Although the Declaration of Independence. Under the Articles,

Although historians generally regard the Articles of
Confederation as a complete failure, they were actually a necessary step in the
formation of the Constitution which laid out a balanced government in
accordance with the ideals of the American Revolution. Adopted by the Second
Continental Congress at the height of the Revolution in 1777, the Articles of
Confederation reflected the fears of American citizens, in particular, the fear
of tyrannical rule. When the Articles failed, a stronger and more stable
government replaced it, the government America has today, defined by the
Constitution. Errors made under the weak Articles of Confederation were the
catalyst for the ratification of the Constitution. The Articles played an
important role by proving a strong central government was not to be feared, it
was a necessity.
Following the Revolution, Americans desired to be free from burdensome taxes,
to have a market economy and, most of all, not to be manipulated by a distant
head of state. The former colonies existed as 13 individual republics, only
tenuously as a union. The Constitution, which would not be written until 1787,
declared supremacy over state laws, let the federal government tax the people
and gave power to an executive. Because of this sharp contrast in ideology, it
is clear the Constitution would not have been ratified immediately after the
Revolution. This simple fact is the strongest proof that the Articles of
Confederation were necessary to the formation of today’s government.
The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, as they are formally named,
were written during the fervor of the Revolution and reflect the philosophy
laid out in the Declaration of Independence. Under the Articles, the States are
united “…for their common defense, the security of their liberties, and
their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other, against
all force offered to, or attacks made upon them…” The Congress of the
Confederacy was the sole governing body and was granted no power to tax or
demand funds from states. In fact, the only powers expressly designated to the
federal government were to conduct foreign relations, borrow money and declare
war. Although in keeping with the desires of the American people, the Articles
proved too weak to hold thirteen sovereign states in order. In contrast, the
Constitution provides a powerful central government readily capable of
organizing states into an efficient nation. However, without the Articles
demonstrating such a government was required, the Constitution would never have
been ratified.
Despite being granted the power to issue money, the federal government could
not regulate it under the Articles of Confederation. This type of oversight was
what truly destined the Articles to failure. Such issues could only be resolved
by an amendment to the text of the Articles; because a unanimous vote was required,
this was rare. The inability of congress to raise revenue lead to massive
national debts; veterans and investors remained unpaid. In 1783, veterans, once
loyal soldiers, rioted in Philadelphia, forcing Congress to temporarily move
the capitol. Shay’s Rebellion, which indirectly produced a movement to revise
the Articles, was started by indebted farmers in Western Massachusetts who
demanded increased money supply and tax relief from the state government.
Congress under the Articles of Confederation was powerless to resolve such
problems and prevent new ones from arising. By then, it was apparent that the
only way to prevent the United States from collapsing was to create a new,
stronger government.
Under the Constitution, ratified September 13, 1788, these problems were solved
with a controversially powerful central government. Although the Constitution
was a far cry from the revision of the Articles of Confederation called for by
the aptly named Meeting of Commissioners to Remedy Defects in the Federal Government
(which commissioned the Constitutional Convention one year later), it proved to
be extremely successful. Article VI, Clause II of the Constitution declares the
supremacy of federal laws over state laws. This gave the national government
the power it needed to make the United States stable and successful but was
tremendously controversial in the political atmosphere of the era. The clause
was thought to be necessary to fix many of the problems in the Articles of
Confederation, primarily taxation. Although not a designated power, the First
Bank of the United States was created in 1791. Alexander Hamilton, the bank’s
creator, describes how the bank provides an answer to many of America’s early
finance problems which the Articles of Confederation failed to resolve:
“…indirectly, by increasing the quantity of circulating medium and
quickening circulation,…by creating a convenient species of medium in which
citizens are to be paid. … The institution of a bank also has a natural
relation to the regulation of trade between states…”

Unlike the weak response to Shay’s Rebellion, during the Whisky Rebellion, in
which Pennsylvania farmers took up arms to protest federal taxes on distilled
alcohol, President George Washington, Commander-in-Chief, used his Constitutional
power to crush the uprising. This displays the stabilizing effect the strong
central government created in 1788 had on the United States. Only through the
failures of the Articles of Confederation could so ideal a government be
The Constitution was passionately debated because many saw it as a betrayal to
the ideals of the Revolution, the foundation of American nationhood. Those who
opposed the Constitution argued that the government’s power to tax is not
dissimilar to that of Britain’s Parliament and that the President was awarded
powers near that of a king. Upon close examination we see that in every case
the Framers use checks and balances to prevent unequal distribution of power
among the various branches of the government. As Herbert J. Strong states in
his book What the Anti-Federalists Were For, “The Federalists reminded
Americans that the true principal of the Revolution was not hostility to
government but hostility to tyrannical government.” (Strong, Page
The Constitution describes a government so successful it would become the
oldest republic in the world. It could not have been written or enacted without
the experiences under the earlier Articles of Confederation. Despite failing to
create a functional government body, the Articles nevertheless left a positive
mark on America’s history; only in its wake could the Constitution, and
subsequently the United States of America, flourish.

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