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.
During the 18th century it became more commonly know as the British Commonwealth or Britannia.
The Commonwealth as also several overseas dominions, colonies and territories.
The British Civil Wars (1636-1651) triggered a series of far reaching social, religious, political and economic changes of the British Isles.
The British Civil Wars (1636-1651) and the effects that followed made a unique mixture different from the rest of continental Europe. Being Britannia the first to have a successful and lasting Bourgeois Revolution made it until the French Revolution source of admiration by the European Enlightenment philosophers. However it also became a nation at odds with Europe even after the European Revolutions and a rival of France and Germany, but a close ally of the Dutch Republic and Flanders.
The history of the Commonwealth in the following periods:
Puritan Age (1649-1658)
- 1st to 9th Year of the Commonwealth.
After the execution Charles I in January 1649 the Commonwealth was established. The Act Declaring and Constituting the People of England to be a Commonwealth and Free-State (19 May 1649) marks the beginning of republican rule. 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 later during the protectorate of Henry Cromwell.
The start of the Puritan Age of the Commonwealth (1646-1659) is marked by the triumph of the Army over the King after the British Civil Wars (1636-1651) and marks the supremacy of Parliament and later the rule of the generals and Oliver Cromwell. With many enemies within (Cavaliers and Jacobeans) and outside (France and Spain) the nascent free state prevailed. For the first two years of the Commonwealth, the Rump faced economic depression and the risk of invasion from Scotland and Ireland. By 1653 Oliver Cromwell and the Army had largely eliminated these threats. By 1653, France and Spain had recognised England's new government.
On 12 April 1654, under the terms of the Tender of Unión the people of Scotland should be united with the people of England into one Commonwealth and under one Government.
Though the Church of England was retained, episcopacy was suppressed and the Act of Uniformity 1558 was repealed in September 1650. Mainly on the insistence of the Army, many independent churches were tolerated, although everyone still had to pay tithes to the established church.
Some small improvements were made to law and court procedure; for example, all court proceedings were now conducted in English rather than in Law French or Latin. However, there were no widespread reforms of the common law. This would have upset the gentry, who regarded the common law as reinforcing their status and property rights. The Instrument of Government (IoG) of 1653 became the constitution of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland. Drafted by Major-General John Lambert in 1653, it was the first sovereign codified and written constitution in England. The IoG created the office of Protector as the chief magistracy and the administration of government, the Council of State and Parliament, later reformed by the Humble Petition and Advice (25 May 1657) that added a second chamber to Parliament.
Two Lords (1658-1718)
- 9th to 69th Year of the Commonwealth.
The Two Lords covers the period between the Protectorships of Henry Cromwell (1658-1696) and James Scott (1696-1718). Politically it was characterized by strong executive Protectors that concentrated most of the decision making and government with the help of the Council of State. Parliament was limited in its role of checking and approving budget and most of the nominations to the Council of State. Cromwell and Scott would mostly maneuver against the wishes of Parliament and part of the Council of State. The arbitration of the parliamentary interest and those of of the parties (Cromwellians, Court/Civil party, factions of the Whigs and Tories) supporting the Protector became the norm to shuffle thru divide issues and contradictory agendas.
Although governing with powers like the ones of a king, Cromwell and Scott vigorously sought consensus in the key policies of toleration, establishment of national churches and the Irish (Act of Union 1663) and Scottish integration to the Commonwealth. At the end of the period religious faith and practices no longer were a divisive issue, full toleration was recognized, granted, enforced and respected. However Catholicism in Ireland was the main exception and there was an open policy of favouring the reformed Church of Ireland and to a lesser degree also Episcopalians..
A major influence on the Whigs were the liberal political ideas of John Locke, and the concepts of universal rights employed by Locke and Algernon Sidney. The Claim of Rights Act established the first full declaration of British public and civil liberties. This single legislative Act was a major breakthrough with Continental absolutism in vogue at this time. Republican tendencies became the norm of all classes in the Home countries and colonies of North America. It would take some time for Americans to also ask and demand more liberties and autonomy.
The Navigation Acts, the official policy of mercantilism, keep trade within the Commonwealth Home Countries and overseas territories. Popular hostility against monopoly was a driving force for their abolishment. The domestic monopolies of basic goods, luxuries and manufactured goods were rescinded and dissolved within the Home Countries and overseas territories. The excise duties made up for the lost revenue from the right of monopolies. The Copyright of 1710 provided that copyright to be regulated by government and courts. Later legislation extended copyright to other items and started to provide patent protection. The Coinage Union of England, Scotland and Wales (1701) marked the start of a fully integrated market and the Banks of England and Scotland as independent public central banks and governmental lenders.
