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A union of states in which each member state retains some independent control over internal and external affairs. Thus, for international purposes, there are separate states, not just one state. A federation, in contrast, is a union of states in which external affairs are controlled by a unified, central government.
CONFEDERATION, government. The name given to that form of government which
the American colonies, on shaking off the British yoke, devised for their
mutual safety and government.
2. The articles of confederation, (q.v.) were finally adopted on the 15th of November, 1777, and with the exception of Maryland, which, however, afterwards also agreed to them, were speedily adopted by the United States, and by which they were formed into a federal @bod y, and went into force on the first day of March, 1781; 1 Story Const. Sec. 225; and so remained until the adoption of the present constitution, which acquired the force of the supreme law of the land on the first Wednesday of March, 1789. 5 Wheat. R. 420. Vide Articles of Confederation.