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Could the U.S have survived under the articles of confederation? This initial form of U.S government which existed for only 8 years (1781-1789) was replaced with the modern U.S constitution in response to growing destabilization in the 13 colonies.
Simply speaking, the answer would be no. The U.S would have eventually fragmented apart into separate nations had the Articles of Confederation not been replaced with the U.S constitution. There are 3 reasons why the Articles of Confederation had to be replaced.
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Without further ado, here is an entire article demonstrating why the United States could not have survived with the articles of confederation.
The U.S Would Not Have Survived Under The Articles Of Confederation Because It Lacked A Military
One of the main reasons why the U.S would not have survived under the articles of confederation comes from the structure of how the U.S federal government would work under this government.
In order for the United States to survive as a nation it would need to be able to raise an army for protection, engage in foreign diplomacy, tax its population, and engage in commerce.
The Articles of Confederation however lacked a strong central government. This would have prevented the United States from surviving very long as each of the 13 colonies would have to work together.
This was not going to happen. The issues of the state of Virginia did not impact the issues of the state of New York. Since there was no U.S federal government, the central government was only the U.S congress.
Since there was no strong central government to keep the states in line there was no incentive for the states to work together.
A prime example of states not working together to help the central government can be seen during the presidency of George Washington.
Historians have uncovered letters from the first president of the continental congress John Jay who requested nearly $45 million in taxes. This money would go to help George Washington pay and equip the soldiers of the continental army.
However, since the states did not have to send the money they simply ignored the request.
The Articles of Confederation did not force each state to comply with the central government’s wishes. As a result it would have been impossible for the U.S to have survived with the Articles of Confederation as its structure of government.
The U.S Could Not Have Survived Under The Articles Of Confederation Because Each State Held Power Over International Trade
One of the main reasons the United States could not have survived under the articles of confederation was because it lacked a solid national treasury.
The economy of the United States while under the Articles of Confederation was a mess. Each state had the power to levy their own interstate commerce and in some instances even deal with their own credit/debt system.
Further, each state was not required to pay into the national treasury. The federal tax did not exist. Under the Articles of Confederation it was expected that states would voluntarily pay a percentage to the national government.
However, this did not happen. As a result each state started to drift further apart from the others from 1781-1789.
Even worse since the U.S economy was so bad no foreign investors were willing to invest in the United States. In 1785 John Adams went to Britain to secure a treaty for commerce between the two nations.
Adams quickly found out that while the British wanted to engage in a treaty with the United States it would never happen. The reason was because each state would have to agree to trade with Great Britain.
This did not happen. Each state had power over their own navigational waters to conduct trade. While trade with Great Britain would have benefited the entire U.S it did not benefit several states individually who decided to not open their waters to British ships.
Because each state could conduct their own laws in relation to international trade the U.S would not have survived under the Articles of Confederation.
The U.S Would Not Survive Under The Articles Of Confederation Because It Prevented The U.S Economy From Growing
One of the main reasons the United States could not have survived under the Articles of Confederation was because its economy was prevented from growing.
Since the Articles of Confederation prevented the states from being forced to give taxation money to the central government the economy was unable to grow.
In order for an economy to grow in the modern era it needs to have a strong national government for two reasons. First, a strong government can protect the borders of the nation. Second, a strong national government can issue a credit system to allow growth.
Since the United States under the articles of confederation lacked the ability to raise a decent military it could not protect its borders. As a result land speculation was near 0. Nobody wanted to invest in buying property if they were unsure if it was able to be protected.
This problem of land protection and the U.S military became apparent after Shay’s Rebellion in 1787.
Because there was no way to guarantee the integrity of an investment the U.S under the Articles of Confederation could not issue a credit system. During the 18th century this took the form of guaranteed value printed currency.
While congress could print money it was worthless under the Articles of Confederation. Under the Articles of Confederation the U.S dollar held no backing because the central government could not tax the states, only request money.
From 1781-1784 the United States requested at least 2 million dollars per year in tax money. Out of this $6 million request they only received a small $1.5 million.
As such without the ability to grow an economy the U.S would not have been able to survive under the articles of confederation.
There you have it; an entire article dedicated to answering if the U.S could have survived under the articles of confederation.
The articles of confederation remain an important time in U.S history. It was built around a feudal system of government where each state acted as an individual lord. The king (central government) could request funds, but not force taxation. Obviously this form of government would not last in the United States.
Here at The History Ace I strive to publish the best history articles on the internet. If you enjoyed this article then consider subscribing to the free newsletter and sharing around the internet.
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