Having already described the concept of Natural Rights, we now continue our study of the meaning of the constitution. The “Articles of Confederation” were the precursors of our Constitution, and I think that no study of the Constitution can be made without reading and understanding them. What I want to do is discuss the Articles, and then move on the problems and arguments that resulted, which should give us a good idea of where our founding documents came from. We will begine:
The Articles of Confederation were referred to as “The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union” and was the basis for the Union of the States. They were written by the Second Continental Congress and the draft was sent to the States for ratification in November of 1777. The ratification process was completed in March 1781, legally federating the sovereign and independent states, already cooperating through the Continental Congress, into a new federation called the “The United States of America.”
They were a series of 13 Articles along with a preable, and I will touch on the big ones here (my comments in blue, the actual text of the article in black):
Preamble: Listed the States that were a part of the Union, which were the Thirteen Colonies: New Hampshire, Massachusetts bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia.
Article I: Stated that the Confederacy would be called “The United States of America”
Article II: This one is important to understanding the mindset of the people who wrote our Constitution. The article states:
Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.
Article III: This article states the purpose of the confederation:
The said States hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other, for their common defense, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other, against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretense whatever.
Article IV: This article is long, so I am going to parse this one, so that it can be studied phrase by phrase:
The better to secure and perpetuate mutual friendship and intercourse among the people of the different States in this Union, the free inhabitants of each of these States, paupers, vagabonds, and fugitives from justice excepted, shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of free citizens in the several States;
and the people of each State shall have free ingress and regress to and from any other State, and shall enjoy therein all the privileges of trade and commerce, subject to the same duties, impositions, and restrictions as the inhabitants thereof respectively, provided that such restrictions shall not extend so far as to prevent the removal of property imported into any State, to any other State, of which the owner is an inhabitant; provided also that no imposition, duties or restriction shall be laid by any State, on the property of the United States, or either of them.
If any person guilty of, or charged with, treason, felony, or other high misdemeanor in any State, shall flee from justice, and be found in any of the United States, he shall, upon demand of the Governor or executive power of the State from which he fled, be delivered up and removed to the State having jurisdiction of his offense.
Full faith and credit shall be given in each of these States to the records, acts, and judicial proceedings of the courts and magistrates of every other State.
The “Full Faith and Credit” Clause.
For the most convenient management of the general interests of the United States, delegates shall be annually appointed in such manner as the legislatures of each State shall direct, to meet in Congress on the first Monday in November, in every year, with a power reserved to each State to recall its delegates, or any of them, at any time within the year, and to send others in their stead for the remainder of the year.
Notice that there is no requirement for HOW the Delegates were to be picked. It could have been by vote, by heredity, or drawing names out of a hat. I think this is important, as it appears like each State in the Confederacy was intentionally staying out of the internal affairs of the others.
No State shall be represented in Congress by less than two, nor more than seven members; and no person shall be capable of being a delegate for more than three years in any term of six years; nor shall any person, being a delegate, be capable of holding any office under the United States, for which he, or another for his benefit, receives any salary, fees or emolument of any kind.
Ahh, yes. Term limits and conflicts of interest were being avoided with this one. (IMO, we should still be doing this.)
Each State shall maintain its own delegates in a meeting of the States, and while they act as members of the committee of the States.
In determining questions in the United States in Congress assembled, each State shall have one vote.
This was a problem that was later fixed by the Constitution. A large State would contribute and risk more, but still only get one vote, but granting more votes to larger states would allow large States to dictate to smaller ones.
Freedom of speech and debate in Congress shall not be impeached or questioned in any court or place out of Congress, and the members of Congress shall be protected in their persons from arrests or imprisonments, during the time of their going to and from, and attendance on Congress, except for treason, felony, or breach of the peace.
The first 5 articles dealt with the way the Confederacy would be set up and administered. The next post will deal with the next 4 articles, which dealt with external relations.