What if We Kept the Articles of Confederation?
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What if We Kept the Articles of Confederation?


The struggle between the government and the states has been happening ever since both existed. Even between states themselves. And this goes back to Revolutionary times. When the fastest way to travel was by horse, It made sense when people cared little about the opinions of somebody hundreds of miles away. This crafted a culture of self-determination within each colony. Each of the 13 colonies had its own government, culture, and laws. The British Crown cared so little for centuries, Colonies saw ruling themselves as the only way. The concerns of their neighbors didn’t really matter. It took the threat of losing that self-determination (the British interfering) which forced them to band together. A war really to maintain the status quo. Not the US to be a nation to rule itself, but for the states to continue doing their own thing. With limited interference. From both outsiders and each other. And this was deeply reflected in the first constitution crafted. The Articles of Confederation. A system that imagined the United States not as a single large nation, but as a friendly alliance. Sounds nice, huh? The federal government had no authority. No way to collect taxes. And, everything fell apart quickly. So it had to be scrapped. Eventually leading to the constitution we know and love to take its place. But, failure or not, this was the original blueprint for the US. 13 loosely friendly states, doing their own thing. What if it didn’t fail? No matter how unrealistic, the young US just kept the Articles of Confederation, never ratifying the constitution? How much could that possibly change the course of the nation? What might happen in this possible alternate scenario? For context, what did the Articles of Confederation actually DO? [Reading of above quote] This was what the Articles were meant for. It purposely designed itself to have as little influence as possible over the 13 States. The idea of the states to be united, was for protection from the outside as a fence pact. To band together, since each state was too small to fight for themselves. The Federal Government was only 13 congressmen. That was it. No court, no president. Every law in implementation had to be ratified by all 13 colonies unanimously. And even when they did agree, congress couldn’t enforce legislation. They had no power to tax, which made sense at the time after fighting over taxes. So they had to ask the states for money. But the states never contributed. The states could determine their own trade policy, but it wasn’t like it mattered much, since pirates kept attacking those shipping routes. The economy plummeted, shipping was at risk, rebellions sprang up. The United States was merely a suggestion. With a broke government, who had limited power, barely holding together 13 divided regions. It couldn’t enforce anything. In our timeline, this rapid downward spiral forced a radical change. But what could have happened if in an alternate timeline, the United States didn’t go down that path, no matter how unrealistic? In this alternate 1790s, the United States is in desperate shape. There needs to be a change, but how do you amend the Articles? Well, you can’t. The articles required all 13 states to agree on an issue. Making compromise was practically impossible. So without choosing a different constitution, the US is stuck to continue down a unstable path. If it kept doing this, the whole idea of a united Confederacy becomes pretty unpopular. As a whole new generation grows up, the confederacy with political instability, loses its appeal. Independence from Britain was good, but unity was a bit too much of a fabled dream. The American Revolution might just become seen as a fluke when the states had to work together. Like the world fighting against aliens. The best comparison is Gran Colombia. Born from the Latin American Revolutions, much like its American counterpart, it was envisioned by Simon Bolivar, much like how the founders saw the United States. However, after only a decade, the divisions between the different regions were too much. And it split into three different countries. The US could easily follow the same path. Had the articles continued, if unrealistically, nobody did anything, congress gradually loses more influence. The states compete amongst themselves and begin to do their own policies, entirely ignoring federal power. Patriotism of the war fades as states go off to rule themselves, becoming basically tiny nations. The nations would have a lot to compete over: Trading routes, Manufacturing, most importantly; lots of unexplored land. Land they happen to ALL have claims to. Big states like New York and Virginia with a higher population can easily bully their smaller neighbors like Maryland or New Jersey, going themselves even further. Smaller states might have to band together to compete in this environment. It’s not crazy in imagining it could happen. In our timeline, New Hampshire once threatened war against New York and Ohio and Michigan fought over land. Militias could be sent to fight skirmishes over land prospects. Instead of the United States moving as a single entity out West, it could just be a race between states, as they just expand their borders horizontally further. Each state with a complex web of alliances, with other states and maybe even foreign European powers, it’s really just a powderkeg waiting to happen. Europe has a far greater rule in the New World without the Monroe Doctrine and Europe could even have influence within the North American states themselves, creating alliances with separate nations. This may seem unrealistic and it might be. The point of this video is really that it’s not likely at all the Articles ever would have been kept. They were such a weakening force that it harmed the young country at a crucial time. Had it continued, there is only one thing that would have came from it: complete collapse. The nation couldn’t regulate its own taxes, its own treaties, trade, money or military. It was if anything setting up for this type of scenario. Where the states only look out for themselves and themselves only. Dan: “Excuse me, Cody. That was some interesting context but I think this topic’s a bit too fascinating to just summarize in a few minutes.” Slightly violated Cody: “Dan, just because I barged in in your video, doesn’t mean you can.” Passive-aggressive Dan: “Uhh.. Cody.. Cody.. Cody.. Cody.. Shh.. Shh.. Cody.. Tough luck. Just like the tough luck that was the legacy of the Articles. Which is exactly my channel, Extra Credits, just covered in our 4-part series on the Articles of Confederation. An extensive overview of their history.” Cody: “Oh, wow! You know, I might check that out.” Dan: “You should. Anyway, I’m gonna go back to my channel now. Thanks for letting me just waltz onto your channel and interrupt your nice little recording session. Hmm.. Okay, bye!” Cody: “So this is how that feels…”

