Articles of Confederation vs. New Constitution

Introduction

Constitution, as it was one of the three founding documents, along with the Declaration of Independence and the Model Treaty, established the United States as a sovereign nation rather than a rebel alliance (“The great debate,” n.d.). However, after the War of Independence was won and the nation was left to govern itself, it was discovered that the Articles of Confederation had numerous weaknesses, which introduced a great deal of inter-state conflict. The constitution, which was based on the Articles of Confederation, had to undergo many changes to appease all parties. The purpose of this paper is to compare and contrast the two documents and see the differences and weaknesses of each.

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Strengths and Weaknesses of the Articles vs. the New Constitution

The Articles of Confederation were created in relative haste in order to consolidate the nation and make diplomatic appeals for assistance in the struggles against the British Empire (Lynch, n.d.). Therefore, it was relatively narrow and lack many important features necessary for governing a country during peacetime. For example, the articles did not provide any measure of central authority necessary for governance, no executive branching, no taxing authority, and no judicial authority.

In addition, Congress had a unicameral legislation system, where all states were made equal regardless of size and population rate. One example of the Articles’ inability to resolve the tension between states is the Western Problem, which concerned itself with the expansion of States deeper into the continent, thus claiming more lands and becoming more powerful (“The new nation,” n.d.). A compromise to this crisis was achieved only when Virginia was forced to give up its claims on its western territories.

The Drafting of the New Constitution

The drafting of the new Constitution was a tedious process, as the new document was supposed to solve many issues that the Articles of Confederation did not cover. Due to an economic divide, the west and the east had a difference in economic output. The west was more industrialized while the east was used by cotton plantations, which implemented heavy slave labor (Lynch, n.d.). The question of slavery was important, as declaring slavery legitimate would paint the newfound democracy in a bad light, whereas setting slaves free would ruin the existing economy. Other issues included the bilateral legislation system and the number of representatives and senators in the government, as smaller states felt the new system would oppress them, while the larger ones felt the Articles were doing them a disservice.

The Connecticut Compromise, also known as Roger Sherman’s plan, managed to solve this problem, through the creation of the lower and upper Houses (“The new nation,” n.d.). While the number of representatives in the lower house differed based on size and population, the upper house retained an equal amount of senators for all, equaling two per state. This helped to maintain the balance of power between larger and smaller states and reducing the chances of oppression of the weak by the strong. This plan, adopted in 1787, helped pave the way for the new constitution.

Federalism vs. Anti-Federalism

When it came to the ratification of the new Constitution, it gathered opposition in the form of Anti-Federalists, who feared that the constitution would not be able to protect individual rights and threatened liberties. Federalists, on the other hand, felt that the Bill of Rights was unnecessary and would only limit the governing ability of the country (“The great debate,” n.d.). Hamilton and Maddison, two prominent Federalists, believed that the Bill of Rights would not work as intended, serving as a parchment barrier rather than an actual instrument for protecting the people (“The great debate,” n.d.).

The difference between these two groups eventually leads to the formation of the Republican and Democratic parties, with the difference being the views on the power given to the government. John Hancock and Samuel Adams, who included the ratification of the Bill of Rights as well as developed a mechanism for making amendments to the Constitution, negotiated the compromise between federalists and anti-federalists.

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The Debate over the Bill of Rights – Differences and Conclusions

The debate over the Bill of rights illustrates not only the difference between the two parties but also the differences in paradigms. Underneath the federalist-anti-federalist confrontation also lurked several other interests. The Bill of Rights was meant as a document protecting individual rights that were not explicitly mentioned in the constitution, such as the freedom of speech, religion, and others (Lynch, n.d.).

However, it was also viewed by some as a way to return the Constitution back to how the Articles of Confederation looked like. The main debate was around the protection of peoples’ rights versus the ability to change the constitution. A moderate approach was taken, which managed to pacify the majorities on both sides. The Bill of Rights was adopted, and the amendments were allowed, as long as they were considered ‘moderate’ and did not change the nature of the Constitution. This managed to unite the nation and provide a document that struck a balance between the national and state interests.

References

The great debate. (n.d.). Web.

Lynch, J. (n.d.). Debating the Bill of Rights: What no government should refuse, or rest on inference. Web.

The new nation 1783-1815. (n.d.). Web.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, May 4). Articles of Confederation vs. New Constitution. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/articles-of-confederation-vs-new-constitution/

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"Articles of Confederation vs. New Constitution." StudyCorgi, 4 May 2021, studycorgi.com/articles-of-confederation-vs-new-constitution/.

1. StudyCorgi. "Articles of Confederation vs. New Constitution." May 4, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/articles-of-confederation-vs-new-constitution/.


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StudyCorgi. "Articles of Confederation vs. New Constitution." May 4, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/articles-of-confederation-vs-new-constitution/.

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StudyCorgi. 2021. "Articles of Confederation vs. New Constitution." May 4, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/articles-of-confederation-vs-new-constitution/.

References

StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Articles of Confederation vs. New Constitution'. 4 May.

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