Articles of Confederation vs Constitution -- What's the Difference?
The Articles of Confederation, then, can be seen as the stop gap measure that was written before the American Colonies won their independence from Britain, without overly serious consideration given to a strong, unified America.
Articles of Confederation
The Articles of Confederation were the first imagining of what the United States of America would be, a far cry from the strong, unified North American government that exists today. Under the Articles of Confederation, States had almost all of the power while the Federal government - the government that is in charge of the entire country, not just individual states - had next to none.
Under the Articles of Confederation, each state would send members to Congress, which was a single legislative house with no real power of ‘teeth' to force the States to act as they wished. They could request taxes from States, but not force them to pay; they could ask the states to send them an army, but could not forcefully draft soldiers.
In addition, there was no interstate body to deal with disputes, with trade rules and laws being set by individual states, instead of a central governing body. Under the articles, the Federal government was more of a body that could recommend things or be a place where states could argue with one another, but it was not a place where true authority, or sovereignty, originated.
The writers of the Constitution saw the need for a stronger Federal government that could unite the States, taking many of the powers held by the States - the right to tax, the right to raise armies, the right to regulate trade, among others - and giving it to a central Federal body. The Constitution also designed a system of government that would be fair and representative, a difficult task given the regional, size, and cultural differences among many of the peoples of the various states. Despite having fought and won the revolutionary war together, Americans did not see themselves as part of one great nationality, but instead identified with their respective state or region - they were Virginians first, Southerners second, and Americans last.
In order to put the Constitution into effect, the writers compromised heavily, eventually creating two different houses of Congress (The Senate, with two votes per state, and the House of Representatives, with votes depending on size) and a hefty amount of powers still residing with the States. The document was then put to vote by individual states, and eventually passed, creating the United States of America its modern sense.
One Without The Other
If the Constitution never replaced the Articles of Confederation, and the Articles still were the law of the land, America today would be a very different place, likely more akin to the loose association of countries in Europe rather than one, unified country.
By Travis Lindsay
Posted in ...Law