During the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783), the American colonies fought for independence from Great Britain. After winning their freedom, the former colonies needed to create a new system of government. The powers of the individual states and the Continental Congress needed to be defined for the new country; there was a need for unity among the new states that were created as a result of the American Revolution. This need led Congress to give the task of drafting a Federal constitution to John Dickinson, a politician active in Pennsylvania and Delaware. The Articles of Confederation represented the first example of a constitutional agreement or shared system of government made between the 13 former colonies that were now free American states.

The Articles of Confederation were submitted to the Second Continental Congress on July 12, 1776. Several revisions were made, and the document was adopted by the Congress on November 15, 1777; they were finally ratified, or officially approved, by the last of the 13 American states, Maryland, in 1781, and became the ruling document of the new nation. In its final form, the Articles of Confederation were composed of a preamble and 13 articles. The document maintained the feature of voting by states, but taxes were based on the value of buildings and land and not by a state’s population. The Articles also specified that no state could be deprived of territory for the benefit of the country and that all 13 states had to agree to any amendment of the Federal Government’s power.