Articles of Confederation #1

As the state constitutions were being drafted, The Continental Congress continued to meet as a general political body. Despite being the central government, it was a loose confederation and the individual states held the most power. By 1777 Congress realized they should have some clearly written rules for how they were organized. As a result, the Articles of Confederation were drafted and passed by the Congress.

The first national “constitution” mainly put into written form how the Congress had operated since 1775.

The purpose of the central government was clearly stated in the Articles. The Congress had control over diplomacy, printing money, resolving controversies between different states, and most importantly, coordinating the war effort. The most important action of the Continental Congress was probably the creation and maintenance of the Continental Army. Even though Congress could call on the states to contribute resources and men for the army, it was not allowed to force states to obey the central government’s request for aid.

The organization of Congress itself demonstrates the primacy of state power. Each state had one vote. Nine out of thirteen states had to support a law for it to be enacted. Any changes to the Articles required unanimous agreement. In the One-State, One-Vote Rule, state sovereignty was the key. The national government consisted entirely of the unicameral (one body) Congress with no executive and no judicial organizations.

The national Congress' limited power was also clear when it came to money issues. The central government had no power to raise its own revenues through taxation. All it could do was request that the states give it the money to run the government and wage the war. By 1780, with the outcome of the war still undecided, the central government had run out of money and was bankrupt! As a result, the paper money it issued was basically worthless.

Source: Articles of Confederation #1
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