During the Revolutionary War and in the first years following independence, the new American states were joined in a loose confederation with a weak central government, spelled out in the Articles of Confederation. The weaknesses of this original plan for government are revealed in letters circulated between many of those who would later attend the Constitutional Convention in 1787. Below are a collection of these letters, found in our online library.
Some are short enough to use entire; others could be usefully excerpted. For a practical way of using these documents in class, consult this lesson plan written by Ashland University Professor Christopher Burkett and veteran high school teacher Patricia Dillon, “The Road to the Constitutional Convention—Activity One: The Problem of Congress’ Lack of Authority.”
For a good overall presentation of the problems that the 1787 Constitution sought to overcome, see Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist, No. 15 — especially the third paragraph.