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The Articles of Confederation and the Constitution of 1789: Two Basic American Legislative Acts


The essay reveals the essence of two basic American legislative acts that regulated the both the internal relations between the U.S. states and the establishment of external contacts. The characteristics of the initial source of legal power, which was represented by the Articles of Confederation, are analyzed. The second jurisdiction document that is evaluated in the work is the new American Constitution of 1789. The significant discrepancies between the underlying principles of two standards are investigated. Moreover, the fundamental aspects of Constitution drafting procedure are described. Specifically, the influence of the Great Compromise on a compilation of the final variant of the legal act is evaluated. Besides, the essay discloses the issues of Constitution ratification dispute. Mainly, the outcomes of the debates between the American Federalists and Anti-Federalists are estimated.

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The Articles of Confederation vs. the Constitution of 1789

The political and legal foundation of the U.S. history was built on the basis of two primary jurisdiction documents that underline its laws and regulations. These are the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution of 1789 year. The functioning of two models evolved in succession. Specifically, the Constitution both terminated and renovated the acting of the Confederation Articles. In this work, the critical discrepancies and similarities of two legal standards are evaluated.

The Articles of Confederation, which were officially issued in 178, followed a pattern of mutual agreement between thirteen states of America. Initially, the document revealed the specifications of American Revolutionary War handling. The War, in fact, standardized a broad range of diplomatic, military, and economic concerns. Therefore, it was crucial for the Second Continental Congress to create a written certification of the regulations. Beyond the war-related laws, it contained some significant codes of international relations as well as currency control. The general conception of the Articles encompassed the idea of Confederation unity and collective acting. Therefore, the document focused on the interests of the USA as a single entity that pursues a common aim (Dougherty, 2006, p. 3).

The Confederation Articles legal functioning was terminated with an introduction of a new American Constitution that was ratified in 1789. This document legalized the supreme law operating in the USA as well as introduced the issue of three-branch power division.

The major legal documents provisions stand in active opposition to each other since they follow contrastive objectives of the U.S. governments. Thus, one can outline a number of key aspects that put a line of demarcation between the Confederation Articles and the Constitution. Specifically, the Constitution introduction stipulated the support of executive power modeling while at the time of the Confederation prosperity, the president of America was merely a supervisor of the Congress but could influence neither judiciary nor legislative actions. Second, due to the standards of collectivity, which were promoted by the Articles, the U.S. government was responsible for demanding taxpaying from the separate states. In contrast to it, the new Constitution claimed that legal taxes could be issued to the individual citizens of America.

Third, the first system of federal courts started with the Constitution ratification since the first legal standards did not support the existence of judicial systems, which could regulate the relations between the states and citizens. Fourth, the legal implications of two documents differed in the states representation distribution. Mainly, according to the Confederation ideals, the equality of the U.S. states was a fundamental prerequisite of the country well-being. Therefore, it promoted the electoral system that followed the model of one vote for each state. The Constitution values, however, put an emphasis on the population number of separate territory units of America and allocated vote rights with a consideration of the number of citizens.

Moreover, since the Articles theoretical unity was based on a development of international bonds, the legislative document did not issue any rules that could govern the interstate trade. In contrast, the Constitution of the United States predetermined a system of strong marketing relations between the particular parts of the continent, which stipulated the improvement of economic standards in the USA. Finally, the system of arbitration that was maintained by the Confederation Articles complicated the process of disputes solutions in the country while the Constitution federal court system provided a consistent solution to various civil discords that arose between the citizens of the US.

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A Complex Analysis of the New Constitution Drafting

The procedure of the U.S Constitution drafting, which was launched in 1787, rooted at contradictory conceptions since there existed three individually developed plans of the future legal models development. These were the Virginia and the New Jersey Constitution ratification designs. The agenda of two documents differed both in content and purposes. Thus, it was a primary task for the Congress representatives to evaluate the advantages of planning aspect and to adopt the appropriate reform issues that could stipulate Constitution improvements.

The Virginia ratification model promoted the values of highly-populated American states support with a strong emphasis on the matter of national government standards. The primary facet of this model was the introduction of bicameral legislative power division. In contrast, the New Jersey plan maintained a focus on the poorly-populated U.S. territories as well as accounted for the creation of two Congress houses, the representative of which would have been elected on the basis of population-driven elections. In other words, the model denied the functioning of a one-vote-per-state system, which had been previously introduced by the Articles of Confederation.

