Were the Articles the Articles of Confederation really that bad? Did the Constitution fundamentally change the Union? What are the similarities between the Constitution and the Articles? Did the States secede from the Articles?
I get emails asking questions like these about the Articles of Confederation at least once a week.
It is not much of a stretch to suggest that other than the Confederate States Constitution, the Articles of Confederation is the least studied and most misunderstood political document in American history. That is saying something because even “constitutional conservatives” don’t often understand the original Constitution.
There are several points to understand about the Articles and its relationship to the United States Constitution. I’ll list a few.
1. The union of States under the Articles was made “more perfect” but was not altered, meaning the union under the Constitution was still a union of States and not “one people.”
2. The Articles clarified that the last paragraph in the Declaration was not simply legal filler. Jefferson fully meant that the States were “free and independent” with full sovereignty. Nothing changed after the Constitution was ratified. Sovereignty cannot be “divided.”
3. Federalism is the key to the American political system. Without it, we would not have had a union.