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Did the Articles of Confederation provide the United States with an "effective government"
When the Articles of Confederation were ratified in 1781 by the Continental Congress, the event was seen as a major advancement in uniting the thirteen states under one central government. However, the signers had ratified the Articles under the impression that they would be able to preserve the "sovereignty" of their states. By ratifying a central government that theoretically possessed many powers, but was actually subordinate to the states, they had created a weak, nominal government that did not have the ability to govern the Confederation effectively and efficiently.
The Articles of Confederation provided the government a national legislature that had the authority to declare war and make peace, conduct diplomatic affairs, make requisitions for men from states, issue currency, and pass laws. The legislature was comprised of men from various social standings, unlike the previous colonial legislatures that had consisted of men of gentlemanly stature. This was an improvement in the government considering that the central government was organized to represent its citizens. Although the central government was run by a diverse legislature, it was similar to the Continental Congress because its power was derived from the states. The power of the central government that was provided by the Articles of Confederation was nominal, and was actually subject to the states.
By investing such power in the states, the Articles of Confederation promoted the degeneration of unity among the squabbling states because it allowed for many states to run independently of the central government. Jealousy among the states over land claims, taxable revenue, trade rights, and legislative power impaired the central government's efficiency, resulting in a bureaucracy of self-interest. The central government served as a podium for this factionalism, and it was not uncommon for states to regard their own state constitutions as a higher authority than that of the national legislature.
Coinciding with this argument was Document A, a letter from the Rhode Island Assembly to Congress. In this letter, the Rhode Island Assembly rejected Congress' proposal to impose a levy on imported goods, stating several reasons to justify their argument. One of the arguments that the Assembly formally pointed out stated that the tax "introduced officers unknown and unaccountable to them," which consequently violated Rhode Island's Constitution. Not only did this suggest that the national government's authority was secondary to a state's, but it implied that any decisions that had passed Congress were subject to individual scrutiny by each state. If the Congress had to ratify bills and laws to satisfy each individual state, it would make it extremely difficult for the national legislature to pass laws and bills that impeded upon the "sovereignty" of the states. Therefore the central government was often helpless in enforcing and controlling laws and bills that the le!
gislature had ratified.
In an attempt to regain control of a faltering economy, the central government often requested of the states to provide it with necessary means to do so. Efforts to do so were met with staunch resistance by the states. With no means of creating a national monetary system, the central government could not prevent the states from issuing their own currency, an act that promoted the depreciation of currency. With no authority to regulate prices and wages, the government was helpless in controlling inflation. With no authority to regulate trade, it could not create an organized system of commerce that was beneficial to all the states
In Document B, it was evident that after the Articles of Confederation had been validated, the ratio of estimated market value of United States exports to the national population had significantly decreased. Between 1775 and 1789, the estimated market value had decreased by over a third, while the population had increased by 50 percent. This statistic suggested that commerce under the Articles of Confederation was not profitable due the lack of governmental control. If the central government had the means to regulate trade, it would have initiated a more uniform and organized approach, in contrast the individual methods of the states. An organized approach to commerce and economic reasoning would have boosted American trade status overseas, and stabilized the economy.
In addition, the inability of the central government to tax goods, and the lack of economic
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United States, Pennsylvania in the American Revolution, The Federalist Papers, James Madison, Articles of Confederation, United States Constitution, JayGardoqui Treaty, American Revolution, Continental Congress, U.S. state, Confederation, Constitution
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