100 Comments

  • AlternateHistoryHub

    Dan and the Extra Credits teamed covered this topic so well I didn't have to! Special thanks to them for making such great content. They made an entire four part series about the Articles of Confederation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6rHSiN0vKk&t=1s

  • Mycel

    I don't have to identify myself. I am a free inhabitant of this land. I'm not a driving, I'm travelling. I have not agreed to your contract. I will not get out of this vehicle. don't break my window! I do not consent, I DO NOT CONSENT, I DO NOT CONSENT!!!!!

  • Jason Darwood

    What if Nixon won the 1960 election? What would have happened to Berlin? Vietnam? Cuba? Civil Rights movement? The Space Race? The counter revolution? Relations between US/China? Relations between US/USSR? SO MANY QUESTIONS!!!

  • Keiya

    You forgot the whole 'bunch of British forts out west'. If the states had started fighting amongst themselves, weakening themselves… the Brits would just roll back in and take power by force.

  • kitiowa

    If one actually reads the Articles of Confederation they could see that they aren't as weak as portrayed. Everyone claims for some reason that it took all states to agree on things. The fact is that acts took 9/13 vote to pass "legislation". It took all 13 to amend the Articles. As all states were obliged to obey the determinations of Congress it shouldn't have taken too much for someone to figure out that using the state's courts as a venue to pressure compliance was an option. Congress needed to approve any foreign involvement including the states laying of tariffs. It shouldn't have been to far of a stretch for Congress to deny a state or two tariffs to get some compliance.

    In short the Articles of Confederation were not destined to failure. The Confederation wasn't actually utilized.

  • Alexander Colefield

    This might seem like a strange softball, but I do believe that this is roughly the timeline of Steven Universe, in the show, the United States federal government as we know it, simply doesn't exist (the only government we ever see is local government) outside of coinage, and even then, the coins have the emblems of Confederated State symbology: namely gadsen snakes

    https://vignette.wikia.nocookie.net/steven-universe/images/3/32/Del_currency.png/revision/latest?cb=20150928233536

    Also, the states themselves seem to have annexed other states around them or even succeeded. Steven Universe takes place in the state of "Delmarva" which either means the peninsula succeeded from the other states, or that Virginia annexed Maryland and Deleware. We never hear much of anything else besides east coast states, which could indicate the east coast just colonized outwards.

  • Landon Weist

    I think there would be a military coup by the Continental Army because they would get any pay and would be broke.

  • PapaSmurf Smurfy

    I suppose the U.S would be like the EU, seems like an Okay idea, especially since even today each state has its own Culture.

  • Stravo Lukos

    This is federalist propaganda as old as the U.S. itself. All the faults listed could have been fixed easily, but the concon suckered the moderate anti-feds to accept the Constituttifruity by passing the Bill of Rights.

    You must read the Anti-federalists before accepting this claptrap of elite centrists before deciding which course is, was, or would be better.

