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James Madison’s “Vices of the Political System of the U.S.,” April 1787

While a delegate to the Confederation Congress, Madison pointed out the drawbacks of the government created under the Articles of Confederation, laid out the deficiencies of state governments and emphasized the need for a stronger federal government. Madison listed the problems, or vices, on the left and his observations on the right. The observations became part of the Virginia Plan.

Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

James Madison’s Vices of the Political System of the U.S.

Creating a National Government - 1

Having declared their independence, the former colonies united to establish a national government under the Articles of Confederation. Within a few years, however, the weaknesses of the central government, dependent on unanimous consent of the states and lacking the power to regulate taxes and trade, became apparent. In May 1787, delegates to a convention called to amend the Articles of Confederation instead drafted the Constitution, a new framework for a stronger union.