Build. Hack. Play. It's just what we do.

I've been on a bit of a history kick recently. I read about Edison and the light bulb, The Declaration of Independence, our Constitution, Common Sense (Thomas Paine), and a book about the American Revolution (Gordon Wood).

And something I didn't know... was how epically the framers of our constitution failed in their first version of government for the colonies. That version was called the "Articles of the Confederation". A version of government that kept our country together, won our independence from Britain, and kept the newborn country running from 1776 - 1789.


If it did all that, how could it be a failure? I'll explain.

The Articles of the Confederation created the "Confederation Congress", a central government that convened many times from 1881-1889. The framers of the our first government wanted more control and power with the states and less with a central government. They feared building something similar to the British monarchy. Samuel Adams and Thomas Jefferson believed Americans were inherently good people and would govern themselves without the need of a strong central government.

10 years later our government lacked. States introduced laws that conflicted with other states. Travelling between states became akin to visiting different countries with odd laws and taxes that targeted goods made outside the state. It wasn't working and the people knew it. As Americans argued about how to fix our government, two distinct camps were born. The Federalist (those wanting a strong central government) and the Anti-Federalists (those wanting a weaker central government). Both sides agreed the current central government was useless as-is. Something had to be done. Ultimately, the Anti-Federalists caved.

Another fun tidbit: The Bill of Rights (the first 10 amendments) weren't created with the constitution. They were created later as an action item from the Philadelphia Convention. Can you imagine an action item at the end of one of your meetings that had as large of an impact?


Delegates were concerned that they had spent too much time creating the constitution and if they spent any more time away from their families, they wouldn't agree on anything.

There are quite a few interesting ideas to take away from this.

First, everyone fails, even Benjamin Franklin. We can do something about it if we take the time necessary to learn from it.


Second, something that works well in one situation may not work well in another. The Confederation worked in a time of war, but failed during peace. But why hasn't our constitution been scrapped and a new one written since then? This actually ties back into the first point, the framers of our constitution learned something from the Articles... change is necessary and they built a way to change our constitution into the constitution. If you compare it to software... they built lifecycle management into the constitution by implementing the tenants of good software design.

Lastly, our country is Awesome with a capital "A"! Not only was a war started with Britain over principles, it was done with the knowledge that Britain had quite literally kicked everyone else's ass. They had an army that PWND all of Europe. And our forefathers gave them the finger and said bring it! And they did it with words, they did it with leadership, and they did it with conviction and heart. On top of winning their independence, they created a new form of government, a new idea which has lasted over 200 years and been a model for other governments who crave the idea of a balanced republic where the power to make changes resides with the people and their elected officials. They created alliances and built treaties with France, Britain, and Spain.


I'm not a history major, nor am I a professional writer, I write code. But America gets a lot of crap. And occasionally it's nice to remember what makes it so great.

Our countries first failure after so many big wins was huge. It was accepted and learned from. It resulted in something so much better. The failure of America's first government may have led to it's biggest success, our Constitution (competing successes: Starbucks, Joss Whedon, and the Bill of Rights).

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