Difference between articles of confederation and constitution
After the United States was declared independent in 1776, a committee was formed in 1777 to create “The Articles of Confederation” that acted as the very first constitution of the 13 original Free states. However, “The Articles of Confederation” had numerous weaknesses that adversely affected the smooth operation of the central government in fulfilling its mandate. Some of the weaknesses of these Articles were economic disorganization, lack of central government power, and legislative inefficiencies. To rectify these weaknesses, the Supreme law that would supersede any other in the United States had to be created. The founding fathers resolved that replacing “the Articles of Confederation” with the Constitution was the only way to strengthen federal government and provide the central government with the necessary power to execute its mandates. As Elliot asserts “the armed insurrection against Massachusetts’ state government in 1786 known as Shays’ Rebellion further mobilized the Federalists’ call for a stronger central government.” Delegates from all states convened in Philadelphia to start deliberations on amending the Articles in 1787. A Comparison of the Constitution and “the articles of confederation reveal numerous similarities as well as differences in the two documents.
Are there any similarities?
The United States’ Constitution is the supreme law within the boundaries of the country and any other law that contravenes its provisions is declared void and null and thus cannot take effect. This Constitution has acted as a guide to the evolution of its governmental institutions thus providing grounds for social progress, economic growth, political stability, and individual freedom. According to Chu and Keith “the American Constitution is the world’s oldest written constitution in force, one that has served as the model for a number of other constitutions around the world.” The prolonged use of the Constitution is derived from its flexibility and plainness. Originally, it governed approximately 4 million citizens of the 13 original states. Today, it governs over 260 million citizens of the 52 states and has been subjected 27 amendments. The process of creating the Constitution did not just happen, but was marred by intense debate and numerous proposals of the appropriate version. A draft of the Constitution was released in 1787 after ten years of reliance on the 1777 articles.
We have covered the weakness of the articles of confederation
The articles provided for a fragile alliance among the 13 states and thus led to a very weak federal government that could not attend to the economic, political, social, and security needs of the 4 million citizens. On the other hand, the Constitution provided for a smooth mechanism of empowering the federal government and thus strengthened the association among all states. Under the Articles, the central government could not effectively act on critical matters such as public finance, trade, and defense since it relied on the decisions made by the respective state legislatures. As Kesavan asserts “Within a short time the weakness of the confederation was apparent to all since politically and economically, the new nation was close to chaos.” Amidst this chaos, the Constitution was drafted in 1787 and adopted in 1789. The Constitution was drafted by 55 delegates among them prominent leaders and Founding Fathers. All consented to the objective of the Constitution that states:
“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America” (Rodgers).
The Constitution was more uniting than the Articles. As Elliot asserts “The primary aim of the Constitution was to create a strong elected government, directly responsive to the will of the people.” For this reason, the Constitution gave power to the citizens in comparison to the articles. The result of this is that the states became more united under the Constitution than under the articles. According to Chu and Keith “the Articles of Confederation had tried to unite the states, but the Constitution, by contrast, established a strong central, or federal, government with broad powers to regulate relations between the states and with sole responsibility in such areas as foreign affairs and defense.”
As provided by the Constitution, the federal government is at the apex of the pyramid in terms of power and jurisdiction. However, every level of government exercise huge extent of autonomy having been offered some particular powers that not even the federal government can curtail. Also, the Constitution provided respective courts with the jurisdiction to solve the disputes arising among different jurisdictions. This presented harmony among states and between states and the federal government that was previously missing under the rule of the “Articles of Confederation.” The Constitution gave all legislatures of respective states the authority to make a decision on how the representatives of the Electoral College, senators, and other representatives.
In line with the structure of the government, the Articles had instituted national legislature that had no executive powers and had no federal courts. On the other hand, the structure of the government as provided for in the Constitution was stratified into tri-divisions namely; the judiciary, legislature, and executive. The executive division was given the mandate of conducting “checks and balance” (Elliot) thus guarding legislative division and judiciary branch. The head of executive division is the President. As Clark asserts “the changes made in 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 other difference between the articles and the Constitution was evident from the provisions developed regarding the response of situations of war and restoration of peace. As provided in 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” (Rodgers). Further, this clause prohibited the states from engaging in any kind of war without the authorization by the Congress.
Additionally, the Constitution gave Congress the mandate of making decisions pertaining to conflicts, peace, and engaging in foreign relations. In regard to these responsibilities and powers bestowed on Congress, the Confederation Articles were bound to fail since they greatly limited the sovereignty of Congress. As Kesavan asserts “this is the reason some commentators view the Articles as weak in terms of asserting government authority and power.” Contrary to the Articles, the Constitution under Section 2 of Article II provides that “the President of the United States is perceived as the Commander in Chief of the armed forces and has the power to make agreements and treaties with the advice of the Senate” (Rodgers). In addition, the Congress was given power to raise funds and provide for the army. This was contrary to the Articles that only gave power to individual states in determining when to engage the army or not to. The powers vested on the President and the Congress by the Constitution raised the sovereignty level of the central government in reigning over the citizens and assuring security from an internal or external threat. In terms of trade regulation, the federal government was given the power over trade control at both inter-state and international levels. The Articles had not provided for such power to the central government to control interstate and international trade.
Why the constitution is better than Aoc
In conclusion, “the Articles of Confederation” had numerous weaknesses that adversely affected the smooth operation of the central government in fulfilling its mandate. Some of the weaknesses of these Articles were economic disorganization, lack of central government power, and legislative inefficiencies. A Comparison of the Constitution and “the articles of confederation reveal numerous similarities as well as differences in the two documents. In terms of trade regulation, the federal government was given the power over trade control at both inter-state and international levels whereas the Articles conferred power to individual states. The Constitution gave Congress the mandate of making decisions pertaining to conflicts, peace, and engaging in foreign relations. Additionally, the Constitution provided for a smooth mechanism of empowering the federal government and thus strengthened the association among all states. On the other hand, the Articles provided for a fragile alliance among the 13 states and thus led to a very weak federal government that could not attend to the economic, political, social, and security needs of the 4 million citizens.
Chu, Jonathan M. and Keith L. Dougherty. “Collective Action Under The Articles Of Confederation”. The Journal Of American History, vol 89, no. 3, 2002, p. 1025. Oxford University Press (OUP), doi:10.2307/3092366.
Clark, Joshua. “United States Diplomatic Negotiations Under The Articles Of Confederation”. The Eagle Feather, 2013, University Of North Texas Libraries, doi:10.12794/tef.2013.277.
Elliot, Jonathan. “The Debates In The Several State Conventions On The Adoption Of The Federal Constitution, As Recommended By The General Convention At Philadelphia In 1787”. Google Books, 2010, https://books.google.com/books?id=pTAMAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA98&redir_esc=y&hl=en#v=onepage&q&f=false.
Kesavan, Vasan. “”When Did The Articles Of Confederation Cease To Be Law””. Scholarship.Law.Nd.Edu, 2002, http://scholarship.law.nd.edu/ndlr/vol78/iss1/3/.
Rodgers, Paul. “United States Constitutional Law: An Introduction”. Google Books, 2011, https://books.google.com/books?id=WUOXmAEACAAJ&pg=PA109&redir_esc=y&hl=en.