Sample Scholarship Essays

Articles Of Confederation

Articles of Confederation Articles of Confederation Analyze the degree to which the Articles provided an effective form of government with respect to any two of the following: Foreign Relations, Economic Conditions, or Western Lands. In 1777, the states enacted the Articles of Confederation to preserve democracy and prevent tyranny from those who sought to centralize power. But in their efforts to keep their independence, the states created a weak central government that was unable to improve an insolvent economy and poor foreign relations. Although the confederation gained some substantial powers, the crucial powers to tax and regulate commerce remained with the individual states. Each state passed their own currency, and therefore created inflation and made “Continentals” in circulation worthless. Compounded with restrictions on trade to Great Britain and down the Mississippi River, the states became mired in a heavy depression. John Fiske, of the conservative view, realized the precarious situation when he stated “the Nation was under the verge of collapse and near-anarchy and that the five year period after 1783 was the most critical time in American History.” Robert Morris, secretary of finance, resorted to desperate measures with the Newburgh conspiracy in an attempt to raise funds for a depleted military; but it took an impassioned plea from General Washington himself to put down the rebellion. Furthermore, the Articles allowed for personal rights abuses such as unsubstantiated foreclosures on farms and ill advised loans to certain ” small groups”, the antithesis of republicanism. As Arthur Schlesinger Jr.

stated “the Articles were to impotent to govern.” Lastly, no judicial system was provided for to enforce laws and therefore allowed for insurrections such as Shays Rebellion. In addition, to pass legislation required a unanimous consent and more than not a single dissenting vote prevented the ratification of strong economic bills. Overall, the Articles were ineffective in improving the economic state of the new nation. Although Thomas Paine (Common Sense) believed that the Articles and decentralization was a logical choice of government after the strict rule of the British, the Articles inherently divided the interests of the thirteen colonies. Following the war for Independence, foreign relations with Britain and Spain was tense at best, but division of the states made relations worse. American delegates had to satisfy the needs of thirteen sovereign states, and therefore any resulting treaty was regarded by the minority as a failure.

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Such was the case in the Jay Gardoqui treaty in which John Jay created a deal for East Coast merchants but at the expense of the interests of the West and South. In addition, a lack of national unity allowed Britain and Spain to continue to subvert the new nation by increasing hostilities with the Indians. Unless a strong a central government was created, the confederation would not be taken seriously by European powers. The British believed that the new nation could not survive and therefore continued to have military personnel stationed in Canada and in the West. The republicans, such as Adams and Madison, summed up their fears when they said that democracy rule under the confederation was “mob rule at worst, uneducated at best.” The Articles was a short term failure in democracy because it lacked the essential strength a government of a national power needed.

It wasnt until the states finally decided to relinquish some power in the Constitution did improvements in economics and foreign relations begin solidify and take shape.

Articles of Confederation

The Articles of Confederation, one of the first official documents establishing the government of the United States, was ineffective and failed to provide a strong government. During this significant period in the history of the United States, anarchy and revolution were growing because of the following reasons. 1) The Continental Congress controlled public affairs but there was nothing in the Articles that gave Congress the power to enforce laws or unify the States. 2) There was no solid monetary system to ensure that taxes would be paid or to protect commerce, both nationally and foreign trade. 3) The country lacked unity and strength because there was no leadership.

The Articles were ineffective because Congress only had the power to recommend actions to the States. It could not enforce its recommendations or laws. Each State had its own constitution, monetary system, and means to enforce the law. Each State had a stronger commitment to the State laws and to the State’s own self-interests than to the recommendations of Congress. Regionalism pitted one State against another, which decreased the sense of unity in the country. For example, when Congress recommended an impost, or duty, on imported goods, the State of Rhode Island voted to reject the idea because they felt it was unfair and was against the constitution of the State.

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The Articles failed to provide a solid monetary system to ensure that taxes would be paid or to protect commerce. Congress had no way to collect taxes to pay off pre-war debts. This led to chaos and anarchy when soldiers that hadn’t been paid marched on Philadelphia, and Congress had to flee to Princeton, New Jersey. Each State had it’s own money, but there was no national money system. Since the money had no value from state to state, the people began to use the barter system of trade. This reduced the amount of trade and importation of goods. There was very little economic progress and growth during this period even though the population was increasing. However, Article six of the Articles of Confederation states that No state shall lay any imposts or duties. This was a strong point of the Articles, yet it needed modifications. Self interest of the States and of individuals added to the cause of the problems. For example, John Jay tried to create a treaty with Great Britain that would have been bad for the merchants of the United States but it would have paid off the war debt. His loyalty was not to the people of his state. In a 1787 speech by William Patterson at the Constitutional Convention Debates, he says that Congress should be authorized to pass acts for raising revenue by levying a duty or duties on all goods or merchandizes.
Instead of keeping the United States unified, the Articles were causing it to fall apart. There was no unity because there was no leadership and no court system. Each State attempted to cede land for it own from other States. The boundaries were constantly changing. This had a negative effect on the loyalty of the people, and on the economics of each area. Without a national court system, laws that kept the nation secure could not be made or enforced. In Brutus 1, the New York Journal, an anonymous author states, The judicial power of the United States is to be vested in a supreme court, and in suck inferior courts as Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. Since there was no president, there was no one to take a stand against the enemies of the United States or to make executive decisions regarding the States. The government could have easily been overthrown by foreign powers. For example, the British still held posts within the boundaries of the States and the Spanish had control of the lower half of the Mississippi River. Without leadership, Congress could not act to gain control of the use of the River. The best Congress could do was to try to negotiate a treaty with the Spanish, but this was not effective.
From 1781 to 1789, the Articles of Confederation provided the United States with an ineffective, and often chaotic, form of government. After the Revolutionary war the unity of the people began to disappear. The States were separated with slow means of transportation and communication, and each State had its own monetary system and its own interests. No economic progress was possible without a unified monetary system. Congress had no power to unify the States to collect taxes, or to enforce laws and recommendations. Without strong leadership or a national court system, there was no way to make changes that were necessary to improve the country. The Articles of Confederation needed to be revised if the country was to survive.

