The Congress of the Confederation was the governing body of the United States of America, in force from March 1, 1781, to March 4, 1789. It was composed of delegates appointed by the states' legislatures. As the immediate successor to the Second Continental Congress, it referred to itself as the Continental Congress throughout its 8-year history.
The Congress of the Confederation opened in the final stages of the American Revolution. Combat in the Revolution ended in October 1781 with the surrender of the British at the Battle of Yorktown. The British, however, continued to occupy New York City. Meanwhile, the American delegates in Paris, named by the Congress, negotiated the terms of peace with Great Britain. The membership of the Second Continental Congress automatically carried over to the Congress of the Confederation when the latter was created through the ratification of the Articles of Confederation.
Articles of Confederation
The Articles of Confederation, ratified in 1781.
The Articles of Confederation established a weak national government that consisted of a one-house legislature. The Congress had the power to declare war, sign treaties, and settle disputes between states, as well as borrow or print money. The Americans were so fearful of a strong, centralized government that they refused to grant their Congress the power of taxation. The Congress had little power and, without the external threat of a war against the British, enough delegates to meet to form a quorum became more difficult. Nonetheless, the Congress still managed to pass significant laws, most notably the Northwest Ordinance.
Congress of Confederation and the Constitution
The signing of the United States Constitution.
The Congress of the Confederation was succeeded by the Congress of the United States, as provided for in the Constitution, proposed September 17, 1787, in Philadelphia at the Constitutional Convention. The last meeting of the Continental Congress was held March 2, 1789, 2 days before the Constitutional government assumed power.