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Articles of Confederation

            The Articles of Confederation, adopted by the Continental Congress on November 15, 1777, became operative on March 1, 1781 when the last of the 13 states signed on to the document. The Articles of Confederation were the predecessor to the U.S. constitution. The Articles of Confederation established an adequate but flawed system of government for many reasons. The Articles of Confederation had many critical flaws. One defect was that measures passed by Congress had to be approved by 9 of the 13 states. Also, the central government was severely limited in its powers and the articles were virtually impossible to amend, so problems could almost never be corrected. The Articles of Confederation's greatest weakness, however, was that it had no direct origin in the people themselves; but, knew only state sovereignty. However, the Articles of Confederation did provide some important concepts.
             Since measures had to be approved by 9 of the 13 states many measures were difficult to enact. Congress had the power to conduct foreign affairs, make treaties, declare war, maintain an army and a navy, coin money, and establish post offices upon the approval of 9 out of the 13 states. However, many of states were in constant disagreement so many of these measures were almost impossible to carry out. By mid-1780's the country was divided over such concerns as pensions for war veterans, taxes, and an inflationary paper currency. George Washington described the situation under the Articles of Confederation as "a half-starved limping government, which appears to be always moving upon crutches and tottering at every step." Because of this policy the Congress of the Confederation could not properly enforce laws or policy.
             Since the Articles of Confederation so limited the power of the central government colonies met many challenges. Some of the shortcomings were that it could not raise money by collecting taxes; it had no control over foreign commerce; it could pass laws but could not force the states to comply with them.

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