The Revolutionary Era: Primary Documents on Events from 1776 to 1800

By Carol Sue Humphrey | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 6

The Articles of Confederation, 1777–1781

Once the fighting started in 1775, the British colonial governments slowly ceased to function. The Continental Congress had to take charge and function as a government. On the same day the Congress appointed the committee to write the Declaration of Independence, it also appointed a committee to write a document laying out a form of government for the new nation.

The chair of the committee, John Dickinson, presented the results on July 12, 1776. Following debate and revisions by the Continental Congress, the final version of the Articles of Confederation was approved in November 1777. The government Congress approved addressed many of the concerns that had sparked the American Revolution in the first place. Fearing the power of a strong central government, the Articles proposed a decentralized system with much of the power remaining at the state level. The United States would be ruled by a one-house legislature, with each state having one vote. There would be no independent executive or president, but there was also no prime minister as existed in the British system. The national Congress would concentrate its work and attention primarily in the area of foreign affairs. Congress could request support from the states, financial or otherwise, but there was no mechanism to force state support of the national government.

By and large, the states were supportive of the Articles of Confederation and many approved them fairly quickly. However, there was one major stumbling block. The issue of western lands threatened to derail the entire process. A number of states, especially Virginia, had claims to large areas west of the Appalachian Mountains because of their original sea-to-sea grants from the king of England. Other states, like Pennsylvania and Maryland, had very clearly defined boundaries in their original charters and thus could claim no additional territory.

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The Revolutionary Era: Primary Documents on Events from 1776 to 1800
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Series Foreword vii
  • Introduction ix
  • Chronology of Events xix
  • Chapter 1 1
  • Chapter 2 33
  • Chapter 3 49
  • Chapter 4 67
  • Note 79
  • Chapter 5 81
  • Chapter 6 93
  • Chapter 7 105
  • Chapter 8 119
  • Chapter 9 127
  • Chapter 10 137
  • Chapter 11 161
  • Chapter 12 181
  • Chapter 13 189
  • Chapter 14 201
  • Note 210
  • Chapter 15 211
  • Chapter 16 223
  • Chapter 17 233
  • Chapter 18 243
  • Chapter 19 253
  • Chapter 20 263
  • Chapter 21 277
  • Chapter 22 295
  • Chapter 23 303
  • Chapter 24 313
  • Chapter 25 323
  • Notes 335
  • Chapter 26 337
  • Selected Bibliography 349
  • Index 353
  • About the Author 359
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