The Confederation period is one of the most neglected aspects of United States History. And yet, it’s a very important period. Between 1781 and 1789, the Confederation Congress established by the Articles of Confederation had to deal with war, economic depression, infighting between the states, trouble in the west, foreign meddling, and domestic insurrection. It’s a critical period where no one knew whether the United States would survive as an independent nation.
George William Van Cleve, a researcher in law and history at the University of Seattle Law School and author of We Have Not A Government: The Articles of Confederation and the Road to the Constitution, takes us into the Confederation period so we can discover more about the Articles of Confederation, the government it established, and the problems that government confronted.
*Correction: After production we noticed that in her second question to George, Liz noted the Articles of Confederation has a history that begins in 1787. Liz misspoke. The Second Continental Congress drafted the Articles of Confederation in 1777, ratified them in 1781, and they remained the active constitution of the United States until 1789, when the Constitution of 1787 went into effect on March 4, 1789.
About the Show
Ben Franklin’s World is a podcast about early American history.
It is a show for people who love history and for those who want to know more about the historical people and events that have impacted and shaped our present-day world.
Each episode features a conversation with a historian who helps us shed light on important people and events in early American history.
Ben Franklin’s World is a production of the Omohundro Institute.
George William Van Cleve, a researcher in law and history at the University of Seattle Law School and author of We Have Not A Government: The Articles of Confederation and the Road to the Constitution, takes us into the Confederation period.
As we explore the Articles of Confederation and the Confederation period, George reveals: details about the Articles of Confederation and the type of government it established for the new United States; the political and economic climate within the United States between 1783 and 1787; And, how the Confederation Congress became stalemated and the steps early Americans took to get their government operating more smoothly.
What You’ll Discover
- The Articles of Confederation
- The last four years of the Articles of Confederation
- The post-revolutionary period
- Political divisions within the Confederation
- Power of state governments
- Political divisions within the Confederation era
- Taxation powers among the states
- Working relationships within the Confederation Congress
- Territorial boundaries of the United States
- Disagreements over territorial expansion
- Shays’ Rebellion
- Causes of the Philadelphia Convention
- The Spanish Treaty and the stalemate in Congress
- How early Americans ended the stalemate in the Confederation Congress
Links to People, Places, and Publications
- George Van Cleve
- We Have Not A Government: The Articles of Confederation and the Road to the Constitution
- A Slaveholders’ Union: Slavery, Politics, and the Constitution in the Early American Republic
- George discusses We Have Not A Government on YouTube
Episode 018: Danielle Allen, Our Declaration
Episode 062: Carol Berkin, The Bill of Rights
Episode 107: Mary Sarah Bilder, Madison’s Hand: Revising the Constitutional Convention
Episode 119: Steven Pincus: The Heart of the Declaration
Episode 141: Drafting the Declaration of Independence
Episode 143: Michael Klarman, The Making of the United States Constitution
Episode 155: Pauline Maier’s American Revolution
In your opinion, what would have happened if the states had followed up on their threats and the Confederation had been broken up into sectional or regional confederacies? How many different confederacies do you think would have formed? What do you think United States history would look like today if that had happened?
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