What power did the national government have under the Articles of Confederation

After the Lee Resolution proposed independence for the American colonies, the Second Continental Congress appointed three committees on June 11, 1776. One of the committees was tasked with determining what form the confederation of the colonies should take. This committee was composed of one representative from each colony. John Dickinson, a delegate from Delaware, was the principal writer.

The Dickinson Draft of the Articles of Confederation named the confederation "the United States of America." After considerable debate and revision, the Second Continental Congress adopted the Articles of Confederation on November 15, 1777.

The document seen here is the engrossed and corrected version that was adopted on November 15. It consists of six sheets of parchment stitched together. The last sheet bears the signatures of delegates from all 13 states.

This "first constitution of the United States" established a "league of friendship" for the 13 sovereign and independent states. Each state retained "every Power...which is not by this confederation expressly delegated to the United States. The Articles of Confederation also outlined a Congress with representation not based on population – each state would have one vote in Congress.

Ratification by all 13 states was necessary to set the Confederation into motion. Because of disputes over representation, voting, and the western lands claimed by some states, ratification was delayed. When Maryland ratified it on March 1, 1781, the Congress of the Confederation came into being.

Just a few years after the Revolutionary War, however, James Madison and George Washington were among those who feared their young country was on the brink of collapse. With the states retaining considerable power, the central government had insufficient power to regulate commerce. It could not tax and was generally impotent in setting commercial policy. Nor could it effectively support a war effort. Congress was attempting to function with a depleted treasury; and paper money was flooding the country, creating extraordinary inflation.

The states were on the brink of economic disaster; and the central government had little power to settle quarrels between states. Disputes over territory, war pensions, taxation, and trade threatened to tear the country apart.

In May of 1787, the Constitutional Convention assembled in Philadelphia to revise the Articles of Confederation. They shuttered the windows of the State House (Independence Hall) and swore secrecy so they could speak freely. By mid-June the delegates had decided to completely redesign the government. After three hot, summer months of highly charged debate, the new Constitution was signed, which remains in effect today.

Freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition.
Right to keep and bear arms in order to maintain a well regulated militia.

3 No quartering of soldiers.
4 Freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures.
5 Right to due process of law, freedom from self-incrimination, double jeopardy.
6 Rights of accused persons, e.g., right to a speedy and public trial.
Right of trial by jury in civil cases.

8 Freedom from excessive bail, cruel and unusual punishments.
9 Other rights of the people.
10 Powers reserved to the states.


When the Constitutional Convention met in 1787, the United States already had a framework of national government—the Articles of Confederation.  The Constitutional Convention itself was—in many ways—a response to the weaknesses of this form of government.  Adopted by the Continental Congress on November 15, 1777, and ratified by the states in 1781, the Articles of Confederation created a weak central government—a “league of friendship”—that largely preserved state power (and independence).  The Articles created a national government centered on the legislative branch, which was comprised of a single house.  There was no separate executive branch or judicial branch.  The delegates in Congress voted by state—with each state receiving one vote, regardless of its population.  The national government did not have the power to tax, to regulate commerce between the states, or to force the states to provide troops or send the government money.  And any proposed amendment to the Articles required unanimous approval from all thirteen states.  As a result, no amendment was ever ratified.  The delegates to the Constitutional Convention eventually framed a new Constitution designed to address many of these flaws.

Document Excerpt

Whereas the Delegates of the United States of America in Congress assembled did on the fifteenth day of November in the year of our Lord One Thousand Seven Hundred and Seventy seven, and in the Second Year of the Independence of America agree to certain articles of Confederation and perpetual Union between the States of Newhampshire, Massachusetts-bay, Rhodeisland and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia . . . .

Article I.  The Stile of this confederacy shall be, “The United States of America.”

Article II.  Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom and independence, and every Power, Jurisdiction and right, which is not by this confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.

Article III.  The said states hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other, for their common defence, 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 pretence whatever. . . .

Article V.  For the more convenient management of the general interests of the united states, delegates shall be annually appointed in such manner as the legislature of each state shall direct, to meet in Congress on the first Monday in November, in every year, with a power reserved to each state to recall its delegates, or any of them, at any time within the year, and to send others in their stead, for the remainder of the Year.

