Alternative History
Cygnian Government
Coat of arms of Cygnia.svg
Coat of arms of Cygnia
Formation 1792; 230 years ago
Founding document Constitution of Cygnia
Jurisdiction Flag of Cygnia.svg Cygnia
Legislative branch
Legislature Congress
Meeting place Federation Hall
Executive branch
Main organ Cabinet
Leader The Chancellor
Appointer The President
Headquarters The Chancellery
Judicial branch
Court Supreme Court
Seat Northam, TS

The Cygnian Government (also referred to as the Federal Government, or historically the Imperial Government) is the central government of the 21 states of Cygnia.

The Federation of Cygnia occurred in 1784 following the issuance of the Proclamation of Federation by King George III of the United Kingdom. Following this event, the six self-governing British colonies in Australia were unified under one central government located in Northam, TS, becoming the first six states. After Cygnia won the Cygnian War of Independence in 1792, the Imperial Constitution of Cygnia was written at the Constitutional Convention and ratified by the legislatures of the six states. What had become the Kingdom of Cygnia was thus reorganised into the Empire. In 1948, following the Cygnian Revolution, the monarchy was abolished, transforming Cygnia into a republic. Today, the President serves as head of state of Cygnia, with executive powers devolved to the Cygnian head of government, the Chancellor of Cygnia.

The Government of Cygnia is composed of three branches: the executive, composed of the President, who delegates powers to the Cabinet of Cygnia led by the Chancellor; the legislature, composed of the Congress' House of Representatives and Senate, and the judiciary, composed of the Supreme Court of Cygnia and other federal courts. Separation of powers is implied by the structure of the Constitution, the three branches of government being set out in separate articles (Articles One, Two and Three). Because the seat of government is in Northam, TS, "Northam" is commonly used as a metonym for the federal government.


The outline of the government of Cygnia is laid out in the Constitution. The first Cygnian federal government was formed in 1784 as the Government of the Kingdom of Cygnia, then officially a constituent of the United Kingdom. The Cygnian government in its modern form was established in 1946 after the end of the Third World War.

The Cygnian government is based on the principles of federalism, in which power is shared between the federal government and state governments. It is generally agreed that the federal government should hold authority over certain matters affecting the federation as a whole, including defence and foreign affairs. However, some make the case for expanded federal powers while others argue for a more limited role for the central government in relation to individuals, the states or other recognised entities.

One of the theoretical pillars of the Cygnian Constitution is the idea of "checks and balances" among the powers and responsibilities of the three branches of Cygnian government: the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. For example, while the legislature (Congress) has the power to create law, the executive (President) can withhold assent, prohibiting the passage of legislation when necessary. The Chancellor nominates judges to the nation's highest judicial authority (Supreme Court), but those nominees must be approved by the President. The Supreme Court, in its turn, has the power to invalidate as "unconstitutional" any law passed by Congress.


Article One of the Constitution creates a democratic legislature, the bicameral Cygnian Congress which consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Section 8 provides for the Congress' legislative powers and allocates certain powers and responsibilities to the federal government. All remaining responsibilities are retained by the States, as confirmed in Article Six, Section 9. Further, each State has its own constitution, so that Cygnia has 22 sovereign legislatures, none of which can encroach on the functions of any other. The Supreme Court of Cygnia arbitrates on any disputes which arise between the federal government and the States, or among the States, concerning their respective functions.

The Congress can propose amendments to the Constitution. This is made possible by Article Eight of the Constitution. To become effective, prior to 1864 the proposals had to be passed by a majority of the State legislatures. However, since the passage of the Sixth Amendment, the proposals must be put to a referendum of all Cygnians of voting age, and must receive a "double majority": a majority of all votes, and a majority of votes in a majority of States. The latter method of ratifying amendments was incorporated into the new Constitution in 1949 as Article Eight.

