1700s |

States Receive The Articles of Confederation – 11/17/1777

When it comes to compromise, it is almost a guarantee that some time will pass before both sides can agree on a given plan. Sometimes it can be achieved in a short span of time while other times it can be longer; then again, there are cases where no compromise can be reached. One example of this process goes back centuries to the colonial times of our fore-fathers. In fact, Congress had to find a way for everyone to be comfortable with the Articles of Confederation that was finally sent to all of the states for ratification on November 17th, 1777.

Congress had signed the Articles two days prior but it took roughly sixteen months of debating before a compromise could be reached. Even though it took Congress about a year-and-a-half before they would sign the Articles, the quarreling between Maryland and Virginia over land claims had postponed the final agreement for roughly four more years. The last state to finally give permission to accept the Articles was Maryland on March 1st, 1781; this would now become the outline for the legitimate government of the United States. This document would lead our nation until 1789 where the present Constitution of the United States was implemented.

There is an important distinction between the U.S. Constitution and the Articles of Confederation as the states authority can be best comprehended by comparing specific lines of each document. The beginning of the Articles of Confederation says, “To all to whom these Present shall come, we the undersigned Delegates of the States…” However, the Constitution starts off in contrast by saying, “We the People of the United States…do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

When looking at the Articles of Confederation, it becomes apparent that the emphasis of importance is on the states than on the people or individual. Another line that these claims become more explicit are found in Article II that says, “Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.”

Even though the states were committed to the Articles of Confederation, almost five years after this document was ratified saw leading Americans reach the conclusion that a mistake was made. The new system was inadequate to fulfill this new government, so Americans once again overthrew another government in almost twenty years but this time it was done peacefully. The heart of the discussion was should a confederation be formed by sovereign states or should sovereign people create a federal government; the decision of how the government should be shaped was in the hands of the new American people.

History would remember how the American Revolution transformed what would become the United States. Americans from 1776-1787 went from existing under a sovereign king, to living in states that were sovereign and finally becoming a sovereign people.

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Mark Hinderberg


Retired History Professor at Vanderbilt University. Love taking a portal through time and sharing my knowledge with anyone else who loves reading about history. It is my passion and my greatest hobby.