Strictly speaking, the USA was only under the Articles of Confederation between 1781 and 1789. This is the period after which all states of the USA had officially adopted it and before the new centralizing Federal Constitution replaced it and was put into effect. Merrill Jensen’s book New Nation: A History of the United States During the Confederation, 1781-1789 is an important resource for information on that period. There is even a free online version .
As a practical matter, however, the Articles of Confederation were the de facto constitution from 1776 (when they were written and informally embraced as the working model of the sovereign States of the USA) to 1781. It is informative to read Merril Jensen’s book The Articles of Confederation: An Interpretation of the Social-Constitutional History of the American Revolution, 1774-1781 for a history of this period.
Even more broadly construed, the relation of the British colonies (that became the later US States) to the national capital in London in a very practical sense partook more of the character of confederation than centralized Federal government during most of the colonial era, and the Articles of Confederation in some sense simply formalized a relational structure that was largely in place before US independence. For instance, the government of each colony had significant discretion on how it applied Christianity in the colony, under the broad rubric of being under an officially Protestant Britain. It was not a cookie cutter approach mandated by the centralized authority, as we find today in how Washington, DC mandates and enforces secular humanism in the states. The book US History: Its Conception and Gestation in the Colonial Era seeks to chronicle this period.
Furthermore, even after formal adoption of the Federal Constitution with its Bill of Articles, the relation of the states to the Federal Government based in Washington, DC had many characteristics from the confederation period. States’ rights have been progressively whittled away, but in many respects the whole history of the USA since 1789 has been a long struggle over the issue. The antifederalist side lost the formal battle over the written constitution in the late 1780s, and with added significance in 18_ with the incorporation of the 14th Amendment, but the informal battle has raged on. Paralleling this contest over the relation of the states to the central government has been the contest over the role of Christianity in the USA, pitting Christianity against secular humanism. The latter has formal rule, but this does not mean Christians have laid down our spiritual arms. The book US History: A Call to Return to the Original Constitution and Model seeks to chronicle the history of this period.
It is time for American Christians to repent of our national sin, and re-double our efforts to return to our original national covenant, the Articles of Confederation. This original constitution and covenant should never have been abandoned. It behooves us to study and consider the place of the Articles of Confederation in US history.