Before the Constitution, there was the Articles of Confederation. The Articles of Confederation was a new national government that reserved freedom, sovereignty, and independence for the states. The Articles of confederation provided an effective form of government for western lands, on the contrary, foreign relations were not were not as well benefited from it. The Confederation's major contributions were Ordinance of 1785 and the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 to the American life. The Ordinance of 1785 established the law for the lands north of the Ohio River.

The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 provided three stages for the creation and admittance of new states, as well as served as a precedent for banning slavery in certain areas. Both Ordinances set basic points for surveying the new land, allowed territorial government in the beginning stage of development, and provided reasonable standards to become a state. They both also became prime examples for the organization of territories later acquired west of the Mississippi River. On the other hand, foreign relations with Britain were strained. After the Articles of Confederation were established, Britain put stricter restrictions on United States commerce.

United States foodstuffs, lumber, and tobacco were all welcomed in Britain, but only if it arrived in British ships. The United States ships lost all privileges to trade their merchandise to the West Indies and were forced to pay high custom fees for landing their cargo in Britain. As a result of one-half of United States exports going to Great Britain or the West Indian Colonies, British shippers were able to increase their share of Atlantic trade at American expense. This trade loss was especially difficult causing a depression. Foreign relations with Spain were not at it's best either. Secretary of foreign affairs, John Jay, was sent to Spain to devise a treaty to benefit both Spain and the United States.

The United States would give up their New Orleans port in exchange for the Western lands of Kentucky and Tennessee. However, the treaty was rejected by Congress, enraged the Westerners and Southerners, and still resulted in the loss of the New Orleans port for twenty years. The Articles of Confederation did provide an effective form of government, in some areas more so than others. When the United States acquired the western lands, the United States increased their size and set the stage for the acquisition of the rest of remaining territory to be purchased. Foreign relations between Britain and Spain resulted in stricter limitations and a loss of a main port. The Articles of Confederation proved to be an effective form of government for the acquisition of Western lands, however, the degree to which it was effective for foreign relations did not rise high..