The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union was the first version of the United States Constitution. It had thirteen articles, a preamble, and a conclusion, and was penned in Pennsylvania in 1777. It stipulated the terms of cooperation between states and recognized no centralized American government nor federal taxation.


After the American Revolution, a new nation was created, which required legal documents, structure, and government. Having suffered heavy taxes, legal burdens, and centralized authority under the British rule, the authors of the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union wanted to preserve the autonomy of each state, but ensure the cooperation and communication. Each state would have no less than two and no more than seven representatives in the Congress, and these delegates could not represent their state for more than three years of their six-year term. These delegates were also prohibited from occupying any office in the United States for which they received the money. The Congress was very powerful in some respects but weak in others: it had no authority to levy taxes or regulate trade, but it could make alliances with foreign powers, coin currency, or declare war. Moreover, it was a supreme decision-making body in matters of conflicts or agreements between states when all other measures failed.

First and foremost, the Articles of Confederation coined the name “United States of America” in the first article. The second article stated that every state would retain its sovereignty and jurisdiction in all matters not mentioned in the Articles. The third instructed the states to cooperate and assist each other in all issues and present a united front against any attack. Article four described the freedom of the American citizens to move between states and directed the states to deliver wanted criminals to the state, which has jurisdiction over them. Articles five through ten regulate Congress, its power, and what agreements the states can make with or without the consent of the Congress, including matters of war and trade. Article eleven, interestingly, stipulates that Canada is always welcome to join the Union, but all other colonies must gain the consent of nine states first. The twelfth article honors all credits and debts accrued before the formation of the Union. Finally, article thirteen prohibits any changes in the document without the consent of the Congress and legislatures of every member state.