George Washington by Gilbert Stuart

The Articles of Confederation


The Articles of Confederation served as America’s first constitution, uniting the 13 colonies under one government. The document was written in 1777, but was not approved by all of the states until 1781. It set up a new Congress in the nation, that had the power to coin money, establish post offices, maintain an army, declare war, and more. It did not allow Congress to elect a national president, enforce laws, or collect taxes. These weaknesses eventually caused the people to draft a new document to replace the Articles of Confederation, called the Constitution.

”To all to whom these Presents shall come, we the undersigned Delegates of the States affixed to our Names send greeting.”—Opening remarks of the Articles of Confederation

”In a word, the confederation appears to me to be little more than a shadow without the substance; and Congress a nugatory body, their ordinances being little attended to.”—George Washington to James Warren, October 1785

In an early draft of the Articles of Confederation by Benjamin Franklin, he suggested the nation be called the “United Colonies of North America.”

John Dickinson, a delegate of Delaware, was the main author of the document.


Maryland was the last state to approve of the Articles of Confederation.