Thirteen of the present 50 states were British colonies from the time of their settlements until July 2, 1776, when their 56 delegates to the Second Continental Congress unanimously voted for independence.   The delegates then approved and signed the final text of Declaration of Independence and publicized it on July 4, the traditional celebration date.   From that time, these 13 states acted as sovereign governments, bound loosely together by the Articles of Confederation, until that document was superseded by the Constitution of the United States of America on March 4, 1789.Articles of Confederation
The Articles of Confederation was approved by the delegates on Nov. 15, 1777, and forwarded to the states for unanimous ratification. It became effective with the last State ratification, Maryland, on Mar. 1, 1781. Hartley n.p. All power under the Articles of Confederation rested with its legislature, the "United States in Congress Assembled" (Continental Congress), its President being selected among the delegates. There were no separate executive power to enforce laws and no judicial power to interpret them. These functions, limited as they were, rested with the Congress.Operation
Major decisions of the Congress had to be approved by 9 of the 13 States. Revision of the Articles had to be approved by all 13 States. The Congress could maintain an army and navy, wage war, send ambassadors, make treaties, establish a post office, coin and print money, and establish standards of measurement. However, the States controlled their own finances, economy and trade, and could also establish armies and navies, coin and print money, send ambassadors abroad, and adopt standards of measurement. In other words, each state could do whatever it wanted to further its interests. Because each state was sovereign, there was no higher appeal authority to revolve conflicts among them. That each of the states was supreme was no accident. It came about because its citizens wanted to avoid the perceived tyranny of their former overlords, Britain's King, Parliament, and colonial governors.Achievements
Achievements under the Articles were the Land Ordinance of 1785, which established a plan for surveying, selling, and governing the vast territory beyond the Appalachian Mountains (Alternate). Then, Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which provided rules for statehood within the territory bounded by the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and the Great Lakes. There were to be admitted to the Union not less than 3, nor more than 5 states. Consistent with British policies, land was to be purchased from Amerindians and specific amounts were to be set aside for education. Civil liberties were to be ensured. Slavery was prohibited. However, in spite of these notable achievements, after the Peace Treaty of Paris of Sep. 3, 1783, ended the Revolutionary War, each state had to solve the problems of an independent republic. That's when the limitations of the Articles became apparent.Limitations
The states were slow to send money to the Congress to pay for the huge war debt. Congress responded by issuing more of its unsupported paper money, the continental, that was almost worthless ("not worth a continental"), where $40 of continentals equaled 1 silver dollar. States argued with each other over trade and duties. Foreign governments were frustrated and disrespectful with having to deal with 13 separate states rather than with one nation.Shays' Rebellion
The general economic depression that followed the war was not counteracted by the States, so many debtors, mostly farmers, could not pay their bills and mortgages. Their lands were confiscated by their creditors, which caused the debtors to react militantly in several states. Shays' Rebellion in Massachusetts, 1786 - 1787, was the most famous reaction of debtor's desperation. The insurrections and the many conflicts between states led some leaders like George Washington and Alexander Hamilton to seek a strong central government. The result was the Constitutional Convention.