The final decisions on the Constitution compilation were stipulated by multiple aspects that played a significant role in the life of American society. For instance, the problem of slavery occupied one of the central Constitution-related disputes. The experts note that there was a consistent contradiction in the views of free citizens and the slaves’ ideas of the jurisdiction model. In fact, both variants of Constitution planning did not reflect the complete abolition of human exploitation. The new model of legal standards claimed that the state government was entitled to conduct slavery. However, it was offered to view slaves as the citizens of the country rather than the objects or property. Nevertheless, the concept of American Constitution of 1789 found a powerful opposition among the slaves but was supported by free citizens.

The agreement on the Constitution aspects was reached through the assistance of Roger Sherman and the acceptance of so-called Connecticut Compromise. Initially, the U.S. Constitution formation was launched by the outstanding American statesman, James Madison, who was often called a “father of the U.S. Constitution”. Still, due to the history of America, the primary objectives of the act’s author differed from the final draft consistently. Thus, Madison offered a model of wide national authority as an alternative to states power. The politician believed that there was no need to provide the separate territory units of America with the special election rights or privileges. However, the author’s intention failed since a vast number of Congress delegates strived to give the autonomy to the state governments of the U.S. (Robertson, 2005). One of the most enthusiastic rebuttals of the national supremacy was expressed by Roger Sherman, who later became an initiator of the Great Compromise acceptance. The ambitious reformer, who made an excellent career as a U.S. Senate representative has not only developed a Declaration of Independency, which changed the history background but combined the facets of two Constitution plans and turned them into a consistent legal relations regulator (Hall, 2014).

The Ratification Debates over the Federalists and Anti-Federalists

The process of new Constitution ratification relied on the dispute between American Federalists and Anti-Federalists. Two major U.S. parties had some contrastive views on the power distribution between the legal citizens and the particular states. In fact, the Federalists stood for the active ratification of Constitution since its final draft complied with the persuasions of the party members while Anti-Federalists did not accept the legitimacy of the new Constitution.

The principal subject of contradictions was the Bill of Rights that represented a part of the new legal act. According to the Anti-Federalist party members, the amendment served as an irreplaceable element of the document since it extended the right of civil society and put some limitations to the government functioning. In contrast to them, the Federalists discarded the idea of addition formulation, for they considered that a newly accepted Constitution neither put any pressures on the community nor limited the citizens’ legal rights.

The leading representatives of the Federalists cohort were the father of American Constitution, James Madison, together with such celebrated statesmen as Hamilton and Jay. The members of the party claimed that the projection of American Constitution followed a complete and elaborate model of jurisdiction and did not need any further alterations. That is why the idea of the Bill of Rights introduction seemed awkward to them. Moreover, after disclosing the underlying principles of the strategy, the Federalists draw a conclusion about the Constitution Amendment being not a supporter of human rights but their regulator instead.

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The Anti-Federalists party, which was headed by John Hancock, presented a rebutting position to their counterparts’ arguments. Thus, the members of the union argued that a new Constitution hindered the development of human rights support. Instead, it put a number of limitations to personal freedom and privacy. In his book on the ideals of the party representatives, Herbert Storing (2008) stated: “The Anti-Federalists were committed to both union and the states; to both the great American Republic and the small, self-governing community; to both commerce and civic virtue; to both private gain and public goods” (p. 6).

The matter of the controversy was critically reviewed by the professional scientists, who finally claimed that the jurisdiction act evolved as a reaction to the personal space limitations.

In this case, the Constitution analysis proved that the consensus on the legislative act was reached through the Great Compromise projection, which combined the assets of Virginia and New Jersey programs and linked them with the preference of the civil society.


Dougherty, K. (2006). Collective action under the articles of Confederation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Hall, M. (2014). Roger Sherman and the creation of the American Republic. Journal of Church & State, 10(1), 1-37.

Robertson, D. (2005). Madison’s opponents and constitutional design. American Political Science Review, 12(2), 225-243.

Storing, H. (2008). What the Anti-Federalists were for: The political thought of the opponents of the Constitution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

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