Becoming a Nation

At the time of the Declaration, then, in some intangible but real sense the people of the American states were already thinking of themselves as one people. But the Declaration in and of itself was not a constitution or even a form of government—Americans lacked the legal or political structure that would maintain that union, and they often acted in ways that drove them further apart. After the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the future of the union was uncertain. If they failed to establish stronger political bonds, then their intangible sense of union would likely have eroded over time, and each state would have eventually regarded the others as so many foreign countries. Passing the Articles of Confederation was their first attempt at strengthening the bonds that many already felt

The Articles of Confederation

After the Declaration

After the Declaration of Independence was issued, the colonies united to meet the exigencies of the Revolutionary War, but they needed to answer the question of how they would organize. For while the Declaration of Independence recognized the right of the American colonies to break away from Great Britain, it did not dictate how they would govern themselves.

The Articles of Confederation were the first attempt at a structure allowing the thirteen independent colonies to band together and govern themselves as the new United States of America. Although the Continental Congress began drafting the Articles immediately after declaring independence from Great Britain, the document did not receive the unanimous consent required for ratification until 1781 – nearly the end of the Revolutionary War.