The Articles of Confederation proved to be an ineffective Constitution for the United States, as it did not afford the Federal Government sufficient authority to accomplish its stated aims. While there were some similarities between the Articles of Confederation, the differences far outweighed the similarities, especially in the area of Federal power and effectiveness.
There were some similarities between the Articles of Confederation and the U.S. Constitution. Both called for the formation of a national government. Both also contained a Congress for making laws. (Kennedy, Cohen & Bailey, 2004) Both constitutions gave congress the authority to impose taxes. Both involved representatives of all the states in the Congress. (Kennedy, Cohen & Bailey, 2004)Both governments had some form of a federal judicial branch as well. (Kennedy, Cohen & Bailey, 2004)Despite thee cosmetic similarities, there were several differences between the two constitutions, most of them dealing with the weakness of the federal government under the Articles of Confederation. (Kennedy, Cohen & Bailey, 2004)
The Articles of Confederation (AOC) intentionally crippled the Federal government making it unable to perform its stated functions. (Jensen, 1962) The Constitution, on the other hand, granted the government the power to do what was necessary to fulfill its goals. (Farrand, 1921) Representing a firm union of people, rather than a loose confederation of states, the U.S. Constitution sought to balance the weak federal government of the Articles with the overweening power of the British monarchy. (Kennedy, Cohen & Bailey, 2004) The Congress of the AOC contained only one vote per state. (Jensen, 1962) The constitution, in contrast had a bicameral legislature where one house held representation based on population, and the other gave equal voice to all the states. Rather than the prohibitively difficult task of getting nine of thirteen states to vote in favor to pass laws under the AOC, (Jensen, 1962) the new Constitution called for a simple majority in both houses. Enforcement, under the Constitution, came under the authority of the executive, a branch that did not exist under the AOC. (Kennedy, Cohen & Bailey, 2004) A robust executive had command of the armed forces, but only congress could finance them. The powers of congress were increased as well. Under the AOC, congress could not regulate commerce, nor did they have a mechanism to collect taxes. (Jensen, 1962) The new Constitution remedied that, giving specific power to congress to regulate commerce and levy taxes. (Farrand, 1921) The new constitution also allowed for additional powers of congress through the “necessary and proper” clause of Article One, Section 8. (Farrand, 1921) All told, the federal government was organized much more efficiently and effectively under the U.S. Constitution than it was under the AOC.
Kennedy, D, Cohen, L. & Bailey, T. (2004) The American Pageant (13th Edition), Houghton-Mifflin Co. Boston, MA.
Jensen, M. (1962) The New Nation: A History of the United States during the Confederation, 1781-1789, Vintage Books (Random House), New York.
Farrand, M. (1921) The Fathers of the Constitution: A Chronicle of the Establishment of the Union, Yale University pres, new Haven, CT.