One of the more overlooked documents that established the Republic of the United States of America is “The Articles of Confederation.” Many confuse these articles of confederation with the confederate states and the Civil War. The following is written to honor these articles and clarify their role in building the America we recognize today! Having covered the US Constitution and the US Bill of Rights, it is only fitting that before writing about the Declaration of Independence, The Articles of Confederation be given their day in the public eye.
The Articles of Confederation were agreed to by Congress on 15 November 1777; ratified and placed in legal force on 01 March 1781. The articles were a binding agreement and perpetual Union between the States of New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, Rhode Island, Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, and North and South Carolina. Understanding the signatories and the Articles of Confederation’s limitations remains critical to the foundation of a Constitution.
Article 1: Provides the new country’s name as “The United States of America;” what better way to start a legally binding document to join the various independent states into a cohesive whole.
Article 2: Testifies that “each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right not expressly delegated to the United States in Congress assembled” [emphasis mine]. Want to know why these articles so frequently refer to States’ Rights and what States’ Rights mean; pay close attention to what the states retain control over in Article 2. Sovereignty is the supreme power or authority to govern itself; I fight for States’ Rights as freedom and independence branch from the power of sovereignty.
Article 3: Covers a league of friendship, common defense, the security of state liberties, binding themselves to help and support each other in peace or war. While protecting state sovereignty without regard for religion or trade, or another pretense. They were essentially stating that the states would be friends and protectors of each other’s sovereignty without regard for personal interests! Does it appear to you that the Federal Government has forgotten the sovereignty of the individual states?
Article 4: Guaranteed free movement between the states, except for vagabonds, paupers, and fugitives. Article 4 also demanded that the states not exact tariffs or seize property when a citizen traveled from one state to another. Article 4 also bound each state to the jurisprudence of the other states. Hence a criminal in one state, trying to escape to another state, could be detained and returned to the state accusing the person of a crime.
Article 5: Set the number of delegates and term limits for those delegates to Congress. A novel idea whose return should be seriously considered for our time! Better still, the delegates were required to be supported by the individual state, not their political party, not through wages and forced taxation, and not through Congressional fiat. Another novel idea whose time has come to be reconsidered in American Society.
Article 6: Contains another novel idea needing reconsideration, no state shall entertain any foreign dignitaries to enter into treaties, alliances, or other business without the consent of the entire Congress. The article goes further in outlawing war between states and protection from pirates.
Article 7: Discusses how armies are to be raised, officers appointed, and the role of the state legislature in officer appointments.
Article 8: Sets forth how war is to be paid when armies meet for the common defense and a tax levied to pay for the debts incurred in raising an army for the common defense.
Article 9: Sets the Congress as the sole power to declare war and sets apart other duties of the Congress to settle disputes, create committees, and constitute a court for hearing and determining matters.
Article 10: Defines a quorum of Congress who can meet and settle matters in the case that the full Congress cannot meet.
Article 11: Offered Canada the opportunity to join the United States with an open invitation, and all other future states needed approval from Congress to enter the United States. This article is my favorite of all the articles, and I wonder if Canada would like to join the Union yet? Imagine how fun that would be!
Article 12: Handled the continental states’ debt and placed those debts into the Federal Government’s hands to establish a payment method.
Article 13: Insisted that all states are bound to Congress’s decisions and actions and required affirmation by all state legislatures.
While each of these articles is summarized, it is well worth a person’s time to know the particulars and details in The Articles of Confederation. It is fascinating to see how The Articles of Confederation fed language into the US Constitution, forming a legal process for Congress to work under in writing the US Constitution and US Bill of Rights. A critical point, The Articles of Confederation, started the earliest laws needed to frame how the United States of America worked through Congress to benefit individual states and citizens.
© 2021 M. Dave Salisbury
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