Confederation period

The Confederation period was the era of United States history in the 1780s after the American Revolution and prior to the ratification of the United States Constitution. In 1781, the United States ratified the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union and prevailed in the Battle of Yorktown, the last major land battle between British and American Continental forces in the American Revolutionary War. American independence was confirmed with the 1783 signing of the Treaty of Paris. The fledgling United States faced several challenges, many of which stemmed from the lack of a strong national government and unified political culture. The period ended in 1789 following the ratification of the United States Constitution, which established a new, more powerful, national government.

United States of America
1781–1789
The Confederation Period came to a close with the adoption of the 1789 Constitution
Motto: E pluribus unum (Latin)
:"Out of many, one"
Anthem: None official
Map of the United States in 1783
CapitalPhiladelphia
(1781-1783)
Princeton
(1783)
Annapolis
(1783-1784)
Trenton
(1784)
New York City
(1784-1789)
Common languages
Religion
Majority:
Protestantism
Minority:
Catholicism
Judaism
Native American religions
GovernmentConfederal republic
President of the Congress 
 1779–1781
Samuel Huntington (first)
 1788
Cyrus Griffin (last)
LegislatureCongress of the Confederation
Historical eraAmerican Revolution
 Articles of Confederation came to effect
1 March 1781
September 1781
June 1783
 Signing of the Treaty of Paris
September 1783
May 1787
August 1787
 States begin ratification of Constitution
December 1787
 Articles of Confederation superseded by 1789 Constitution
4 March 1789
CurrencyContinental Currency
Preceded by
Thirteen Colonies

The Articles of Confederation established a loose confederation of states with a weak federal government. An assembly of delegates acted on behalf of the states they represented. This unicameral body, officially referred to as the United States in Congress Assembled, had little authority, and could not accomplish anything independent of the states. It had no chief executive, and no court system. Congress lacked the power to levy taxes, regulate foreign or interstate commerce, or effectively negotiate with foreign powers. The weakness of Congress proved self-reinforcing, as the leading political figures of the day served in state governments or foreign posts. The failure of the national government to handle the challenges facing the United States led to calls for reform and frequent talk of secession.

The Treaty of Paris left the United States with a vast territory spanning from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River. Settlement of the trans-Appalachian territories proved difficult, in part due to the resistance of Native Americans and the neighboring foreign powers of Great Britain and Spain. The British refused to evacuate US territory, while the Spanish used their control of the Mississippi River to stymie Western settlement. In 1787, Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance, which set an important precedent by establishing the first organized territory under the control of the national government.

After Congressional efforts to amend the Articles failed, numerous national leaders met in Philadelphia in 1787 to establish a new constitution. The new constitution was ratified in 1788, and the new federal government began meeting in 1789, marking the end of the Confederation period.


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