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The Confederation Of America Essay, Research Paper

“The band which at present holds us together, by a very feeble thread, will soon be broken, when anarchy and confusion must ensue.” George Washington said this while describing the current government of the United States. With the ratification of Maryland on March 1, 1781, the Articles of Confederation went into affect and all seemed well. Even though the Confederation had many accomplishments, it was hardly an ideal government. Problems began to arise soon following the enactment of the Articles. The Confederation lacked adequate powers to deal with interstate issues, while it lacked ample stature to be of an influence on other nations, making the Confederation unable to negotiate easily. Financial issues were prominent because the states were allowed to coin their own money and the government could not force states to give it funding. Problems within the states arose because of economical problems resulting from the states having too much power, economically as well as politically. The government had little power to do many things-its main jobs were to recommend and advise.

Because each state was allowed to print its own currency, interstate trade became increasingly difficult. Currency that was used in one state was worthless in others. This led to states waging trade wars against one another, and imposing tariffs on good imported across state boundaries. Because there was no national currency, merchants found it difficult to trade within the United States that further depressed the economical position of the country. In order to change federal taxes, all thirteen states had to agree to the change. This made it almost impossible for the government to increase its funding.

Problems arose within the states because of economic sanctions pressed upon one state to another. Because of these problems, many people were driven into financial ruin. States were agitated by political turmoil over the respective rights and responsibilities of debtors and creditors. The economic downturn of the mid-1780s and the difficult lives of farmers made relations between debtors and creditors a major source of controversy. In Rhode Island, the two parties struggled to control the state government in annual elections. These struggles resulted in rapidly changing state laws that slowed interstate commerce. Some states demanded – and some achieved – the enactment of paper money laws, which would spur inflation so that debtors could more easily satisfy the creditors. However, the inflation hurt the creditors bit the value of the paper money and the stability of interstate transactions.

In states where debtors could not secure relief through politics, they sometimes took arms to defend their homes against what they deemed to be cruel and heartless creditors and an indifferent judicial system. One of these rebellions was Shay’s Rebellion, which took place in Western Massachusetts. However, it was not limited to only Massachusetts. Soon outbreaks of violence ranged from Vermont to Virginia. In the winter of 1787 Shay’s Rebellion was put down, but its lessons and its warnings lingered in the thoughts of many people. This demonstrated to many Americans the urgent need for a sound, strong government.

The government had little power to deal with international and national issues. For example, in 1786, the Spanish minister to the United States, Son Diego de Gardoqui, offered the Confederation’s Secretary of Foreign Affairs, John Jay, a deal by which the United States would receive a commercial treaty with Spain in exchange for giving up its claims to free navigation of the Mississippi. Jay believed that the future population growth would force the Spanish to give in on access to the Mississippi, but the delegates of the five southern states voted to reject the plan. If the government had the power to make the decision in this case, the United States would have gained commercial rights with Spain that would have greatly improved the overall economy of the United States.

On the national level, the Confederation was not successful on collecting payments promised by the states on time. The Confederation was powerless to satisfy the war debt ran up during the Revolution, or to compel the states to pay what they had promised to by. States also failed to send delegates to Congress, making times when the Congress lacked a quorum. The Confederation could not ever secure an amendment to the Articles to permit the Confederation Congress to levy a simple five percent tax on imports.

The Confederation had some strengths and accomplishments as well. It would lay many of the foundations used for the Constitution. The Confederation was also able to make accomplishments such as the Treaty of Paris in 1783 and The Land Ordinance of 1785. The accomplishments of the Confederation allowed the Constitution of the United States to be successful. Without it, the Constitution would have had a fate much like the Confederation.

The Confederation set up three departments: Foreign Affairs, Finance, and War. The Constitution used this idea to set up the parliamentary cabinet system. Because of past experiences, the people behind the writing of the Constitution had a plan to follow. They would give the government more power, but would limit it. They understood what could happen when the government had too little power from the Confederation. The Confederation was almost like an experiment to allow for a more complete government.

Although weak, the Confederation did succeed in making some accomplishments. One of the first was the Treaty of Paris in 1783. This showed that the government was able to organize itself and accomplish something. The Land Ordinance of 1785 was a great accomplishment because it not only provided a steady income for the government, but it also profited land speculators. It was an orderly arrangement of the land that would allow future generations to carry out tasks more easily. The Northwest Ordinance allowed for new states to be formed and allowed its citizens to enjoy the freedoms of the Bill of Rights.

On September 17, 1787, the Constitution was signed. There were changes made to improve upon the old Confederation. The Federal Government was given more powers in order to make the nation more regulated. The state governments still had power, but were limited in some areas. Some powers were also shared by the national and state governments. With a better balance of powers, the government would then be more stable and would allow for better relations between states.

The national government was given the power to coin money, which would then become the national currency. The government could also set a national tax to ensure its continued funding so that it could pay of its debts and loans that were owed to different countries and people. They would also conduct relations with foreign countries, maintain the armed forces, declare war and make peace, and make laws to carry out the given powers. However, the government was controlled by three branches, the Executive Branch, the Legislative Branch, and the Judicial Branch. Each could limit each others powers, which gave the government power while limiting it.

States would conduct elections, provide for and supervise schools, regulate commerce within the states, and could ratify constitutional amendments. However, states could not sign separate treaties with other nations, coin money, or tax imports or exports. These restrictions allowed for smoother trading and relations between the states.

The Confederation served as a stepping stone for the Constitution as well as an example for other nations to follow. With the central government having more power, the United States could then become a more organized and efficient county. Without the Confederation, however, the Constitution would have had a much more difficult time in becoming a successful government. While having many flaws, the Confederation accomplished many things through its six years of service for the United States.


There is no bibliography. I wrote this precisely from the knowledge that I know. I am sure that this topic is readily available in any US History book

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