Improving the Articles of Confederation: Fixing a Failure

Improving the Articles of Confederation: Fixing a Failure

This article discusses the issues with the Articles of Confederation, the first attempt at a national government after the American Revolutionary War. It explores the reasons for the failure of

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Slide2Articles of Confederation After winning our independence from Great Britain in the Revolutionary War, the new country  needed to develop some form of governmental system .  Many wanted to be  free of a strong central government . They saw themselves first as  citizens of their states  as opposed to the nation.  States’ rights were an important issue.  The  Articles of Confederation  represented  the first constitutional agreement  made between the 13 American states. There was a need for unity among the new states that were created as a result of the American Revolution.  Ben’s Guide to Government

Slide3Confederation The United States began as a  confederation.  A  confederation  is…  A group or league of independent states or nations united for a common purpose  The Articles of Confederation created  a nation of pre-existing states  rather than a  government over individuals.

Slide4Articles of Confederation Under the Articles of Confederation, the  state governments  retained most of the  power.   The  central or national government commanded  little respect  and was not able to accomplish much because it had  little jurisdiction/power over states  or individuals. States Nat’l Gov.

Slide5Problems with the Articles of Confederation Under the Articles of Confederation, states often argued amongst themselves.   They also  refused to financially support the national government .  The national government was  powerless to enforce any acts it did pass .  Some states began making agreements with foreign governments.  Most had their own military.  Most states printed their own money. There was  no stable economy.

Slide6Shays’ Rebellion A postwar depression had left many small farmers unable to pay their debts and threatened with mortgage foreclosures.   In western Massachusetts, a small band of farmers led by Captain Daniel Shays undertook a series of armed attacks on courthouses to prevent judges from foreclosing on farms.

Slide7Shays’ Rebellion Shays’ Rebellion was the fiercest outbreak of public discontent in the new nation and  demonstrated the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation .  The rebellion convinced many states of the need for a stronger central government.

Slide8Change is Needed As the economic and military weaknesses became apparent, people began asking for changes to the Articles of Confederation that would create a stronger national government.

Slide9Philadelphia Convention At the urging of the states, Congress invited delegates from all of the states to Philadelphia  The purpose of this meeting was “for the sole and express purpose of  revising  the Articles of Confederation”  Delegates (representatives of the states attending the convention) were only to revise the Articles… …but did they do more than revise?

Slide10Who was there?  55 delegates to the Philadelphia Convention  All were white , male, landowners  Delegates  included: Philadelphia Convention James Madison  –  had a plan for a stronger national government; the “Father of the Constitution” George Washington –  highly respected; believed in a strong national government Benjamin Franklin  – one of the most respected men in America; primary role at the convention was to encourage cooperation among the delegates Photos from

Slide111.Met for four months in 1787 2. Proceedings held in secrecy 3. Problems with Articles of Confederation were so great that the document was abandoned. 4. All states received one vote at the convention  This was done to please the small states who felt it was unfair to give more votes to the larger states Philadelphia Convention Those who attended would be known as the “Framers,” as they would be the ones to create the framework of the United States government in the  Constitution.

Slide12Article FailuresProblem Congress could not collect taxes. Implication No taxes=no money to run the country. States would not support the national government. X X X

Slide13Article Failures National government was powerless to enforce any laws it passed;  No President  No checks and balances Problem There was no separate executive branch for the central government Implication ?

Slide14Article FailuresProblem  Congress had no power to enforce its own laws in the states Implication No enforcement= people in various states doing what they want

Slide15Article FailuresProblem National government could not regulate trade between states. Implication States had their own trading practices and regulations with other states. This created slow and tense trade relationships.

Slide16Article FailuresProblem Congress could not regulate foreign trade/commerce. Implication States were entering individually into trade agreements with foreign nations.

Slide17Article FailuresProblem Citizens in states thought their property rights were being violated Implication Violated property rights = tension between state governments and the people X

Slide18Article Failures No court system to handle national/federal level issues  Interstate issues would have no courts to go to on the federal level  Federal laws but no federal courts?  No checks and balances Problem There was no separate, national court system Implication MISSING

Slide19Article FailuresThis made it nearly impossible to make changes to the Articles; it could not be changed to match the current needs of the people Problem The Articles required a unanimous vote to make changes to the Articles Implication

Slide20On Top of All Those Issues… There were other looming issues facing the Framers:  How would representation be addressed in the new constitution? Would large and small states all have the same voting power?  How would the issue of slavery be addressed in the new constitution? Would slaves count towards the population of a state?  How much power would be given to each branch of government?

