Northwest Territory   Accomplishments   

The federal government, under the Articles of Confederation, was weak.  It had little money, and no power to tax.

Given this limitation, one might expect Congress to have bided its time for eight years, waiting for a new Constitution which would grant it greater power.  Such was not the case.  The Confederation Congress, in its eight years of life, passed laws and created institutions which profoundly affected the young United States, and in many cases long outlived the Articles themselves.  Instead of mocking the Articles of Confederation as a failure (historian Robert Middlekauff dismissed them as "a constitution in the most tenuous sense"), we should admire that they allowed Congress and the federal government to do so much with so little.

Click here to learn how Congress created the first federal territory--with the first federal Bill of Rights, a new post-Revolutionary United States Army, and the first federal stand against slavery.

Our decimal currency, with its familiar dollars and cents, was established by Congress in 1786.

The Confederation Congress chartered and funded our first national bank--the first commercial bank anywhere in North America.

The Confederation Congress created the executive branch, including the forerunners of our modern departments of State, Treasury, and Defense.

The Confederation Congress created the first federal judiciary, which adjudicated prize captures on the high seas.

Click here to learn how state boundary disputes threatened to tear apart the United States, and how the Articles of Confederation resolved them.

The Postmaster General fought a running battle with Congress, but Congress succeeded in modernizing the Post Office.

Click here to learn about foreign policy under the Articles, and the hugely controversial Treaty That Wasn't.

And finally, see From Conquest to Purchase for the story of Indian policy under the Articles of Confederation.

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