The U.S. Government
under the Articles of
Confederation
Why would this time period be
called “The Critical Period”?
Accomplishments under the
Articles of Confederation
1781 - 1789
1.) Signed the Treaty of Paris - 1783
• Terms very favorable to the US
• US negotiators John Adams, Benjamin
Franklin, and John Jay did very well
considering they had no experience
negotiating treaties
2.) Kept the 13 states together
• Government was not a threat to states’
powers
• Stayed as the “United States” long enough to
realize the importance of unity
3.) The Land Ordinance of 1785
• Planned for orderly expansion into the
territory west of the Appalachian Mountains
• Money raised from sale of land would help
fund government programs and the
repayment of debt
Land Ordinance of 1785
4.) Northwest Ordinance - 1787
• Planned for establishment of government in
the territories
• Expanded basic democratic rights into the
Northwest – Congress would guarantee trial by
jury, freedom of speech, press, no slavery
• Set process for territory to become a state
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5,000 voting males, organize territorial government
(governor, legislature, non-voting representative to Congress)
Prepare a constitution that must be approved by Congress
Total population 60,000 people – recognized as a state
No special privileges for original 13 states
Problems under the Articles of
Confederation
Why couldn’t the government of the
Articles of Confederation solve
the new nation’s problems?
Economic Weaknesses…
• Congress can’t regulate trade – each state
made own trade laws and taxed goods going
from state to state
• Congress couldn’t tax – only request money to
fund programs and pay down debt
• Currency is not exclusive power of National
Gov’t- confusion on value led to very local
markets
• 13 of 13 votes - Difficult to amend the Articles
Foreign Relations Weakness…
• National gov’t could not raise an army – only
“request”; No executive branch to enforce
terms of treaties
– British refused to leave forts in Northwest
Territory and along Canadian border
– Spain controlled Mississippi River and shipping;
revoked “right of deposit” at New Orleans
– France was angry that the US preferred to trade
for British goods and not with France
Political Weakness…
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Legislative branch ONLY – 1 house legislature; 1
vote/state
No executive branch to enforce terms of treaties
No national courts to settle disputes
States controlled the National Legislature – chose
representatives, paid them, told them how to vote,
and could remove them
No “national interests” or “common goals” develop
Difficult to pass laws – 9 -13 needed to pass a law;
13 of 13 needed to amend The Articles
Controversial Issues Lead to Civil
Unrest…
• Slavery
• Debt
– State governments’
– Individuals’
Slavery Issue Re-enforces Regionalism
• South believed that emancipation would be
contrary to economic interests- defended the
institution as an “economic necessity”
VS.
• North gradually abolished slavery as it was not
necessary to economic success of the region
South fears strong central gov’t would try to
end slavery…
• Property rights of the slave holders must be protected
• Abolition of slavery could destroy the social order in the
South
• “peculiar institution of the South” is a state by state issue
• “property rights” are protected by states
• The fragile balance within the union of states might be
upset by changes and the Southern states begin to state
that they might secede if pressured
DEBT- Shays’ Rebellion: A Struggle between
borrowers and lenders
• States had borrowed money and the lenders
wanted high taxes so gov’t could pay back
debt
• Debtors went farther into debt
• Farmers were paid with paper money and had
to repay their debts with hard currency –
paper currency was worthless and farmers
began to lose their farms
Shays’ Rebellion
• Proposed relief package for economically
suffering farmers; passed by lower house of
Massachusetts legislature, defeated by the
upper house (wealthier members)
• 2000 farmers led by Daniel Shays, rebelled,
closed the courthouses to prevent
foreclosures on mortgages
• Armed rebellion began in summer 1786 –
ended in February 1787
Shay’s Rebellion
• National government could not control value
of currency
• No uniform currency → inflation and
confusion
• Government had no power to raise an army to
prevent or stop a rebellion
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Accomplishments under the Articles of Confederation