An honest evaluation of the US Constitution would not be complete without a look at the document it replaced, The Articles of Confederation, and the deficiencies therein which led to its replacement.
The Articles of Confederation can best be described not as a document which founded a nation but as a treaty which loosely bound a set on independent nations together. It was governed by a council appointed by these states, and closely resembled what we now have in the United Nations.
Some of the weaknesses which led to its downfall were:
- Lack of enforcement authority. The individual states could disregard much of what the council agreed to, leading to a lack of cohesion which was unacceptable in their current time and situation. It must be remembered that England still had a desire to regain control of these former colonies, and their wealth, and they were only strong enough to resist this together.
- There was no consistent leadership. The complexion of the Congress changed as the states appointed different representatives, and the continuity of policy would necessarily suffer. Also, strong representatives from a particular state could sway the Congress in that state’s favor.
- No provisions were made for a national army or navy. This was a major weakness in view of the possibility of invasion.
- No national courts. At the very least, this would prove to be necessary to ensure that the Congress did not overstep its bounds.
- The states could place tariffs on goods moving between states. This was detrimental to the free trade which was necessary for the economic survival of the various states as a whole.
As a result of these weaknesses, it was determined that the document had to be replaced with one which corrected these, and other, perceived deficiencies. Next time we’ll start in on its replacement, the Constitution.