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.