A Comparison of The Articles of Confederation and The Constitution
After the Continental Congress wrote the Declaration of Independence, the same group also authored another significant document in American politics and history known as the Articles of Confederation. Drafted in the year 1777, the Articles of Confederation was considered as America's first constitution, which basically created a “firm league of friendship” among the thirteen states of America (Archiving Early America, 2008).
Taking into consideration the circumstance in American history and fearing the possible emergence of a powerful central government which could ultimately abuse its authority, the Articles proposed the establishment of a “constitution” which allocates the biggest share to the individual powers of the states. The structure of the government under the Articles of Confederation enables every state the right to maintain their freedom, independence, and sovereignty and the right to be represented in the Congress or America's national legislature.
A few years after the implementation of the Articles of Confederation, the representatives in the Constitutional Convention decided to counter the Articles and created a new provision for the undertakings of USA. These people ultimately signed the U.S. Constitution in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on September 1787. This move is a response from the Constitutional Convention to the dissatisfactions of the American people with the declarations in the Articles and how a strong central government is actually significant and essential for the US (Library of Congress, 2008).
Moreover, it is observable that the ratification and implementation of the new Constitution also came with the emergence of a new Federal government which is perceived to be the same government structure of today's administration. However, looking back at the gradual decline of the power and authority of the Articles of Confederation, it is interesting to know why the sudden turn of events took place and what are the factors that contributed to the transformation. What are the problems and challenges faced by the Articles of Confederation that led to its decline? And what are the modifications done in the US. Constitution that made it more favorable to the American society?
Comparison of the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution
The two important documents in the American society both have similarities and differences. The Articles and the Constitution are observably similar in terms of giving effort in addressing the needs of its constituencies. Although the Articles only lasted for a short while, it was still perceived to be important especially with its provision stating that sovereignty lies primarily in every state. The Constitution, in the same manner, is perceivably encompassing the needs of the people to whom it was created for and is still applicable until now. However, despite their similarities, there is significant number of differences between the two especially considering that the provisions created are greatly unique from each other.
First of all, with regard to their government structure, the Articles of Confederation is observed to only have the national legislature wherein they neither have any executive power nor a system of federal courts (Feldmeth, 1998). This legislature is perceived to be unicameral with the Congress as the policy-making body. On the other hand, the Constitution basically divides the government into three branches: the executive, legislative, and the judiciary. The executive branch is basically headed by the President, which serves as “checks and balance” guarding the power of the legislative and judiciary.
Moreover, the legislative branch made a bicameral Congress with the Senate and the House of Representatives working simultaneously. The changes made in the structure of the government have great implications and manifestations in the policy choices and priorities of the administration in addressing the country's problems and national interest. The second observable difference between the Articles and the Constitution is the provision made in times of war and peace and the undertakings possible if such situation occur. Under Article VI, no vessel or ship of war is allowed to be kept by any state in times of peace except a designated number necessary to assure the security of every sovereign state (Archiving Early America, 2008).
Moreover, the article also declares that no state should engage in any form of war or violence without the approval and consent of the Congress. The Congress is also given the sole responsibility and right in determining on war and peace and in conducting foreign relations. Taking this heavy burden placed among the members of Congress, it is observable that the Articles is bound to fail because its provisions considers the role of Congress with great significance yet limits its power to accomplish its assumed role because sovereignty is held by individual states. This is also the reason that some commentators view the Articles as weak in terms of asserting government authority and power (Feldmeth, 1998).
On the contrary, in terms of the power of the government to address the issue on war and peace, Article II section 2 of the US Constitution asserts that the President is perceived as the commander in chief of the Navy and Army and that he/she has the power to make agreements and treaties with the advice of the Senate (Mount, 2006). Moreover, the Congress under the US Constitution is “authorized to raise and support armies” which is something new considering that this right is accorded to individual states in the Articles of Confederation (Mount, 2006). These powers vested to the central government headed by the President is assumed to have raised the authority of the administration to rule over its constituencies and to assure their security from any threat both internally and externally.
There are actually more aspects of the government structure and provisions from the Articles of Confederation and the US Constitution which could be juxtaposed and analyzed. However, taking into consideration the crucial significance of decisions made in times of peace and war especially in the maintenance of national security, the Articles of Confederation is perceived to give consideration and authority over the powers of every sovereign state enabling them to stand on their own yet tolerating fragmentation. The Constitution, on the other hand, emphasizes the authority and power of the central government in directing the people and in steering them towards their desired goal while protecting them from any insecurities at the same time.
- Archiving Early America. (2008). The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union. Retrieved May 28, 2008, from http://www.earlyamerica.com/earlyamerica/milestones/articles/.
- Feldmeth, G. D. (1998). U.S. History Resources. Retrieved May 28, 2008, from http://home.earthlink.net/~gfeldmeth/USHistory.html
- Library of Congress. (2008, May 21). United States Constitution. Retrieved May 28, 2008, from http://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/ourdocs/Constitution.html.
- Mount, S. (2006). Comparing the Articles and the Constitution. Retrieved May 28, 2008, from http://www.usconstitution.net/constconart.html.