government the powers to do so. Similarly, the federal government required approval from the states to raise an army as per the stipulations of the Articles. According to the Constitution, on the other hand, the federal government has the right to raise an army to deal with conflict situations. The Articles didn’t allow any interference on the part of the federal government in terms of regulation of trade and commerce, but the US Constitution gave the federal government the right to control trade and commerce at the international level as well as the inter-state level.

The new Constitution was drafted because the Articles of Confederation, which preceded it, didn’t live up to the expectations. The states were undoubtedly happy as they were in command, with the national government having no enforcing authority whatsoever, but this left the United States of America in a state of chaos – with each state coming up with its own laws. With all this chaos, the US Constitution was surely the need of the hour.

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