During the early stages of the Revolutionary war, members of the Second Continental Congress believed the rebellious colonies required a written constitution. There were several reasons for this, but the primary one was the need to have a written agreement among the states governing issues such as funding for the war, conducting diplomacy, making trade deals and issuing a currency. While Great Britain did all of these things without a written constitution (and still does), the Americans felt that as a republic, it was important to proceed in a more orderly manner, and have a written constitution.
In addition, states were writing their own constitutions; Thomas Paine in Common Sense went into some detail, arguing that a written constitution was the fitting governing document for a republic, making constitutions trendy at the time.
The Articles of Confederation was ratified in 1781 and stayed in effect until the ratification of the current US Constitution in 1789. The Articles intentionally created a weak structure of government.
Under the Articles, the central government didn’t have much power and the executive branch had little authority to enforce federal laws or collect taxes. The reason for the weakness of the Articles was that they needed to be ratified quickly and there was little agreement on how the central government of the colonies should be structured. The Articles defined a kind of “least common denominator” among the things that the delegates to the Congress could all accept.
- Do you think it is good that the United States has a written constitution? What would be different if it did not?
- What was the main purpose of the Articles of Confederation? Did it achieve that purpose?
- No other country has had a written constitution for as long as the United States. For instance, France has had five different republican constitutions (plus two empires and a couple of monarchies) during the time of the American Constitution. What do you think is the reason for this?
APUSH Cartoons. Articles of Confederation. Digital Image. Apprend. February 19,2019. https://apprend.io/apush/cartoons/#iLightbox[bf61e6a9fe24e990d02]/0