In June 1776, the First Continental Congress elaborated a decision to prepare the “Articles of Confederation”. In November 1777, the draft copy was approved by the Congress, but the process of ratification by 13 states dragged on for more than three years, and “The Articles” entered into force on March 1781 only.
As stated in the preamble, “Articles of Confederation” legally formalized and consolidated the creation of an eternal union between the states. It was emphasized that each state keeps its sovereignty, freedom, and independence. All power, jurisdiction, and law, with the exception of those that are exactly delegated by this Confederation to the United States, was imposed on the Congress. The Confederation was named “The United States of America”. The Confederation of 13 sovereign states set primarily foreign policy tasks in the situation of the war for independence from the Great Britain. It is not surprising that after the full victory and independence, this union lost its meaning.
The Confederation of American States was not a state in the proper sense of the word. Therefore, “Articles of Confederation” are a kind of an international treaty, and did not present a basic legislation of single states. Although the Confederation was not a state in the proper meaning, it included some economic, political and psychological bases for the American statehood, the legal basis of which was reflected in the Constitution of 1787. “Articles of Confederation” did not establish a common citizenship. This document refers to free citizens of each of these states. Not only slaves were excluded from the notion “citizens”, but also paupers, vagabonds and persons evading the justice.
According to “Articles of Confederation”, the Congress was established (in fact, the old Continental Congress was preserved) for the more convenient management of affairs, which included delegates from single states (from two to seven), appointed annually. Delegates could be revoked and replaced at any time. Each state in Congress had only one vote. In the event of a split (for example, two – for, two – against), the delegation lost its voice. The Congress was not a parliament in common sense. It was a meeting of diplomats, and delegates were rather diplomatic agents but not deputies.
The Congress formally had all foreign political power:
– To declared war and make peace;
– To send and appoint ambassadors;
– To conclude international treaties;
– To trade with Indian tribes.
In the internal sphere, its powers were very modest. The Congress did not have the power to appoint taxes and was deprived of the financial basis – all military and other events of the Congress were funded by the states. Although it formally had the right to establish the standards of the monetary system, but in fact, the states minted their own coins. After the victorious end of the war for independence, the Congress adopted Northwest Ordinances in 1784, 1785 and 1787, which enabled to expand the territory of the United States and to establish the procedure for the creation of new states and their acceptance into the union.
The confederation with a weak government did not meet the needs of the economic development, which required a strong central authority capable of overcoming the political and economic disconnection of individual states, centralizing the foreign trade and trade between states, implementing a common customs policy, and the like. The creation of this government was dictated also by considerations of the foreign policy – the need to increase the international prestige of the new state. The solution of this question was accelerated by the intensification of the turmoil among the population in the states after the end of the war for independence. The broad popular masses got nothing from the victory over the Great Britain and the internal conflicts. A significant number of small farmers found themselves in debt bondage from landlords. The prisons were overfilled with debtors, farmers’ lands were sold for debts, etc. In several states, uprisings broke out, the strongest of which was the uprising of the poor under the leadership of Daniel Shays in Massachusetts (1786-1787). These insurrections, suppressed with big difficulties, showed to the politicians the necessity to create and enforce a strong central government power capable of keeping the masses in the obedience.
Under these conditions, in 1787, a Grand Convention took place in Philadelphia, which was entrusted with the task of making amendments and necessary changes to the “Articles of Confederation” so that they could satisfy the requirements of the administration and safeguard the existence of the union. Delegates of the Convention from the single states represented only 120 thousand people from the total three million of the population. This convention consisted of land speculators, merchants, moneylenders and planters-slave owners. There were no farmers, neither workers there.
The Convention developed and adopted the Constitution, the main idea of which was the creation of a strong central authority. The reasons for the transition to the federation are most clearly stated in the preamble, which lists the official goals to adopt the Constitution. Among them, the following points are worthy to note:
– The creation of the better union of states;
– Ensuring internal tranquility;
– The establishment of justice;
– The organization of common defense,
– Guaranteeing the general welfare;
– Providing the people with benefits of freedom.
The Constitution (7 articles in all) was based on the creation of a single union state – the Federation. Having retained broad autonomy in resolving their internal issues, the members of the Federation (states) transferred the solution of common questions to the central bodies of the Federation.
In the jurisdiction of the Federation included establishment and collection of duties and taxes, the common monetary system, regulation of the internal and foreign trades, appointment of judges, declaration of the war, recruitment and maintenance of the Army and the Navy, etc.
The constitution did not contain a list of rights reserved for states, stating only what the states cannot do. So the single states were not able to conclude international treaties, to enter into a confederation or any other alliance, to mint coins and issue credit papers, to grant noble titles, and to abolish the republican form of government.
As a result, the states kept fairly broad rights, including the adoption of laws on all issues that are not within the competence of the Federation. They retained their judicial system and armed forces (police).
The US Constitution established a republican form of government based on the theory of separation of powers.
After obtaining the independence, the United States had to create a political system and government that would meet the goals and ideals for which the Americans fought during the war. “Articles of Confederation” did not meet all demands of the existing society and did not solve the growing problems. Most statesmen admitted the need to better protect individual rights and freedoms that belong to the human under the natural law, such as freedom of religion and the right to the trial by jury. To satisfy the claims of the majority, Federalists promised to submit to the Congress a bill of rights immediately after the ratification of the Constitution.