The Articles of Confederation, the first constitution of the United States, were in effect from 1781 to 1789. While they represented a significant step towards creating a unified nation, the Articles had several weaknesses that hindered their effectiveness. In this essay, we will discuss the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation and their consequences.
Weakness of the Articles of Confederation
One of the primary weaknesses of the Articles was the lack of a strong central government. The Articles created a confederation of states that had limited power to tax, regulate commerce, and raise armies. This made it difficult for the government to effectively address national issues such as trade disputes and interstate conflicts. Additionally, the government had no executive branch to enforce laws or a national court system to interpret them.
The weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation included the fact that every state could follow whatever laws it desired, as the government was not strong enough to force it to enforce any laws. Moreover, the government could not tax its citizens and had to borrow money from the state.
Several specific instances demonstrated the weakness of the Articles of Confederation. One such instance was now called, ‘Shays’ Rebellion. Farmers in the state of Massachusetts were tired of the heavy tax burden that was placed on them by their state government. These included the fact that the land tax was too high. This made many of them lose their land due to their inability to pay taxes. This was worsened by the fact that they did not have the money to pay the legal fees that were expected of them and the economic depression experienced made the situation even worse. Between the years 1786-1787 then, the farmers, led by Daniel Shays staged protests and even closed the courts in the state so they could not foreclose on their land (Heineman, Peterson & Rasmussen, 1995).
Additionally, the Articles did not provide for a national currency, which made it difficult to conduct trade between states. The lack of a central bank also made it challenging for the government to regulate the economy and respond to financial crises.
Consequences of These Weaknesses
The consequences of these weaknesses were significant. The government was unable to effectively address national issues or provide for the common defense. The lack of a strong central government also made it challenging for the United States to negotiate with foreign governments, leading to diplomatic issues and a loss of credibility on the world stage. Additionally, the weak economy and inability to regulate commerce hindered economic growth and stability.
To address these issues, a Constitutional Convention was held in 1787, which resulted in the drafting of the United States Constitution. The Constitution created a stronger central government with the power to tax, regulate commerce, and raise armies. It also established an executive branch, and a national court system, and provided for a system of checks and balances to prevent any one branch of government from becoming too powerful.
In conclusion, the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation were significant and hindered the government’s ability to effectively address national issues and provide for the common defense. The drafting of the United States Constitution provided for a stronger central government and established the framework for the government that has endured to this day.