Articles Vs. Constitution Essay, Research Paper
Although ht the Articles of Confederation did possess several redeeming features, for the most part, they were plagued by a number of defects, which stultified their efficacy as a government from 1781 to 1789. That is to say, despite their role in providing a transitional form of government, maintaining some semblance of union among the states, and promoting the organization oaf western lands, the Articles of Confederation exhibited numerous weaknesses that hampered their ability to function as an efficient government. The most salient of these weaknesses were defects in the governmental structure, a lack of essential legislative powers, and t the inability to promote economic growth. As mentioned earlier, the Articles did foster some favorable developments from 1781 to 1789. First of all, while governing during a period of political disunity (extreme state loyalty), the Articles preserved the flickering ideal of union that held the states together, until such time that the states were ripe for a strong constitution by peaceful, evolutionary means. In this sense, the Articles served as a transitional government.
The Articles were also responsible for settling western land disputes between several states by encouraging the cession of western lands to the nation al government. Several states, including New York and Virginia claimed to own overlapping territories. In ceding their western lands to the government, however, the conflict as to who actually owned the lands was resolved. Finally, after encouraging the cession of western lands by the states. The Articles provided for the organization of these lands and their subsequent evolution into new states. This was accomplished through the Land Ordinance of 1785 and the Northwest Ordinance of 1787.
Despite these accomplishments, the Articles were a far cry from being a consummate and effective government for the weaknesses of the Articles heavily outweighed the strengths. As a result of the experience under British domination, Congressional leaders were apprehensive about creating a strong central government. Consequently the Articles provided for a weak central government. Consisting of only a one-house legislature. The Articles contained no provision for a chief executive to enforce the laws and no provisions for courts to handle disputes between citizens of different states. IN addition, for Congress to add an amendment, the Articles required the unanimous approval of the thirteen states. Thus, the Articles undoubtedly contained various structural defects. Perhaps of paramount importance was the government s lack of legislative power under the Articles of Confederation. This weakness created a myriad of problems for the government, particularly in regard to the economic sector. For example, under the Articles Congress could not tax the people directly. Instead, it could only request the states to supply funds. However, such requests were generally rejected. Furthermore, under the Articles, Congress lacked the power to mandate a uniform currency. Consequently, many merchants were reluctant to engage in business outside their own states. This factor, coupled with the inability of Congress to control foreign currencies hampered American trade. Finally, another factor that shows the Articles were ineffective was Shay s Rebellion. Shay s rebellion was a disgruntled agrarian revolt. It was an uprising of economically depressed farmers in western Massachusetts in 1786. The debtor farmers demanded relief and attacked the Springfield arsenal. Many of the leaders, like Jefferson., were afraid this event might trigger others and start a new revolution. This revolt led to call for amends to the Articles and as stated earlier this could only be achieved by unanimous vote.
When leaders realized that the Articles needed to be amended they formed the Constitutional Convention, a group of delegates from the states to write the new Constitution. The Constitution would be written to fix the problems of the Articles. The first major change was the shift of power from strong state governments to a centralized government. This created a less democratic governments it took power away from the individual states. The Constitution fixed many of the problems of the Articles. One of the first problems with the Articles was it only allowed a one-house legislature. The Constitution provided two, the Senate with equal representation and the House of Representatives, based upon population. This was considered the Great Compromise. Another problem discussed was the fact that to amend the Articles, there had to be a unanimous vote. The Constitution only required 2/3 majority vote. Another problem the Constitution fixed was that it gave Congress the power to levy taxes and create a uniform currency among the sates. Although certain people, like Jefferson, weren t completely convinced with the new Constitution, leaders promised sates a Bill of Rights, which offered basic rights to people, except slaves. Slavery was not even addressed in the Constitution except to say that it would be dealt with in 1808 when it thought it would die down. The Bill of Rights was promised to ensure the ratification of the Constitution. Finally, although the Constitution first took away from the democracy of the people, over time the amendments have brought more democracy and the democracy the founding fathers were looking for.
In conclusion, although the Articles of Confederation were successful in keeping the states united, serving as a transitional government, and organizing western lands, they did possess several weaknesses, which inhibited their effectiveness as a government form 1781 to 1789. These weaknesses included defects in governmental structure, lack of essential legislative powers, and promote economic growth. The very fact that the Articles of Confederation were replaced bears testament to their inefficacy.