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The Articles of Confederation and the US Constitution Comparison


The Articles of Confederation emerged as an issue of great debate among the United States citizens after the American Revolution. Encouraged by victory over the European crown, they claimed that the article was inadequate in governing the central authority. This is because it had no recognized executive power. In addition, it lacked the judicial branch, so disputes were not arbitrated sufficiently. International treaties were used to govern the country in the late 18th century. However, individual states disobeyed the treaty and as a result, the republic was put in a bad place diplomatically. The US constitution was formed to address these problems. This paper will elucidate the difference and similarities between the two articles.

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The Articles of Confederation and the US constitution were considered as the official law. Therefore, it was obeyed by all states. In addition, they were both created by the legislature in the congress and the central government regulated the value of money. The federal roles in regards to foreign countries are similar in the two documents. They state that negotiations with other nations should be handled by the central government only. Therefore, activities such as receiving and sending ambassadors, diplomatic missions, and signing of international treaties are done at a centralized level.

In the two articles, congress only has the mandate to wage or declare war. However, during the war, individual states were allowed to recruit and levy their militias, which falls under the overall command of the federal government. There are term limits for holding government offices in both documents. For instance, in the Constitution, the representatives serve in the legislative offices for two years only while the senators’ term is six years.


The two documents codified the law differently. The Articles of Confederation had an established unicameral government, it had a weak central government and a strong independent state with one legislature. This system delegated the voting powers to committees from each state. Conversely, the Constitution has created a bicameral legislature, which allows one vote for a single legislative representative according to the census population. It has a strong central government with some powers reserved for states.

The Articles of Confederation relied on the lax union, it had no executive positions and roles. On the other hand, the Constitution centralized authority in one political entity by creating an executive branch of government. This position provided a figurehead in the government department, who was accountable to public scrutiny. The serving term limits differed between the two documents. For example, the office of the legislature term does not exceed three years in confederation while there is no limitation period for the legislature in the US constitution.

The organization of the two documents varies significantly, the Articles of Confederation have congress only while the Constitution is made up of the judiciary (supreme courts and the federal courts), the congress, and the president. In both documents, Congress has powers to regulate trade, declare war, make treaties, borrow and coin money, and make laws. However, the power to tax and regulate trade is only present in the American Constitution.

In the US Constitution, the laws are made by the House of Representatives and the Senate, each state is represented by two members in congress (Kollman 28). Conversely, the legislature in Confederation was made up of an unbranched congress, which consisted of two to seven people. Representatives in Congress are elected through a popular vote in the Constitution system. On the other hand, the state legislatures appointed members into the congress under the Article of confederation.

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The American Constitution has a more expansive governance system relative to the Confederation Article. This is because it creates balances and checks between the three government branches (Maggs 397). Additionally, it has a clear enumeration of how the states and the federal government should relate. Notably, the Bill of Rights was established under this structure. The amendments of this document laid a foundation for civil liberties currently enjoyed by American citizens. The reformations based on democracy have been enabled by the Constitution. However, people never demanded a Bill of Rights under the Confederation laws because the government had no powers to amend the rules.

The Articles of Confederation united 13 states, which are Connecticut, Massachusetts-bay, the States of New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Providence Plantations, Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, South Carolina, and Georgia. It gave room for Canada admission into the United States if they wanted. The American Constitution adopted these 13 states. However, it does not allow Canada to join the Union at any point.

The American Constitution

The American constitution is currently divided into three. The first part is an introduction called Preamble, which states the purpose and goals of the federal government. Then the 7 articles of the constitution form the main part of the article, this section describes the government setup. Finally, the 27 amendments done on the constitution form the last portion, which states the changes made on the constitution over the years.

The Constitution has seven articles: The first one outlines the lawmaking processes, the second elucidates presidential powers, and the third interprets the laws. The fourth item explains the relationship between the states and the national government while the fifth describes when these rules can be changed. The sixth article declares the Constitution as the “supreme Law of the Land and the last describes the constitution ratification process.

Articles of Confederation

The Confederation has thirteen articles, the first one termed the states as “The United States of America” and the second explained the state powers. The third required the states to protect each other from attacks and the fourth gave authority for people to move freely within the states. The fifth article created the Congress of the Confederation and the sixth one elucidated the roles of the central government concerning other countries. The state was allowed to choose its military leaders in the seventh section. In addition, the states were required to raise money for the central government as stipulated by the eighth article.

The functions of the federal government in regards to peacemaking and declaring war were stated in article nine. Committee of States group and the allowance for Canada to join the union are represented by the tenth and eleventh articles respectively. The nation’s mandate to pay war debts is the twelfth, the last state when and how the Confederation can be altered.


The two articles have played a major role in shaping American history. The Articles of Confederation laid a solid foundation for the United States. This is because it was successful in unifying 13 members’ states. However, the government formed under this document was weak because it had no powers to regulate trade, and collect taxes. Thus, the formation of the American Constitution to boost the strength of the country was inevitable. Currently, the constitution has given the federal state authority to levy taxes and regulate trade. For this reason, the government is currently strong.

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Works Cited

Kollman, Ken. The American Political System. WW Norton, 2017, p. 28.

Maggs, Gregory E. “A Concise Guide to the Articles of Confederation as a Source for Determining the Original Meaning of the Constitution.” The George Washington Law Review, vol 85, 2017, 397.

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