The Articles of Confederation created a Nation that was "a league of friendship and perpetual union,” but it was the state governments that had most of the power under the Articles, with little power given to the central government. Congress, for example, had to rely on the states for its funds and to carry out its official orders. Because of this, the central government could not accomplish much because it had limited authority over states or individuals in America.

Because of the fear that resulted from the colonial experience under the centralized government of Great Britain, the committee had been careful to give the states as much independence as possible, while also clearly stating the limited functions of the Federal Government. Several years would pass and many revisions would occur before the Articles were finally adopted. The delay was caused by concerns with the Revolutionary War and disagreements among the 13 states over such things as boundary lines and the conflicting decisions reached by the courts of the different states. The smaller states wanted equal representation in Congress with the larger states, while states with larger populations did not want to pay an extensive amount of money to the Federal Government if taxation was based upon population. There was also wide disagreement over who would control the western territories of North America. The states that did not have frontier borders wanted the government to control the sale of these lands so that all states could benefit. States with frontier borders, on the other hand, wanted to control as much of the territory land as they could in the hopes of expanding their borders.

After much discussion and compromise, the Articles of Confederation were adopted by the Second Continental Congress on November 15, 1777. The Articles were composed of a preamble and 13 articles. The document maintained the aspect of voting done by states and taxes were based upon 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.

The Articles of Confederation became the ruling document in the new Nation after they were ratified by the last of the 13 American states, Maryland, in 1781. The Articles created a nation that was "a league of friendship and perpetual union." The state governments retained most of the power under this framework, with a subordinate position given to the central government. The central government commanded little respect and was not able to accomplish much because it had little jurisdiction over states or individuals.

The following were challenges in governing the new Nation under the Articles of Confederation:

  • Congress, or the central government, was made up of delegates chosen by the states and could conduct foreign affairs, make treaties, declare war, maintain an army and a navy, coin money, and establish post offices. However, measures passed by Congress had to be approved by nine of the 13 states.
  • Congress was limited in its powers. It could not raise money by collecting taxes and had no control over foreign commerce; it could pass laws but could not force the states to comply with them. The Government was dependent on the cooperation of the various states to carry out its measures.
  • The articles were nearly impossible to change, so problems could not be corrected.

In the words of George Washington, the government created by the Articles of the Confederation was "little more than a shadow without the substance." There was clearly a need for a stronger central government, so leaders from throughout the newly formed states met at the Constitutional Convention in 1787 to address that issue, and the Constitution of the United States of America was drafted to replace the Articles of Confederation.