Slide21Options How did the Founders correct the problems in the Articles of Confederation?  They tossed the Articles and started over!  Options considered: Virginia Plan • Proposed a strong national government • State and national governments would exist, receiving their power from the people. • National government would make and enforce their own laws and could tax the people • Would have  legislative (with a House and Senate), executive and judicial branches. • Proportional representation New Jersey Plan • Proposed a weak national government • Congress could collect taxes on products  and collect fines from the states if they refused to pay their taxes. • Congress would have one house/chamber • Each state would have equal representation

Slide22SCAVENGER HUNT! Your mission:  Hunt through the United States Constitution to find how the Framers fixed the problems presented by the Articles.  Write where you found the “fix”  - Article and Section Number and/or Amendment Number. You might find answers in more than one place!  Then write a summary of what you found in the Constitution that fixed the problem


Slide24Fix-a-FailureProblem Congress could not collect taxes.  No taxes=no money to run the country How did the Constitution fix this problem? Article I, Section 8, Clause 1 “To lay and collect taxes…” Translation: Congress has the power to set and collect taxes from the people. X

Slide25ProblemThere was no executive branch for the central government. How did the Constitution fix this problem? Article II, Section 1 “The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America” Translation: The power to execute the law will belong to the President of the United States of America. ? Fix-a-Failure

Slide26Problem Congress had no power to enforce its own laws in the states. How did the Constitution fix this problem? Article II, Section 3 “…he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed…” Translation: The duty of the executive branch is to make sure the laws are carried out/enforce. Fix-a-Failure

Slide27ProblemCongress could not regulate trade between the states. How did the Constitution fix this problem? Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 “…to regulate Commerce…among the several States…” Translation: Congress has the power to regulate trade between the states. Fix-a-Failure

Slide28ProblemCongress could not make states follow trade agreements with other nations How did the Constitution fix this problem? Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 “To regulate commerce with foreign Nations…” Translation: Congress has the power to regulate trade with foreign countries. X Fix-a-Failure

Slide29ProblemCitizens in states thought their property rights were being violated How did the Constitution fix this problem? Article VI “This Constitution…shall be the supreme Law of the Land…” Translation : No laws are above the Constitution; states should not make laws that conflict with the Constitution. Amendment IV “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures…” Translation:  The government cannot unfairly search personal property. X Fix-a-Failure

Slide30ProblemThere was no national court system How did the Constitution fix this problem? Article III “The judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.” Translation : The Supreme Court is the highest court in the nation and there are lower courts that are created by Congress MISSING Fix-a-Failure

Slide31ProblemThe Articles required a unanimous vote to make changes to the Articles How did the Constitution fix this problem? Article V “The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution…shall be valid…as Part of this Constitution when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States or by Conventions in three fourths thereof…” Translation: The Constitution can be changed if 2/3 of both houses of Congress think it’s necessary. It will be valid as part of the Constitution if ¾  of the state legislatures agree. Fix-a-Failure

Slide32Small StatesSmall States Large States Large States  Feared large states would have more power if they were given votes based on population.  Wanted one vote per state.  Felt their interests would not be properly represented with one vote per state.  Wanted “proportional representation” or representation based on population. Representation The Great Compromise  (AKA  The Connecticut Compromise ) In order to appease both large and small states, the compromise was a bicameral legislature, or a legislature divided into two chambers: one with two representatives from each state (equal representation) and one with representation based on population (proportionate representation ).

Slide33Northern StatesNorthern States Southern States Southern States  Most were opposed to slavery  Many were concerned about the Southern states counting slaves as part of their population thus giving them more representation in Congress.  Some were opposed to slavery, but many were financially dependent on slavery for farming purposes.  Believed that each state should have the right to choose for themselves. Without this choice, Southern states would not agree to be part of the union. Slavery The Compromise: The Framers agreed that the slave trade would not be ended prior to 1808. They also decided on the three fifths clause stating that population for the House of Representatives would be based on the total of free persons, indentured servants, and 3/5 of the slave population.

Slide34Power Struggle Concerns arose about how much power each branch of government would be given.  Each branch of government would be given certain powers outlined in the Constitution.  In addition to those powers, each branch would be given certain “checks” they could do on the other branches of government. For example: Judicial Branch – Interprets the law Executive Branch – Enforces the law L e g i s l a t i v e B r a n c h  –  M a k e s t h e  l a w The President has the power to veto bills proposed by Congress. The Supreme Court has the power of judicial review allowing them to declare laws of Congress or acts of the President unconstitutional. Legislative branch can pass a bill over the President’s veto with enough votes; may also re-word proposed bill and reintroduce Here is an example of checks and balances in action: