In 1787, the United States approved the Constitution, which replaced the Articles of Confederation as the country’s governing document.
The Constitution outlines a stronger national government with clear divisions of power between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches.
The Articles of Confederation, on the other hand, created a weak central government with little authority over the states. So what caused this change? Let’s take a look at the key differences between these two historic documents.
Articles of Confederation
The Articles of Confederation were the first governing document of the United States, ratified in 1781. The Articles created a loose confederation of independent states with limited powers.
Under the Articles, each state was its own sovereign entity and had most of the rights reserved for a national government, such as creating taxes and declaring war. The central government under the Articles could only pass laws over foreign affairs, maintain an army and navy, and settle disputes between states.
5 Strengths of the Articles of Confederation
- Union of Independent States:
The Articles of Confederation created a union of thirteen independent states, allowing them to maintain their own governments and laws while still being part of the larger United States.
- Treaty-Making Powers:
The Articles allowed the central government to sign treaties with other nations on behalf of the nation as a whole.
- Print Currency:
The Articles also gave the federal government the power to print money, which was necessary for paying off debts incurred during the Revolutionary War.
- Interstate Trade:
While there were some restrictions due to state sovereignty under the Articles, interstate trade was generally unrestricted by tariffs or taxes.
- Amending Process:
Amendments to the Articles could be made if two-thirds of all states agreed.
5 shortcomings of The Articles of Confederation
- No Executive Branch:
The Articles of Confederation did not create an executive branch to enforce laws and did not provide a way for the government to raise revenue.
- Lack of Judicial Powers:
There was no constitutional court system, leaving states unable to settle disputes between citizens of different states.
- Limited Taxing Authority:
The central government could not levy taxes, so it had limited ability to finance itself or pay its debts.
- Unclear Representation:
Each state had one vote in Congress regardless of size or population, meaning that smaller states were overrepresented and larger ones underrepresented.
- Difficult Amending Process:
Making amendments was difficult because two-thirds of all the states had to agree in order for a change to be made.
The weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation led to calls for a stronger federal government and eventually the adoption of the Constitution, which created an executive branch with clear divisions of power between the three branches. Ultimately, this shift from a loose confederation to a strong central government was necessary for the United States to survive and thrive.
The Constitution was ratified in 1788 and replaced the Articles of Confederation as the governing document of the United States. The main purpose of the Constitution was to create a stronger federal government with more power over the states. Under the Constitution, Congress had more powers, including regulating interstate commerce, declaring war, and creating taxes. Additionally, a Supreme Court was established under the Constitution to help interpret laws passed by Congress and resolve disputes between states.
What is Contained in the Constitution of The United States?
The Constitution contains seven major parts: the Preamble, Articles I-VII, the Bill of Rights, and the Amendments.
The Preamble is the opening statement of the Constitution and sets forth the general purposes of the document. It states that the purpose of the Constitution is to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty.
The Constitution is divided into seven Articles, which cover various aspects of government. Article I covers legislative powers; Article II creates an executive branch; Article III establishes a judicial branch; Articles IV through VI outline relationships between states and with foreign nations; and Article VII sets out ratification requirements.
Bill of Rights:
The Bill of Rights consists of the first ten amendments to the Constitution and serves as a protection against abuse by government officials. It guarantees certain rights to American citizens that cannot be taken away by any government entity or individual. These rights include the right to free speech, the right to bear arms, and protection from unreasonable searches and seizures.
The Constitution has been amended twenty-seven times since its ratification in 1788. Amendments are added when two-thirds of both the House of Representatives and Senate pass an amendment resolution, which is then sent to the states for approval by three-fourths of all state legislatures. If ratified, an amendment becomes part of the Constitution and can never be changed or removed.
5 Strengths of The U.S. Constitution
- Separation of Powers:
Under the Constitution, power is divided among three branches – legislative, executive and judicial – which helps protect against any one branch from having too much power or influence.
- Checks and Balances:
The Constitution also established a system of checks and balances, which gives each branch the power to limit the actions of other branches in order to maintain balance in government.
The Constitution creates a federal system of government, where states have certain powers but can be overruled by the federal government when necessary.
- Limited Government:
The Constitution limits the powers of the federal government by defining what it can and cannot do, thus preventing it from becoming too powerful.
- Amending Process:
Lastly, amendments to the Constitution can be made if two-thirds of both houses of Congress agree or if two-thirds of all state legislatures call for an amendment convention.
5 Weaknesses of The Constitution
- Lack of Protection for Certain Rights:
The original Constitution did not include a Bill of Rights that would have protected the rights and liberties of individuals from the power of government.
