The Problems Faced by the United States

This investigation assesses the problems the United States faced under the Articles of Confederation and the extent to which the Constitution addressed them. To achieve this, the investigation analyzes five defects of the Articles: (1) Lack of a proper legislative authority to regulate commerce between states and with foreign nations; (2) The State Quota System for recruiting soldiers; (3) Unfair representation in a unicameral Congress; (4) The lack of a Supreme Court to define and interpret laws; and (5) The division the Articles caused due to a lack of support from the general public.

A number of sources are referenced in the assessment to evaluate the problems posed by the Articles of Confederation. Finally, two sources are analyzed for their origins, purposes, values, and limitations. Sources include an excerpt from The Federalist Without Tears compiled by Jean Stearns, and Decisions in Philadelphia: The Constitutional Convention of 1787 by Christopher Collier. Word count: 150 Part B: Summary of Evidence Five problems of the Government under the Articles of Confederations according to Alexander Hamilton[1]

• Lack of proper legislative authority to regulate commerce between states in the Union and between the United States and foreign nations. • Soldiers were recruited according to a State Quota system, which states only followed when it included their personal interest. • Unicameral Congress[2]: representation based on population- This posed issues as 7 of the states made up less than one third of the United States’ population.

Because of the imbalance the most powerful section of the government susceptible to corruption and foreign influence in the absence of proper checks and balances. • According to Hamilton, the greatest defect was the lack of a Supreme Court. He defined a Supreme Court as an institution to “define and interpret laws, and define the terms of treaties. ”[3] • Hamilton said an effective governing document requires the “consent of the governed. ”[4] The Articles of Confederation were ratified by state legislatures rather than seeking a general consensus.

Positions of Power • Congress representatives were paid; hence they were always capable of being recalled. No state could send less than two or more than seven representatives, and no representative could serve more than three years in six or hold two United States Official jobs at once. [5] • The closest position to an executive power was the President of Congress, who merely chaired meetings. [6] • The Secretary for Foreign Affairs and the Secretary for War had little power. In the end, any important decision needed unanimous consent of the Congress.

[7] • The only power given to the Superintendent of Finance was the power to authorize Admiralty and Land Dispute courts, which was only used once during an interstate dispute. [8] Enacting Laws • Every state had the same number of votes in Congress (1), which angered states with large population. [9] • Any amendments to be made to the Articles required unanimous consent of the Congress. [10] • Under the Articles, states were “sovereign. ” Authorities used this as an excuse to ignore taxes, especially post-revolution taxes to support a standing army.

[11] The resulting army of 700 ill-equipped men was not sufficient to drive out Spanish occupants of Mississippi, the British from the Great Lakes, of defend the citizens from Natives that were being supplied and encouraged to attack frontier settlers by Britain and Spain. • As there was no Judiciary power, Congress’ main function was to act as an Interstate Dispute Court. [12] • Congress could not: levy individual taxes, regulate commerce, prohibit states from coining their own money, enforce tax collections, enforce state treaty obligations, or (most importantly) enforce any legislation that actually did get passed.

[13] Word Count: 443 Part C: Evaluation of Sources “Defects of Government,” written by Alexander Hamilton and published in December of 1787, was the twenty-second essay submitted to the New York Federalist newspaper. This persuasive essay, which can be found in The Federalist Without Tears, was part of a collection of essays in favor of the Constitution. Its purpose was to convince readers of the inefficiency and weakness of the Articles in order to gain supporters of the newly proposed Constitution. It achieved this by emphasizing five critical flaws in the Articles.

A value of the source lies in part with its title – “Defects of Government” – implying a direct summary of the problems the United States faced under the Articles of Confederation, which was the only official foundational document of governmental structure at the time the essay was written. Additionally, its author, Alexander Hamilton, was highly politically involved to say the least, and esteemed as one of the foremost knowledgeable men on the subject. However, the very purpose of the source can also be a limitation.

Because Hamilton was trying to convince readers to reject the Articles, he may have exaggerated some of the flaws or omitted positive attributes. Furthermore, the essays submitted to the Federalist newspaper were written with the target audience of the “common people” in mind, and therefore less evidence was deemed necessary to convince inexpert citizens to embrace a specific point of view. Decisions in Philadelphia: The Constitutional Convention of 1787, by Christopher Collier, was published in May of 1987 as a celebration of the bicentennial of the Convention.

Its purpose is to inform the general public of the Constitution’s conception by means of “recent scholarship… dismissing sectional, economic, or class interests as dominant factors and concentrating instead on the ‘deeply rooted attitudes’ and ‘emotions’ of individual members. ” The value of the source is enhanced by the author’s prominent background: Collier earned his PhD in 1964, served as the official Connecticut State Historian between 1984 and 2004, and currently works at the University of Connecticut as professor of history emeritus.

His works have been awarded the Newbery Honor, the Phoenix Award, and a nomination for the Pulitzer Prize. The book itself offers a new perspective on the Founding Fathers and a generally well-rounded view on the events leading up to the advent of the Constitution, citing almost 100 primary and secondary sources. Nevertheless, the author’s style of writing books as stories acts as a limitation, as retrieving solid historical evidence from a story can prove to be subjective and difficult. The author may, at times, incorporate his own inferences to give characters personality and emotion that may not be completely historically accurate.

