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Fun Facts About The Articles of Confederation for Kids

The Articles of Confederation, formally the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, was an agreement among the 13 founding states that established the United States of America as a confederation of sovereign states and served as its first constitution.

  • Its drafting by the Continental Congress began in mid 1776, and an approved version was sent to the states for ratification in late 1777.
  • The formal ratification by all 13 states was completed in early 1781.
  • Even if not yet ratified, the Articles provided domestic and international legitimacy for the Continental Congress to direct the American Revolutionary War, conduct diplomacy with Europe and deal with territorial issues and Indian relations.
  • Nevertheless, the weak government created by the Articles became a matter of concern for key nationalists.
  • The new Constitution provided for a much stronger national government with a chief executive (the president), courts, and taxing powers.
  • With civil disobedience resulting in coercive and intolerable acts, and armed conflict resulting in being proclaimed rebels and outside the King’s protection, any loyalty remaining shifted toward independence and how to achieve it.
  • In early 1776, Thomas Paine argued in the closing pages of the first edition of Common Sense that the “custom of nations” demanded a declaration of American independence, if any European power were even to mediate a peace between the Americans and Great Britain.
  • There were long debates on such issues as sovereignty, the exact powers to be given the confederal government, whether to have a judiciary, and voting procedures.
  • It was made capable of making war and peace, negotiating diplomatic and commercial agreements with foreign countries, and deciding disputes between the states, including their additional and contested western territories.
  • John Dickinson and Benjamin Franklin’s handwritten drafts of the Articles of Confederation are housed at the National Archives in Washington DC.
  • After the war, nationalists, especially those who had been active in the Continental Army, complained that the Articles were too weak for an effective government.
  • The Treaty of Paris (1783), which ended hostilities with Great Britain, languished in Congress for months because several state representatives failed to attend sessions of the national legislature to ratify it.
  • Knox wrote: As Congress failed to act on the petitions, Knox wrote to Governor Morris, four years before the Philadelphia Convention was convened, “As the present Constitution is so defective, why do not you great men call the people together and tell them so; that is, to have a convention of the States to form a better Constitution.”
  • In 1783, George Washington defused the Newburgh conspiracy, but riots by unpaid Pennsylvania veterans forced Congress to leave Philadelphia temporarily.