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Robert Kennedy's United States History Class

Required Lecture LO II

Suggested Readings:

Suggested Viewing 

Learning Objective II:

Discuss the structure of the government under the Articles of Confederation.  

As mentioned, the Articles of Confederation was called a "League of Friendship" by Dickinson; by others it was called the "Articles of Confusion." The Articles provided for 13 independent states who were linked together for joint action in dealing with common problems. No state could be forced by terms of the Articles to participate in any activity sponsored by the government under the Articles unless it so desired.


The Congress under the Articles received only those powers which the colonies had recognized as belonging to the King and Parliament.


Thus, Congress was given all powers connected with war and peace, except the power of taxation to support a war . The new government could direct foreign affairs and make treaties, but it could not force the states to obey.

The Congress had the power to create a navy and could ask the states to provide men and money for an army, but if they refused , there was nothing the government could do. The Congress could borrow and coin money , but so could the states.


The government also needed the power to regulate the trade between the states and foreign countries in order to bring stability out of the financial chaos that existed within each state. The Articles of Confederation created a balance of power between the state and central government by providing for a firm national government without weakening the self-determination of the individual states.


The present-day U.S. Constitution overcame this organizational or structural problem by using the principle of FEDERALISM.