From the Articles of Confederation to the Constitution

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In 1781, when the Siege of Yorktown occurred, many Colonists were left elated and hopeful for the nation that would soon be called, The United States of America. They had longed for a democratic government, and their ambition would soon be granted. However, the fight for a leading republic was not over, as the Colonists would learn shortly after the ratification of the Articles of Confederation.

The Articles of Confederation was the first constitution of the newly-established United States. And many of this nation’s original citizens, such as the members of Shays’ Rebellion (1786-187) were unhappy with its application of rules, or lack of.

For starters, the decentralization of the Articles left too much power in the hands of the states. The Articles declared that the government could not intervene when money was needed. In other words, there was no power to tax the citizens. One of the several prominent reasons the colonies entered a war with Britain was because of the monarchy’s unreasonable tax laws. The national government also did not have a stable leader, which meant no President. There was merely a congress, a group of leaders with no complete constitution to follow.

The Philadelphia convention of 1787 came to order, and instead of merely amending to the Articles of Confederation, politicians wrote a brand new constitution. To provide more power for the central government, the new constitution proposed and ratified a series of amendments dealing with taxes, and sections (located in Article 1) to deny both the Congress and the States, providing a good amount of power to both the central and non-central governmental aspects.

“No State shall, without the Consent of the Congress, lay any Imposts or Duties on Imports or Export,” section ten of the Constitution states. The section continues by detailing the rights of states on the intervention of the central government. States cannot object to specific interventions of the central government, “except what may be absolutely necessary.”

The same section takes care of another flaw in the Articles of Confederation. “No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation.” By the Articles, states could form treaties with other nations, without any consent or actions by the central government. For instance, with the Articles of Confederation, a state could have possibly signed a treaty deeming to trade with a specific nation. The economy of the United States could have become permanently unbalanced. An alliance could have been formed with another nation, stating if that nation were to be attacked, all men within the state would serve for that nation. This could have caused a major uproar in the United States, in case men visiting the state were forced to serve.

An enormous and arguably the most controversial aspect of the Articles of Confederation was that any predicament within the Articles was roughly impossible to embed. All of the congress and all state legislatures had to give an unanimous consent to debug or add on to the constitution. Several sections of the Constitution, primarily section seven of Article 1, determine how resolutions will be decided and handled. In order to pass a specific bill, it must go through the three branches of government, the Executive, Legislative and Judicial. These three branches all have a say on the bill, and in some circumstances can override one of the branches’ opinions. For example, with 2/3 of the vote, Congress can override a President’s veto of a bill and pass it.

Decentralization and centralization continues to be a dire affair among the United States. A subject that is often concerning citizens and the government is gun control. States have the power to pass propositions for solely their state. This is no different in the case of guns. For example, in certain states, such as Illinois, an owner license is required in carrying specific types of guns. In Florida, that is not so. States can go as far as not letting certain people carry a gun, which is arguably denying a right to citizens. For instance, in Arkansas, one convicted of a felony cannot be in possession of a gun. In the Constitution, Amendment II, it states that all United States citizens have the right to bear arms. Since states are under the Constitution, why is this law legal?

To conclude, the decentralization and centralization of the United States will continue to be a topic of discussion for a long while. But we must not forget the progress we have made thus far. The Articles of Confederation denied the government the provision to tax, therefore leaving the central government to beg for money from states. The Articles provided too much power to the states, such as allowing treaties, alliances or confederations with other nations. And finally, none of these problems could be fixed because the Articles demanded a unanimous agreement among all of Congress and all of the State legislatures. Though problems concerning decentralization still occur, such as the topic of gun control, the United States has fixed a series of problems, and most likely prevented some from happening.





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