After signing the Declaration of Independence, it became clear that to continue our war against Britain we would need a common government.
The result was the Articles of the Confederation, and a weak government. This government was built on friendly terms between states. It put all power to the states. It's many problems, as well as a need for stronger government led to the Philadephia Convention.
Below is a summery of the Articles.
- Establishes the name of the confederation with these words: "The Stile of this confederacy shall be 'The United States of America.'"
- Asserts the sovereignty of each state, except for the specific powers delegated to the confederation government, i.e. "Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated."
- Not being sovereign, it does not call the United States of America a "nation" or "government," but instead says, "The said States hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other, 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, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretense whatever."
- But to instill a national feeling, "[t]he better to secure and perpetuate mutual friendship and intercourse among the people of the different States in this union," it establishes equal treatment and freedom of movement for the free inhabitants of each state to pass unhindered between the states, excluding "paupers, vagabonds, and fugitives from justice." All these people are entitled to equal rights established by the state into which he travels. If a crime is committed in one state and the perpetrator flees to another state, he will be extradited to and tried in the state in which the crime was committed.
- Allocates one vote in the Congress of the Confederation (the "United States in Congress Assembled") to each state, which is entitled to a delegation of between two and seven members. Members of Congress are appointed by state legislatures. Also, individuals may not serve more than three out of any six years.
- Only the central government is allowed to conduct foreign political or commercial relations and to declare war. No state or official may accept foreign gifts or titles, and granting any title of nobility is forbidden to all. States are restrained from forming sub-national groups. No state may tax or interfere with treaty stipulations already proposed. No state may engage in war, without permission of Congress, unless invaded or that is imminent on the frontier; no state may maintain a peace-time standing army or navy, unless infested by pirates, but every State is required to keep ready, a well-regulated (meaning well trained), disciplined, and equipped militia, with sufficient public stores of a due number of field pieces, tents, a proper quantity of arms, ammunition and camp equipage.
- Whenever an army is raised for common defense, colonels and military ranks below colonel will be named by the state legislatures.
- Expenditures by the United States of America will be paid by funds raised by state legislatures, and apportioned to the states based on the real property values of each.
- Defines the sole and exclusive right and power of the United States in Congress assembled to determine peace and war; to exchange ambassadors; to enter into treaties and alliances, with some provisos; to establish rules for deciding all cases of captures or prizes on land or water; to grant letters of marque and reprisal (documents authorizing privateers) in times of peace; to appoint courts for the trial of pirates and crimes committed on the high seas; to establish courts for appeals in all cases of captures, but no member of Congress may be appointed a judge; to set weights and measures (including coins), and for Congress to serve as a final court for disputes between states.
- "The Committee of the States, or any nine of them, shall be authorized to execute, in the recess of Congress, such of the powers of Congress as the United States in Congress assembled, by the consent of the nine States, shall from time to time think expedient to vest them with; provided that no power be delegated to the said Committee, for the exercise of which, by the Articles of Confederation, the voice of nine States in the Congress of the United States assembled be requisite."
- If "Canada" (as the British-held Province of Quebec was also known) accedes to this confederation, it will be admitted.
- Reaffirms that the Confederation accepts war debt incurred by Congress before the existence of the Articles.
- Declares that the Articles are perpetual, and can only be altered by approval of Congress with ratification by all the state legislatures.