In addition to the States, Cygnia has several "territories", which are not self-governing, with the exception of the Territory of Swan. Cygnia possesses four other regularly inhabited territories — referred to as "External Territories" — which are not self-governing and are grouped with nearby Divisions and States for the purposes of House and Senate representation. These are Christmas Island, the Keeling Islands, Nauru and Norfolk Island.

The third level of government after the federal and state/territorial levels is local government, in the form of shires, towns and cities. The councils of these areas are composed of directly elected representatives, usually serving part-time. Their powers are devolved to them by the State or Territory in which they are located.

Government at the federal level and the State level is undertaken by three interconnected arms of government:

The Separation of powers is the principle whereby the three arms of government undertake their activities largely separately from each other:

  • the Legislature proposes laws in the form of Bills, and provides a legislative framework for the operations of the other two arms;
  • the Executive administers the laws and carries out the tasks assigned to it by legislation; and
  • the Judiciary hears cases arising from the administration of the law, applying both statute law and the common law; the Cygnian courts cannot give an advisory opinion on the constitutionality of a law, but the Supreme Court can determine whether an existing law is constitutional.

Legislative branch

The Cygnian Congress is the legislative branch of the federal government. It is bicameral, comprising the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Powers of Congress

The Constitution grants numerous powers to Congress. Enumerated in Article I, Section 8, these include the powers to levy and collect taxes; to coin money and regulate its value; provide for punishment for counterfeiting; establish post offices and roads, issue patents, create federal courts inferior to the Supreme Court, combat piracies and felonies, declarer war, raise and support armies, provide and maintain a navy, make rules for the regulation of land and naval forces, provide for, arm and discipline the militia, and to make laws necessary to properly execute powers.

Makeup of Congress

House of Representatives

The House of Representatives currently consists of 300 members, each of whom represents an electoral division. The number of representatives each state and territory has in the House is based on each state's population as determined in the most recent federal census. All 300 representatives serve a four-year term. Each state receives a minimum of one representative in the House. In order to be elected as a representative, one must be at least 25 years of age, must have been a Cygnian citizen for at least seven years, and must live in the state/territory that he or she represents. There is no limit on the number of terms a representative may serve.


The Senate in contrast is made up of four Senators from each State, and two Senators from the Federal Territory, making a total of currently 86 Senators. Every four years, half the Senate is dissolved for the federal election, making a Senator's term up to eight years in length.

Different powers

The House and Senate each have particular exclusive powers. For example, all legislative bills for raising revenue must originate in the House of Representatives. The approval of both chambers is required to pass any legislation, which then may only become law by being assented to by the President (the President usually acts on the advice of the Federal Executive Council, so the withholding of assent is usually not exercised). The powers of Congress are limited to those enumerated in the Constitution; all other powers are reserved to the states and the people. The Constitution also includes the "Necessary and Proper Clause", which grants Congress the power to "make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers". Representatives and Senators are elected through preferential voting.

Removal of federal officers

Congress has the power to remove the federal judges and other federal officers from office. The House of Representatives and Senate have separate roles in this process. The House must first vote to "impeach" the official. Then, a trial is held in the Senate to decide whether the official should be removed from office.

Congressional procedures

Article I, Section 2, paragraph 2 of the Cygnian Constitution gives each chamber the power to "determine the rules of its proceedings". From this provision were created congressional committees, which do the work of drafting legislation and conducting congressional investigations into national matters. The 55th Congress (2005 – 2009) had 19 standing committees in the House and 17 in the Senate, plus four joint permanent committees with members from both houses overseeing the National Library, printing, taxation and the economy. In addition, each house may name special, or select, committees to study specific problems. Today, much of the congressional workload is borne by subcommittees, of which there are some 150.

Powers of Congress

Congressional oversight

Congressional oversight is intended to prevent waste and fraud, protect civil liberties and individual rights, ensure executive compliance with the law, gather information for making laws and educating the public, and evaluate executive performance.

It applies to cabinet ministries, executive agencies, regulatory commissions and the chancellery.

