That the People of England, and of all the Dominions and Territories thereunto belonging, are and shall be, and are hereby Constituted, Made, Established, and Confirmed to be a Commonwealth and Free-State: And shall from henceforth be Governed as a Commonwealth and Free-State, by the Supreme Authority of this Nation, The Representatives of the People in Parliament, and by such as they shall appoint and constitute as Officers and Ministers under them for the good of the People, and that without any King or House of Lords(Act Declaring and Constituting the People of England to be a Commonwealth and Free-State, 19 May 1649)
The Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland (commonly known as the Commonwealth of England) is a sovereign state in Europe. Lying off the north-western coast of the European mainland, the country includes the British Islands.
The Commonwealth as also several overseas dominions, colonies and territories.
After the execution Charles I in January 1649 the Commonwealth was established. In the first decades the politics of the period were dominated by the wishes of the Grandees (Senior Officers) of the New Model Army and their civilian supporters. They encouraged (or at least tolerated) several republican regimes. The transition from a military dictatorship to a fully constitutional republic occurred during the protectorate of Henry Cromwell.
The Commonwealth is a republic with the Parliament as the supreme legislative body, its head of state is the Lord Protector, assisted by the Council of State. All judges of the Commonwealth are named by the Parliament.
The county/shire franchise is restricted to persons with land or personal property valued at £200 or more. The borough franchise remains with aldermen, councilors and Borough/Burghs.
Administrative division of the British Islands
The Commonwealth is organized the the following home countries according to the Constitutional Framework for administrative purposes.
For more details see administrative division of the British Islands
Colonies and overseas territories
The Commonwealth as several territories. For example across the Atlantic seas it has several colonies in the Caribbean and North America. These are:
- United Colonies of New England, commonly known as the New England Confederation, it includes Massachusetts Bay Colony (established 1628), Plymouth Colony (1628), Colony of Connecticut (1636), and New Haven Colony (1638).
- Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (established 1636)
- Colony of Virginia (established 1607)
- Colony of Maryland (established 1632)
- Colony of Jamaica (Seized in 1655)
- Leeward Islands Colony, that includes Antigua (colonised in 1632), Barbuda (1684), Montserrat (1632), Saint Kitts (1623), Nevis (1628), and Anguilla (1650).
- Barbados (colonized in 1627)
- Bermuda (colonised in 1612)
- Bahamas (colonised in 1648)
- Newfoundland (colonized 1610)
- Nova Scotia (Seized in 1654)
Justice and Public Peace
In the Commonwealth there are at least three major law systems. Common throughout all the territories of the British Isles are the fundamental principles of the rule of law, independence of the judiciary and the trial by jury as prescribed by law.
At the top of the judicature of the Commonwealth is the High Judicial Committee and below it are the High and Low courts of justice of England, Scotland, Ireland, Channel Islands and Isle of Man. The High Judicial Committee is also the court of appeal (or court of last resort) for the colonies and dominions, overseas territories and the former Crown dependencies.
For more details see Justice and Public Peace.
All Protestant sects enjoy full religious liberty, as states in the Instrument of Government (1653), and confirmed by the Humble Petition and Advice (1657) and the Constitutional Framework. England, Scotland, Ireland, and later Wales, have a national Church.
Besides the repealment of the episcopal polity and the Act of Uniformity of 1558 in 1646 and 1650 and the recognition of the Church of Scotland as national church, and the establishment of the commissions of triers and ejectors (1654), there were no further details of its structure or beliefs. It was left the Lord Protector and Parliament with wide discretion as to how to organized the national church either as a presbyterian or congregational policy. In the 1660s the main lines and principles were drawn for the three, and later four, national churches.
Mainly on the insistence of the Army, many independent churches were tolerated, although everyone still had to pay tithes for the maintenance of national churches and public preachers. Public and private worship is allowed and protected as long as it does not disrupt public peace, injures or molests other faiths, nor is contrary to the Holy Scripture. However toleration is not extended to catholics, episcopalians (or anglicans, until 1660s) and socinianism (unitarianism). There are no penalties for not going to church, or attending other acts of worship.
For more details see Religion in the Commonwealth.
Culture and Society
In the Puritan Commonwealth social mores emphasized godly discipline, moral reformation, humility, sobriety and good order.
One of the most noticeable difference in the social classes in the Commonwealth was the absence of a monarchy and royal family. However aristocrats and nobility were still the upper class and the wealthiest. Followed by the peers, gentry, yeomen (farmers who own their own land,) the later two now involved in local government and parliamentary elections. the lower classes husbandmen, Cottagers, and Laborers (in rural areas) and tradesmen and shopkeepers (in urban areas). For more details see Culture of the Commonwealth.
General education, reading, writing and some basic math, is provided by various kinds of free schools for boys and girls. Education for trades and crafts in apprenticeships, vocational academies, and to enroll in university and general purposes the grammar schools for boys.
There are three universities in England, four in Scotland and one in Ireland. The english and irish universities follow the federated colleges system. Seminaries or divinity colleges, some associated to a university, provide the training and preparation for the ordination of clergy or for other ministry.
For more details see education in the Commonwealth.
Mercantilism is the basic policy imposed by the Commonwealth on its colonies from the 1660s. Mercantilism meant that the government and merchants based in England became partners with the goal of increasing political power and private wealth, to the exclusion of other empires and even merchants based in its own colonies.
The government protected its London-based merchants—and kept others out—by trade barriers, regulations, and subsidies to domestic industries in order to maximize exports from and minimize imports to the realm. The government had to fight smuggling, especially by American merchants, some of whose activities (which included direct trade with the French, Spanish, Dutch, and Portuguese) were classified as such by the Navigation Acts. The goal of mercantilism was to run trade surpluses, so that gold and silver would pour into London. The government took its share through duties and taxes, with the remainder going to merchants in Britain. The government spent much of its revenue on a superb Commonwealth Navy, which not only protected the Commonwealth colonies but threatened the colonies of the other empires, and sometimes seized them. The colonies were captive markets for British industry, and the goal was to enrich the mother country.
For more details see Economy of the Commonwealth.
The armed forces are the British Army and Navy (Commonwealth Army and Navy until the early 1660s), being the former the regularly trained standing army and the latter the permanent and standing naval warfare force and maritime service of the Commonwealth. Both integrate the armed forces and ships and have joint commands in England, Scotland and Ireland. The local county militias (shire militias in Scotland) also come under its administration of the British Army by having a common training and command regulations and rules. The militias also provide the main recruitment system of the Army.
The Commander-in-Chief of the Forces is the Lord Protector, to whom members of the forces swear an oath of allegiance. The Army and Navy are managed by a series of committees of Commonwealth State Council being the main ones the Army Council and Admiralty Committee. The Commonwealth Parliament yearly establishes its number and personal within the limits of the Constitutional framework or increases in case of war.
For more details see British Armed Forces.