The rights of the main chartered trading companies were left untouched. For example the major ones like East India Company, Hudson's Bay Company and Company of Adventurers Trading to Africa kept substantial part of their monopolies in foreign trade within their territories. A major concession, that was important for North America was the regulated trade with the Netherlands and later Flanders. Agreements also encourage non military competition in their defined areas of colonial exploitation.
British diplomacy adhered to the theory of the balance of power, that is to say that national security and sovereignty is preserved and enhanced when military capability is distributed so that not one state is strong enough to dominate all others. However this was frequently broken by the Wars of the Sun King that lead to extensive participation, mostly in naval power, along its allies the Dutch Republic and later Flanders. Most of British actions were channeled in organizing coalitions in order to breakdown the French plans of continental hegemony. This marked beginning of the historical alliance of diplomatic, economic and colonial interest between Britain, Dutch Republic and Flanders.
If in the Puritan Commonwealth social mores emphasized godly discipline, moral reformation, humility, sobriety and good order in the Two Lord there was a general laxness in England, Wales and Ireland and most of the North American territories, however Scotland and New England kept their strict morality and Puritanism becoming part of their national identity.
Whig Hegemony (1718-1761)
- 69th to 112th Year of the Commonwealth.
This period was characterized by the uncontested political domination of the Whigs over the Tories. The Whigs and later its numerous factions supported a Protestant constitutional republicanism against absolute and sectarian rule. The Tories were in favor of a more powerful head of state (Protector) and a more executive Council of State (government) that would also have an ear to the demands of provincial England and landed gentry of the Commonwealth.
The office of Protector under the Whigs became the prime source of patronage and also a moderating power and collaborator of the Council of State. Power began to shift to the Council of State and Parliament becoming more parliamentary in its forms. However Whig cronyism and mismanagement allied the conservative opposition in the Tory-Country coalition and Whig defectors and critics assembled themselves in the Patriot Party.
The interests of merchant and nascent capitalism had an important say in government and the powerful lobby of the East India Company a model followed by many. The first private Inclosure Acts were promulgated along the first stage of the British Agricultural Revolution. At the end of this period Ireland was in its way of becoming the chief provider of grains and cattle to the Commonwealth. The incorporation of Ireland to the Coinage Union (1723) helped it to economically level up with the rest of the British Isles. The Protector-in-Council however started to grant industrial patents as a common practise, to promote and improve industry and forming the basis of patent protection law.
Economic bubble become more recurrent and disastrous such as the Irish coinage crisis of 1722, and the after effects of the Irish Famine of 1740–1741. The Atlantic triangular trade between the Home Countries, Africa and North America became fully established.
The citizens of North America during the Whig hegemony gained more local and legislative autonomy and voice in its decision making and were also integrated to the society of the home countries by means of the Protector’s extensive patronage.
The celebrations of the first centenary of the establishment of the Commonwealth (1749) marked the confidence on the future and started a cultural boom in England and the first steps of the romantic revival of Irish and Scottish languages.
Foreign diplomacy was again marked by the rivalries with France and keeping the European balance of power by Britain. The first major conflict was the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–48) triggered by The first one triggered by the pretext that Maria Theresa was ineligible to succeed to the Habsburg thrones of her father, Charles VI, because Salic law precluded royal inheritance by a woman. In practice, the challenge of eligibility was an excuse put forward by Prussia and France to challenge Habsburg power. Austria was supported by the British Commonwealth and the Dutch Republic, the traditional enemies of France, as well as the Kingdom of Sardinia and the Electorate of Saxony. France and Prussia were allied with the Electorate of Bavaria. The war ended with Maria Theresa confirmed as Archduchess of Austria and Queen of Hungary, Francis of Lorraine, Maria Theresa's husband, confirmed as Holy Roman Emperor. Prussia retained control of Silesia. But the peace was soon to be shattered, when Austria's desire to recapture Silesia intertwined with the great political changes in Europe, which ended up with the Seven Years' War.
The Carnatic Wars (1744–1748, 1749–1754, 1756–1760) were proxy conflicts for the control of the South of India between the rival chartered companies of France and Britain and thereby with no official backing. Although everyone knew that it was between the two nations. The Clive-Dupleix Agreement ended the control of South India in favor of France.
The Seven Years' War (1756-1763) would mark the first truly intercontinental wars as France and Britain armies and navies were involved in Europe, the Americas, West Africa, India, and the Philippines. The War also marked the end of the British-Habsburg alliance against France. A major war theatre was the North America with the French and Indian Wars (1756-1760). Although Anglo-French skirmishes over their American colonies had begun, the large-scale conflict that drew in most of the European powers was centered on Austria's desire to recover Silesia from the Prussians. Seeing the opportunity to curtail Britain's and Prussia's ever-growing might, France and Austria put aside their ancient rivalry to form a grand coalition of their own, bringing most of the other European powers to their side. Faced with this sudden turn of events, Britain aligned itself with Prussia, in a series of political manoeuvres known as the Diplomatic Revolution. However, French efforts ended in failure when the Anglo-Prussian coalition prevailed, and Britain's rise as among the world's predominant powers destroyed France's supremacy in Europe, thus altering the European balance of power.