Quote I recommend: In Brutus 1, the New York Journal, an anonymous author states, The judicial power of the United States is to be vested in a supreme court, and in suck inferior courts as Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.

Document I recommend: Thomas Jeffersons letter to James Madison, Dec. 20, 1787, because it clearly and specifically listed everything Madison liked about the Articles and what ideas he wanted to instill in the Constitution.

Articles of Confederation

The Articles of Confederation was the first
constitution of the United States of America. The Articles
of Confederation were first drafted by the Continental
Congress in Philadelphia Pennsylvania in 1777. This first
draft was prepared by a man named John Dickinson in 1776.
The Articles were then ratified in 1781. The cause for the
changes to be made was due to state jealousies and
widespread distrust of the central authority. This jealousy
then led to the emasculation of the document.

As adopted, the articles provided only for a “firm
league of friendship” in which each of the 13 states
expressly held “its sovereignty, freedom, and independence.”
The People of each state were given equal privileges and
rights, freedom of movement was guaranteed, and procedures
for the trials of accused criminals were outlined. The
articles established a national legislature called the
Congress, consisting of two to seven delegates from each
state; each state had one vote, according to its size or
population. No executive or judicial branches were provided
for. Congress was charged with responsibility for
conducting foreign relations, declaring war or peace,
maintaining an army and navy, settling boundary disputes,
establishing and maintaining a postal service, and various
lesser functions. Some of these responsibilities were
shared with the states, and in one way or another Congress
was dependent upon the cooperation of the states for
carrying out any of them.

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Four visible weaknesses of the articles, apart from
those of organization, made it impossible for Congress to
execute its constitutional duties. These were analyzed in
numbers 15-22 of The FEDERALIST, the political essays in
which Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay argued
the case for the U.S. CONSTITUTION of 1787. The first
weakness was that Congress could legislate only for states,
not for individuals; because of this it could not enforce
legislation. Second, Congress had no power to tax. Instead,
it was to assess its expenses and divide those among the
states on the basis of the value of land. States were then
to tax their own citizens to raise the money for these
expenses and turn the proceeds over to Congress. They could
not be forced to do so, and in practice they rarely met
their obligations. Third, Congress lacked the power to
control commerce–without its power to conduct foreign
relations was not necessary, since most treaties except
those of peace were concerned mainly with trade. The fourth
weakness ensured the demise of the Confederation by making
it too difficult to correct the first three. Amendments
could have corrected any of the weaknesses, but amendments
required approval by all 13 state legislatures. None of the
several amendments that were proposed met that requirement.

On the days from September 11, 1786 to September
14, 1786, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Virginia
had a meeting of there delegates at the Annapolis
Convention. Too few states were represented to carry out the
original purpose of the meeting–to discuss the regulation
of interstate commerce–but there was a larger topic at
question, specifically, the weakness of the Articles of
Confederation. Alexander Hamilton successfully proposed
that the states be invited to send delegates to Philadelphia
to render the constitution of the Federal Government
adequate to the exigencies of the Union.” As a result, the
Constitutional Convention was held in May 1787.

The Constitutional Convention, which wrote the
Constitution of the United States, was held in Philadelphia
on May 25, 1787. It was called by the Continental Congress
and several states in response to the expected bankruptcy of
Congress and a sense of panic arising from an armed
revolt–Shays’s Rebellion–in New England. The convention’s
assigned job, following proposals made at the Annapolis
Convention the previous September, was to create amendments
to the Articles of Confederation. The delegates, however,
immediately started writing a new constitution.

Fifty-five delegates representing 12 states attended
at least part of the sessions. Thirty-four of them were
lawyers; most of the others were planters or merchants.
Although George Washington, who presided, was 55, and John
Dickinson was 54, Benjamin Franklin 81, and Roger Shermen
66, most of the delegates were young men in their 20s and
30s. Noticeable absent were the revolutionary leaders of the
effort for independence in 1775-76, such as John Adams,
Patrick Henry, and Thomas Jefferson. The delegates’
knowledge concerning government, both ideal and practical,
made the convention perhaps the most intelligent such
gathering ever assembled.

On September 17 the Constitution was signed by 39 of
the 42 delegates present. A period of national argument
followed, during which the case for support of the
constitution was strongly presented in the FEDERALIST essays
of Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison. The
last of the 13 states to ratify the Constitution was Rhode
Island on May 29, 1790.


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