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Articles of Confederation (1781)

This was the first governing document of the United States of America. It was adopted by the Second Continental Congress in November 1777 and ratified by the states in 1781. The Articles of Confederation contain thirteen articles and a conclusion. They were signed by forty-eight people from the thirteen states. Signers included Samuel AdamsJohn DickinsonElbridge Gerry, John HancockRichard Henry LeeGouverneur MorrisRobert MorrisRoger Sherman, and John Witherspoon.

The Articles created an association of sovereign states. The central government had little authority: it had no power to regulate commerce, no power of taxation, and any alterations had to be agreed upon unanimously by all states, which made changes next to impossible.The most important piece of legislation that the Confederation Congress enacted was the Northwest Ordinance.

Many Founders, including George Washington and James Madison became concerned that the government established by the Articles was inadequate. In 1786, Charles Pinckney proposed revising the Articles. The next year, Congress approved a plan to revise the Articles that summer in Philadelphia.