A Structural View
The structure of the Confederation and the methods of its operation may be seen in the examination of five topics: the amending process; the Commissioners of the United Colonies; the meetings of the Commissioners; administrative functions; and attributes of sovereignty.
The Commissioners in their deliberations proceeded much as a legislative body. Each colony possessed an equal vote in its two Commissioners. True legislative powers could not develop beyond the point of recommendation and oversight of administration unless means of giving sanction could be found. Such a development might have arisen from the war powers invested in the Commissioners or through usage. But because of the bickerings of the Confederates and because ultimate power resided with the general courts, there was little room for the emergence of legislative power. The Articles of Confederation was to remain the sole point of law binding the four colonies. It is then in the Articles of Confederation as law that we must look for the federal law. Where statutory law failed to develop, the loose constitutional link of the Articles remained. The Articles of Confederation was flexible and could be jostled about to meet the needs of the changing times. Its pliability would add momentum to the Confederacy.
The amending process was very broad. The Articles did not specify any means for formal amendment, and the twelfth article even stated that the "treaty" should "continue firme and stable without alteration." But, if there were a breach of agreement or an injury committed against any one colony, the Commissioners from the other colonies could take measures to ease the difficulty so that "both peace and this present confederation may be entirely preserved without violation."
Without prescription for formal amendment, amending the Articles of Confederation was to occur chiefly in four ways: interpretation by the Commissioners; deference to the interpre