On this day in 1777, The Articles of Confederation, formally the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, are approved for eventual ratification among the 13 original states of the United States of America, and served as its first constitution until March 4, 1789. The Articles of Confederation legally came into force on March 1, 1781, after being ratified by all 13 states.
A guiding principle of the Articles was to preserve the independence and sovereignty of the states. The federal government received only those powers which the colonies had recognized as belonging to king and parliament. There were eight Presidents of the US under the Articles, commencing with John Hanson; some argue, then, that Washington is actually the ninth POTUS.
And here comes the trouble. As the Confederation Congress attempted to govern the continually growing American states, delegates discovered that the limitations placed upon the central government rendered it ineffective at doing so. As the government’s weaknesses became apparent, especially after Shays’ Rebellion, individuals began asking for changes to the Articles.
Their hope was to create a stronger national government. Initially, some states met to deal with their trade and economic problems. However, as more states became interested in meeting to change the Articles, a conference was set in Philadelphia on May 25, 1787. This became the Constitutional Convention. It was quickly realized that changes would not work, and instead the entire approach scrapped; but for a disastrous and short comeback tour by 11 states between 1861-65, confederacies were out of fashion for good.
After ratification by 11 of 13 states, On March 4, 1789, the government under the Articles was replaced with the federal government under the Constitution. The new Constitution provided for a much stronger federal government by establishing a chief executive, the afore-mentioned Washington, a bicameral legislature, courts, and taxing powers. North Carolina and Rhode Island were the 12th and 13th states to ratify the Constitution, well after the new government was in operation.
And here the lesson endeth.