- By Thomas E. RicksThomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.
I was looking up something the other day and noticed that the book in hand contained the Articles of Confederation, the notorious failure that preceded the U.S. Constitution.
I’d never read it, and the Red Sox game was heading south fast, so I sat down and looked at it. First, yes, it has a reputation of being dull, and it is well-earned. It is rather plodding and procedural.
But a couple of things made me stop and think. One thing that struck me about it is that it makes a clear distinction between control of the Army and of the Navy. The federal government is assigned to appoint all naval officers but only some of those of the land force. That is, the states get to pick “regimental officers.” That’s a pretty big exception, if regiments are the basic unit of your combat land force. This seems to me to give the states a lot of power, a vestige of which we see in the continuing power of the states to appoint the leaders of their National Guard forces.
Famously, Article 11 of the AoC also expressly invites Canada to join the United States. Still hasn’t accepted the offer.
Civil War buffs also should note that the Articles state twice that “the Union should be perpetual.” The second time is the last sentence in the document. Too bad that sentence wasn’t retained when the drafters of the Constitution set out to create a more perfect Union.