Summary of the Articles of Confederation
As the delegates to the Second Continental Congress were drafting the Declaration of Independence, they were also developing a plan for unifying the thirteen colonies to defeat Great Britain. In the summer of 1776, a committee composed of one delegate from each colony drafted the Articles of Confederation, America’s first constitution. Although the document created a weak central government compared to the federal government established by the current Constitution, the Articles successfully created a “firm league of friendship” that guided the emerging nation through its fledgling years.
Articles of Confederation — Quick Facts
- On June 11, 1776, the Second Continental Congress appointed a committee, composed of one representative from each colony, to draft a document forming a confederation of the 13 colonies.
- John Dickinson, a delegate from Delaware, was the principal writer of the draft document.
- Adopted by the Continental Congress on November 15, 1777.
- As adopted, the articles contained a preamble and 13 articles.
- Became effective when ratified by the 13th and final state (Maryland) on March 1, 1781.
- Established a Confederation Congress with each state having one vote.
- Measures passed by Congress had to be approved by 9 of the 13 states.
- Did not establish federal executive or judicial branches of government.
- Each state retained “every Power…which is not by this confederation expressly delegated to the United States.”
- Provided Congress with the powers to conduct foreign affairs, declare war or peace, maintain an army and navy, print money, resolve disputes between states, and a variety of other lesser functions.
- Denied Congress the power to collect taxes, regulate interstate commerce and enforce laws.
- All 13 states had to agree to any amendment of the federal government’s power.
- Replaced by the current U.S. Constitution on March 4, 1789.