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A federal government is the common government of a federation.

The structure of federal governments vary from institution to institution based on a broad definition of a basic federal political system, there are two or more levels of government that exist within an established territory and govern through common institutions with overlapping or shared powers as prescribed by a constitution.


The United Statesmarker is considered the first modern federation. After declaring independence from Britain, the U.S. adopted its first constitution, the Articles of Confederation in 1781. This was the first step towards federalism by establishing the federal congress. Yet, congress was limited as to its ability to pursue economic, military, and judiciary reform. In 1787, federal congress participated in what is known as the Philadelphia Convention and by 1789, the U.S. was officially a federation.

Other nation-states followed suit in establishing federal governments: Switzerlandmarker (1848); Canadamarker (1867); Germanymarker (1871 and again 1949); Australia (1901); Austriamarker (1920 and again 1945).

See also


  1. Watts, R., "Comparing Federal Systems" (2nd ed.) SPC Queen's U (1999) pp 20-26.

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