Articles of Confederation

by Rachael Guenin

Article One

The Articles of Confederation confirms the name of the new nation as "The United States of America." The name first appeared in the Declaration of Independence.

Article Two

It confirms that each state is a sovereign and independent state and retains all powers not granted to the Congress.

Article Three

It confirms a "league of friendship," and binds all states into a common defense pact.

Article Four

Its makes sure that when a citizen of one state travels in or through another state, the person shall enjoy all the rights of the citizens of the state he or she is traveling through. It also makes sure free travel between the states. It requires a state to hand over a fugitive from justice who has fled to that state. Finally, it requires that full faith and credit be given to the records and acts of one state by all other states.

Article Five

Establishes the Congress, a unicameral legislature known officially as the "The United States in Congress Assembled". Each state legislature chose its congressional delegates and was free to send from two to seven members. Delegates had a term limit of no more than three years every six years. When a vote came to the floor of the Congress, each state's delegates would meet to determine the state's vote, states voted as states, individual members of Congress did not vote as individuals.

It guarantees freedom of speech in the Congress, and provides immunity to all members of Congress for whatever is spoken in Congress. Additionally, Article 5 provides that all members of Congress be free from arrest while traveling to and from Congress.

Article Six

Places limits on the states. Specifically:

  • no state could enter into a treaty without the consent of Congress

  • no state could grant a title of nobility (nor would Congress)

  • no vessels of war could be kept in peacetime, except that number determined by Congress necessary for defense

  • no state could engage in a war except on the authorization of Congress, unless invaded or in danger of invasion

Article 7

It makes sure that all military officers of the state militias, at the rank of colonel or below, will be appointed by the state legislature.

Article 8

It directs that any expenses of the United States would be paid out of a common treasury, with deposits made to the treasury by the states in proportion to the value of the land and buildings in the state.

The inability of the Congress to force the states to pay this levy was one of the major weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation.

Article 9

It lists the powers of the Congress. For example:

  • the power to declare war and peace

  • the power to send and receive ambassadors

  • the power to make treaties

  • the power to grant letters of marque

  • the power to regulate the currency of the United States and the individual states

  • the power to fix standards and measures

  • the power to establish post offices

  • the power to make rules for land and naval forces

  • the power to borrow money on the behalf of the United States

  • the power to build and equip a navy

  • the power to determine the size of an army and to requisition troops from each state to fill the need

  • the power to arm, equip, and clothe the members of the army

It also makes Congress the final court of appeal for disputes between states. All decisions of the Congress must have been made by majority vote of the states. Additionally, it establishes "A Committee of the States," which takes the place of the full Congress when it is not in session. This committee was made up of one member of Congress from each state. It also directed Congress to choose one of its number to be presiding officer (to be chosen for one year, and with a service limit of one year out of three). This person, often referred to as "President," had a role much akin to the Speaker of the House of the House of Representatives under the Constitution. The Congress was required to meet at least once a year, and could adjourn at any time, though never for more than six months at a time. It requires Congress publish its proceedings and the results of all votes taken.

Article 10

Allows the Committee of the States, or any nine individual states, to make decisions for the United States when Congress is in adjournment.

Article 11

Invites Canada to join the United States as a new state, at any time. Other new states, however, must be approved by the vote of nine existing states.

Artilce 12

Makes sure that all debt incurred by the Continental Congresses assembled before the Articles went into effect would be valid and binding on the United States

Article 13

Requires the states to be held to the decisions of Congress; it notes that the union is perpetual; and that any changes to the Articles must be agreed upon by Congress and all states.


The signers were:

Connecticut: Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, Oliver Wolcott, Titus Hosmer, and Andrew Adams.

Delaware: Thomas McKean 02/12/1779, John Dickinson 05/05/1779, and Nicholas Van Dyke.

Georgia: John Walton 07/24/1778, Edward Telfair, and Edward Langworthy.

Maryland: John Hanson 03/01/1781 and Daniel Carroll.

Massachusetts: John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Elbridge Gerry, Francis Dana, James Lovell, and Samuel Holten.

New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett and John Wentworth Jr. 08/08/1778.

New Jersey: John Witherspoon 11/26/1778 and Nathaniel Scudder 11/26/1778.

New York: James Duane, Francis Lewis, William Duer, and Gouverneur Morris.

North Carolina: John Penn 07/21/1778, Cornelius Harnett, and John Williams.

Pennsylvania: Robert Morris, Daniel Roberdeau, John Bayard Smith, William Clingan, and Joseph Reed 07/22/1778.

Rhode Island: William Ellery, Henry Marchant, and John Collins.

South Carolina: Henry Laurens, William Henry Drayton, John Mathews, Richard Hutson, and Thomas Heyward Jr..

Virginia: Richard Henry Lee, John Banister, Thomas Adams, John Harvie, and Francis Lightfoot Lee.