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

By Janet White || 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.

Comparison Chart

Ratification Date


Federal Government Power

Limited, weak central government
Stronger central government

Legislative Structure

Unicameral Congress
Bicameral (House and Senate)

Executive and Judicial Branches

Separate executive and judiciary

Amendment Process

Unanimous consent required
Two-thirds of Congress and three-fourths of states

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.


Includes a system of checks and balances.
The Constitution's checks and balances prevent any one branch from becoming too powerful.

Articles of Confederation

Lacked executive and judicial branches.
The absence of a President under the Articles of Confederation led to leadership issues.


The supreme law of the United States.
The Constitution establishes the framework of the U.S. government.

Articles of Confederation

Required unanimous state consent for amendments.
Amending the Articles of Confederation was extremely difficult due to the unanimity clause.


Created a federal government with separate branches.
The Constitution divides power between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches.

Articles of Confederation

The first governing document of the United States.
The Articles of Confederation were ratified during the Revolutionary War.


Establishes the rights and freedoms of citizens.
The Bill of Rights in the Constitution protects individual liberties like freedom of speech.

Articles of Confederation

Established a confederation of sovereign states.
The Articles of Confederation emphasized state power over federal power.


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.


The act or process of composing, setting up, or establishing.


The composition or structure of something; makeup.


When were the Articles of Confederation ratified?

The Articles of Confederation were ratified in 1781.

What does the Constitution establish?

The Constitution establishes the structure and powers of the U.S. federal government.

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.

What was a major weakness of the Articles of Confederation?

A major weakness was the lack of federal power to tax and regulate commerce.

How many branches of government does the Constitution create?

The Constitution creates three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial.

Could the Articles of Confederation regulate interstate commerce?

No, the Articles of Confederation could not regulate interstate commerce.

Did the Articles of Confederation have a president?

No, the Articles of Confederation did not establish a presidential role.

Does the Constitution have a Bill of Rights?

Yes, the first ten amendments to the Constitution are known as the Bill of Rights.

Was there a national currency under the Articles of Confederation?

No, there was no national currency under the Articles; states issued their own currency.

Can the Constitution be considered a living document?

Yes, the Constitution's ability to be amended allows it to evolve with changing times.

How is the President elected under the Constitution?

The President is elected indirectly by the Electoral College as established by the Constitution.

Did the Articles of Confederation allow for a standing army?

The Articles allowed for a standing army, but funding and maintenance were challenging.

What role does the Supreme Court play in the Constitution?

The Supreme Court is the highest federal court, interpreting the Constitution and federal laws.

Who had more power under the Articles of Confederation?

The states had more power under the Articles of Confederation than the federal government.

What is the importance of federalism in the Constitution?

Federalism in the Constitution balances power between the national government and the states.

What legislative body does the Constitution establish?

The Constitution establishes a bicameral legislature, consisting of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Were the Articles of Confederation successful?

The Articles of Confederation had several weaknesses and were ultimately replaced by the Constitution.

What is the significance of the Constitution's preamble?

The preamble sets the philosophical foundation and objectives of the U.S. government.

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.

How were laws passed under the Articles of Confederation?

Laws required the approval of a majority of the state delegations under the Articles.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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