Articles of Confederation 1777 and the U.S. Constitution 1787: Objective Comparison


Articles of confederation were authored by the continental congress on 15th November 1777 and ratified on March 1, 1781, with the basic purpose of giving a documented Constitution to the then United States of America. The original five paged articles of confederation consisted of detailed thirteen articles, a section for the signatories, and a summary conclusion. That was the governing Supreme law of the thirteen independent and self-styled sovereign states of the erstwhile USA. Those States were vested with sovereignty over all governmental functions without giving any formal authority to the federal government.

That sovereign authority to the States became de-jure by final ratification on 1st March 1781 and the USA became a Congress of Confederation. The Articles of Federation, in its entirety, set the rules of the game for making war, setting diplomatic relations, resolving border issues. However, each state had its currency.

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However, the Article of Confederation meant for the perpetual union of the United States of America drew immediate criticism from a group of federalists. They thought that the government could not be run effectively under these Articles. They thought the larger states had more powers than the smaller ones. The government-run through the Congress of the Confederation had no taxation authority and it had to depend on the requested funds from the confederating states. The federalists wanted uniform tariffs, prices, and a uniform responsibility for the estate’s debts.

Since the Congress of Confederation of the United States was still at war with the United Kingdom, the colonists were mentally not prepared to have a powerful national government. Therefore, they wanted to have a unicameral loose structure of legislature to protect their states. And in fact, the Articles of Confederation that supported the policy of having a continental army for dealing with the European powers was a failure.

Congress had been debating the Articles of Confederation for almost 2 years and the ratification process three and half years. Samuel Huntington was the 1st president of the United States of America from 1st March 1781 to 9th July 1781. Where Cyrus Griffin was the last president of the United States under the confederation from 22nd January 1788 to 2nd November 1788. These were the federalists under whose pressure the Constitution of the United States replaced the Articles of Confederation. There was hardly notable progress except for the evolutionary political, legislative and constitutional struggle for the nascent state under the Articles of Confederation.

The United States Constitution was authored by the delegates of the Philadelphia Convention on 17th Sep 1787 and was ratified on 21st June 1788 with the main purpose of replacing the existing articles of confederation. The constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the land. It defines the strongest framework for the organization of 3 branches of the government. The bicameral legislature consisting of the Senate, the executive headed by the President, the judiciary headed by the Supreme Court. The US constitution is the shortest and oldest written document of the supreme law of the country.

It essentially transformed the United States from a confederation to a federation. There were several new ideas, which were drawn from the literature on republicanism in the United States, and ultimately a sort of mixed government was achieved. Common law was derived from the Magna Carta of 1215. The preamble of the United States refers to the perfect union, perfect justice, domestic tranquility, common defense, welfare, and liberty for present and future generations of the USA.

This constitution is consisting of 7 main articles including legislative, executive, judicial powers. Article 4 refers to the powers and limits of the states. Article 5 gives the process of amendments, article 6 describes federal powers, and article 7 refers to the ratification process. Later the subsequent amendments in the constitution further elaborate the powers of the state versus federation and in powers the citizens without discrimination based on race, religion, and culture, etc.

This is the constitution of the United States that has given a strong basis for the economy of the country to strengthen by leaps and bounds in the years to follow particularly in the earlier years of the eighteenth century. In essence, this was the constitution of the USA that set a roadmap for the undeterred power for the country in the economy, technology, and international community. Civil liberties set a trend of unlimited development for the country.

Article 1, section 8 of the US Constitution clearly states, courtesy 16th amendment, Congress is given full power to lay and collect taxes on income, and clause 1 of this section tells that the congress shall have the power to levy and collect taxes, duties, imposts, and excises to pay the debt and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the USA, but all the duties, imports, and excises shall be uniform throughout the US. Whereas under Article 8 of the Articles of Confederation, expenditures by the United States were to be paid by funds begotten from the state legislatures duly apportioned onto the states based on their real property.

The congress had no power to raise, levy, or collect funds under the articles of confederation but under the constitution, the congress had appropriate powers wasted in it also to the federal power under article 6. Whereas article 4 of the constitution gave powers to the states and limited these powers. The states are also empowered to impose and collect local taxes other than the federal taxes. Under the Articles of Confederation Congress was not allowed to have the power of taxation and their fore was always short of money.

Under the constitution of the USA, all the federal taxes like income tax, customs duties, excise duties, sale tax, wealth tax, value-added tax, etc are imposed legislated, and collected by the federal government by the treasury department under the congressional powers. The federal treasury office spends the funds so collected on defense, foreign relations, and federal government heads of expenditure. The federal government also funds the general subsidies of the US Aid and welfare programs.

The state governments collect state taxes like agricultural tax, property tax, rental taxes, pollution taxes, etc. The funds so raised or spend on different developmental and welfare projects of the state government.