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American Bicentennial Issue: Articles of Confederation

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13-cent Articles of Confederation single

The 13-cent Articles of Confederation commemorative stamp (Scott 1726) was first available on September 30, 1977, at York, Pennsylvania. The stamp commemorates the 200th anniversary of the drafting of the Articles of Confederation at York Town, Pennsylvania. It depicts members of the Continental Congress in conference.

David Blossom designed the red and brown stamp, which was printed on the Bureau of Engraving and Printing Giori press on cream-colored sheets of two hundred subjects, tagged, perforated 11, and distributed as panes of fifty (five across and ten down). Mr. Zip, “MAIL EARLY IN THE DAY,” electric eye markings, and a plate number in each corner are printed in the selvage.

While Thomas Jefferson drafted the Declaration of Independence, members of the Continental Congress debated and developed a new form of government for the thirteen colonies. On June 7, 1776, Richard Henry Lee moved that "a plan of confederation be prepared and transmitted to the respective Colonies for their consideration and approbation." John Dickinson was chosen to draft the document outlining a plan for confederation by the committee assigned the task.

The previous July, Benjamin Franklin had presented a sketch of a plan for a permanent union of the colonies. Although Franklin's plan was initially rejected, a large part of his plan was used by Dickinson and his committee to draft the Articles of Confederation. The thirteen colonies feared a powerful central government. Consequently, they changed Dickinson's proposed articles drastically before sending them to all the states for ratification. Changes gave the states as much independence as possible. The Articles deliberately established a confederation of sovereign states, carefully specifying the limited functions of the federal government.

Military concerns associated with the Revolutionary War, lack of representatives attending Congress, and the relocation of Congress prevented continual debate on the Articles. Finally, on November 15, 1777, in York Town, Pennsylvania, the Articles of Confederation were revised and recorded in the "Journal of the Continental Congress." In the circular letter accompanying the Articles, Congress asked the states to take action on the Articles by March 10, 1778. On July 9, 1778, the Articles were signed by Congress.

The Articles were not approved until March 1, 1781, when Maryland gave its assent, and were in force to March 4, 1789, when the present Constitution of the United States went into effect.


  • Scott 2005 Specialized Catalogue of U.S. Stamps and Covers
  • cr.nps.gov/history/online_books/dube/inde3.htm (accessed May 16, 2006)
  • barefootsworld.net/aoc1777.html (accessed May 16, 2006)

Doug D'Avino

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