Why Did the Articles of Confederation Fail?

These articles were designed to be the Constitution of the 13 states that made up America. It was ratified in 1781. But within six years, revisions were already underway. Some of the major reasons why the Articles of Confederation failed are the following.

Tax Issues

Some of the biggest problems involved taxes. Congress had no power over its implementation. This led to several difficulties. First of all, the states gave very little financial assistance to the government. This made it almost impossible for the government to

pay the soldiers who fought in the Revolution.
Without money, Congress was unable to maintain an army. This made it easy for the British to set up camp in some areas because there were no patrols. Without funding, the government ended up in debt.

Trade Issues

Another reason why the Articles of Confederation failed was the insufficient law concerning trade. The lack of supervisory control meant the states could impose different tariff levels.

This led to trade standoffs that nearly paralyzed the economy. This problem wasn’t just confined to interstate trade. It was also evident in foreign trade as well.

The result was utter confusion. States used different tax systems and rates when buying and selling goods from each other. The different tax rates also affected their trade with European countries. It came to the point when each state used its own currency. As each imposed heavy taxes on the other, trading almost grounded to a halt.

No Federal Courts

The inefficient judicial system can also explain why the Articles of Confederation failed. The federal court was not yet in existence. This meant that border disputes were hardly ever resolved. Each state set up its own laws. Because the states didn’t recognize each other’s laws, fugitives were able to escape punishment by relocating to the nearest state around them.

The One Vote Law

The Constitution also set a provision whereby each state was worth one vote in Congress. Eventually some states ended up with having larger populations than others. The bigger states started complaining that the system was unfair.

Other Problems

For Congress to approve a legislative measure, it needed the approval of 9 states. With the intense state rivalries, it became impossible to secure a majority. Congress also lacked the power to keep the states from establishing trade relations with other countries.

Another reason why the Articles of Confederation failed was that Congress didn’t have the power to manage the states. This became evident with the Treaty of Paris in 1783. It was supposed to mark the end of the American Revolution, but Congress couldn’t even get the states to sign them.

Lack of Government Power

In the end it boiled down to an uneven distribution of power. Too much power was given to the states and not enough to Congress.

For all its deficiencies, it was able to function as the template for the new Constitution. By recognizing the reasons why the Articles of Confederation failed, Congress was able to make the proper revisions in 1788.

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