Learn American History through 50 pop songs

The Articles of Confederation


The Articles of Confederation was the first constitution of the United States of America and legally established the union of the states. Ultimately the Articles failed because they did not provide enough power to the central government. The Articles of Confederation were replaced by the Constitution.


© Copyright 2010 by Mr. and Mrs. Gillenwater

With the revolution done
The new born United States
With their freedom at last won
Had many choices to make
Like how much power
Should each state be given
So they drafted up Articles
Of Confederation

Now this first attempt at constitution
Was in the end flawed
But it did put to pen
Some of our first laws
Like a federal system
That’s still around today
Where both the state and fed
Have a lawful say

And the Northwest Ordinance
Which allowed for brand new states
So five more were added
Between 1803 and 48
But in the end the Articles
Just didn’t do the deed
Of meeting our new country’s
Most important needs

Because the central government
Was way too weak
The states had too much power
And were not united in the least
Yes the states had too much power
And were not united
Were not united!

So back to the drawing board
Were out founding fathers sent
To continue to create
An effective government


The Articles of Confederation— The Articles of Confederation delegated most of the powers to the individual states, but left the federal government power over war, foreign policy, and issuing money. The Articles' weakness was that they gave the federal government so little power that it couldn't keep the country united.

Revolution— The American Revolution was fought between America and Britain. America was fighting for their independence and won the war, thus becoming their own nation and no longer subject to British rule.

Constitution— The document which established the present federal government of the United States and outlined its powers. It can be changed through amendments.

Northwest Ordinance— A major success of the Articles of Confederation, the Northwest Ordinance set up the framework of a government for the Northwest Territory. The Ordinance provided that the Territory would be divided into 3 to 5 states, outlawed slavery in the Territory, and set 60,000 as the minimum population for statehood.

Tiered Questions

Tier 1 Questions

What was one of the choices the United States needed to make when they first earned their independence?

What was the weakness of the Articles of Confederation?

Tier 2 Questions

Explain two accomplishments of the Articles of Confederation.

Explain the flaw of the Articles of Confederation.

Tier 3 Questions

In what way did the articles not ‘do the deed of meeting our new country’s most important needs?”

Based on your answer to the above question, speculate what type of laws and provisions needed to be added so that the next attempt at constitution was more effective and successful.

Test Prep Questions

1) One accomplishment of the national government under the Articles of Confederation was the passage of legislation establishing

  • (1) a central banking system
  • (2) a process for admitting new states to the Union
  • (3) the president’s right to put down rebellions
  • (4) the ability of Congress to tax the states effectively

2) The Land Ordinance of 1785 and the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 are considered achievements under the Articles of Confederation because they

  • (1) established processes for settling and governing the western territories
  • (2) settled boundary disputes with Great Britain and Spain
  • (3) provided the basic methods of collecting taxes and coining money
  • (4) created a system of state and federal courts6 The creation of the presidential cabinet and political parties are examples of

3) A major criticism of the Articles of Confederation was that too much power had been given to the

  • (1) British monarchy
  • (2) House of Burgesses
  • (3) state governments
  • (4) national government important to the United States because it

4) A major weakness of government under the Articles of Confederation was that

  • (1) the large states received more votes in Congress than the small states did
  • (2) the national government could not enforce its laws
  • (3) too much power was given to the president
  • (4) state governments could not coin money