A confederacy is a form of government in which
independent states are loosely joined, typically
for common defense. Each independent state
maintains power over the majority of its own
The governing body that consisted of
representatives from each of the 13 states. Congress
governed the affairs of the United States between
the ratification of the Articles of
Confederation in 1781 and the ratification of
the U.S. Constitution.
Political leaders who favored the formation of a
strong central government and who thought the
Articles of Confederation should grant more
powers to the national government than to the state
governments. Conservatives tended to fear the power
of the masses and to favor government by the elite.
A form of tax applied to goods that are imported
into a state or country. Imposts are typically used
to make money, protect a home industry, or
retaliate against another state or country.
Political leaders who favored strong state
governments and thought the Articles of
Confederation should remove most power from the
national government, placing more power in the
hands of the people. Radicals feared the formation
of another strong central government, similar to
the British government, which would favor the
elite, strip people of their right to equal
representation, and violate their freedom.
To formally approve and accept a legal document,
such as a constitution.
Sovereignty means that an independent state has the
power to govern its own affairs. A sovereign state
maintains the power to govern its own affairs
without interference from other states or other
bodies of power.
Second Continental Congress
The Second Continental Congress met for the first
time in Philadelphia in May of 1775, and continued
to meet until the full ratification of the
Articles of Confederation on March 1, 1781.
This congress produced the Declaration of
Independence, drafted the Articles of
Confederation, and served as an unofficial
national government, managing the war effort,
finances and foreign affairs, while the Articles
were debated by the states. It was succeeded by the
Congress of the Confederation.
Held in September 1786 at the request of Virginia,
this meeting of the states aimed to improve the
uniformity of commerce. Only twelve delegates came,
and they proceeded to call a second meeting, to be
held in May of 1787, for the purpose of revising
John Jay, as diplomat to Spain, attempted to
negotiate for American access to trade along the
Mississippi River. Threatened by Americans moving
westward, the Spanish diplomat Diego de Gardoqui
recommended instead that Spain would establish
trade with eastern U.S. ports, assist in removing
Great Britain from the Great Lakes and assist in
combating the Barbary Pirates. Southern and Western
delegates in Congress viewed with contempt this
plan that seemed to sacrifice their interests to
the commercial interests of the Northeast.
Maryland ratifies the Articles
Although the Articles of Confederation had
been approved by 12 states by 1779, they could not
go into effect until Maryland's ratification on
March 1, 1781.
Mount Vernon Conference
This name was applied to a meeting between Maryland
and Virginia statesmen at George Washington's
Mount Vernon Plantation. Originally scheduled to
meet at Alexandria to discuss free navigation of
the Potomac and Pocomoke Rivers, the delegates
ended up resolving far broader issues of trade and
mutual policy between the two states.
Land Ordinance of 1784
Proposed by Thomas Jefferson just a month after
Virginia officially handed over western lands to
congress, this ordinance established the process by
which new lands would be divided into states, the
process for surveying and sale, and the
qualifications of new states to enter into
Congress. This ordinance set the precedent to
prohibit any attempts to colonize newly ceded
A revision of the earlier Land Ordinance of 1784,
the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 refined some of the
earlier qualifications for statehood. It further
provided that a certain amount of land had to be
reserved for public education, and that slavery was
to be prohibited in this territory north of the
Daniel Shays organized farmers throughout New
England to protest legislation that increased taxes
and demanded immediate debt-repayment. When the
state legislature refused to respond, Shays and his
armed followers closed the courts in western
Massachusetts in protest of foreclosed properties.
The rebellion came to a head when Shays was
defeated while trying to seize a federal arsenal of
weapons in Springfield, Massachusetts, on January
25, 1787. This rebellion demonstrated the
weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation,
and convinced many states of the need for a
stronger central government.
Treaty of Paris
This treaty, negotiated on behalf of the U.S. by
Benjamin Franklin, John Jay and Samuel Adams,
formally acknowledged the independence of the
thirteen American colonies, and set the boundaries
of the new nation at the Atlantic Ocean in the
east, the Mississippi River in the west, Florida in
the south, and Canada in the north.