The Articles of Confederation comprised the first constitution of the first 13 states of the United States. It included a preamble, 13 articles, and a conclusion. In June of 1776, the Second Continental Congress appointed a committee, led by Delaware representative John Dickinson, to determine a structure for the constitution. It was adopted on 15 November 1777, but was not ratified until 1 March 1781.
Essentially, the Articles of Confederation established the nation as the United States of America. It granted each state its own freedoms and power in regards to anything not expressly determined as the federal government’s responsibilities. States were bound in a "firm league of friendship with each other," with respect to issues of war and defense. It allowed for the free movement of people between states, and the promise of one vote per state in Congress. Each state was allowed between two and seven representatives, each of whom was not allowed to serve more than three out of six years.
It became the job of the central government to declare war, conduct foreign relations, determine the value of money, control the expansion of the western territories, and settle disputes between states. The document outlined the rules of naming military ranks in times of war, and established the precedent that money for the federal government should be raised by each individual state. Generally, the Articles of Confederation required that nine states needed to approve the admission of another state to the confederacy. Also, it permitted alterations to the document only if all the states ratified the changes.
This loose confederation of states was weak under the Articles of Confederation. The United States broke away from England and entered into a war with them because the government was too powerful. Therefore, the document established a weak central government and strong state governments. No nation could, however, endure such a configuration of power.
The central government was powerless to force states to supply it with money or troops. It could not even regulate trade efficiently. The states were given too much power and the federal government not enough. Another main defect in the Articles of Confederation was representation — all the states had one vote. While the small states benefited, the large ones suffered.
As a result, the Articles of Confederation were ineffective. A Constitutional Convention was held between May and June of 1787 to revise the document. It continued to be the law of the land until 1789, when the new Constitution of the United States was ratified.