One example of a confederate government was the first U.S. government created by the Articles of Confederation in 1777. The Confederate States of America, formed in 1861, was another confederate government. Switzerland is an example of a country that calls itself a confederation but has a federal government structure.
A confederation is a loose organization of states or regions with a limited central government created for a particular purpose, such as common defense or diplomatic representation. The member states or regions maintain most of the power and can decide whether or not to follow the lead of the central government.
The United States operated as a confederate government from the approval of the Articles of Confederation in 1781 until 1789. Lawmakers agreed upon a confederate government due to fears that a strong central government would trample on individual rights. However, weaknesses in the Articles of Confederation eventually led to Americans wanting a stronger central government, resulting in the U.S. Constitution in 1789. When several slave states seceded from the United States in 1861, they created the Confederate States of America. The American Civil War began in that same year and ended in 1865, when the Confederacy disappeared.
Although largely operated as a federal government, Switzerland refers to itself as the Swiss Confederation. Its original structure, created in 1291, operated as a true confederation consisting of eight cantons. Modern Switzerland has a strong central government, but its 26 cantons have considerable autonomy, similar to states in the United States.