The Articles of Confederation Questions
- Read the text below and answer the questions on your own paper using
Part 1: The Basic Rights
The American colonies were in the middle of a war when they declared themselves independent from Great Britain. By the end of 1776, just a few short months after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, 10 of the 13 colonies had their own constitutions. Four years later, all the states had their own constitutions.
1. What did all the states have four years after the Revolutionary War ended?
The colonists who wrote these constitutions thought it was very important that they have written documents. The British constitution wasn't written down, so British laws could be interpreted any way the judges wanted to. The American colonists wanted the powers of the government to be in writing, so everyone would know what they were.
2. Why did the colonists want the powers of government written down?
They thought that the British government didn't respect what they saw as natural rights (such as "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness"). To this end. The colonists wanted their individual and natural rights protected. Most state constitutions included a bill of rights to protect these natural and individual rights. This bill of rights included many of the rights guaranteed by the current Bill of Rights, including:
• freedom of speech
• freedom of religion
• freedom of the press
• trial by jury
• search warrant for property searches
3. What are the natural rights?
4. What did most state constitutions include?
These constitutions also restricted the power of government. Fearful of another king, the American colonists wanted a government that would serve them, not the other way around. One state, Pennsylvania, didn't even have a governor.
5. What did state constitutions restrict?
Part 2: The Power of the States
This distrust of the power of the government made for very weak colonial governments. And as the war went on, the Americans realized that they needed some form of central government to deal with things like paying soldiers and negotiating with other countries. The result was the Articles of Confederation.
6. Why were the Articles of Confederation written?
Approved in 1777, the Articles established a Confederation government, which was a fancy way of saying that the central government didn't have a whole lot of power. The national legislature was the Confederation Congress. Each state could send from two to seven delegates, but each state also had only one vote. Even if New York sent seven delegates, they all together had only one vote. (So they had to agree on what they were voting for or against.)
7. How many votes did each state have?
Any important decision had to be approved by 9 of the 13 states. This included laws, treaties, and payment for soldiers. Here is a breakdown of the powers granted and denied the Confederation government:
8. How many states had to approve important decisions?
9. What powers did the Articles of Confederation give the government?
10. What powers did the Ariticles of Confederation deny to the government?
11. The Articles of Confederation did not allow the government the power to tax. Why do you think that was?
12. Why do you think the Articles did not have an executive? An executive is one person who is in charge and makes major decisions, like a president or a governor.
Part 3: The First National Government
The Articles of Confederation established the first national government for the United States of America. In light of the terrible treatment the American people had received so very recently, this new government was a welcome sight indeed.
13. What did the Articles of Confederation establish?