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The Articles of Confederation (1781-1789)

The Founding Fathers

Articles 3-4

Articles 1-2

Articles 3-4, page 2

page 1 of 2

Summary—Interstate Relations

Each of the thirteen states that make up the United States commit to a firm "friendship" with each of the other states. They are united for the purposes of defending themselves against military threats, protecting their independence, and ensuring the general well being of all of the states and good relationships between them. Each state commits to help any other state to defend itself against any attack on the basis of their religion, their right to self-government, their freedom to trade, or for any other reason.

To ensure friendly relationships and good business between people living in different states, any free person living in one state, not counting slaves, has the same rights as a free person living in any other state.

If a person charged as a criminal or traitor in one state runs away to another state, the government of the first state has the authority to bring the criminal back to the state in which the crime was committed.

Any official records, documents, trials and decisions made by the court system in one state will be recognized by each of the other states.

Commentary

Delegates to congress expressed a lofty idealism when they talked about the "friendship" of the thirteen states and of the states' willingness to work together for their mutual benefit and towards the common good. The reality of the situation was that each state jealously guarded its own power, had no qualms about usurping power from or abusing the power of less powerful states, and ruthlessly supported its own cause at the expense of the common good. The bonds of friendship, rather than being enforced by a structured and centralized government, faltered because of the unwillingness of states to focus on their role as part of a bigger nation.

The Articles of Confederation were worthless in enforcing good interstate relations because they did not endow Congress with the authority to regulate interstate trade or to intervene in questions of interstate disputes, except as a last resort. The Articles also made it too difficult for Congress to easily pass legislation beneficial to the common good. Furthermore, Congress itself was so plagued by poor interstate relations and low morale that it was often unable to address areas that did fall under its direct control.

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