This paper aims to investigate the principal differences and contrasts between the Articles and the Constitution. Also, the analysis of the drafting process and the debate over the ratification between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists will be conducted. A comprehensive conclusion will be developed on the basis of the conducted analysis.
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Despite the fact that, as it was previously mentioned, the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution of 1787 had much in common due to the fact that they were developed by the same people, considerable differences could be spotted between these two legislations. The Articles were drafted by the Continental Congress in November 1777, then sent to the thirteen states, and finally, it was ratified by the Congress on March 1, 1781 (Maggs, 2017). In general, it is possible to state that the Articles centralized the power in the hands of the state government, the aspect which weakened the national government.
In particular, it could be mentioned that the voting process was imbalanced, as every state, irrespective of its size, was given only one vote. Another disadvantage of the Articles that could be mentioned is that it did not establish the federal court system, as the law-making process was solely in the hands of the government of each state (Maggs, 2017). Also, it is highly important to mention that the Articles ultimately failed to meet the economic challenge of its time. Namely, the problem of taxation as well as debt burden, which was too heavy for the majority of citizens, was not solved by the Articles.
Accordingly, as the Constitution was based on the provisions of the Articles and, more importantly, had the purpose of improving them, the new legislation introduced several important changes. For example, the process of voting in Congress was changed, as the system of representatives, in which every representative had a vote, was implemented (Maggs, 2017). Also, the federal court system was introduced, thus making the judiciary more centralized and comprehensive. In general, the Constitution could be described as the vast and profound improvement of the Articles of Confederation that had considerably more advantages than disadvantages.
Analysis of the Drafting of the Constitution
Given the fact that less than a decade had passed between the complete ratification of the Articles of the Confederation and the Constitution, it is possible to state that the process of drafting a new legislative act began soon after the enactment of the Articles (Coby, 2018). Aside from the facts that were mentioned in the previous section (such as the court system, economic problems, and political structure of the country), there was a very major issue of slavery, which divides the states into two primary forces.
As it is mentioned by Coby (2018), “the three-fifths formula for counting slaves in the represented population increased southern representation at the expense of northern representation and incentivized the importation of new slaves,” thus creating tension between southern and northern states (p. 238). Accordingly, it was essential to come to a compromise over the issue.
Initially, two primary political strategies existed: the New Jersey Plan, which stated that all states should be represented equally, and the Virginia Plan, which aimed to create the bicameral legislature to represent states in accordance with their population. The Great Compromise, also referred to as Sherman’s plan, as it was proposed by Robert Sherman, was the agreement that was needed to consolidate the political powers in the country as well as to satisfy the proponents of both plans.
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In the final form, the Connecticut Compromise established the bicameral system, in which the upper house was determined to represent the states equally, and the lower house employed proportional representation (Coby, 2018). Additionally, it is important to mention the debate over the ratification of the Constitution between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists.
For example, the impact of Federalists on the improvement of the economic situation in the country is highly significant. It is possible to cite the Federalist Papers, written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay in 1787 and 1788 in the support of ratification of the new Constitution. The following passage is illustrative of the point: “Do we owe debts to foreigners and to our own citizens contracted in a time of imminent peril for the preservation of our political existence? These remain without any proper or satisfactory provision for their discharge” (Maggs, 2017, p. 415).
Also, the debate over the first ten amendments to the Constitution, or the Bill of Rights, in which such people as John Hancock and Sam Adams were the opponents of the Federalists, was illustrative of the differences between the two parties (Fried, 2017). In general, the bill served to balance the demands and interests of Anti-Federalists for the sake of finally ratifying the Constitution.
It could be stated with certainty that the Constitution of 1787 is one of the most important legislative acts in the history of the United States. However, the process of drafting and the overall path that led to the ratification of the Constitution was significantly complicated. Moreover, it is possible to observe that the Articles of Confederation were the basis on which the Constitution was developed. This paper analyzes several important aspects that led to the enactment of the Constitution, illustrating the difficult path to ratification.
Coby, J. P. (2018). The proportional representation debate at the Constitutional Convention: Why the Nationalists lost. American Political Thought, 7(2), 216-242.
Fried, C. (2018). The Cunning of reason: Michael Klarman’s the Framers’ Coup. Michigan Law Review, 116, 981-999.
Maggs, G. E. (2017). A concise guide to the Articles of Confederation as a source for determining the original meaning of the Constitution. George Washington Law Review, 85(2), 397-450.