United States Continental Congress

Articles of Confederation

Lancaster [Pa.]: Printed by Francis Bailey, [1777]
New-York Historical Society Library

The Articles of Confederation, the first constitution of the United States, was drafted by the Second Continental Congress from 1776 to 1777. Notice the language of Article II. It gave the states most of the power in the new Union. The powers that the federal government had were severely hampered because it did not have the power to tax or to regulate commerce. By 1787, many people believed that a reform of the Articles could only be produced by a constitutional convention. On February 21, 1787, Congress called for a convention to meet in May of that year in Philadelphia.