What if We Kept the Articles of Confederation?

An Alternate History: What if We Kept the Articles of Confederation?

The struggle between the government and the states has been happening ever since both existed.

Even between states themselves. And that goes back to Revolutionary times.

When the fastest way to travel was by horse, It made sense when people cared little about the opinions of somebody hundreds of miles away.

This crafted a culture of self-determination within each colony. Each of the 13 colonies had its own government, culture, and laws.

The British Crown cared so little for centuries, Colonies saw ruling themselves as the only way. The concerns of their neighbors didn't really matter.

It took the threat of losing that self-determination (the British interfering) which forced them to band together.

A war really to maintain the status quo. Not the US to be a nation to rule itself, but for the states to continue doing their own thing.

With limited interference. From both outsiders and each other. And that was strongly reflected in the first constitution crafted.

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The Articles of Confederation. A system that imagined the United States not as a single large nation, but as a friendly alliance. Sounds nice, huh?

The federal government had no authority. No way to collect taxes. And, everything fell apart quickly. So it had to be scrapped.

Eventually leading to the constitution we know and love to take its place. But, failure or not, this was the fundamental blueprint for the US. 13 loosely friendly states, doing their own thing.

What if it didn't fail? No matter how unrealistic, the young US just kept the Articles of Confederation, never ratifying the constitution?

How much could that probably change the course of the nation? What might happen in this possible alternate scenario?

For context, what did the Articles of Confederation actually DO?

This was what the Articles were meant for. It purposely designed itself to have as little influence as possible over the 13 States.

The idea of the states to be united, was for protection from the outside as a fence pact. To band together, since each state was too inadequate to fight for themselves.

The Federal Government was only 13 congressmen. That was it. No court, no president. Every law in implementation had to be ratified by all 13 colonies unanimously.

And even when they did agree, Congress couldn't enforce legislation. They had no power to tax, which made sense at the time after fighting over taxes. So they had to request the states for money.

But the states never contributed. The states could determine their own trade policy, but it wasn't like it mattered much, since pirates kept attacking those shipping routes.

The economy plummeted, shipping was at risk, rebellions sprang up. The United States was merely a suggestion.

With a broke government, who had limited power, barely holding together 13 divided regions. It couldn't enforce anything. In our timeline, this rapid downward spiral forced a radical change.

But what could have happened if, in an alternate timeline, the United States didn't go down that path, no matter how unrealistic?

In this alternate 1790s, the United States is in desperate shape. There needs to be a change, but how do you amend the Articles?

Well, you can't. The articles required all 13 states to agree on an issue. Making compromise was practically impossible.

So without choosing a different constitution, the US is stuck to continue down an unstable path. If it kept doing this, the whole idea of a united Confederacy becomes pretty unpopular.

As a whole new generation grows up, the Confederacy with political instability, loses its appeal. Independence from Britain was good, but the union was a bit too much of a fabled dream.

The American Revolution might just become seen as a fluke when the states had to work together. Like the world fighting against aliens.

The best comparison is Gran Colombia. Born from the Latin American Revolutions, much like its American counterpart, it was envisioned by Simon Bolivar, much like how the founders saw the United States.

However, after only a decade, the divisions between the different regions were too much. And it split into three different countries. The US could easily follow the same path.

Had the articles continued, if unrealistically, nobody did anything, Congress gradually loses more influence.

The states compete amongst themselves and begin to do their own policies, entirely ignoring federal power.

The patriotism of the war fades as states go off to rule themselves, becoming basically tiny nations. The nations would have a lot to compete over: Trading routes, Manufacturing, most importantly; lots of unexplored lands.

The land they happen to ALL has claimed too. Big states like New York and Virginia with a higher population can easily bully their smaller neighbors like Maryland or New Jersey, going themselves even further.

Smaller states might have to band together to compete in this environment. It's not crazy in imagining it could happen.

In our timeline, New Hampshire once threatened war against New York and Ohio and Michigan fought over land. Militias could be sent to fight skirmishes over land prospects.

Instead of the United States moving as a single entity out West, it could just be a race between states, as they just expand their borders horizontally further.

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Each state with a complex web of alliances, with other states and maybe even foreign European powers, it's really just a powderkeg waiting to happen.

Europe has a far greater rule in the New World without the Monroe Doctrine and Europe could even have influence within the North American states themselves, creating alliances with separate nations.

This may seem unrealistic and it might be. The point of this article is really that it's not likely at all the Articles ever would have been held.

They were such a weakening force that it harmed the young country at a crucial time. Had it continued, there is simply one thing that would have came from it: entire collapse.

The nation couldn't regulate its own taxes, its own treaties, trade, money or military. It was if anything set up for this type of scenario.

Where the states only look out for themselves and themselves simply. That was some interesting context but I think this topic's a bit too fascinating to just summarize in a few minutes.
What if We Kept the Articles of Confederation? What if We Kept the Articles of Confederation? Reviewed by What IF on June 18, 2019 Rating: 5

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