Congress began to move for ratification of the Articles of Confederation in
"Permit us, then, earnestly to recommend these articles to the
immediate and dispassionate attention of the legislatures of the respective
states. Let them be candidly reviewed under a sense of the difficulty of
combining in one system the various sentiments and interests of a continent
divided into so many sovereign and independent communities, under a conviction
of the absolute necessity of uniting all our councils and all our strength, to
maintain and defend our common liberties...
The document could not become officially effective until it was ratified
by all 13 states. The first state to ratify was Virginia
on December 16, 1777.
Even though the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution were
established by many of the same people, the two documents are very different.
Stylistically, the Articles are more wordy, less straightforward and less
quotable than the Constitution. Functionally, they lay out very different forms
of government. The original five-page Articles contained a preamble, 13
articles, a conclusion, and a signatory section. The preamble states that the
signatory states "agree to certain articles of Confederation and perpetual
Union" between the 13 states. The following list contains short summaries
of each of the 13 articles.
- Establishes the name of the confederation with these words: "The
Stile of this confederacy shall be 'The United States of America.'"
- Asserts the sovereignty of each state, except for the specific powers
delegated to the confederation government, i.e. "Each state retains its
sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and
right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated."
- Not being sovereign, it does not call the United States of America a
"nation" or "government," but instead says, "The
said States hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with
each other, for their common defense, the security of their liberties, and
their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other,
against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them, or any of them, on
account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretense
- But to instill a national feeling, "[t]he better to secure and
perpetuate mutual friendship and intercourse among the people of the
different States in this union," it establishes equal
of movement for the free inhabitants of each state to pass unhindered
between the states, excluding "paupers,
from justice." All these people are entitled to equal rights
established by the state into which he travels. If a crime is committed in
one state and the perpetrator flees to another state, he will be extradited
to and tried in the state in which the crime was committed.
- Allocates one vote in the Congress
of the Confederation (the "United States in Congress
Assembled") to each state, which is entitled to a delegation of between
two and seven members. Members of Congress are appointed by state
legislatures. Also, individuals may not serve more than three out of any six
- Only the central government is allowed to conduct foreign political or
commercial relations and to declare war. No state or official may accept
foreign gifts or titles, and granting any title of nobility is forbidden to
all. States are restrained from forming sub-national groups. No state may
tax or interfere with treaty stipulations already
proposed. No state may engage in war, without permission of Congress,
unless invaded or that is imminent on the frontier; no state may maintain a
peace-time standing army or navy, unless infested by pirates, but every
State is required to keep ready, a well-regulated (meaning well trained),
disciplined, and equipped militia, with sufficient public stores of a due
number of field pieces, tents, a proper quantity of arms, ammunition and
- Whenever an army is raised for common defense, colonels and military ranks
below colonel will be named by the state legislatures.
- Expenditures by the United States of America will be paid by funds raised
by state legislatures, and apportioned to the states based on the real
property values of each.
- Defines the sole and exclusive right and power of the United States in
Congress assembled to determine peace and war; to exchange ambassadors; to
enter into treaties and alliances, with some provisos; to establish rules
for deciding all cases of captures or prizes on land or water; to grant letters
of marque and reprisal (documents authorizing privateers)
in times of peace; to appoint courts for the trial of pirates and crimes
committed on the high seas; to establish courts for appeals in all cases of
captures, but no member of Congress may be appointed a judge; to set weights
and measures (including coins), and for Congress to serve as a final court
for disputes between states.
- "The Committee
of the States, or any nine of them, shall be authorized to execute, in
the recess of Congress, such of the powers of Congress as the United States
in Congress assembled, by the consent of the nine States, shall from time to
time think expedient to vest them with; provided that no power be delegated
to the said Committee, for the exercise of which, by the Articles of
Confederation, the voice of nine States in the Congress of the United States
assembled be requisite."
- If "Canada" (as the British-held Province
of Quebec was also known) accedes to this confederation, it will be
- Reaffirms that the Confederation accepts war debt incurred by Congress
before the existence of the Articles.