Two constitutions have since governed the United States of America. First was the article of confederation which was in effect from the year 1781 when Maryland ratified it. The second was the constitution which was used in place of the articles when it was approved in June 1788 by the New Hampshire. These two documents have many similarities since they were developed and implemented by the same people who were in power by then and on the other hand, they are different more than they do resemble each other when examined in details. When handling comparison of these two documents, it gives us an inner understanding of what the framers found so vital in 1781, and what they altered in the year 1788.
Comparison and Contrast
When examined keenly, there exist many differences as well as similarities between the two documents. First, the United States Constitution is of no doubt the primary law within the boundaries of the nation, and any other law that is contrary to it is rendered null and void (Collahan, pp, 45-46). It is different with the article of confederation that was contravened by many laws which made it be replaced in the long run. However, it is worth noting that at the time the article of confederation was in place, it was treated as the primary governing document, and all other laws were not expected to contradict it. This draws a fundamental similarity in that; both the materials were used as a governing reference by the central government.
Additionally, the constitution acted as a reference to the evolution of its governmental institution hence providing a good foundation for social progress and development, economic development, good political stability and individual freedom. In contrast, the article of federation did not show any signs of creating political stability and personal freedom not forgetting economic development which eventually necessitated its replacement (Weir, pg.78). Moreover, the constitution established much flexibility and plainness which eased the operation of the central government. This was opposed to the article that was more rigid hindering smooth service of the United States government by then.
Notably, both the article and the constitution were used initially to govern the thirteen states that were in existence by then having approximately of four million people. Later, the law surpassed this similarity since it is the document being used till date and the America population has grown leading to additional states (Weir 57). Moreover, the Article created a weak and fragile pact among the thirteen states hence leading to a very infective federal government that could not achieve its goals of political, economic social and security needs of the four million American citizens. On the other hand, the constitution created a smooth mechanism of giving the federal government more power and strength and hence created an excellent cohesion among the thirteen states. Under the article, the United States government was unable to efficiently act on vital issues such as finance trade and defense because it relied on the decisions that were made by respective state legislatures (Scaros, pg. 77). Within a short span, the shortcomings of the confederation were apparent to everyone since politically and economically, the new nation was at war.
As opposed to the article, the constitution was more uniting. The primary goals of the constitution were to establish a powerful elected government which was to respond to the will of the Americas directly, and it is for this fact that the constitution granted more powers to the citizens as compared to the Article. The resulting outcome of this was the unity of the state as compared to the article. In as much as the article was trying to unite the thirteen states, the constitutions, by contrast, created a powerful federal and central government with massive powers to regulate between the governments with the sole mandate in some areas such as foreign affairs and defense.
As indicated by the constitution, the federal government stands at the highest pyramids of power and jurisdiction. Every, stage of government exercise the significant degree of autonomy having been offered some specific mandate that not even the federal government could interfere. Besides this, has a provision of respective courts with the primary objective of solving disputes that were arising from a different jurisdiction. On the other hand, the article did not make arrangements for courts that could resolve wrangles between different authorities (Weir, pp, 67-89). With the constitution providing these courts, peace and harmony were enhanced among the thirteen states, and this peace was indeed absent under the article of confederation. The constitution provided all legislatures with the authority of making a decision that was in line with its jurisdictions.
Another difference is seen between the composition and the structure of the government. The article had provided for a national legislature that had its executive powers that had no federal courts. On the other hand, the composition and the structure of the government as provided by the constitution was stratified trilogy structure namely, the legislature, the judiciary and the executive. The executive had the responsibility of conducting checks and balance hence guarding legislative division between it and the judiciary. On the other hand, the article had no these three arms of the government.
The other difference between the constitution and the article is evident about the provisions that had been developed regarding the response to the war and peace restoration. As was provided in the article, no ship or vessel of war was permitted to hold any state during peace period except for a permitted number necessary to grant security of every independent nation. Moreover, this phrase stated that no country should engage in any form of war without the authorization from the Congress. Also, the constitution granted the Congress the power to make decisions about conflicts, peace and engaging in foreign relation. In contrast, the article as earlier indicated did not relax its rigidity and inflexibility; it did not provide such powers to the Congress.
In regard to this mandate and responsibilities enjoyed by the Congress, the article of confederation was on the brinks of failing since they of no doubt limited the sovereignty of the Congress and this was the primary reason why section commentators perceived regarding granting the government authority and power. Contrary to the federation articles, the constitution under section 2 of article II gives a provision that the sitting president of the United States of America is the commander in chief of the armed forces and have supreme powers to make agreements and sign treaties. Moreover, the Congress was given the mandate to raise funds so that they could provide for the army. This fact was contrary to the article of a federation that gave power and mandate to individual state in ascertaining whether to engage in command or not. About trade regulations. The federal government was given order over trade regulations within the states and international levels. The article of confederation had no provisions for such powers to the central government to exercise trade control powers (Collahan 88).
How the constitution has addressed the shortcomings of the article
Following the declaration of the United States as an independent state in the year 1776, a special committee was established one year later to create the article of confederation which acted as the very first document of governance of the thirteen original Free states that were in existence by then. However, "The Article of Confederation" had a lot of shortcomings that influenced the operations of the central government negatively in achieving its intended objectives to the people of America. For instance, some of the shortcomings included economic disorganization, legislature inefficiencies and lack of central government power.
To rectify these weaknesses, the supreme, the primary law that would succeed any other in the United States had to be developed. The founding framers concluded that replacing the article with the constitution was the also option left that could give power to the central government to execute its functions. As indicated by Elliot "the armed rebellion against Massachusetts' states government in the year 1786 referred to as Shays Rebellion further catalyzed the Federalist' call for a powerful central government (Weir, pp, 99-100).
Merely, the constitution played an integral role in fixing the weaknesses of the article by permitting the government to have some powers and rights making the government have a broader scope as compared to the time when it was operating under the article of confederation. Typically the Congress did not have enough power at the time the article of confederation was still being used since it could not raise any of the armies, could not conduct tax collection, regulate trade and force any state to follow the law. The Constitution solved this problem by granting the Congress extensive powers making it more powerful and strengthened. In addition to the above problem, another flaw with the article is that, it gave too much authority and responsibility to the federal government. This issue was fixed by the constitution as well by dividing the power among the federal government and the state government by explicitly specifying the specific powers of each type of government while at the same time some of the powers were shared between the two governments. With this act of dividing powers, the framers could now smile as many of the powers were not with the national government.
The United States Constitution and the article of confederation are similar to some extent, but the differences are quite many besides being unfavorable to the will of the citizens. The United States decided to abandon the articles of confederation and adopt a more adapted constitution in 1788 due to the shortcomings of the article like the creation of political stability. The adopted constitution proved to be inclusive and was welcomed by the majority of the citizens since it filled the loopholes of the previously used document of power.
Callahan, Kerry P. The Articles of Confederation: A Primary Source Investigation into the Document That Preceded the U.S. Constitution. New York, NY: Rosen Primary Source, 2003. Print.
Scaros, Constantinos E. Understanding the Constitution. Sudbury, Mass: Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 2011. Print.
Weir, David A. Early New England: A Covenanted Society. Grand Rapids (Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 2005. Print.
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