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The difference between the Constitution and the Articles of Confederation

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Changing Constitutions

Written by: Josh Kuhbacher

America has been governed (ran) by the same document, The Constitution, for the past 228 years! The Constitution, however, was not America's first constitution. Between the years 1781 and 1788, the U.S. was governed by the Articles of Confederation.



Why did we change constitutions? 

  • A Constitution is a paper that has a country's most important laws written on it. 

The Founding Fathers of America believed in a small, limited government to prevent anyone from becoming too powerful, like a king. Under the Articles of Confederation, the government was so small that it caused problems that had to be fixed. The federal government could only perform a small amount of tasks such as: borrowing money, making war and peace, establishing post offices, establishing a navy, sending and receiving ambassadors (people who represent their country), settling fights between states, and setting up a single money system for all states. 

U.S. Navy ship

Under the Constitution the federal government has much more power. They can do everything they were able to do under the Articles of Confederation, and: tax the states, print money, establish an army, regulate trade, and make laws needed to enforce the constitution. 

Under The Articles of Confederation, there was only one branch of government, congress. Congress was made up of anywhere between 2 and 7 representatives from each state in the country. Under the constitution, however, there are 3 branches of government; the executive branch, the legislative branch, and the judicial branch. 

The Judicial Branch is the Supreme Court. Supreme Court judges are supposed to decide what laws mean, so that they can be enforced correctly.

The Executive Branch is the President of the United States. The President has many jobs, but the main ones are to command the army, deal with other countries, and either pass or veto (reject) law. 

The Legislative Branch is made up of Congress. Congress is made of the Senate, and the House of Representatives. Each State has 2 senators, and at least 1 representative for every 650,000 in the state. Wyoming has 1 representative in the house and California has 53. Congress's job is to write new laws. 

-The Central government is in charge of the value of money


-Limited Federal Government


-Elected Government officials

There are very few similarities between the Articles of Confederation, and many differences


-Unicameral Legislature (only senate in congress)


-One vote per State


-No federal courts


-No President


-No federal taxing


-2-7 representatives per state


-Both states and U.S. can have their own money system


-Congress can ask states for troops

Articles of Confederation:


-Bicameral Legislature (Senate and House of Reps in Congress)


-One vote per Representative


-Supreme Court (Judicial Branch)


-President of U.S. (Executive Branch)


-Congress can tax


-2 Senators per state, House based off of state population


-Only U.S. government can make money


-Congress can raise an army

The Constitution:

 Under the Articles of Confederation, how were the states represented in Congress? | eNotes. (n.d.). Retrieved November 03, 2016, from 
 H. (2016). Federalism: Powers of National and State Governments. Retrieved November 03, 2016, from 
 Congress for Kids: [Constitution]: The Three Branches of Government. (n.d.). Retrieved November 03, 2016, from 
 Comparison of Constitution and Articles of Confederation. (n.d.). Retrieved November 03, 2016, from 
 ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION. (n.d.). Retrieved November 03, 2016, from 
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