Analytical Essay 1
In the middle of the 18th century, American colonies started feeling a great need for close cooperation that could help them improve their performance in political, economic and social spheres. In 1754, at the daily meetings of the representatives sent to the Albany Congress, Benjamin Franklin argued that better intercolonial collaboration was needed. Most of the delegates supported his idea and that was a push for the processes leading to the creation of the Articles of Confederation in 1777. The way to the creation of this significant document was not easy, but, nevertheless, its official ratification took place in 1781. The Articles of Confederation was not perfect. They had many valuable points, but also quite a few drawbacks. Someone said, Perhaps the greatest service rendered by the Articles of Confederation was the impetus its shortcomings gave to those who favored a strong central government. This statement reflects the genuine nature of the Articles and helps to understand the actual impact of this document on the process of American legislation development.
The Articles of Confederation were created when America was struggling to gain its independence and most efforts were aimed at reaching this goal. The process of drafting the Articles took a long time and the states constantly tried to push ahead their interests and not the interests of the united country. It was happening because the public was only familiar with the notion of the states and their legislative power. It was understandable for everyone and all politicians were aware of how this power worked and what should be done to make it stronger. This resulted in creation of the document, where the states appeared to be more powerful than the national government. It is also necessary to highlight the fact that the Articles of Confederation did not even mention such terms as a nation or a government. This proves that the states still treated the idea of the united government with suspicion. This aspect would be later considered as one of the most crucial weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation.
Another important difference between the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution was the structure and functions of the Congress. This difference can be partially explained by the above-mentioned underestimation of the central government. According to the Articles of Confederation, the Senate had only one chamber and each state had only one vote. The Constitution added the second chamber to the Congress and changed the number of states representatives. According to the Constitution, the lower house of the Congress, the House of Representatives, had the number of representatives that correspond to the states population. The Senate, the higher house of the Congress, had two Senators from each state. The Constitution also allowed the Congress to levy taxes, which was impossible in the Articles of Confederation. These changes significantly increased the power of the national government, in comparison to the Articles of Confederation.
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Under the Articles of Confederation, it was almost impossible to effectively regulate the trade between the USA and foreign countries. This can be considered as one of the major weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation. The power was focused within the states and the existence of at least thirteen different approaches to the international business cooperation was nonsense. The act of giving the Congress the right to introduce and collect taxes and duties, significantly improved the position of the USA in the international trade and allowed the country to get more profit in this sphere.
The transition from the Articles of Confederation to the Constitution was made possible largely because of the effective collaboration of the members of the Constitutional Convention. It lasted from May 25 to September 17, 1787, in the city of Philadelphia. It is necessary to mention that most debates at this meeting referred to the issue of the proportional representation in the Senate and its functions. Reaching any compromises in this sphere was difficult, but the Convention managed to find the solution that satisfied the majority of the states and was later included in the Constitution.
However, the main purpose of the Articles of Confederation was generally the same, as the later Constitution had. Jensen formulates this purpose in the following way: to elevate the political and economic status of the majority of the people (Jensen 15). It is important to keep this fact in mind, as it reveals the crucial common feature of the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution, thus making them different documents but, nevertheless, serving the common purpose of improving the peoples lives. Jensen also mentions, The Articles of Confederation were the constitutional expression of this movement and the embodiment in governmental form of the philosophy of the Declaration of Independence (Jensen 15). In addition, both of these documents focused on the notions of concepts of the nation and the empire, but not on its conquering form. Larkin writes, Although early Americans may have understood nation and empire to exist in tension with one another, in the Articles of Confederation and the US Constitution they constructed a state designed to integrate the two (Larkin 502).
Therefore, it is obvious that the Constitution was much more functional and effective than the Articles of Confederation and created a strong central government that was needed for the development of the USA. Nonetheless, the process of the Constitution ratification was not easy and smooth. There was a strong group of politicians, the Antifederalists, who rejected the Constitution in the way it existed. The Federalists did not accept their ideas and supported the ratification. Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay created a number of commentaries to the Constitution that were later called the Federalist Papers. They played an important role in the process of the Constitution ratification, as they explained the majority of controversial aspects of this document and focused on the positive consequences that the Constitution would bring to the USA. They also mentioned that the Constitution could grant additional security to the basic American values, such as democracy and freedom.
The creation of the Bill of Rights was also a very serious problem. Levy argues that the biggest obstacle to the ratification of this document was the fact that it was absent in the original Constitution (Levy 144). Besides, the Federalists, who had quite significant influence on the political life of America at that time, did not support this document. They believed that the introduction of certain liberties was likely to lead to the negligence of many others. Still the authors of the Federalist Paper were not completely against the core idea of the Bill of Rights. Even they acknowledged that without restrictions, the government could become tyrannical and autocratic. However, the supporters of this document exerted every effort to bring it to life and make it a part of American legislation.
To conclude, it is necessary to mention that transition from the Articles of Confederation to the Constitution was one of the most significant positive changes in the US law. However, it does not mean that the Articles of Confederation were completely useless. They contained many valuable aspects, but the major drawback was their failure to create a strong central government. The ratification of the Constitution in 1788 significantly improved the situation. This document was the beginning of the new era in American politics and gave the nation a stable basis for all the future developments.