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ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION & THE CONSTITUTION
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Introduction
The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence are two of the most significant
documents in the history of the United States. They also put in place the guidelines from which
our federal government is based on. The Declaration of Independence was intended to be a letter
of intent to King George III of England to announce that the colonies would no longer bow to his
wishes. Meanwhile, the Constitution established the laws by which the new nation would be
governed apart from Parliamentary rule. However, both the Declaration of Independence and the
Constitution went beyond the Articles of Confederation that had already been in place at the time.
Constitution Addresses Complaints in the Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence outlined the list of complaints, abuses and violations
the colonists were no longer willing to tolerate. The Constitution spelled out in detail how the
colonies were going to operate and addressed the complaints as they were listed in the
Declaration. No longer would a person have to wait to be tried, or rely on a puppet judge
controlled by the king. The Constitution guaranteed each person the right to a speedy trial with a
jury of his or her own peers (“Declaration,” 1776).
The Constitution protected the rights of the individual, their property and their homes.
Homeowners were no longer forced to house soldiers during peacetime and citizens were given
the right to assemble and bear arms. Even though the Declaration and the Constitution were
written in two completely different styles, they both offered the colonists rights and liberties they
were not allowed under Parliamentary rule.
ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION & THE CONSTITUTION
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Constitution Addresses Weaknesses in the Articles of Confederation
The Articles of Confederation worked well for the fledgling country during the war
years, but afterward, it left much to be desired. No order was established in the way of a
centralized government. Any new law had to be voted in by a unanimous vote and taxes could
not be levied. With the ratification of the Constitution, many of these flaws were corrected.
Instead of a unanimous vote, laws could be accepted by a three quarter majority with all states
voting. The Constitution allowed taxes to be levied and the monies collected used to fund
military and other aspects of the government. Trade could be regulated and the individual rights
of the citizens protected and secured (“Identifying,”).
The Great Compromise and the Representation of States in Congress
The Great Compromise was an attempt by the two main political groups of the time to
create a government that allowed each state to be represented equally. The compromise the two
parties came up with was a unique one because it allowed states to be represented in two
separate and distinct ways.
The first governing body, the House of Representatives, would allow states to be
represented by population. The larger the state’s population, the more legislators they would send
to the House of Representatives. This allowed larger states to be adequately represented based on
the total population and not the size of the state (“A Great,” 1787). As the population within a
state changes, the number of representatives the state would be able to send into the House
would also change.
ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION & THE CONSTITUTION
The Senate would be comprised of two individuals from each state in the union, in spite
of the state’s total population. This allowed even the smallest of states to have equal
representation in the Senate. Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Delaware would be able to be
represented with two senators, just like the larger states of Pennsylvania and New York. With
both the House and the Senate carrying equal weight in the legislative branch of the new
government, states were well represented no matter their land size or population.
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Ratification of the Original Constitution
The Articles of Confederation demanded a unanimous vote when adding or changing any
law. Since a few of the states were against new changes and implementing a stronger version of
government, it was decided by the legislators that the only way to truly settle the issue was to
allow the people to choose. Even though it was illegal in the way it was devised, special
conventions were set up in each of the states so citizens could learn about the suggested changes
and then vote for what they believed would be best for the country. By operating in this manner,
only 9 of the original 13 states had to approve the Constitution for it to pass and voted into effect.
Conclusion
The Articles of Confederation set the stage for what would eventually be transformed
into the federal government we know today. Once the Declaration of Independence was
presented and things began to move forward, the Articles of Confederation began to prove
ineffective. The new country needed a much stricter government with set laws that protected the
rights of every citizen. By working off the original framework of the Articles of Confederation
and focusing on the demands set forth by the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution was
able to define and implement the laws that now govern our nation as a whole. While some laws
ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION & THE CONSTITUTION
are no longer as useful as they once were, the majority still hold true and set the standard our
government has followed for over 200 years.
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