Limitations of the Federal Government By Livie Lewis

Limitations

Imagine you owe several people money. All different amounts of money for different prices you borrowed. Then imagine all of them are demanding that you pay them back right now, or else you will be kicked out of your house and your friendship will end. Imagine you were so in debt you can’t pay them back, and you had no way to raise money. This is how George Washington, first president of the in-debt United States, felt, when soldiers, who were promised a large sum of money from the government for willing to sacrifice their lives in the Revolutionary War, demanded to be paid. But the country was massively in debt- $54,124,464.56 dollars in debt, to be exact, and thank you Secretary of Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, to calculate that down to the cent.

"$54,124,464.56 dollar in debt, to be exact, and thank you Secretary of Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, to calculate this down to the cent."

America had to do something, come up with some way to figure out how to raise money, and came up with the Articles of Confederation. To avoid being a monarchy, the founders gave states tons of power and the federal government almost none. This, of course, didn’t help the country’s massive debt.

Scene at the Signing of the Constitution

Militia

First, the founders gave the states the right to have their own militia. This means that the federal government- the country itself- didn’t have a militia. States could train their troops however they wanted to. However, the federal government gave themselves some sort of power. The states couldn’t go into war with any other state or country unless they received permission from the federal government. This means, that if the federal government allowed it, states could go into war with each other. The federal government wanted to do this because they didn’t want states unrepresented if they went to war. Yet, we can probably assume that the federal government wouldn’t approve states going into war with each other.

Map of the United States (1780)

Taxes

Next, states were charged for taxes by the federal government, but the states didn’t have to pay them. The founders gave the states the option to pay taxes. If the state wanted to invest in a new capitol building, they could spend all their tax money on that and wouldn’t have to pay taxes. This puts an obvious strain on the government. The federal government needed to pay soldiers, to help build a government that would profit the states, but they couldn’t if they didn’t have the money. The federal government wanted to do this because they were victims of taxation without representation before, and didn’t want to become another Britain. The federal government was virtually unprofitable because they allowed the states to decide if they were going to pay taxes or not.

Drafting of the Articles of Confederation

Foreign Affairs

The Articles of Confederation left congress defenseless when it came to foreign affairs. States had to vote on war, trading, buying of new land, and other things that are necessary to have congress function correctly. Sure, they think this would avoid a monarchy, but it gave the country no power. For example, if the federal government wanted to purchase a plot of land to make it a government forest, they would have to have their purchase approved by at least nine of the states.

British Flag

Conclusion

In these government restrictions, the founders tried the best they could to avoid being a monarchy by giving states almost all the power. Each state is practically their own country, if you think about what kind of power they had. They could decide foreign affairs, go into war with each other, decide about taxes, and several other things.

"They could decide foreign affairs, go into war with each other, decide about taxes, and several other things."

In conclusion, the Articles of Confederation, having being made in fear of becoming the new Britain, gave the states too much power, and restricted the federal government too much.

Works Cited

"Avalon Project - Articles of Confederation : March 1, 1781." Avalon Project - Articles of Confederation : March 1, 1781. N.p., n.d. Web. 08 Feb. 2017

Wilser, Jeff. Alexander Hamilton's Guide to Life. New York: Three Rivers, 2016. Print

Created By
Livie Lewis
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