  • InfernosReaper

    What if they amended the articles some to cover the critical stuff, like what to do with new territory and implementing taxation?

  • Taara535

    So, yeah I am bit late to the discussion. But it is worth pointing out that many of these states, in order to acquire land in the West, would actually have to fight other strong nations that existed on these lands. The Western Confederacy, led by the Shawnee, would have probably easily beaten back individual state militias. In fact they did – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northwest_Indian_War – until the US, under the Constitution, raised a professional army in 1793.

    So under the Articles of Confederation – many Native American nations would have allied with each other and/or colonial powers, like the Spanish or the British and probably would have stopped the disunited states in their tracks.

  • Nicholas Trueblood

    the states would have Balkanized and formed their own smaller nations. Over time, some would have rejoined Britain, France, Spain and eventually Canada. The remaining states would have eventually absorbed each other to form a greater American Empire.

  • The American Crusader

    I prefer the Articles of Confederation. The AoC should've been modified to where the government had the power to collect taxes, control the military during war, and having the authority to enforce laws Congress passes.

  • Brainpop14

    This situation was actually explored in a book called "The Freedom Factor" it's actually quite an interesting book. I had to read it for school once. It depicts a dystopian future of several different countries sharing the North American continent. There is so much disorder that the entire world seems ready to collapse. The book is hard to explain though. You really should read it for yourself.

  • William Esping

    Slight criticism is one your map left out Delaware and 2 there weren’t just 13 congressmen. There were many congressmen as states could send as many as they pleased though they could only have one vote collectively.

  • Franz

    Reminds me a little of the EU. the EU need to further integrate in order to be successful. Also the EU only can pas a law if the council (1 prime minster or minister, depending on the subject, agree unanimously)

  • Benoit Chapman

    What if Columbus did reach India and the Americas were left alone for at least a little longer?
    What if Henry Tandey shot Hitler? Alternatively, what if Hitler was accepted by the art school?

  • William Esping

    States had one vote each however they could send as many delegates as they so chose, barring the logistics of how many the chamber could fit.

  • mrdave2112

    The Articles of Confederation were never scraped or amended and are perpetual; hence, they supersede the U.S. Constitution and are still being fought over to this day. That is why the current government is trying to remove all history of the Confederate States of America history. And states are still fighting the federal government over abortion and marijuana as states rights.

  • Mickel 83

    (Sorry for miss spells its huge)
    The 7 Year War(Nicknamed World War 0), bankrupted Great Britain into
    major debt with private banks. Which forced Great Britain into pay back
    the debt they had no chance of paying back. This put the Private Banks
    with huge control over the British government, turning them into a slave
    for the bankers(you have to repay the debts you owe, we own you now).
    Britain had to get the money to pay back the banks, so they forced
    mercantilism on Thirteen Colones and tried justifying it. Mercantilism
    is a national economic policy that is designed to maximize the exports
    of a nation ( @XxZ4 @
    explains it very well). As Thomas Jefferson said "To control the
    economy is to control the people", and Mercantilism did that very much
    so. These bankers wanted power over everything they could get there
    hands on, and the where a joy forcing country's into Mercantilism to
    make the country there slave, and the people living in it to.

    Our Founding Fathers where aware of this, and decided at the continual
    congress to declare independence not form Britain, but form the banks
    controlling Britain. Establishing the greatest thing to be ever created.
    The United (Sovereign) States of America, as a free a independent
    confederacy (Articles of Confederation). As Thomas Jefferson said
    "Banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberates then standing
    army's", he even wanted a part of the Articles of Confederacy (and then
    the Constitution) stopping the confederal government form taking debts.
    The confederacy, was designed for a central ruler to never take power
    (Also called anarchy, anti-hierarchy, and Greek root anarkhos meaning
    without a ruler. Used in government sense without a "central' ruler.
    That's a republic or republics for Americas confederacy. where everyone,
    the people position in the government is equal to one anther. Meaning
    the people are the ruler). Well the confederacy was weak, and failed.
    They needed something stronger, and believe it are not it was still a
    confederacy. One that could achieve what they where looking for. The
    Constitution, and Ill tell you every single spot it says confederation
    in it word for word, with word debt ruining rampant.

