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1. a loose alliance of political units. The union of the Swiss cantons is the oldest surviving confederation
2. (esp in Canada) another name for a federation



(1) A permanent union of sovereign states founded to achieve common goals, usually political or military. The confederation forms central bodies with powers delegated by member states. As a rule, these bodies do not have direct power over the member states. Their decisions, based on the principle of unanimity, may be implemented in a member state only with the consent of its agencies of power. A confederation’s finances usually consist of contributions made by member states. In a confederation there is no uniform tax or legal system.

There have been several well-known confederations, including the League of Rhenish Towns (1254–1350), the Hanseatic League (1367–1669), the Swiss Confederation (1291–1798 and 1815-48), the Netherlands (the United Provinces, 1579–1795), the United States of America (1781–87), and the German Confederation (1815–66). The Confederate States of America (1861–65) were formed during the Civil War in the USA, when the federal system temporarily disintegrated. As a rule, a confederation precedes the formation of a federation. Although it is, in fact, a federation, Switzerland is still formally referred to as a confederation.

(2) The term “confederation,” meaning union, is sometimes used in the names of various organizations, such as the General Confederation of Labor in France, the General Confederation of Labor in Italy, the Japanese Labor Confederation, the Confederation of British Industries, and the Confindustria (General Confederation of Industry) in Italy.



(in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth), between the 16th and 18th centuries, a temporary political union of armed szlachta (nobility). When the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was without a king after the death of Sigismund II Augustus (1572) and in subsequent interregna, a confederation was formed at the Convocation Sejm, which declared itself to be the General, or Hooded, Confederation— that is, the supreme organ of authority. From the early 17th century the szlachta ever more frequently formed political unions (called general confederations) at the national level in order to defend their class interests. Local confederations were also formed at the województwo level. Sometimes a confederation was transformed into a rokosz, or uprising of szlachta against the king. The most famous confederations were those of Bar (1768) and Targowica (1792).

References in classic literature ?
That committee reported on the twelfth of July, eight days after the Declaration of Independence had been issued, a draft of articles of confederation between the colonies.
The fabric of the Declaration and that of the Confederation were each consistent with its own foundation, but they could not form one consistent, symmetrical edifice.
Where, then, did each State get the sovereignty, freedom, and independence, which the Articles of Confederation declare it retains?
In the Articles of Confederation, this order of agency is inverted.
The incompetency of the Articles of Confederation for the management of the affairs of the Union at home and abroad was demonstrated to them by the painful and mortifying experience of every day.
At his residence at Mount Vernon, in March, 1785, the first idea was started of a revisal of the Articles of Confederation, by the organization, of means differing from that of a compact between the State Legislatures and their own delegates in Congress.
It was attended by delegates from only five of the central States, who, on comparing their restricted powers with the glaring and universally acknowledged defects of the Confederation, reported only a recommendation for the assemblage of another convention of delegates to meet at Philadelphia, in May, 1787, from all the States, and with enlarged powers.
But they had the Articles of Confederation before them, and they saw and felt the wretched condition into which they had brought the whole people, and that the Union itself was in the agonies of death.
It has been shown in the course of these papers, that the existing Confederation is founded on principles which are fallacious; that we must consequently change this first foundation, and with it the superstructure resting upon it.
For Britain and France and Italy had declared war upon Germany and outraged Swiss neutrality; India, at the sight of Asiatic airships, had broken into a Hindoo insurrection in Bengal and a Mohametan revolt hostile to this in the North-west Provinces--the latter spreading like wildfire from Gobi to the Gold Coast--and the Confederation of Eastern Asia had seized the oil wells of Burmha and was impartially attacking America and Germany.
The terms of their unexpected confederation were sufficiently explained, by the presence of the horses and domestic cattle that were quietly grazing on the bottom beneath, under the jealous eyes of the spirited Hetty.
Producers and consumers which are not of the same multi-polar mind need not apply for membership, since their presence within the confederation would only scupper its inherent cohesion.

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