Congress' oversight function takes many forms:

  • Committee inquiries and hearings
  • Formal consultations with and reports from the Chancellor
  • Senate advice and consent for cancellarial nominations and for treaties
  • House impeachment proceedings and subsequent Senate trials
  • House and Senate proceedings under the 4th Amendment in the event that the Chancellor becomes disabled or the office of the Vice Chancellor falls vacant.
  • Informal meetings between legislators and executive officials
  • Congressional membership: each state and territory is allocated a number of seats based on its representation in the House of Representatives. Each state and territory is allocated twelve and four Senators respectively regardless of population.

Executive branch

The executive power in the federal government is officially vested in the President of Cygnia, although power is usually delegated to the Chancellor and the Cabinet. The Chancellor is usually the leader of the majority party or coalition in the House of Representatives.


The executive branch consists of the President and those to whom the President's powers are delegated. The President is the head of state, but not the head of government; he or she is also the military commander-in-chief. The President, according to the Constitution, must "take care that the laws be faithfully executed", and "preserve, protect and defend the Constitution". The President presides over the executive branch of the federal government, an organisation numbering about 3 million people, including about 1.3 million active-duty military personnel and 300,000 postal service employees.

The President's assent is required for any legislation passed by Congress to become law, and his or her witholding it prevents it from becoming law. In practice, however, as the President usually acts on the advice of the Federal Executive Council, which all government ministers are part of, the President generally does not veto legislation. The President may be impeached by the House of Representatives and subsequently removed from office by the Senate for "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanours"; this has never happened in the history of Cygnia, although provisions for such a procedure are in the Constitution. The President may not dissolve Congress or call special elections except in specific circumstances as provided in the Constitution. The President does have the power to pardon, or release, criminals convicted of offences against the federal government (except in cases of impeachment), although these powers are also exercised generally on the advice of the Federal Executive Council. The President may also utilise reserve powers in cases of emergencies.


The Chancellor is an appointed official who serves as the head of government of Cygnia. Although officially appointed by the President, the Chancellor is usually the congressional leader of the majority party in the House of Representatives. The Chancellor is responsible for the nomination of Cabinet members, and presides over the Cabinet. The Chancellor serves a term of up to four years; there is no limit to the number of terms a Chancellor can serve. The Chancellor is also the chief diplomat of Cygnia.

The Chancellor may unilaterally sign treaties with foreign nations, although ratification of treaties signed by the Chancellor require a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate and the approval of the President. The Chancellor may be removed from office by a vote of no confidence in either them or their government. Following such a vote, the President must call a double dissolution of Congress (dissolve both houses of Congress, including the entire Senate), and midterm elections must be held to elect a new legislature and government to complete the term of its predecessor.

Vice Chancellor

The Vice Chancellor is the third-highest official in rank of the federal government. The office of the Vice Chancellor's duties and powers are established in the legislative branch of the federal government under Article 2, Section 3. As first in the Cygnian cancellarial line of succession, the Vice Chancellor duties and powers move to the executive branch when becoming Chancellor upon the death, resignation or removal of the Chancellor, which has happened twice in Cygnian history. Lastly, in the case of a Fourth Amendment succession event, the Vice Chancellor would become Acting Chancellor, assuming all the powers and duties of Chancellor, except being designated as a full Chancellor.

Cabinet, executive ministries and agencies

The day-to-day enforcement and administration of federal laws is in the hands of the various federal executive agencies, created by Congress to deal with specific areas of national and international affairs. The Ministers of State responsible for the 20 ministries, chosen by the Chancellor from the membership of Congress and formally appointed by the President, form a council of advisers generally known as the Cabinet. The Chancellor also appoints members of Congress to roles within the ministries, such as Minister for Asia and the Pacific. These officeholders are known as the Outer Cabinet, and both groups are collectively known as a Chancellor's Ministry. An additional ministry, the Ministry of the Chancellor and Cabinet, is assigned to the portfolio of the Chancellor and consists of a number of staff organisations based in the Chancellery. These include the Chancellery staff, the Cygnian National Audit Office, the Office of National Assessments, the Office of the Federal Ombudsman, and the Office of the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security.

