Search Menu

Contents

Article 6

page 2 of 3

Article 6

Article 6

One of the most important and agreed upon ideas in the Articles of Confederation was its anti- nobility sentiment. Colonists, even the most conservative, understood how a system of hereditary nobility would serve to sharpen class distinctions, limit economic and political freedom, and corrupt a democratic government. They wanted to break from the tradition of the British parliament, where the House of Lords, made up only of nobles, had clear advantages over the House of Commons, comprised of people elected from each region. Although many colonists still favored an "elite" group holding greater power than the masses, they preferred that the elite group be defined by actual property holdings and wealth, rather than by a title of nobility.

Another strongly held belief by most colonists was the importance of protecting the state, and therefore the people, through the establishment of a well-regulated militia. Based on the tradition of the minutemen, the militia clause recognizes the constant need of a state to be on guard against military threats and invasion. Although states could not raise armies and navies, they were required to have a group of soldiers prepared in case of threats from within or without. This would also protect the state governments against a strong national military.

During the time of the Articles of Confederation, the states faced many sources of potential invasion. The nations that had fought in the American Revolution and still occupied parts of North America were the most threatening. Great Britain, although agreeing to abandon the forts in the Great Lakes region, refused to leave. They therefore posed a military threat from the north (Canada) and the west. Not only were they able to amass troops on the northern and western borders of the United States if they chose, but they also maintained their trade posts in the Great Lakes Region and could provide Native American tribes with weapons to be used against the states.

Great Britain could also serve as an outside alliance for disgruntled states. When Ethan Allen formally declared Vermont independent from New York, Great Britain promised to recognize its independence if it would become an ally. Vermont tried to use this proposed alliance to force Congress to accept its independence at this time, but Great Britain lost interest in Vermont once the war ended. However, the potential for powerful outside alliances was there, and threatened the internal stability of the United States.

Spain, holding territory to the south and west of the United States also posed a threat. Although Spain had been an ally of the United States during the American Revolution, it feared the expansion of the United States west beyond the Mississippi. Spain tried to woo those westerners into Spanish citizenship in order to strengthen its hold on the Mississippi River region. In the Jay-Gardoqui talks, Spain attempted to block all American trade from the Mississippi River, in hopes of coercing American farmers living in the western regions of the United States to become Spanish citizens in order to sustain their livelihood.

Furthermore, most Native American tribes were allies of the British, and felt threatened by the American tendency to grab great amounts of western land for their ever-increasing population. Border states, especially to the South (Georgia, North Carolina), constantly feared the threat of a Native American attack or invasion. The qualification that states are not empowered to wage war, unless under imminent attack, refers to the very distinct possibility that a state would find itself under attack without a formal declaration of war, or enough time to ask for permission of Congress to defend itself.

More Help

Previous Next