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Why Did The United States Dump The Articles Of Confederation For The Constitution Of 1787?

870 words - 3 pages

On June 12, 1776, the Continental Congress appointed a committee, consisting of one delegate from each of the thirteen states, for the purpose of setting up a cohesive Federal Government. Headed by John Dickinson, the committee presented a draft of the Articles of Confederation to Congress a month later. Though the Articles were not officially ratified until five years later, Congress began operating under them in 1777. The delay that occurred during the years from drafting to ratification was partially caused by the opening of a multi-faceted debate that encompassed the issues of representation for citizens, the balance of power within the country, and state sovereignty. Densely-populated states wanted a system of representation based on population, while the more sparsely-inhabited states disagreed. The Federalist Party wanted a small federal government, but common sense demanded a balance in size. Everyone wanted the question of state sovereignty answered. The Articles of Confederation attempted to answer these questions, but instead, only succeeded in creating an ineffectual, self-contradictory government that required reform. This reform came in the form of the Constitution of 1789.
Commensurate representation was the first issue faced by the Confederation Congress. The Articles mandated a continuation of the structure used during the Revolutionary War, whereby each state had one vote in Congress, but some of the states disagreed. “If distance made unreasonable the notion that the thirteen colonies could be well governed from London, distance made almost equally far-fetched the notion that the thirteen states could be well governed by a single national government” (McDonald). Thus, the large states advocated a form of representation in which the number of representatives rose proportionately with the number of state inhabitants. The more lightly-populated Southern states disagreed with this proposition. These states feared that such a system would give the larger states an unfair advantage in Congress. Proportional representation was an issue that was raised over and over by various congressmen but, ultimately, the Representatives agreed to leave it until after the ratification of the Articles. The disagreement persisted, however, and was not solved until the drafting of the Constitution. The Constitution resolved this problem by instituting a bicameral legislature that consisted of two houses. One house had one Representative, called a Senator, per state, and the other house based representation on state size.
The second issue in question was governmental size. “In retrospect, the articles created a remarkably weak central government, precisely because that was what the radical Whigs wanted” (Text, 93-94). The Whigs, some of whom were known as Federalists, drafted the articles to make an extremely small. Many of the...

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