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American Government The Articles of Confederation Independence! Now what? • We all know that the United States achieved independence from Great Britain after the American Revolution, but winning a war was not the only concern. Colonists also had to come up with a new form of government. Constitutions and Government • A constitution is a plan that provides the rules and structure for government. • Constitutions set out the goals and purposes of government as well as the ideals shared by the people. • Constitutions provide the supreme law for states and their governments. State Constitutions • American political leaders began drafting state constitutions. New Hampshire was the first state to ratify in January of 1776. • Most state legislatures were bicameral (had two houses). Most constitution also had a bill of rights. • Each state had a governor. Massachusetts Constitution • The Massachusetts Constitution divided power evenly between the legislature, the governor, and the courts. • The governor and the courts were given authority to check the legislature. • The constitution was created by a special convention and then approved by the citizens. Articles of Confederation • First attempt at a unified government of all 13 former colonies. • Proposed in 1777. • Ratified by all 13 independent states by 1781. The Articles of Confederation • 1776- Thirteen delegates drafted a proposal for loosely uniting the colonies • 1775-1783- Important during the war years • 1781- Maryland gave its ratification and the first constitution of what would be called the “United States of America” officially took effect. Failures of the Articles • Congress could print money, but by 1786, the money was useless • Congress could borrow money, but could not pay it back • No state paid all of their U.S. taxes • Default on debt owed to foreign governments • The United States could not defend itself as an independent nation • Too few troops able to defend territories • Troops were not paid so many defected • Barbary Pirates began seizing ships • Congress had no funds to stop piracy • 13 individual states • Border and Land disputes • 1783 Treaty of Paris Key Features of the Articles • Weak national government • One branch of government – Legislative • Unicameral • One vote per state – all were equal. Weaknesses of the Articles • The Congress had to depend on the states for money and had no power to tax, regulate trade, or enforce laws. • Amending the Articles required the approval of all the states. • No president or executive branch. • No system of national courts; state courts enforced and interpreted national laws. Weaknesses of the Articles (cont.) Weaknesses of the Articles (cont.) 1) They could borrow or request money from states. 2) Weak, they gave little power to government 3) They could wage war and make treaties and alliances with other nations Discussion Question • Why did the writers of the Articles of Confederation make the plan so weak? • Their experience with a king made delegates afraid to give any one individual or branch too much power. Important achievements… The Confederation government ….. • established a fair policy for developing western land – the Northwest Ordinance. • signed the peace treaty with England. • set up several departments establishing the precedent for cabinet departments later mentioned in the Constitution. The Need for Stronger Government • Soon after the war, disputes broke out among the states; the government’s debt left soldiers unpaid. • An economic depression in 1786 led to Shay’s Rebellion, an armed uprising by Massachusetts farmers who could not pay their debts. • They decided to call a constitutional convention in Philadelphia Discussion Question • How did Shays’s Rebellion suggest the need for a stronger government? • The rebellion alarmed people who feared mob violence and the Confederation government’s inability to do anything about it.