10 Reasons Why America’s First Constitution Failed


It was on November 17, 1777, that the Articles of Confederation, the first American constitution, was sent to the 13 states for consideration. It didn’t last a decade, for some obvious reasons.

On that day, Congress submitted the Articles to the states for immediate consideration. Two days earlier, the Second Continental Congress approved the document, after a year of debates. The British capture of Philadelphia also forced the issue.

The Articles formed a war-time confederation of states, with an extremely limited central government. The document made official some of the procedures used by the Congress to conduct business, but many of the delegates realized the Articles had limitations.

Here is a quick list of the problems that occurred, and how these issues led to our current Constitution.

Late to the Party: Only after over a year of deliberation did the Articles of Confederation reach the states for consideration on November 17, 1777, highlighting the initial hesitancy towards formalizing a national framework.

Weak Foundations: Crafted amidst wartime turmoil, the Articles birthed a feeble central government, devoid of executive and judicial branches, setting the stage for subsequent governance struggles.

Unicameral Blues: With a single-chamber Congress and equal state representation, the Articles bolstered state autonomy but hindered unified decision-making on critical national issues.

Supermajority Stalemate: Requiring approval from 9 out of 13 states for legislation made consensus elusive, stalling progress and exacerbating tensions between states.

Amendment Impasse: The Articles’ unanimity requirement for amendments rendered adaptability futile, trapping the nation in an unyielding framework ill-suited for post-war realities.

Taxing Troubles: Deprived of taxing authority, the central government languished in financial dependency, unable to sustain military operations or stabilize currency.

Diplomatic Discord: States pursuing independent foreign policies undercut national cohesion, exposing the Confederation’s diplomatic impotence on the international stage.

Currency Chaos: Divergent state currencies hampered interstate trade, complicating economic transactions and exacerbating financial disarray.

Debt Dilemma: Mounting Revolutionary War debts strained national solvency, exacerbated by the central government’s inability to levy taxes or facilitate trade.

Shays’ Wake-Up Call: The uprising of Massachusetts farmers in Shays’ Rebellion underscored the central government’s ineffectiveness, prompting urgent calls for constitutional reform.

Bonus Trivia: Delegates from five states convened in Annapolis in 1786, catalyzing the Constitutional Convention of 1787, which ushered in the end of the Articles of Confederation era and paved the way for the modern U.S. Constitution.