Federal, Confederate and Unitary Governments

Essential Question - How is power shared between governments and the people?

For each, Federal, Confederate and Unitary Governments, list the advantages and disadvantages.

Federal System

Power is shared by a powerful central government and states or provinces that are given considerable self-rule, usually through their own legislatures. Examples: The United States, Australia, the Federal Republic of Germany.

Federalist Paper #10: "The two great points of difference between a democracy and a republic are: first, the delegation of the government, in the latter, to a small number of citizens elected by the rest; secondly, the greater number of citizens, and greater sphere of country, over which the latter may be extended."

Unitary System


Definition: One central government controls weaker states. Power is not shared between states, counties, or provinces. Examples: Examples: China, United Kingdom (although Scotland has been granted self-rule).


Confederal System

Definition: A weak or loose organization of states agrees to follow a powerful central government. Nations can choose to follow or not follow the lead of the weak central government. Examples: The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), formerly known as the Soviet Union. Also, Switzerland's canton system and the Confederate States of America (1861-1865).

Federalist Paper # 16: "THE tendency of the principle of legislation for States, or communities, in their political capacities, as it has been exemplified by the experiment we have made of it, is equally attested by the events which have befallen all other governments of the confederate kind, of which we have any account, in exact proportion to its prevalence in those systems. The confirmations of this fact will be worthy of a distinct and particular examination. I shall content myself with barely observing here, that of all the confederacies of antiquity, which history has handed down to us, the Lycian and Achaean leagues, as far as there remain vestiges of them, appear to have been most free from the fetters of that mistaken principle, and were accordingly those which have best deserved, and have most liberally received, the applauding suffrages of political writers.

This exceptionable principle may, as truly as emphatically, be styled the parent of anarchy: It has been seen that delinquencies in the members of the Union are its natural and necessary offspring; and that whenever they happen, the only constitutional remedy is force, and the immediate effect of the use of it, civil war."