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Articles of Confederation vs. Constitution: What's the Difference?

Edited by Sara Rehman || By Sawaira Riaz || Published on December 6, 2023
The Articles of Confederation was the first governing document of the U.S., creating a weak federal government, whereas the Constitution established a stronger federal system and executive branch.

Key Differences

The Articles of Confederation, ratified in 1781, served as the first constitution of the United States, emphasizing state sovereignty and limited federal power. The U.S. Constitution, adopted in 1789, replaced the Articles, creating a stronger federal government with more centralized powers.
Sawaira Riaz
Dec 06, 2023
Under the Articles of Confederation, the federal government lacked the power to tax and regulate commerce, leading to economic difficulties and limited national unity. The Constitution addressed these weaknesses by granting the federal government the power to tax, regulate commerce, and provide for national defense.
Sawaira Riaz
Dec 06, 2023
The Articles of Confederation established a unicameral legislature without an executive branch or national judiciary, leading to inefficiencies in governance. The Constitution introduced a bicameral legislature, a separate executive branch, and a federal judiciary to create a more balanced and effective government.
Sara Rehman
Dec 06, 2023
Amendments to the Articles of Confederation required unanimous consent from all states, making changes difficult to enact. The Constitution provided a more practical method for amendments, requiring approval from a supermajority of states.
Sawaira Riaz
Dec 06, 2023
The Articles of Confederation represented an initial attempt at a national government, but its limitations highlighted the need for a more robust framework. The Constitution, with its system of checks and balances and clear delineation of federal powers, established a more enduring and flexible system of government.
Sawaira Riaz
Dec 06, 2023
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Comparison Chart

Ratification Date

1781
1789
Sawaira Riaz
Dec 06, 2023

Federal Government Power

Limited, weak central government
Stronger central government
Sawaira Riaz
Dec 06, 2023

Legislative Structure

Unicameral Congress
Bicameral (House and Senate)
Sawaira Riaz
Dec 06, 2023

Executive and Judicial Branches

None
Separate executive and judiciary
Janet White
Dec 06, 2023

Amendment Process

Unanimous consent required
Two-thirds of Congress and three-fourths of states
Sawaira Riaz
Dec 06, 2023
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Articles of Confederation and Constitution Definitions

Articles of Confederation

Created a weak federal government.
The federal government under the Articles of Confederation couldn't levy taxes.
Sara Rehman
Nov 26, 2023

Constitution

Includes a system of checks and balances.
The Constitution's checks and balances prevent any one branch from becoming too powerful.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 26, 2023

Articles of Confederation

Lacked executive and judicial branches.
The absence of a President under the Articles of Confederation led to leadership issues.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 26, 2023

Constitution

The supreme law of the United States.
The Constitution establishes the framework of the U.S. government.
Sara Rehman
Nov 26, 2023

Articles of Confederation

Required unanimous state consent for amendments.
Amending the Articles of Confederation was extremely difficult due to the unanimity clause.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 26, 2023

Constitution

Created a federal government with separate branches.
The Constitution divides power between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 26, 2023

Articles of Confederation

The first governing document of the United States.
The Articles of Confederation were ratified during the Revolutionary War.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 26, 2023

Constitution

Establishes the rights and freedoms of citizens.
The Bill of Rights in the Constitution protects individual liberties like freedom of speech.
Janet White
Nov 26, 2023

Articles of Confederation

Established a confederation of sovereign states.
The Articles of Confederation emphasized state power over federal power.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 26, 2023

Constitution

Can be amended through a supermajority process.
The amendment process in the Constitution allows for changes with a two-thirds majority in Congress and ratification by three-fourths of the states.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 26, 2023

Constitution

The act or process of composing, setting up, or establishing.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 23, 2023

Constitution

The composition or structure of something; makeup.
Sawaira Riaz
Nov 23, 2023

FAQs

When were the Articles of Confederation ratified?

The Articles of Confederation were ratified in 1781.
Sawaira Riaz
Dec 06, 2023

What does the Constitution establish?

The Constitution establishes the structure and powers of the U.S. federal government.
Sara Rehman
Dec 06, 2023

How does the Constitution handle amendments?

The Constitution allows amendments through a two-thirds vote in Congress and ratification by three-fourths of the states.
Harlon Moss
Dec 06, 2023

What was a major weakness of the Articles of Confederation?

A major weakness was the lack of federal power to tax and regulate commerce.
Aimie Carlson
Dec 06, 2023

How many branches of government does the Constitution create?

The Constitution creates three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial.
Aimie Carlson
Dec 06, 2023

Could the Articles of Confederation regulate interstate commerce?

No, the Articles of Confederation could not regulate interstate commerce.
Sawaira Riaz
Dec 06, 2023

Did the Articles of Confederation have a president?

No, the Articles of Confederation did not establish a presidential role.
Sawaira Riaz
Dec 06, 2023

Does the Constitution have a Bill of Rights?

Yes, the first ten amendments to the Constitution are known as the Bill of Rights.
Aimie Carlson
Dec 06, 2023

Was there a national currency under the Articles of Confederation?

No, there was no national currency under the Articles; states issued their own currency.
Janet White
Dec 06, 2023

Can the Constitution be considered a living document?

Yes, the Constitution's ability to be amended allows it to evolve with changing times.
Janet White
Dec 06, 2023

How is the President elected under the Constitution?

The President is elected indirectly by the Electoral College as established by the Constitution.
Janet White
Dec 06, 2023

Did the Articles of Confederation allow for a standing army?

The Articles allowed for a standing army, but funding and maintenance were challenging.
Janet White
Dec 06, 2023

What role does the Supreme Court play in the Constitution?

The Supreme Court is the highest federal court, interpreting the Constitution and federal laws.
Aimie Carlson
Dec 06, 2023

Who had more power under the Articles of Confederation?

The states had more power under the Articles of Confederation than the federal government.
Janet White
Dec 06, 2023

What is the importance of federalism in the Constitution?

Federalism in the Constitution balances power between the national government and the states.
Aimie Carlson
Dec 06, 2023

What legislative body does the Constitution establish?

The Constitution establishes a bicameral legislature, consisting of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Janet White
Dec 06, 2023

Were the Articles of Confederation successful?

The Articles of Confederation had several weaknesses and were ultimately replaced by the Constitution.
Aimie Carlson
Dec 06, 2023

What is the significance of the Constitution's preamble?

The preamble sets the philosophical foundation and objectives of the U.S. government.
Janet White
Dec 06, 2023

How were disputes between states handled under the Articles?

Disputes between states under the Articles were difficult to resolve due to the lack of a strong federal judiciary.
Aimie Carlson
Dec 06, 2023

How were laws passed under the Articles of Confederation?

Laws required the approval of a majority of the state delegations under the Articles.
Janet White
Dec 06, 2023
About Author
Written by
Sawaira Riaz
Sawaira is a dedicated content editor at difference.wiki, where she meticulously refines articles to ensure clarity and accuracy. With a keen eye for detail, she upholds the site's commitment to delivering insightful and precise content.
Edited by
Sara Rehman
Sara Rehman is a seasoned writer and editor with extensive experience at Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Information Technology, she combines her academic prowess with her passion for writing to deliver insightful and well-researched content.

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