Word Count: 439 Part D: Analysis The main issue the Articles of Confederation posed to the United States’ government was a lack of authority to enforce legislation. The Constitution addressed this problem by splitting up Congress into two houses: a House of Representatives (which ended up being very similar to the entire Congress before the Constitution) and the Congress. Most important to solving the Articles’ issues was the addition of the Executive Branch. Not only was Congress weak because of its lack of power, it also had to spend time doing jobs now granted to the Judiciary Branch.

As it was ratified by the general public as a whole, it solved the issue of contradicting state interests as the result of division in the Union. In the Constitution, proper representation was taken into consideration with the addition of the two houses. Both big and small states compromised by the new voting system introduced by the Electoral College. A National Treasure now dealt with the coining of currency and an evolving Cabinet system solved issues pertaining to the dispute of what governmental positions had authority to act in what areas.

One of these critical areas, foreign affairs, was aided with the new mindset of being one unified country. The United States, under the Constitution, could interact with other nations with a firm self interest in mind, benefiting citizens of states across the entire Union. The Constitution also gave its Congress the power to levy individual taxes, regulate commerce, prohibit states from coining their own money, enforce tax collections, enforce state treaty obligations, and enforce any legislation that passed.

Government also inherited power from the Articles to raise an army, appoint a Commander in Chief, negotiate with foreign nations, determine peace and war, send and receive Ambassadors, enter into treaties, deal with prizes taken by the United States after wars, fix weight and measurement standards, regulate non-citizen Native American affairs, establish and maintain a postal system appoint military officials above colonel, and decide the outcome of interstate disputes. [14] Many of these military advancements were responsible in leading the new United States of America to becoming a world power.

In addition to making the voting system more proportionate, as stated earlier, the Constitution compromised in changing the standard for passing new legislation, and perhaps because of the country’s new unity, less legislation was required pertaining to state disagreements. As for the voting members who passed this legislation, election and appointment standards were also changed to a more consistent and logical system to aid in the process of passing legislation and recovering from change in official positions more swiftly.

All of these changes seem to have one main theme in common- a more definitive and easily interpreted set of guidelines on how to govern a country. One of the most significant differences between the Articles of Confederation of the Constitution, perhaps, was its phraseology. No longer could smaller governments escape accountability or legislation, and court processes were made faster with a set of laws made less “up for interpretation.

” In sum, what the Articles were lacking, and what the Constitution in turn provided, was a dictation of rules so blunt and misinterpretation-proof, that no longer could the power of the central government be questioned or devalued. Word Count: 536 Part E: Conclusion While the Articles of Confederation did establish the United States’ first official set of guidelines for governmental structure, it deprived its Congress of a significantly influential governing role in comparison with the “sovereign” state legislatures.

Any power the legislative authorities of the central government possessed under the Articles was undone by the absence of executive authority to enforce the meager amount of verdicts that against all odds were passed. Perhaps the weakness of the Articles is to be blamed on opposing individual state interests; however, it was still the Articles that were to blame for the division of the Union nevertheless.

Though some historians believe that with minor alterations the Articles of Confederation could have survived for many more years,[15] its fundamental flaw – its lack of a 3 house Congress – was destined to be efficacious in the eventually switch to the Constitution. What the Constitution really achieved for the country was a foundation of authority. It states in black and white the powers of the Congress and the rights given to enforce those powers, whereas the Articles only gave Congress an arbitrary right to rule that could easily be ignored because of its noncommittal language and potential to be misinterpreted.

Word Count: 200 Final Word Count: 1768 Part F: List of Sources 1. Jensen, Merrill. The Making of the American Constitution. Huntington, New York: Robert E. Krieger Publishing Company Inc. , 1946. (Secondary) 2. Urofsky, Melvin I. Documents of American Constitutional & Legal History: Volume One. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1989. (Primary) 3. Peltason, J. W. Corwin and Peltason’s Understanding the Constitution: Fifth Edition. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston Inc. , 1949. (Secondary) 4. Stearns, Jean.

The Federalist Without Tears. Washington DC: University Press of America, Inc. , 1977. (Primary) 5. Collier, Christopher/ Collier, James Lincoln. Decisions in Philadelphia: The Constitutional Convention of 1787. New York: Reader’s Digest Press, Random House Inc. , 1986. (Secondary) 6. Wright, Esmond. Fabric of Freedom: 1763-1800, Revised Edition. New York: Hill and Wang, 1978. (Secondary) 7. Berkin, Carol. A Brilliant Solution: Inventing the American Constitution. Orlando: A Harvest Book Harcourt, Inc. , 2002. (Secondary)

8. Morgan, Edmond S. The Birth of the Republic: 1763-1789. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1956. (Secondary) ———————– [1] Stearns, Jean. The Federalist Without Tears. Washington DC: University Press of America, Inc. , 1977. 56-58. [2] The Congress functioned with only one house. [3] Ibid, 57. [4] Ibid, 58. [5] Peltason, J. W. Corwin and Peltason’s Understanding the Constitution: Fifth Edition. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston Inc. , 1949. 10. [6] Collier, Christopher/ Collier, James Lincoln.

Decisions in Philadelphia: The Constitutional Convention of 1787. New York: Reader’s Digest Press, Random House Inc. , 1986. 4. [7] Ibid, 4. [8] Ibid, 4. [9] Ibid, 4. [10] Ibid, 4. [11] Ibid, 4. [12] Peltason, J. W. Corwin and Peltason’s Understanding the Constitution: Fifth Edition. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston Inc. , 1949. 10. [13] Ibid, 10. [14] Ibid, 10. [15] Urofsky, Melvin I. Documents of American Constitutional & Legal History: Volume One. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1989. 69.