Why did the Articles of Confederation prove inadequate for governing the new nation?

The Articles of confederation, which served as America’s first constitution, was a union of thirteen nations that legally instituted the United States of America. It was prepared in the year 1776, implemented in 1777 and finally ratified in 1781.

The articles gave authority to the Continental Legislature to control the American Revolutionary War, manage international relations and handle territorial issues. The Articles of Confederation, however, proved inadequate in administering the state (Dougherty, 2001). One of the reasons that led to the failure of this constitution was the fact it lacked an executive branch hence exerting more power into the state. Since the constitution lacked a chief executive, it had no leadership in the central regime.

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The people did not elect a chief executive because they were afraid it would become a monarchy (Henretta, Edwards & Self, 2011). The second reason accounting for the inadequacy of the constitution was the lack of unity in the nation. Under the confederation, America still acted like a single colony and due to this, it was not able to enact new laws since for a new law to be passed, then all the thirteen nations were required to approve it. It was not able to solve conflicts due to the lack of a national court (Greene & Pole, 2007). Economic issues arising because of the confederation was the third inadequacy.

Since America still acted like a single colony, it lacked a common currency. Under the articles of Confederation, the constitution did not have the power to tax or even collect levies from the citizens. The constitution could only ask for levies from the thirteen nations and as a result, many nations ended up not paying. Another economic issue that led to the failure of the constitution is the fact that it could not collect outstanding amounts owed by the state to the central government (Watts, 2006).

Another inadequacy of the Articles of confederation was its troubles while participating in foreign matters. Due to the absence of a chief executive, America could not effectively communicate with other nations. Under the Articles of confederation, trade could not be monitored and, America was thus not able to trade internationally. Under the Articles, America could not draft soldiers and in cases of war, then the nation had difficulties in finding volunteers (Greene & Pole, 2007). Under the Articles of confederation, it was difficult for America to approve anything in the parliament.

Nine of the thirteen nations had to concur on any proposition before it became a statute, and this was quite disadvantageous for the nation since it required a common judgment by the thirteen states. Among persons who are more recognized by their state than their country of origin, as is the case in America, it was not easy to achieve the required majority to pass a statute. It thus depended on the states to provide it with the required money to pass its laws and enforce them since the constitution did not have the right to force the states to obey the passed laws (Henretta, Edwards & Self, 2011). Under the Articles of confederation, the government was weak and inefficient and, this made the state to draft a new bill. In the year 1789, the present U.S constitution took the place of the Articles of confederation.

This allowed for a strong state government with a head, courts, and taxing authorities (Dougherty, 2001).


Dougherty, L. (2001). Collective action under the Articles of Confederation. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Greene, P., & Pole, R. (2007). A companion to the American Revolution.

Malden: Blackwell Publishing. Henretta, A., Edwards, R., & Self, O.

(2011). America’s History. New York: Bedford Martins.

Watts, D. (2006). Understanding American government and politics: a guide for A2 politics students .Manchester: Manchester University Press.


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