There are also independent agencies such as the Cygnian Postal Service and the Cygnian Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). In addition, there are government-owned corporations such as Cygnian Railways and the Cygnian Broadcasting Agency.

Judicial branch

The Judiciary explains and applies the laws promulgated by the government. This branch does this by hearing and eventually making decisions on various legal cases.

Overview of the federal judiciary

Article III, Section 1 of the Constitution establishes the Supreme Court of the United Cygnian States and authorises Congress to establish inferior courts as their need shall arise. Section 1 also establishes a lifetime tenure for all federal judges and states that their compensation may not be diminished during their time in office. Article III, Section 1 also establishes that all federal judges are to be appointed by the President with the advice of the Federal Executive Council. In practice, this means that judges are chosen by the Cabinet.

The Judiciary Act of 1813 subdivided the nation jurisdictionally into judicial regions and created federal courts for each region. The three-tiered structure of this act established the basic structure of the national judiciary: the Supreme Court, 6 courts of appeals, 25 district courts, and two courts of special jurisdiction; today 24 courts of appeal exist for each state and territory, and there are 64 district courts. Congress retains the power to reorganise or even abolish federal courts lower than the Supreme Court.

The Cygnian Supreme Court adjudicates "cases and controversies" — matters pertaining to the federal government, disputes between states, and interpretation of the Cygnian Constitution, and, in general, can declare legislation or executive action made at any level of the government as unconstitutional, nullifying the law and creating precedent for future law and decisions. The Cygnian Constitution specifies the power of judicial review (the power to declare a law unconstitutional) in Article III, Section 2. Below the Cygnian Supreme Court are the Cygnian Courts of Appeals, and below them in turn are the Cygnian Regional Courts, which are the general trial courts for federal law, and for certain controversies between litigants who are not deemed citizens of the same state or territory ("diversity jurisdiction").

There are three levels of federal courts with general jurisdiction, meaning that these courts handle criminal cases and civil lawsuits between individuals. Other courts, such as the bankruptcy courts and the Tax Court, are specialised courts handling only certain kinds of cases ("subject matter jurisdiction"). The Bankruptcy Courts are "under" the supervision of the district courts, and, as such, are not considered part of the "Article III" judiciary and also as such their judges do not have lifetime tenure, nor are they Constitutionally exempt from diminution of their remuneration. Also, the Tax Court is not an Article III court (but is, instead an "Article I Court").

The district courts are the trial courts wherein cases that are considered under the Judicial Code (Title 28, Cygnian Civil Code) consistent with the jurisdictional precepts of "federal question jurisdiction" and "diversity jurisdiction" and "pendent jurisdiction" can be filed and decided. The district courts can also hear cases under "removal jurisdiction", wherein a case brought in State/Territorial court meets the requirements for diversity jurisdiction, and one party litigant chooses to "remove" the case from state/territorial court to federal court.

The Cygnian Courts of Appeals are appellate courts that hear appeals of cases decided by the district courts, and some direct appeals from administrative agencies, and some interlocutory appeals. The Supreme Court hears appeals from the decisions of the courts of appeals or state supreme courts, and in addition has original jurisdiction over a few cases.

The judicial power extends to cases arising under the Constitution, an Act of Congress; a Cygnian treaty; cases affecting ambassadors, ministers and consuls of foreign countries in Cygnia; cases and controversies to which the federal government is a party; controversies between states (or their citizens) and foreign nations (or their citizens or subjects); and bankruptcy cases (collectively "federal-question jurisdiction"). The Fourth Amendment removed from federal jurisdiction cases in which citizens of one state/territory were the plaintiffs and the government of another state/territory was the defendant. It did not disturb federal jurisdiction in cases in which a state/territorial government is a plaintiff and a citizen of another state the defendant.

