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Articles of ConfederationPosted Friday, October 1, 2010, at 5:54 PM
This is Part II of an on-going historical look at the United States. Since I am taking a break from the political side of life these Parts will simply be from a historical point of view (as opposed to a historical-political point of view).
Part II - The Articles of Confederation, America's First Constitution
The United States of America became a reality on November 15, 1777 when the Continental Congress approved the Articles of Confederation. It would be another four years before the Articles were ratified, as all thirteen states had to ratify.
In it the federal government was extremely weak, as there was not even what we know as a President of the United States, just a President of the Congress that was limited to serving for only a year. The first, and who really should be credited with being the first President of the United States, was Samuel Huntington. Before the United States would decide that to fix the Articles (and ultimately do away with the constitution) there would be nine more presidents.
Just a quick look through the Articles:
Article two maintained the sovereignty of the states. Essentially the new United States of America was actually a federation of independent states.
Article five laid out Congress. Each state could have anywhere from two to seven delegates and they were all term-limited on either three year or six year terms. They reported to their state and could be called back to the state at anytime. This is the first time Freedom of Speech is mentioned and at this point is reserved to Congressmen.
Parts of Article six made it into the second Constitutions, specifically treaties and standing armies. No treaties could made with other countries without permission. No treaties could be made between two states. During times of peace the militia could only be able to protect the state, no larger.
In the articles Canada was invited to join the new United States as the only new state, which naturally never occurred. Article nine would be the Articles of Confederation's undoing.
Slavery is never mentioned in the original articles, but it does appear in a resolution several years later that created the Northwest Territories. In this resolution slavery was specifically forbidden in the the territories. In what would become known as the Northwest Ordinance was perhaps the greatest accomplishment under the Articles. It set up how states would be defined as well as towns and cities.
It would be Shay's Rebellion, that was in part caused by a recession tempered together with an unpopular governor that would be the end of the Articles.
There was a call to revise the Articles in an effort to strengthen the government and to also assure the rights of all Americans. In May of 1787 representatives of all 13 states met to make the needed changes at the Philadelphia Convention. What they did instead was create a document that has stood the test of time for over 200 years: The US Constitution.
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