Mar 042013

On March 2, 1781, the Articles of Confederation were adopted. The Articles of Confederation were drafted by the Second Continental Congress in 1777. I plan to write more extensively about the Articles of Confederation in the future, but here is just the tip of the ice berg. The federal government created by the Articles of Confederation had a legislative branch, a weak executive branch, and no judicial branch at all. Although the Articles of Confederation created the “United States of America,” each state retained its “sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States.” Interestingly, the Articles of Confederation accepted the area now known as the Province of Quebec, Canada, into the union, but the inhabitants of the area chose to go their own way.

Although the Continental Congress approved the document on November 15, 1777, it was not ratified until 1781. Virginia ratified the document almost immediately, and 10 states followed suit in 1778. Delaware ratified it in 1779, but Maryland waited until 1781. Why did Maryland take so long to ratify the Articles of Confederation? Maryland’s main concern was property. Claims had been made on land in the Ohio River Valley by New York and Virginia. 

Several of the states resolved to form a federal government without Maryland. However, several notable citizens, including Thomas Burke who was a congressman from North Carolina, argued that a country formed absent on unanimity was destined to be weak. Maryland also was pressured by demands from French Minister Anne-Cesar De la Luzerne that it ratify the Articles of Confederation before receiving French naval support against the British who were raiding colonists homes in the Chesapeake Bay. When Virginia agreed to back away from claims made on western lands, the Maryland legislature quickly ratified the Articles of Confederation on March 1, 1781. 

In an interesting twist, the first president elected under the terms of the Articles of Confederation was John Hanson of Maryland. He served in the office for one year, and some contend that he is actually the first President of the United States. 

You can read the text of the Articles of Confederation by clicking here:


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