No State shall be represented in Congress by less than two, nor by more than seven Members; and no person shall be capable of being delegate for more than three years, in any term of six years; nor shall any person, being a delegate, be capable of holding any office under the united states, for which he, or another for his benefit receives any salary, fees or emolument of any kind.

Each State shall maintain its own delegates in a meeting of the states, and while they act as members of the committee of the states.

In determining questions in the united states, in Congress assembled, each state shall have one vote. . . .

Article IX. The united states, in congress assembled, shall have the sole and exclusive right and power of determining on peace and war, . . . - of sending and receiving ambassadors - entering into treaties and alliances, provided that no treaty of commerce shall be made, whereby the legislative power of the respective states shall be restrained from imposing such imposts and duties on foreigners, as their own people are subjected to, or from prohibiting the exportation or importation of any species of goods or commodities whatsoever . . . .

The united states, in congress assembled, shall also have the sole and exclusive right and power of regulating the alloy and value of coin struck by their own authority, or by that of the respective states - fixing the standard of weights and measures throughout the united states - regulating the trade and managing all affairs with the Indians, not members of any of the states; provided that the legislative right of any state, within its own limits, be not infringed or violated - establishing and regulating post-offices from one state to another, throughout all the united states, and exacting such postage on the papers passing through the same, as may be requisite to defray the expenses of the said office - appointing all officers of the land forces in the service of the united States, excepting regimental officers - appointing all the officers of the naval forces, and commissioning all officers whatever in the service of the united states; making rules for the government and regulation of the said land and naval forces, and directing their operations.

The united States, in congress assembled, shall have authority to appoint a committee, to sit in the recess of congress, to be denominated, “A Committee of the States,” and to consist of one delegate from each State; and to appoint such other committees and civil officers as may be necessary for managing the general affairs of the united states under their direction - to appoint one of their number to preside; provided that no person be allowed to serve in the office of president more than one year in any term of three years; to ascertain the necessary sums of money to be raised for the service of the united states, and to appropriate and apply the same for defraying the public expenses; to borrow money or emit bills on the credit of the united states, transmitting every half year to the respective states an account of the sums of money so borrowed or emitted, -  to build and equip a navy - to agree upon the number of land forces, and to make requisitions from each state for its quota, in proportion to the number of white inhabitants in such state . . . .

The united states, in congress assembled, shall never engage in a war, nor grant letters of marque and reprisal in time of peace, nor enter into any treaties or alliances, nor coin money, nor regulate the value thereof nor ascertain the sums and expenses necessary for the defence and welfare of the united states, or any of them, nor emit bills, nor borrow money on the credit of the united states, nor appropriate money, nor agree upon the number of vessels of war to be built or purchased, or the number of land or sea forces to be raised, nor appoint a commander in chief of the army or navy, unless nine states assent to the same, nor shall a question on any other point, except for adjourning from day to day, be determined, unless by the votes of a majority of the united states in congress assembled. . . .

Article XIII. Every State shall abide by the determinations of the united states, in congress assembled, on all questions which by this confederation are submitted to them. And the Articles of this confederation shall be inviolably observed by every state, and the union shall be perpetual; nor shall any alteration at any time hereafter be made in any of them, unless such alteration be agreed to in a congress of the united states, and be afterwards con-firmed by the legislatures of every state.

What power did the national government have under the Articles of Confederation quizlet?

The Articles of Confederation created a national government composed of a Congress, which had the power to declare war, appoint military officers, sign treaties, make alliances, appoint foreign ambassadors, and manage relations with Indians.

What power did the national government have under the Articles of Confederation a taxation?

One of the biggest problems was that the national government had no power to impose taxes. To avoid any perception of “taxation without representation,” the Articles of Confederation allowed only state governments to levy taxes. To pay for its expenses, the national government had to request money from the states.

Was the national government strong under the Articles of Confederation?

The Articles created a loose confederation of sovereign states and a weak central government, leaving most of the power with the state governments. The need for a stronger Federal government soon became apparent and eventually led to the Constitutional Convention in 1787.

What powers did the Articles of Confederation have and not have?

Under the Articles, the states, not Congress, had the power to tax. Congress could raise money only by asking the states for funds, borrowing from foreign governments, or selling western lands. In addition, Congress could not draft soldiers or regulate trade. There was no provision for national courts.