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Articles of Confederation Lesson for Kids: Definition, Facts & Summary

Instructor: Jenny Homer

Jenny has masters' degrees in public health and public administration.

The United States did not always have the Constitution we use today. This lesson looks at the Articles of Confederation, the country's first system of government. Find out what the articles said, and why this system had to be changed.

What are the Articles of Confederation?

Did you ever think you had a good idea and then it didn't work out? This is what happened with the Articles of Confederation. After America became a country in 1776, a group of men came together in the Second Continental Congress and wrote the Articles of Confederation. On March 1, 1781, the Articles of Confederation became the new country's first constitution, a document explaining how the government works.

The Second Continental Congress wrote the Articles of Confederation.
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Defining the Articles

There are thirteen articles. Let's talk about each one.

  • Article 1: The name of the confederation (group of states) is the United States of America.
  • Article 2: Each state can make its own decisions and laws. There is one Congress that has some powers.
  • Article 3: The states are in a ''league of friendship with each other'' and will help each other.
  • Article 4: People can move around and do business in different states. If you're free in one state, you'll be treated like a free person everywhere.
  • Article 5: Two to seven delegates (people) are sent from each state to Congress. Every state has one vote, no matter how many delegates they send.
  • Article 6: State governments CANNOT: make an agreement with another country or state, keep an army, or start a war (unless it's defending itself). To do these things, the United States must say it's OK first. States should have a militia, a group of people who can come together and protect the state when needed.
  • Article 7: When the United States needs an army, state governments can choose who will serve in certain jobs.
  • Article 8: The states will share the cost of a war. State governments will collect this money.
  • Article 9: Congress CAN: make peace and war, make agreements with other countries, trade with Native Americans, run the post office, and borrow money. Congress can ask the states for money and for men for the army and navy. Congress picks the leaders of the army and navy. To make a decision about these things, Congress needs nine states to agree. There is a president of the Congress (not the country).

Samuel Huntington, a president of the Confederation Congress.
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