Articles of Confederation

The Articles of Confederation, the first constitution of the United States of America
The Articles of Confederation, the first constitution of the United States of America

Historical Context

After the United States Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, the thirteen rebellious colonies met and debated how best to run their wartime government and preserve their independence and sovereignty. The result of a year and a half of debate, the new Continental Congress created the Articles of Confederation on November 15, 1777, and the states ratified the document on March 1, 1781.

The constitution formed a very limited government with marginal powers, to conduct the American Revolutionary War, diplomacy and settle territorial issues. In 1786 a rebellion in Massachusetts over government taxation led to a widespread view that the Articles needed to be replaced and the government reformed. As more states and their representatives met to discuss issues related to governance and interstate commerce, this eventually turned into the Constitutional Convention.

In 1789, eight years after the ratification of the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution of the United States came into force, replacing government under the Articles with a federal government headed by a President, with a Congress and judicial system also officially formed.

Document Info


Author(s): US National Archives
Location signed: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Related Events

  • 1777-11-15 Articles of Confederation, the first constitution of the United States, is approved by the Continental Congress
  • 1778-02-05 Articles of Confederation ratified by 2nd state, South Carolina
  • 1781-03-01 Continental Congress officially adopts the Articles of Confederation, the first constitution of the United States of America after ratification by the 13th state, Maryland
  • 1787-02-02 Arthur St. Clair is elected the 9th President of the Continental Congress under the Articles of Confederation

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