Articles of Confederation vs. the Constitution

     The following chart compares some of the provisions of the Articles of Confederation with those in the Constitution. It's important to note that most commentators see the Articles period (1781-1789) as a weak one in terms of governmental power. Whether that is a positive or negative for the United States depends on one's point of view regarding the size and influence of a national government. Those favoring a limited government, (Libertarians, for example) would view the Articles period as the pinnacle of American freedom, while those favoring a strong central government would see it as a failure.

Articles of Confederation


Levying taxes Congress could request states to pay taxes Congress has right to levy taxes on individuals
Federal courts No system of federal courts Court system created to deal with issues between citizens, states
Regulation of trade No provision to regulate interstate trade Congress has right to regulate trade between states
Executive  No executive with power. President of U.S. merely presided over Congress Executive branch headed by President who chooses Cabinet and has checks on power of judiciary and legislature
Amending document 13/13 needed to amend Articles 2/3 of both houses of Congress plus 3/4 of state legislatures or national convention
Representation of states
Each state received 1 vote regardless of size
Upper house (Senate) with 2 votes; lower house (House of Representatives) based on population
Raising an army
Congress could not draft troops and was dependent on states to contribute forces
Congress can raise an army to deal with military situations
Interstate commerce
No control of trade between states
Interstate commerce controlled by Congress
Disputes between states
Complicated system of arbitration
Federal court system to handle disputes between states and residents of different states.
Sovereignty resides in states
Constitution was established as the supreme law of the land
Passing laws
9/13 states needed to approve legislation
50%+1 of both houses plus signature of President

Please cite this source when appropriate:

Feldmeth, Greg D. "Articles of Confederation vs. The Constitution," U.S. History Resources
..//gfeldmeth/ (24 June 2004