The Weakness of the Articles of Confederation

Sent by a friend, which is pertinent to an on going conversation:

But what to do? Under the Articles of Confederation, there seemed little chance that the states would coordinate efforts to fight back. ”American cannot retaliate,” said Lord Sheffield in England. It is too difficult to get the states “to act as a nation.” Oren argues that this was one of the motivations for the replacement of the Articles with the Constitution, which provided a mechanism for the formation of a navy:

“Though downplayed during the Constitutional Convention, the connection between the Middle East and the American federation figured prominently in the impassioned state-level debates on ratifying the proposed Constitution. The Reverence Thomas Thatcher reminder the Massachusetts convention that the enslavement of ‘our sailors . . . in Algiers is enough to convince the most skeptical among us, of the want of general government.’ Nathaniel Sargeant said it was ‘preposterous’ to think that the United States could continue under the ineffectual Articles of Confederation and still defend itself from ‘piracies and felonies on ye high seas.’” In Norther Carolina, Hugh Williamson “a distinguished physician and astronomer, wondered ‘What is there to prevent the Algerine Pirate from landing on your coast, and carrying your citizens into slavery?’ The Kentucky attorney George Nicholas asked, ‘May not the Algerines seize our vessels? Cannot they . . . pillage our ships and destroy our commerce, without subjecting themselves to any inconvenient.’” (from here)

As I have been arguing, the Articles, and a limited national government is weak and ineffectual. Especially for commerce….

Joel L. Watts
Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

4 thoughts on “The Weakness of the Articles of Confederation

  1. I hear you. If we assume that going to war with the Algerian pirates was necessary, then it would make sense to have a united government capable of taking on the pirates.

    However, relentlessly skeptical as I am of warfare, my next step would be to try and figure out whether a concerted national war against the Algerian pirates was ever necessary.

    Pirate, in this case, is a very prejudicial term, as the boats in question were working for the Algerian government.

    The other problematic assumption here is the assumption that US citizens should continue to enjoy the protection of the US government no matter where they go, even in far-off waters claimed by the Algerian government. The idea that the US should be able to militarily dictate to the Algerians the legal status of waters near Algeria might well be, if you ask me, the basis for a very imperialistic approach to world affairs which has plagued us ever since.

    1. Mitchell, my friend, I have a suspicion that you may not fully know about the historical situation surrounding the events, nor have, is what is in my opinion, an accurate view of the role of government as seen by the Founders.

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