- No System for Direct Representation:
The Constitution does not provide a system for direct representation, meaning that Congress is elected by state legislatures rather than directly by citizens.
The original Constitution also allowed slavery, which was eventually abolished with the 13th Amendment in 1865.
- Limited Ability to Adapt to Change:
Because amendments require two-thirds approval from both houses of Congress or two-thirds approval from all state legislatures, making changes can be difficult and time consuming.
Finally, with its many amendments and complex language, the Constitution is often difficult to understand.
Similarities Between The Articles of confederation and The Constitution:
- Both The Articles of Confederation and The Constitution were written with the intention of creating a stronger union between the United States’ 13 colonies. They also both outlined the structure and organization of government, as well as how certain powers would be divided amongst different branches.
- Additionally, they both established a system of checks and balances to prevent any one branch from becoming too powerful. This was done by granting certain powers to each branch that only it could exercise, which would ensure that no single branch had absolute control over decisions made by the government.
- Both The Articles of Confederation and The Constitution included provisions for setting up a system of taxation. This was done through the establishment of certain taxes imposed upon citizens or states to be used by the federal government for various purposes. Additionally, both documents established limits on state taxes in order to prevent any one state from having an unfair advantage over another when it came to paying taxes.
- Both The Articles of Confederation and The Constitution also defined how representatives would be chosen by each state. This was done by electing individuals who would then serve as representatives in Congress.
- Both The Articles of Confederation and The Constitution established a system of federal judges who were responsible for interpreting laws and settling disputes between states or citizens. This was done in an effort to ensure that all states were treated fairly when it came to legal matters, and to prevent any one state from having too much power over another.
- Finally, although there are numerous differences between the two documents, they both ultimately served to create a unified nation out of thirteen separate states. By doing so, they laid the groundwork for what would eventually become the United States of America.
In summary, The Articles of Confederation and The Constitution have many similarities in terms of the structure and organization of government, taxation systems, representation of citizens within the government, and judicial systems.
Although there are also numerous differences between the two documents, it is clear that they both served a similar purpose of laying the groundwork for creating a unified nation out of thirteen separate colonies. By doing so, they were instrumental in establishing the foundational principles of what would eventually become the United States of America.
Differences Between Articles of confederation and The Constitution:
- The Articles of Confederation were written to provide a system of rules that would govern the relationship between the states, while The Constitution was designed to unify the federal government and establish a stronger central authority.
- The Articles of Confederation had weak legislative powers; it could only make requests or suggestions to the states, not enforce its laws. This lack of enforcement power made it difficult for the national government to act in a unified manner. In contrast, The Constitution gave extensive power to Congress, allowing it to pass laws, raise taxes and regulate trade between the states.
- The Articles required unanimous approval from all thirteen colonies before any law could be passed or amended; this made it incredibly difficult for anything important to get done. The Constitution, on the other hand, allowed laws to be passed with a simple majority.
- The Articles also lacked any judicial branch of government, while The Constitution created one. This judicial branch was empowered to interpret and enforce laws, as well as settle disputes between states.
- Finally, the Articles did not outline specific individual rights for its citizens; however, The Constitution does provide a list of basic rights. These rights include freedom of speech, religion, assembly and petitioning the government for grievances.
Overall, it is clear that there are both differences and similarities between The Articles of Confederation and The Constitution. While they share some common elements such as a framework for governance and a mechanism for amending the documents, their ultimate purpose differs quite significantly. The Articles of Confederation were designed to govern inter-state relationships, while the Constitution was created to unify and strengthen the federal government.
The Articles of Confederation and the Constitution are both important documents that laid the foundations for modern-day America.
While there are a number of similarities between them, such as their focus on individual liberty and structure of governance, they are also distinct in their purposes and objectives. The Articles of Confederation, ratified in 1781, provided a loose coalition of states with a system of government where each state was largely independent. However, it lacked the needed authority for effective governance.
The US Constitution, ratified in 1788, provided much-needed amendments to the Articles in order to strengthen America’s national government and create a more effective system of governance that would ensure the preservation of individual liberty. The US Constitution also distinguished between the three branches of government, established checks and balances to prevent any branch from becoming too powerful, created federalism to settle disputes between states, and provided a bill of rights to protect citizens from governmental abuse.
The differences and similarities between the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution represent a crucial part of American history, and their impact on modern-day America remains clear. By understanding the ways in which these two documents were similar and different, we can better appreciate how our country was shaped by its founding fathers.