The Articles of Confederation Essay

Submitted By twolfe1000
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Pages: 5

The Articles of Confederation gave the US government very little power over very essential things, such as taxation and raising an army. Without the power to impose taxes, the central government had a hard time paying off its debts to other countries and paying its soldiers that fought in the war. It also severely limited the effectiveness of the central government by requiring 9 out of 13 votes for a law to pass while 13 out of 13 had to agree for amending a law. The central government only had one branch, the legislature, that was a unicameral Congress. States were each given one vote, therefore, giving a disproportionate amount of power to smaller states. The central government also could not regulate commerce, resulting in conflicts between the states. The weakness in the central government showed up in other areas as well, for example, in foreign policy. Individual states were given too much power under the Articles, and this led to many problems domestically and internationally for the newly formed United States.

According to Document C, soldiers were complaining about how they have not yet received pay from the government for fighting in the Revolution. Jones goes on to say that those who do understand the process of political decision-making will allow a little more patience for Congress. But, Congress did not have the means to pay back these soldiers. Jones then mentions that if Congress had the abilities of the States, referencing the States' power to levy taxes, it could then have the means to accumulate some money to pay off the soldiers. The unrest and discontent among the soldiers resulted in the Newburgh Conspiracy. It involved high-ranking officers from the Continental Army that were angry at not having received pay from Congress. They were planning to march into the capital and demand pay from Congress. Washington successfully cooled off the conspiracy by appealing to the officers successfully. This conspiracy is an example of how weak the central government of the United States was. Not only could it control its own army, but it could not raise money in any way, shape, or form because it did not have the power to tax. Congress depended on the states for money, and the states never gave Congress the amount they promised them. With reference to Document B, trade with Britain had also decreased significantly after the Revolution. The US lost many benefits of being a colony because now, it had to act as an independent nation when trading with Britain, meaning, it could no longer use British ports in the West Indies for example. This placed additional burden on a government that could not even tax its people. In addition, the Articles gave Congress no power to regulate commerce. This is evidenced in Document A, where Rhode Island rejects a tax by Congress on imports, saying that it would negatively affect Rhode Island's commerce. Congress could not do much about it, since it was not within its power.

Under the Articles of Confederation, Congress also showed weakness in foreign policy. It failed to successfully negotiate a treaty with Spain for the use of the Mississippi River, as evidenced in Document F. Under the Jay-Gardoqui Treaty, the US was to give up use of the Mississippi River for 30 years. Spain was not compromising in its negotiations with the United States, preferring to shut out the US for use of the Mississippi permanently. Document D also demonstrates the weakness of the US government in foreign policy. After the Revolutionary War, Britain, still had many posts and forts within the US that they did not want or plan to give up. Document D states how these British outposts restrict the US's trading capacity. A primary argument by the United States was that there will be many financial "...losses which many of our and also [British] merchants will sustain if the former be unseasonably and immoderately pressed for the payment of debts contracted before the war." Even so, the US had a hard time…