The Articles of Confederation - our 1st Constitution 1777 -1789
Without going through the complete narrative leading to our present constitution and the Bill of Rights, let me highlight the basic issues involved.
- Our first Constitution, called the Articles of Confederation, was hurriedly written primarily by John Dickinson of Pennsylvania in the midst of our war for independence.
- The states did not want to be subordinate to a national government so the constitution intentionally created a weak federal government with most real power retained by the states.
- While fighting the war and facing a common enemy - the Articles of Confederation was sufficient to hold the states together but proved insufficient during the peace that followed and disharmony usually prevailed.
- Our national government - better called “a collection of states” - was much like a creature with 13 heads. Each state or faction of states wished to take the body (the national government) in a specific direction most often favoring their own specific interests.
-Before independence, a favored method of controlling the Colonial Governors had been by controlling the purse and withholding the necessary funds to do business. Now, using this same method of control under the Articles of Confederation - the states were able to hobble the new federal government reducing it's power.
Simply stated, the early years of our new United States government was an arm wrestling match between those Founders who favored state’s rights, state powers, and state interests verses those who felt that if the United States was ever to operate efficiently and become a power on the global stage - a stronger national govenment was needed.