Power to the People By Ty Smith

A New Document

Think about this: a world where there’s one ruler and he’s abusing his power and treating his people badly.

Think about this: a world where there’s one ruler and he’s abusing his power and treating his people badly. You would feel like it was unfair and unjust. Before you know it you’re fighting back against King George III’s army. Then you have to create a new government that gives power to the people and create a written document on how this new government will be run. The Articles of Confederation, written from 1776-1777, were the first constitution of the United States. They got used from 1781-1789 after which the present US Constitution got put in place. The Articles of Confederation were a written document that explained how much power the government had and how it was run. ("Articles of Confederation.") The colonists created the Articles of Confederation because they wanted to have a written document so everybody would know the powers of the government. This mattered to them because the British Constitution wasn’t written down so anyone could interpret the rules any way they wanted. ("The Articles of Confederation.") The founders wanted a limited federal government for many reasons.

Federal Government: "A federal government is a system that divides up power between a strong national government and smaller local governments." ("What Is a Federal Government?")

This is a picture of a US postal stamp commemorating the Articles of Confederation.

The Power of Taxation

The colonists wanted the power of taxation to be with the states, instead of the federal government, so that the states could get rid of the federal government if the federal government was abusing its power.

One limitation that the founders wanted to place on the federal government was not being able to raise taxes. “All charges of war, and all other expenses that shall be incurred for the common defense or general welfare, and allowed by the US in congress assembled, shall be defrayed out of a common treasury, which shall be supplied by the several states…” (Article VIII of the Articles of Confederation) The power to tax was given to the state governments. The colonists did it this way because they didn’t want the federal government to have its own wealth and power. They felt this way because when they were living under King George III’s rule he had all the power and wealth and he treated his people badly. The colonists wanted the power of taxation to be with the states, instead of the federal government, so that the states could get rid of the federal government if the federal government was abusing its power. ("The Articles of Confederation")

This is a picture of Virginia currency representing taxes. It represents taxes because taxes are money.

Sharing Power

“In determining questions in the United States, in congress assembled, each state shall have one vote.” (Article V of the Articles of Confederation)

Another limitation that the founders placed on the federal government was every state had equal power so no one person had all the power. “In determining questions in the United States, in congress assembled, each state shall have one vote.” (Article V of the Articles of Confederation) This excerpt shows that under the Articles of Confederation each state had one vote in congress. Every state had 2-7 representatives that went to the federal government and cast their state’s vote. 9 out of the 13 states had to agree to make a new law. All 13 states had to agree to change an existing law. This means the founders had to rethink a lot of decisions to reach an agreement. Article V of the Articles of Confederation states “freedom of speech and debate in congress” (Article V, Articles of Confederation) is protected. Each member of Congress gets to have a say in what they think before they cast their state’s vote. This was a limit because then one state couldn’t take over. The founders wanted this limitation because they didn’t want anyone or any state to have so much power that they abused it like King George III did.

This picture represents delegates having a meeting, discussing things, and making decisions leading to a vote. This means they were sharing the power of decision making.

Military Power

The founders didn’t want to give the federal government the power to establish militias because if the federal government had that power then they would have an army they could use if they didn’t like what a state was doing.

The fact that only states can establish militias is another limitation that the founders placed on the federal government. “...Every state shall always keep up a well-regulated and disciplined militia, sufficiently armed and accoutered, and shall provide and constantly have ready for use.” (Article VI of the Articles of Confederation) The founders didn’t want to give the federal government the power to establish militias because if the federal government had that power then they would have an army they could use if they didn’t like what a state was doing. The British army occupied Massachusetts so they could attempt to make the colonists obey. The founders also didn’t want the federal government to have this power because when King George III was their ruler they ended up fighting the Revolutionary War against King George III’s army. It was actually happening when the Articles of Confederation were being written. The founders gave the power to establish militias to the states.

This is the British flag. It is representing the Revolutionary War. The colonists fought this war against Great Britain. Because of this war they didn't want their new government to have its own army.

A New Government

Under the Articles of Confederation the founders had to learn to cooperate with each other, to compromise, and to share the power.

The founders used the Articles of Confederation to create a government that had limitations. They did this because they wanted to make sure that no one could overpower anyone else. They gave a lot of power to the state governments. The colonists’ fears were understandable because they had just experienced a ruler who wasn’t fair. The idea that they could have another unfair ruler was scary for them. Under the Articles of Confederation the founders had to learn to cooperate with each other, to compromise, and to share the power. The colonists valued equality and they tried to protect themselves from another king or ruler having power that could be abused.

Works Cited

"Articles of Confederation." Britannica School, Encyclopædia Britannica, 3 Feb. 2017.school.eb.com/levels/middle/article/Articles-of-Confederation/272967. Accessed 6 Feb. 2017.

"The Articles of Confederation." Social Studies for Kids. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Feb. 2017. <http://www.socialstudiesforkids.com/articles/ushistory/articlesofconfederation.

"What Is a Federal Government?" - Definition, Powers & Benefits." Study.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Feb. 2017. <http://study.com/academy/lesson/what-is-a-federal-government-definition-powers-benefits.html>.

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