Articles of Confederation

Articles of Confederation

Analyze the degree to which the Articles
provided an effective form of government with respect to any two of the
following: Foreign Relations, Economic Conditions, or Western Lands.

In 1777, the states enacted the Articles
of Confederation to preserve democracy and prevent tyranny from those who
sought to centralize power. But in their efforts to keep their independence,
the states created a weak central government that was unable to improve
an insolvent economy and poor foreign relations.

Although the confederation gained some
substantial powers, the crucial powers to tax and regulate commerce remained
with the individual states. Each state passed their own currency, and therefore
created inflation and made "Continentals" in circulation worthless.

Compounded with restrictions on trade to Great Britain and down the Mississippi

River, the states became mired in a heavy depression. John Fiske, of the
conservative view, realized the precarious situation when he stated "the

Nation was under the verge of collapse and near-anarchy and that the five
year period after 1783 was the most critical time in American History."

Robert Morris, secretary of finance, resorted to desperate measures with
the Newburgh conspiracy in an attempt to raise funds for a depleted military;
but it took an impassioned plea from General Washington himself to put
down the rebellion. Furthermore, the Articles allowed for personal rights
abuses such as unsubstantiated foreclosures on farms and ill advised loans
to certain " small groups", the antithesis of republicanism. As Arthur

Schlesinger Jr. stated "the Articles were to impotent to govern." Lastly,
no judicial system was provided for to enforce laws and therefore allowed
for insurrections such as Shay’s Rebellion. In addition, to pass legislation
required a unanimous consent and more than not a single dissenting vote
prevented the ratification of strong economic bills. Overall, the Articles
were ineffective in improving the economic state of the new nation.

Although Thomas Paine (Common Sense) believed
that the Articles and decentralization was a logical choice of government
after the strict rule of the British, the Articles inherently divided the
interests of the thirteen colonies. Following the war for Independence,
foreign relations with Britain and Spain was tense at best, but division
of the states made relations worse. American delegates had to satisfy the
needs of thirteen sovereign states, and therefore any resulting treaty
was regarded by the minority as a failure. Such was the case in the Jay

Gardoqui treaty in which John Jay created a deal for East Coast merchants
but at the expense of the interests of the West and South. In addition,
a lack of national unity allowed Britain and Spain to continue to subvert
the new nation by increasing hostilities with the Indians. Unless a strong
a central government was created, the confederation would not be taken
seriously by European powers. The British believed that the new nation
could not survive and therefore continued to have military personnel stationed
in Canada and in the West. The republicans, such as Adams and Madison,
summed up their fears when they said that democracy rule under the confederation
was "mob rule at worst, uneducated at best."

The Articles was a short term failure
in democracy because it lacked the essential strength a government of a
national power needed. It wasn’t until the states finally decided to relinquish
some power in the Constitution did improvements in economics and foreign
relations begin solidify and take shape.