The Articles of Confederation is America's first constitution drafted between 1776 and 1777. The Constitution we abide by today was made in 1787. This Constitution is more effective than the Articles of Confederation were. Some differences in effectiveness are centered around the legislature, an executive branch, and a judiciary. Weaknesses in the Articles of Confederation is what led to the drafting of the Federal Constitution. This Constitution is still the supreme law of the land today.
The first difference being covered is the legislature. A unicameral or one-house congress was established in the Articles of Confederation. Two houses, called a bicameral legislature, are used today. These houses are the more prestigious house being the Senate and the lower house being the House of Representatives. The bicameral legislature was put into place based on a compromise. Big states wanted one house based on population in the Virginia granting the larger states an advantage. Smaller states sided with the New Jersey Plan. This plan called for equal representation in a unicameral congress disregarding size and population. After plenty of arguing The Great Compromise resolved that particular issue resulting in the houses used today. However this did not fix everything and another issue resulted. Slaves were viewed as property by the people who owned them but states wanted to use them as population for more votes. After even more intense arguing, they hammered out the three-fifths compromise. Every slave was counted as 3/5ths a person. Voting in congress allows two senators from each state a vote and every representative from the house a vote under the current constitution. Under the Articles of Confederation one vote was allowed for each state. They needed nine votes to pass important measures while in the constitution a simple majority is needed. The Articles of Confederation also lacked power over commerce and taxes. These are the main factors for the Constitution. Now the legislature has power over commerce and taxing.
An executive branch was left out of the Articles of Confederation. The Constitution established the provision for an executive branch. A president is elected by the electoral college once every four years. This president can veto laws passed by congress and make it much harder to pass laws. To override these presidential vetoes congress needs a two-thirds vote in the House of Representatives and the Senate. If this happens the law goes into effect with or without presidential approval. This is not the only power of the executive branch. The president can appoint federal officials like ambassadors and judges (which will be expanded on later). They can also negotiate treaties with foreign nations and grant pardons for crimes. A president is commander in chief to the military and expected to execute and enforce laws by congress. The president is not the only member of the executive branch. Nowadays there are 15 executive departments. The president can also sign executive orders into law which has led to fights between congress and the president in recent years. A State of The Union Address is given annually now in January for the president to announce his agenda for the upcoming year. Some requirements to be president are be 35 years old, be born in the United States, and must have lived in the United States for at least 14 years. Up until 1951 a president could serve unlimited terms but after a 1951 law president can only serve two four year terms.
Judges are appointed by the president and approved by congress under the current constitution. In the Articles of Confederation, laws were enforced by state courts as there were no federal courts. A federal court system was established under the current constitution to solve disputes between citizens and states. Under the Articles of Confederation congress was tasked with resolving the disputes. The highest court of the United States is the Supreme Court consisting of nine justices. Federal judges have lifetime terms and can only be removed through a process of impeachment. Federal courts interprets the law and determines constitutionality of the law. The Supreme Court is the only court required by the Constitution and their decisions are final. This means they cannot be appealed to anyone. Lower courts follow the precedents of the Supreme Court. If there is no precedent a lengthy appeal process can eventually allow the Supreme Court make a decision to hear the case or not to. The Supreme Court hears approximately 150 cases a year. Only about 2% of requests for Supreme Court cases are heard by the Supreme Court. Amendments four through six are the main ones applicable to the court system. The fourth amendment requires a warrant for search and seizures (in most cases). The fifth amendment is commonly known as the right to remain silent. This is because people are not required to incriminate themselves and a person cannot be tried for the same crime twice (double jeopardy). The sixth amendment assures the right to a speedy trial. A Bill of Rights also protects people from cruel and unusual punishments.
The Federal Constitution formed a solid union of people while the Articles of Confederation were a loose confederation of states. A Constitution established a centralized government while the Articles of Confederation gave all power to state governments. The United States current Federal Constitution is a stronger Articles of Confederation.
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