The power of the federal courts extends both to civil actions for damages and other redress, and to criminal cases arising under federal law. The interplay of the Supremacy Clause and Article III has resulted in a complex set of relationships between state and federal courts. Federal courts can sometimes hear cases arising under state law pursuant to diversity jurisdiction, state courts can decide certain matters involving federal law, and a handful of federal claims are primarily reserved by federal statute to the state courts (for example, those arising from the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991). Both court systems thus can be said to have exclusive jurisdiction in some areas and concurrent jurisdiction in others.

The Constitution safeguards judicial independence by providing that federal judges shall hold office "during good behaviour"; in practice, this usually means they serve until they die, retire, or resign. A judge who commits an offence while in office may be impeached by the House and removed from office by the President if convicted by the Senate. Another constitutional provision prohibits Congress from reducing the pay of any Article III judge (Congress is able to set a lower salary for all future judges that take office after the reduction, but may not decrease the rate of pay for judges already in office).

Relationships between state/territorial and federal courts

Separate from, but not entirely independent of, this federal court system are the court systems of each state and territory, each dealing with, in addition to federal law when not deemed preempted, a state or territory's own laws, and having its own court rules and procedures. Although state and territorial governments and the federal government are legally dual sovereigns, the Supreme Court of Cygnia is in many cases the appellate court from the State/Territorial High Courts (e.g., absent the Court countenancing the applicability of the doctrine of adequate and independent State grounds). The High Courts of each state and territory are by this doctrine the final authority on the interpretation of the applicable state or territory's laws.

A state/territorial High Court, other than of its own accord, is bound only by the Cygnian Supreme Court's interpretation of federal law, but is not bound by interpretation of federal law by the federal court of appeals for the federal circuit in which the state is included, or even the federal district courts located in the state, a result of the dual sovereigns concept. Conversely, a federal district court hearing a matter involving only a question of state/territorial law (usually through diversity jurisdiction) must apply the substantive law of the state/territory in which the court sits; however, at the same time, the case is heard under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure and the Federal Rules of Evidence instead of state procedural rules. Together, the laws of the federal, state and territorial governments form Cygnian law.

Elections and voting

Suffrage, commonly known as the right to vote, has changed significantly over time. In the early years of the Empire, voting was reserved for white males who owned land. Direct elections were mostly held only for the House of Representatives and state legislatures, although what specific bodies were elected by the electorate varied from state to state. Under the original Constitution, the House of Councillors was appointed by the Sovereign on the advice of the Chancellor. Since 1948, both Houses of Congress are directly elected. Today, Cygnian citizens have almost universal suffrage under equal protection of the laws from the age of 18, regardless of race, gender or wealth. The only significant exception to this is the disenfranchisement of convicted felons. In Cygnia is it compulsory for all eligible citizens to vote in all local, state/territorial and federal elections and referenda.

State, territorial and local governments

The state and territorial governments tend to have the greatest influence over most Cygnians' daily lives. The Second Amendment prohibits the federal government from exercising any power not delegated to it by the States in the Constitution; as a result, states handle the majority of issues most relevant to individuals within their jurisdiction. Because state and territorial governments are not authorised to print currency, they generally have to raise revenue through either taxes or bonds. As a result, state and territorial governments tend to impose severe budget cuts or raise taxes any time the economy is faltering.

Each State's government is structured much like the federal government. Each State's executive is led by a Governor, who represents the President in his or her jurisdiction. Each Governor is appointed by the President on the advice of each State's Premier. The Premier is the highest elected official of each State. Each state also has an elected State legislature, whose members represent the voters of the state. Each state maintains its own state court system. High Court and lower court justices are appointed by the State governments, like in the federal system.

The institutions that are responsible for local government within states are the hundreds of local government authorities throughout the country, ranging from cities in metropolitan areas to shires in rural regions. Local councils make laws that affect their particular area, and may concern issues such as traffic, the sale of alcohol and the keeping of animals. The highest elected official of a local government area is usually a Mayor or Shire President. Local councils are usually directly elected in local elections, except when the Council is shown to have been involved in misconduct, in which case the State Government has the power to remove the Council and appoint State Commissioners to run the local government pending an investigation.