Confederation | Confederal System of Government

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Confederation | Confederal System of Government: A confederation (or confederacy) is a voluntary union of separate, sovereign states set up to deal with common interest problems to the Member States, such as security. Traditionally, the verb confederate has meant forming an alliance that fulfills the will of a coalition of interests, none of which surrenders sovereignty to the confederation. The Swiss Confederations of 1291–1798 and 1814–48, the Dutch Republic (1589–1795), the Articles of the Confederation of the United States (1781–1789), the Germanic Confederation (1815–1866), and the Southern Confederate States of America (1861–1865) are leading historical examples of political alliances called confederations.

Confederal System of Government Confederation

Before the invention by the framers of the United States of constitutional federalism, the term “confederal” was synonymous with the word “federal” in the Constitution in 1787 and 1788, as in The Federalist, where the use of the word “federal” by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison (1751-1836), and John Jay (1745-1829) suggests what is now called confederal or confederation. However, the U.S. Constitution transformed the historical notion of federalism as a confederation into the federation’s current idea and, as a consequence, generated the common perception that a confederation is a common form of government also outmoded.



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The main distinction between a federation and a confederation is that a federation creates a nation-state with sovereignty characteristics; individuals may be explicitly legislated by the general (or national government. For instance, therefore, under the U.S. The federal government may tax, fine, seize, and monitor individuals and even conscript people into military service under the Constitution. On the opposite, under the U.S. Confederal government, It was not possible for the Articles of Confederation to tax, fine, detain, or govern individuals or conscript people into the military.

There is no precise, widely applicable definition of confederation or particular discrepancies between confederal and federal government structures, as confederations differ in their practice characteristics. Also, in reaction to real-world political circumstances, the features of confederation and federation are mixed. For instance, the Swiss Constitution is entitled “The Federal Constitution of the Helvetic (or Swiss) Confederation.” The central decision-making mechanism of the European Union is confederal, but many of its other agencies and operations are federal.

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Origins and growth

The word “federal” derives from the Latin foedus, meaning “covenant.” A covenant implies a relationship or marriage in which, without giving up their constitutional rights or identities, persons or groups mutually agree to join for everyday purposes.

The idea of the covenant originated in the Hebrew Bible, which holds that a covenant is a religious principle as well as a political idea that contrasts (a) with organic forms of government based on a common ancestor, often assumed to be a god and (b) with conquest-based forms of government. The covenant principle emphasizes that all relationships should be formed through mutual and voluntary agreement and signified by a covenant or contract of mutual commitment and duty between God and humans and between humans themselves. A succession of the accords between God and, successively, Noah, Abraham, and Moses is mentioned in the Hebrew Bible. It also involves a political pact that initially formed Israel as a confederation of tribes. Together as the people of Israel, the tribes began a shared identity. Still, tribal identities and structures were maintained, and between the confederation and the individual tribes, there was a separation of powers.

When Christianity adopted the Hebrew Bible as its Old Testament (literally, Old Covenant) and added its own New Testament (i.e., New Covenant) during the Roman Empire, the covenant principle was universalized in Western culture. However, Greek and Roman theories soon forced the covenant’s theological and political principles into the context of Christian theology. While Greek familiarity with the concept of confederation is evidenced by the Aetolian and Achaean Leagues of ancient Greece, neither agreement nor confederation was central to Greek political philosophy. Also, Western and Eastern church empires growth resulted in the patriarchal, hierarchical forms of the Middle Ages of religious organization and political governance.

A revival of the agreement was provided by the outbreak of the Protestant Reformation in 1517. Various Reformed Protestants, such as John Calvin (1509-1564), Heinrich Bullinger (1504-1575), and Huldreich Zwingli (1484-1531), who followed Martin Luther’s (1483-1546) split from the Roman Catholic Church, pushed the covenant concept to the core of theology. Via the

Reformed Protestants developed a political theology of the covenant, breaking down medieval modes of a religious organization, which held that the only valid basis for establishing church congregations and broader church systems was by the agreement of individual members and communities.

Similarly, Reformed Protestants merged the covenant concept with joint sovereignty in their revolts against Catholic princes to establish theories of resistance to tyranny and revolutionary rights, as in the famous Vindiciae contra tyrannos of 1579 by Philippe Duplessis-Mornay (1572-1600). At first, reformers emphasized the idea that monarchs should rule legitimately only through a three-way covenant of mutual agreement between God, the ruler, and the people, but monarchomachs (i.e., monarch-eaters) and other reformers soon argued that people do not require monarchs because only Jesus Christ is king and thus, on earth people who are equal in God’s eyes are free to organize their rulers Wherever Reformed Protestants set up footholds, especially in Switzerland, parts of Germany, Puritan England, Presbyterian Scotland, the Dutch provinces, and Huguenot France, such covenant ideas flourished.

In North America, the first formal constitutional ideas articulated were those of the Puritans’ federal or covenant theology, and the Mayflower Compact of 1620 was the first political covenant. Individuals forged marriage covenants to form families for the Puritans and other Reformed Protestants; families made covenants to form congregations and cities; local communities and towns agreed to covenants to form larger government structures, and entire colonies could form a union like the New England Confederation (1643).

Nonreligious reformers later secularized the covenant principle. Johannes Althusius (1557-1638), who wrote Politicia Methodice Digesta, credits the first complete constitutional theory of federalism (1614). The definition of the covenant is fundamental to Thomas Hobbes ‘(1588-1679) Leviathan (1651), to John Locke’s (1632-1704) Two Government Treaties (1690), in which Locke used the term “compact” to denote a constitutional covenant, and to the works of other seventeenth-century English and Scottish political theorists. The covenant concept was also commonly applied by such thinkers as Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) and Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) to foreign affairs, where it became known as the federal theory of treaty- and agreement-making.

The U.S. Framers. Confederation Papers and U.S. These secular thinkers, as well as the predominance of covenant-based denominations in North America, from the Baptists, Calvinists, and Congregationalists in New England to the Netherlands of New York, Presbyterians of the middle and southern states, Quakers and German sectarians of Pennsylvania, Scots-Irish of the mountains and Piedmont from Peace, much inspired the Constitution. The framers were also acquainted with the once-powerful political alliance, collectively known as the Iroquois Confederacy, of the Mohawk, Cayuga, Oneida, Onondaga, and Seneca Indian nations.

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