The Articles of The Confederation: Part 5

Ratification & Repeal

Once drafted, the Articles of Confederation were sent, as a pamphlet, along with a letter from the President of the Continental Congress: Henry Laurens to the 13 states.  They were all asked to look it over and be prepared to vote on it by March 10, 1778.  Most of the states had requests for alterations so the date got pushed back to July.  States started to send in their considerations for amendments to the Articles but in the end none of them were used.  

Ratification didn’t actually take place till July 9th through the 24th as various state delegates took longer to arrive to sign the official document.  Three states remained unratified, and it wasn’t till March 1781 that Maryland, the last hold out, ratified the document. According to the Office of the Historian in the State Department, Maryland almost got left out because it waited so long. Virginia was the opposite, putting the document to a vote in their legislation in December 1777. The Articles would remain in use for another eight years.  One of the links I added to the list below has typed up versions of the various ratification acts from the states.  Its an interesting read.  For example, Benjamin Franklin signed off the Pennsylvania Ratification on March 1788.

Enactment of the Articles began with the 9 states ratifying, though it was not official for 3 years. The central government, which was called Congress Assembled in official documentation would meet as such even before Maryland finally ratified it.

There were 10 presidents of Congress before George Washington took office as President under the US Constitution. There is in fact a small debate on whether calling George Washington the first president is really a misnomer. Considering that the President of Congress Assembled was more akin to a committee leader then the President of the United States as we know them to be now, its usually not a long debate.  They all served 1 year terms following the full ratification. However several man served as Presidents of Continental Congress, the forerunner of the Congress Assembled.

At the time of the drafting of the Articles, John Hancock was the President of the Continental Congress.  Samuel Huntington and Thomas McKean served as President of Congress before official ratification.

The first “President of Congress Assembled”  after the full ratification was John Hanson. Others include Elias Boudinot, Thomas Mifflin, Richard Henry Lee, John Hancock, Nathaniel Gorham, Arthur St. Clair and Cyrus Griffin.  Griffin served till November 15, 1788.

In  May 1787, ten years after they had approved the Articles, Congress authorized a committee to meet in Philadelphia and recommend changes to the document.  In the end, the commettee decided to throw it out completely and start anew.  They instead developed the US Consitution, which created a stronger central government, as the current government had become seen as ineffective and weak.

They submitted the new Constitution for ratification on September 17, 1787.  It was eventually ratified in June 1788 when New Hampshire became the state to give the critical 9th (2/3rds) vote.  It was decided that the new government would go into effect early the next year.

The first Congress under the new Constitution started in March 1789, with John Adams sitting as President of the Senate as part of his job as Vice President.

There are some who like to argue that the Articles of Confederation were never fully repealed, and that they still are in effect except when superseded by the Constitution. However, for the most part it was considered null when the Constitution went into effect.

Further Reading:

Library of Congress: Articles of Confederation

University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for the Study of the American Constitution – Ratification

Department of State: Office of the Historian

Constitution Center:  FAQ

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