Articles of Confederation Has Gone Down in Essay

  • Length: 4 pages
  • Sources: 3
  • Subject: American History
  • Type: Essay
  • Paper: #43792223

Excerpt from Essay :

Articles of Confederation has gone down in history and always will be known for the absolute failure that it was. In 1777, there was a need to lay a foundation or formulate a balanced government in accordance with the ideals of the American Revolution. The Articles of Confederation reflected the fears of American after the Revolutionary War, and their desire to free themselves of tyrannical rule. In order to understand the need for the 1787 Constitution, the articles of Confederation need to be understood. Under these laws, every state was basically its own country (at least by today's definition of what a country is). Each state had its own currency, interstate commerce, and foreign affairs (Jensen, 1959) . Though the largest problem was the issue of currency, as every state printed its own money and this brought issues when it came to trading beyond their territory because in some states, certain state's currency meant nothing, so they would not be allowed to trade. The government was also not allowed to tax people and make money to support the state itself and their individual government. This brought on immense state debt, and although they were allowed to ask for money from their legislatures, they were denied more than accepted for their money (Jensen, 1959). This lead to problems with foreign affairs because although there was a Congress in effect, it did not have power over each individual state, also leading to a problem in raising an army, leaving the United States vulnerable to foreign attacks (Rakove, 2009). Getting a law passed was also an issue, since nine out of the thirteen states had to be in agreement in order for the law to be passed, and even if it was passed, those states that didn't agree with it in the first place would just ignore it. Since there were no severe consequences for this action, states basically did whatever they chose to do. The Articles of Confederation really didn't do much to unite the United States of America.

The Constitution that was ratified in 1787 was made as an attempt to fix everything that went wrong with the Articles of Confederation. But although it was regarded as a complete failure, it was a necessary experience in order to form the Constitution which would be the ideal document that would lead the United States of America from then until now. Unlike the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution united the states as one. No longer were states allowed to have their own government or their own state ruler, but they had to come together as one and form a central government. The Constitution declared supremacy over state laws, let the federal government tax the people and gave power to an executive (Maier, 2010). After farmer's and veterans rebelled in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts during Shay's Rebellion, it was clear that the Articles of Confederation needed to be abolished in order for a new stronger government to appear. Article VI, Clause II of the Constitution declares the supremacy of federal laws over state laws. This gave the government the power it needed to make the United States stable and successful, but was tremendously controversial in the political atmosphere of the era. The clause was thought to be necessary to fix many of the problems in the Articles of Confederation, primarily taxation. This was a huge deal once this was made public since one of the main causes of the Revolutionary War was the issue of paying taxes to Great Britain (Rakove, 2009). People also had issues with there being an executive leader, as they saw no difference between a President who had the same powers as a King.

In the end, everyone was forced to compromise by giving up a little bit of what they wanted and adapting a bit to what others wanted, all for the common good and benefit of the United States people. When the first proposals to the Constitution were being suggested, much issues were at bay. This heated dispute at the Constitutional Convention in 1787 revolved around the issue of the amount of representatives each state should contain in the new government's lawmaking branch, the U.S. Congress. This predicament required a brilliant negotiation which became known as the Great Compromise, or the Connecticut Compromise. The Virginia Plan proposed that the new government should include three branches: the legislative, executive, and judicial. Under this plan, representation in both houses of legislature, known as bicameral, would be proportioned, according to population (Maier, 2010). The lower house, The House of Representative, was nominated by the people, and the upper house, The Senate, was elected by the state legislatures. Both houses were represented proportionally. The problem with this plan is that it clearly favored and of course was supported by the larger states. An alternative to this plan was the New Jersey Plan, which also proposed that the government ought to contain three branches, but unlike that Virginia Plan, however, the New Jersey Plan would only comprise of one house, known as unicameral (Rakove, 2009). In this plan, every state would be represented equally, meaning all states had the same amount of power. The New Jersey Plan was largely designed to protect the small states' claim to an equal vote, but delegates from the large states discarded it effortlessly. To resolve this issue, a special committee was formed with one representative from each state. The convention decided that the legislature would be bicameral, with one house having equal representation, The Senate, and the other being based on the population of the state, the House of Representatives. This became known as the Great Compromise and is sometimes referred to as the Connecticut Compromise after Roger Sherman who was a citizen of Connecticut and had a large and influential presence in this compromise (Maier 2010).

Another very historical compromise was that made between the South and the North. Long before any talk of Civil War or any mention of freeing slaves was present, the idea of whether slaves should be counted as people in terms of governmental representation was a debate. The majority of the Northern states actually did not want to distinguish the slaves at all. The Northern delegates feared that the black population in the South would grow and ultimately hurt the North. The Southern states, conversely, wanted to recognize slaves as people, so the South would achieve more representation in Congress. The North resisted this, fearing that counting slaves as people would increase the Congressional seats apportioned to the South, thereby making the South extremely formidable (Maier, 2010). In the end, two representatives, James Wilson and Roger Sherman, came up with the three-fifths compromise, which was designed to meet the demands of both sides. The three-fifths compromise was an agreement completed between Southern and Northern states which allowed slaves to be counted as three-fifths of a person for the purpose of taxation and representation in Congress (Rakove, 2009).

Of course there is always the issue of having people who are going to go along and agree with the ratification of the new Constitution, but there were those who were adamantly against this notion. The Anti-Federalists, such as Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry were against ratification of the Constitution because they believed that the closer the government was to the people, the easier it was for the people to keep it in check, therefore making it harder for the government to become tyrannical (Jensen, 1959). Anti-Federalists tried to appeal to the Western settlers with ideas of voting rights to everyone, not just rich landholders. They believed in sovereignty of the states, a system of check and balances and that the uniting of all the states under one government, one President, would take away sovereignty from the states.

Federalists, like Alexander Hamilton and…

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