Focusing on Details: Compare and Contrast

Differences Between the Articles of Confederation and the U.S. Constitution


All documents and text associated with this activity are printed below, followed by a worksheet for student responses.

Introduction

Remember class discussion and readings about the differences between the Articles of Confederation and the United States Constitution.

Click on the magnifying glass to more closely examine the digital images of these actual documents. Then follow the instructions on the screen.

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Articles of Confederation

The Articles of Confederation, often called this Nation’s first constitution, defined the former colonies as a confederation of 13 sovereign states bound loosely in a “league of friendship.” This document consists of six sheets of parchment stitched together. The last sheet bears the signatures of delegates from all 13 states.

Find further background information and a transcript of the Articles of Confederation on the list of 100 Milestone Documents of American history on www.ourdocuments.gov.

Additional Details on this Document from our Online Exhibit the Digital Vaults:

Articles of Confederation

The Articles of Confederation, often called this Nation’s first constitution, defined the former colonies as a confederation of 13 sovereign states bound loosely in a “league of friendship.” This document consists of six sheets of parchment stitched together. The last sheet bears the signatures of delegates from all 13 states.

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Articles of Confederation (page 2)

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Articles of Confederation (page 3)

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Articles of Confederation (page 4)

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Articles of Confederation (page 5)

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Articles of Confederation (page 6)

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Constitution of the United States

Learn more and read a transcript of the Constitution in the National Archives online exhibit The Charters of Freedom, and on the list of 100 Milestone Documents of American history on www.ourdocuments.gov.

Additional Details on this Document from our Online Exhibit the Digital Vaults:

Constitution of the United States

The Federal Convention convened in the State House (Independence Hall) in Philadelphia on May 14, 1787, to revise the Articles of Confederation. Because the delegations from only two states were at first present, the members adjourned from day to day until a quorum of seven states was obtained on May 25. Through discussion and debate it became clear by mid-June that, rather than amend the existing Articles, the Convention would draft an entirely new frame of government. All through the summer, in closed sessions, the delegates debated, and redrafted the articles of the new Constitution. Among the chief points at issue were how much power to allow the central government, how many representatives in Congress to allow each state, and how these representatives should be elected—directly by the people or by the state legislators. The work of many minds, the Constitution stands as a model of cooperative statesmanship and the art of compromise.

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Constitution of the United States (page 2)

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Constitution of the United States (page 3)

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Constitution of the United States (page 4)

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Name ________________________
Class ________________________

Differences Between the Articles of Confederation and the U.S. Constitution

Focusing on Details

Examine the documents included in this activity and write your response in the space provided.

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What weaknesses in the Articles of Confederation led to the effort to draft a new constitution?

List of at least four differences between the federal government as established under the Articles of Confederation, ratified in 1781, and the government under the United States Constitution, ratified in 1788.

Response