Confederation and Constitution

Jul 21, 2020 in History Essay

Confederation and Constitution History Essay Sample

Throughout its history, the US has had two constitutions. The Articles of Confederation was the first Constitution of the US, and it came into force in 1781 after it had been ratified by the state of Maryland. Later in 1981, the Articles of Confederation were replaced by the Constitution from June 21, 1778, which was ratified by New Hampshire. The two constitutions were developed by same individuals. However, there is a great number of differences in terms of details, and this can be attributed to what the framers of the two documents found similar. The paper focuses on the differences and similarities between the two documents.

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To begin with, the Articles of Confederation did not create a country. The Articles of Confederation was a document that only recognized a confederation of 13 states that were seeking independence. However, the Articles defined and specified the name of the nation. According to the document, the name of the country was the United States of America. As far as the Constitution was concerned, it recognized the state. Instead of viewing the states as sovereign, the Constitution recognized the sovereignty of the whole nation (“Drafting the Constitution,” 2016). On the whole, it recognized the sovereignty of the people and the state. Moreover, according to the Constitution, there was the separation of power between the central government and the state government. It fully recognized the state as an independent body free from the colonies, and the state was expected to maintain its sovereignty. However, the Constitution did not specify the name of the state as specified by the Articles of Confederation (“Drafting the Constitution,” 2016).

Another difference, which is also a weakness, is that under the Articles of Confederation, the Congress did not have the powers to levy or impose taxes on people. The only thing that the Congress could do was to make a request so that people could raise the money that would be used to manage their expenses. However, as far as the new Constitution was concerned, the Congress had significant powers. Thus, it could impose taxes on people. The taxes were used for the national activities; and thus, if the Congress believed it to be necessary to impose some taxes, it could make such decision (Pope & Treier, 2011, p. 300). A major weakness of the Articles of Confederation was connected to the ways of dealing with the issue of the western problem. The states had different views on it, and the Articles could not find a viable solution to the problem.

According to the Articles of Confederation, the process of amending the document was quite complex. This procedure required the consensus of all the states. The Articles of Confederation covered 13 states; thus, all the 13 states had to agree if there was any need of a change of the document. As a result, it was quite difficult to alter the document since the consensus of 13 states was not easily achievable. However, according to the new Constitution, a change could be made by a simple majority, which means 2/3. Thus, it was easier to make changes in the new Constitution than in the Articles of Confederation (Clark, 2013).

One of the key similarities between the two types of constitutions is that they were both aimed at creating a democratic nation. Therefore, both documents do not mention the existence of the monarch. The Articles of Confederation and the Constitution also prohibit the creation of nobility. Thus, the two documents clearly focused on the establishing of a democratic nation where people would be granted equal rights and freedoms. Moreover, there is no mention of a monarchic system of government in either of the document (Clark, 2013).

Another similarity is that the two documents recognize the importance of the role of the government. According to the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution, the government is in charge of key aspects, such as the internal affairs. Moreover, the two documents recognize the significance of treating other nations as equal. Thus, they also state that the US citizens should respect and treat the other citizens fairly (Clark, 2013).

Drafting the Constitution

There were many factors that demanded a strong government that was supported by the Articles of Confederation. The industrial sector had no success since the industries were not protected, and at the same time, landowners demanded protection. In order to address these issues, the 12 delegates drawn from the 13 states met in Philadelphia to draft the Constitution. The main intention was to make a revision to the Articles of Confederation, but the members decided to form a new system of government (Dougherty, 2006, p. 105). In the early debates, the issue of the Virginia Plan was quite eminent. A bicameral legislature with the authority to levy taxes and even make laws was proposed. The plan had no provision for the election of executives (“Drafting the Constitution,” 2016).

However, the aforementioned factors resulted in the strong resistance of William of New Jersey. It subsequently led to the New Jersey plan where one house legislature was maintained, but the powers of the legislature were expanded to include the raising of revenue and commerce regulation. According to the plan, the executives could be removed by a majority of the governors (Dougherty, 2006, p. 103). The laws that had been made by the legislature were supposed to be binding for the states. However, the New Jersey plan was also rejected. The issue of the apportionment of representation in the Congress became an eminent issue that continued to divide the convention. The large states put forward a proposal where they wanted the representation in the states to be based on the population. However, the small states had a contrary point of view. They wanted a scenario where each state will be guaranteed a single vote. Therefore, due to these differences, the issue of the Great Compromise arose (Pope & Treier, 2011, p. 289).

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The Great Compromise

According to the Great Compromise, the number of seats in the Congress was supposed to be proportional to the population of the state (Dougherty, 2006, p.103). The Great Compromise was the idea of Roger Sherman who proposed that the Senate representation was to have equal members from each state, but in the case of the Congress, the representation was to be associated with the population. Sherman’s idea was adopted by a majority vote. The Great Compromise became a solution to the otherwise crumbling convention, and it also provided a motivation that led to the solving of other underlying issues (Pope & Treier, 2011, p. 286). Another important challenge that arose was the issue of slaves. Some states were against the free trade while others supported it. It all led to the Three-Fifth Compromise whereby the Congress was barred from prohibiting slave trade. For the purposes of representation, only the free people were considered for representation (Pope & Treier, 2011, p. 289).

The Federalists and the Anti-Federalists

The federalists supported the creation of a strong government as well as the process of ratifying the Constitution in order for the government to be able to manage debts and other issues. On the other hand, the anti-federalists were opposed to the idea of a powerful federal government. They strongly advocated for the creation of a government where the powers would be concentrated in the state and the local government. In addition, the any-federalists believed that a strong central government was a major threat to the independence of the states. Another issue where the federalist and the anti-federalists argued with each other is was the economy. The federalists supported a central banking system for all the states. For example, they advocated for the creation of a central government which would control the economy and other banks. On the other hand, the anti-federalists opposed the idea and argued that states and people had to operate freely (Wood, 2010).

The issue of the Bill of Rights was also a serious problem that elaborates the differences between the two sides. The anti-federalists strongly supported the Bill of Rights and they argued that the document would guarantee the protection of the individuals by the state. On the other hand, the federalists had a contrary point of view and felt that it would result in the significant controversy between the state and people. The Bill of Rights has been successful in maintaining a balance between the states and the national interests. The rights that people have been granted have enabled the states to operate freely without the interference from the national government. In addition, the Bill of Rights has also enabled people to serve the national interests more effectively (Wood, 2010).


The United States of America has had two constitutions since its creation. The Articles of Confederation preceded the creation of the Constitution. The Articles of Confederation was changed due to the rising need of creating a strong government. There were serious disagreements related to the creation of the Constitution, which, however, led to a compromise between the states whose aim was to resolve some serious issues. The Great Compromise helped to set the pace for the formation of the Constitution. The federalists and the anti-federalists opposed each other on different occasions. They differed on the powers of a strong government: the federalists advocated for the creation of a strong central government, and the anti-federalists advocated for a government where the power was to rest on the states and the national government.


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