    Section 10
    1: No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation;
    grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit;
    make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts;
    pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the
    Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.

    Article VI (Article 6 – Prior Debts, National Supremacy, Oaths of
    Office)

    1: All Debts contracted and Engagements entered into, before the
    Adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the
    United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.

     Nowhere to be found, in the Constitution does it say the word federal,
    or federation.

    I could go on, and on. I have a ton more I could say, but this comment
    already reteaching documentary.

    Our founding fathers where scarred of what banks could achieve, and
    declared independence form the banks not Britain. Setting up what you
    see today.

    The banks have come to power over the united states, but our amazing
    government been holding them at bay for 100 years now(1913 the PRIVATE
    bank of the """"Federal"""" Reserve enactment).

    Everything I said here has a facts be-hide it, and you can find all of
    it easily. Go ahead I want you to.

  • Dinodogdude 209

    I actually remember learning about the Articles Of Confedation. I've always wondered what would happen if they were kept.

  • ayush kumar

    What if instead of thinking of themselves as a single country, the states form a coalition like the European Union. Is that a direction where Articles of Confedaration would push the states

  • Steve Kristmann

    Please read Kenneth Royce's, "Hologram of Liberty"; in it he clearly shows how the constitution was an intentionally contrived criminal fraud created by Alexander Hamilton and his bankster/lawyer cronies.

    America WOULDN'T have ended in disaster if the Articles had been simply and properly amended..quite the opposite if one reads what L. Neil Smith has written.

  • Jim Jacobs

    So the Disunited States of America would become the New World equivalent to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth then? Hmmm… didn't that work out well?

  • Ivo Alexandre

    That wasn't just waltzing in, Dan just lacked the steel tip boots and the shout "FBI FREEZE! PUT DOWN YOUR CONTENT AND SURRENDER YOUR TIME PACEFULLY!"

  • Nabil Fatnassi

    i just whachted the vidoe and when i heard you come in i was like who is that and then when i heard your voice i wase like oh its cody

  • Sean Crawford

    I usually hate when people advertise other channels/accounts and such, but the way you do it makes it actually entertaining and not feel like we're wasting our time

  • Wi-Fi TV

    What if Superman was real? Let's say he lands in Kansas in 1979 and grows up to become a hero, just like in the comics. Would he stop 9/11, the gulf war, or maybe even lead the world?

  • Mike DeMarco

    Of course, when the Article of Confederation was tried again, four score and seven years later, what you describe actually happened to the C.S.A.

  • Mr Midnight Turbo

    this is simple 13 states become less and much bigger in the north america warring states period eventually leading to the war of 1812 probably not happening at all because it became part of the warring states period much earlier and canda became part of which ever state was doing the winning.

  • JaredMithrandir

    Everyone talked about how if we kept the Article the Us would have never become a great nations and I go "and that's bad because???" Without the Untied States Fascism Never exists, that is a far better timeline.

  • A Skeleton

    thirteen colonies: hi dad
    Uk: hello son still being a colony I see
    Thirteen colonies: yep
    Uk: that’s very good oh btw I’m going to tax you
    thirteen colonies: 0:41

  • Stor Bokki

    What in the world makes anyone think that the United States has not kept the Articles of Confederation? I don't recall a vote to dissolve it. It's the contract that created and gave the name to the United States of America in 1777. The U.S. Constitution was an expansion of Federal Powers, not the forming of a new country. This is basic contract law. A first contract is not voided simply because of a second contract and yes, the Articles of Confederation and the U.S. Constitution are signed contracts. Think of it like this, you contract for a house to be built, but before it's done you contract for an attached garage. The second contract only supersedes the first contract were they conflict. Otherwise the first contract is still in full force unless agreed to an end in writing by all parties. There was no such vote in congress and nothing about ending the Articles of Confederation is in the U.S. Constitution. Sure, much of it is superseded like the power of the legislator, taxes, ext., but Article 13 is still in full force. as is 1, 2, 3 and 4. I've not looked at all of them in a while.

  • Mason B

    Splits and infighting might be more likely, but that's why it requires a sense of collective and individual responsibility. It would make us into better people.

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