Articles of Confederation and US Constitution

Posted: May 13, 2016


The US has had two constitutions since its independence, the Articles of Confederation, which was adopted on 15th November, 1777 and later ratified in 1787 through a Constitutional Convention to the modern US Constitution which came into effect on 4th March, 1789. The Articles left the sovereign and most power to the states, leaving a weak central government. Its weaknesses necessitated its change so as to empower the national government. The paper compares and contrasts the two documents, identifies the strengths and weaknesses of the Articles, analyzes the drafting of the Constitution, and reviews the Federalists and Anti-Federalists debate over the ratification.

The Structure of Government under the Articles of Confederation to the Structure under the Current US Constitution

A number of differences subsist between the contemporary Constitution of the US and the Articles of Confederation in regard to the democracy of the U.S citizens. The state was made sovereign by the article of the confederation, while the current constitution vested the sovereignty on citizens of the United States. Under the current constitution, bicameral governance exists, while in the article of constitution, only unicameral legislature existed, i.e. one house referred to as the congress (Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, 2015). But the current constitution has two houses i.e. the house of representative and the Senate. The confederation had the voting powers deputed to states based on the committees made up of two to seven individuals and every state had only a single vote. But on the other hand, the Constitution granted single vote for each legislature representative thus making the modern constitution more democratic as compared to the confederation.

The confederation did not provide for the position of the chief executive as well the national courts. On the other hand, the constitution proves to be more democratic by creating the national judiciary and the Executive arm of the government. The U.S. president had just presided over the Congress, bur had no powers under the Articles, while under the Constitution, the president has the authority to appoint the cabinet and carry out the checks on the legislative’s powers as well as those of the judiciary (Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, 2015). On matters relating to the changes of the document, the article of the confederation requires at least all of the thirteen states’ votes supported it, while the contemporary U.S constitution requires that only ¾ quarters of its modern states and2/3 of the two houses supporters were required for the amendments to be made.

In regard to the confederation of the Articles, the taxing powers were bestowed upon the state while the contemporary constitution has given them to the Congress, which lays and collects the taxes for the government. The Confederation failed to control the trade taking place among the state while the constitution take control of the interstate commerce with the assistance of the congress.  On the condition that the dispute arose among the states, the Confederation was used to resolve the conflict with the assistance of the federal courts.

Another difference regarding the modern constitution in the United State and the Confederation, regards the party behinds the resolution of conflicts. The modern U.S constitution requires that the conflict be solved by the federal courts. The modern constitution allow that a standing troop be raised and supported by the government, while under the Confederation the Congress was given room to establish the army, taking to consideration the size of each army in every state and based on each contribution and the population. The contemporary constitution confers upon the Congress the authority to upbringing and support troop.

According to Brackemyre (2015) the Article of Confederation lack a central leadership making it place the sovereign power in the states’ hands as  a result, thuis led to leadership deficit as well as the econmic troubles which took various forms. Another vein in which the democracy differs from the modern U.S. constitution and the article of the Confederation is based on the fact that the confederation failed to offer any system of courts under the jurisdiction of the national government, as a result auch a move implied that the judiciary was depended on the state. On this basisthe judiciary could easily overturn all thr national actions which it found objectable. Given that the Congress lacked means to enforce the subsisting laws, the states’ easily ignored the natural laws without the fear of retribution. In addition, the fact that there lacked a national courts system, states or individuals founded it difficult to file complaint against the government.


In a nut shell, the article of the confederation assumed that the democracy lied with the confederation while under the new Conferauion it is the citizens of the whole nation who had the sovereign power to exercise the sovereignty, which is divided between the central government as well as the concerned states. The dispensation of the Confederation of the Articles fails to recognize the independence of the executives or government such as those enforced by the state courts while the constitution fails to consider them.


  1. Brackemyre, T. (2015). America’s First Failure at Government. Retrieved December 16, 2015, from US History Scene:
  2. Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. (2015, September 21). The Articles of Confederation. Retrieved December 16, 2015, from
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