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The Articles of Confederation (1781-1789)

Article 9

Summary Article 9

The declaration of war complicated things further. Did the declaration of war return land to each state as originally chartered? Did the declaration of war automatically endow Congress, as the successor to the British king, with authority over the land referred to in the Proclamation of 1763? The "landless" states believed that the land belonged to Congress, and further bolstered their argument by claiming that disputed land should be shared by all the states. The "landed" states, which also happened to favor state sovereignty, argued that the declaration of war meant that each state returned to the sovereignty, rights, and privileges as granted in its original colonial charter. In other words, the "landed" states claimed the land as legally theirs.

The "landless" states had a variety of concerns regarding this situation. Primarily, they were concerned that influential speculators living within their states would lose the land they had purchased from Native Americans before the war. Additionally, Congress decided to allow soldiers to be compensated with land instead of cash, and "landless" states did not have the excessive land to give that states like Virginia and North Carolina did. This unfair economic advantage threatened the economic future of the "landless" states as well.

Fiercely jealous of the income potential of the "landed" states, "landless" states frequently argued that they would be swallowed up by their more powerful neighbors. "Landed" states could not only gain an economic advantage from the land, but with a broader base of income to draw revenue from, they could also use lower taxes to entice residents away from the "landless" states. The "landless" states would be left in an unfair position of being economically disadvantaged, and would be forced into a perpetual cycle of levying higher taxes on a increasingly smaller population until they went broke.

States like Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey claimed that Congress had to resolve the competing claims over western lands as part of the Articles of Confederation. Congress strongly resisted doing so, and individual "landed" states proceeded to deal with the land as though it belonged to them. Virginia even went so far as to hold trials to determine if the claims of speculation companies were legal. In all cases, Virginia determined that the land was unlawfully sold and purchased, and that any claims but those authorized by Virginia were worthless.

Finding no remedy in the Articles, Maryland withheld its signature in protest. Although this concerned the other states, the "landed states" still refused to give up their land to Congress. Instead, the solution was born out of military necessity. When the southern states began to feel the power of the British invasion late in the war, a French diplomat threatened to remove the protection of the French navy from Maryland's seas if Maryland did not sign the Articles. Meanwhile, some Virginians began to see that it would be more of a burden, and potentially bad for democracy, to have to govern over too much land. Around the same time as Maryland signed the Articles, Virginia ceded its land north of the Ohio River to Congress.

The Virginia cession of land is significant in that it allowed Congress to pass the Land Ordinance of 1784 and the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, both providing a process for the fair and equal entry of new states to the union. The cession also partially increased congressional authority in the acquisition of new lands. In conjunction with the clause relating to congressional jurisdiction over Native American tribes (who did not live in one of the states), Congress gained almost sole authority over land and issues west of the Appalachian Mountains.

However advantageous this authority was to new American settlers on this western land, it severely limited the rights of Native Americans. Native American tribes, although many lived within the boundaries of the United States, were defined and classified as "foreign nations." This precedent continued throughout U.S. history, as Native Americans were continually denied citizenship and inclusion in the U.S. Government. Having the authority to deal with "Indian Affairs," it is a shame that Congress did not make better use of it.

Other precedents were established in Article 9 as well. The Articles provide for a president to be elected from amongst the delegates in Congress. Although this president is not endowed with any executive authority, he is limited in the number of terms he may serve. Furthermore, the practice of publicly communicating both the proceedings of Congress (including voting records), and the financial state of the union were good democratic policies and precedents because they made Congress accountable to the people who elected them.

Although the western land issue was one of the most controversial issues relating to the Articles of Confederation, Article 9 also included the outcome of the controversy relating to the requisitioning of troops. The Articles dictate that troops will be requisitioned in proportion to the total number of white inhabitants of each state. Non-slave states opposed this as unfair because while white males in slave states went off to war, their slaves could continue to work on the plantations. In contrast, when white males in non- slave states went off to war, the productivity of their farms would suffer due to the loss of the chief laborer. This issue was related to issues of representation in Congress and the requisition of funds as discussed in other articles.

Within Article 9 is perhaps one of the biggest stumbling blocks that Congress experienced in trying to run the daily affairs of the government. The Articles dictate that in most matters over which Congress has authority, nine of the thirteen states must agree to any particular action. This extremely high percentage made it difficult for Congress to act or pass legislation; the problem was further complicated by the Congress' frequent inability to reach a quorum (mandatory minimum attendance) because of low attendance.

Despite the lengthy description of powers in Article 9, Congress was actually quite weak. It was a political body crippled by an inability to execute its laws, hemmed in by a limited range of authority, impeded by the absence of delegates, and trapped without the necessary unanimity to extend its legislative reach to matters beyond providing for the mutual defense.

The Articles of Confederation (1781-1789): Popular pages