British Enlightenment (1761-1790)
- 112th to 141th Year of the Commonwealth
This period marked the rise to power and competition of the conservative (reformist) and radical parties that struggled in elections to gain and secure power. The office of the Protector regained its prestige and power of arbitration. Foreign and military affairs came again under its fold. Daily management of government came under the firm aegis of the Council of State. Thought the main political issues were consulted and resolved between Protector and Council, the later expressing the wishes of the ruling majority at the time.
The role and prestige of the Protector was risen to the eyes of the general population by state visits across the Home Countries and the personal promotion and inauguration of public works, fairs, hospitals, libraries and public presentation of awards and honours.
Extensive plans of institutional and social reform were discussed and implement, being Ireland the test trial and laboratory of many of them.
The Seven Years' War (1756-1763) ended with the Treaty of Paris between France, Spain and Britain and the Treaty of Hubertusburg between Saxony, Austria and Prussia, in 1763. One of the key gains was the acquisition of Canada by the Commonwealth.
The last continent to be explored and colonized, Australia, became a new scene of conflict between France and Britannia as they raced to gain the most territories, with the Dutch following in a distant third place.
The Age of Reforms and Revolutions (1790-1840)
- 141th to 191th Year of the Commonwealth
Thanks to the Industrial Revolution, from which Britannia became the workshop of the World, also came along a change of society. The social problems of housing, health, sewage, poor relief, education and working conditions grew in the destitute of their extent. They became a constant state of peril to social order along demands of political reform. Reforms such as universal suffrage, women's right to vote, local government were carried out not only because of internal pressure but also by the European revolutions. Of these, the French Revolution and its waves had at some time the British Commonwealth at war with most of Europe. British Navy and Army fought in Italy and Germany under the command of Nelson, Cochrane, Wellington, Prévost and Howe.
The time span that goes from the French Revolution, passing by the European Revolutionary Wars and ending in the Peace of Vienna marked radical changes in the internal outlook the British elites and common people had in their internal affairs. Britain came down to a paradox from being one of the most liberal government, way before the European Revolution, to be allied with the continental status quo and support the foe's of liberty. The clash between British gradualism and French revolution marked all political opinions and philosophies.
Under Pitt's Council of State (1788-1806) extensive reforms were made to the Commonwealth's finances and armed forces. For example the East Indies company came under control of Parliament and lost its Indian trade monopoly. The definitive establishment of free trade broke up party loyalties and stirred regional groups and the rebellion of the Dominions.
The wars and revolutions also marked the high note of British jingoism and the end of the policy of the balance of power in Europe. From this period British diplomacy started to choose its allies that could contain at least one these powers: France, Prussia-Brandenburg and Russia. Scandinavia and the Austrian Empire became at some time allies provided the latter did not crumble under its own internal tensions. However the creation of the Holy Alliance (Austria, Russia and Prussia) antagonized Britain to intervene in Europe only in exceptional circumstances.
The independence of Louisiana and the revolt of British Canada, within the Revolutionary Wars of Europe, forced to establish a new relationship with the dominions of North America. The wars of independence of Haiti, Cuba, Mexico and South America also opened new trade and market possibilities to the nascent industrial capitalism of Britannia.
From this Age emerged at the end of it a new empire and a new world brought to being by the Dual Revolution A new political, social and technological and economic World from which Britain came out mostly triumphant but in unrecognized new form.
The Commonwealth is a republic with the Commonwealth 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 initially restricted to persons with land or personal property valued at £100 or more in 1667. The borough franchise remained with aldermen, councilors and Borough/Burghs. Several parliamentary Acts and charter reforms modelled the borough franchise to the same standard (All freeman and in some boroughs also the masters of guilds).
The senators, as defined by the Senate Act of 1662, were elected by the Lord Mayors, mayors, Lord Provost and provosts of city/borough corporations and county corporations and the masters of livery companies and guilds. The electors of each Home Nation assemble separately every six years to vote for their respective senators.
- For more details see Constitutional Framework of the Commonwealth.
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
|England||130,395||London||No||English law||English and Cornish|
|Scotland||78,772||Edinburgh||No||Scots law||English and Scottish Gaelic|
|Wales||20,779||Cardiff||No||English Law||English and Welsh|
|Ireland||84,421||Dublin||No||Irish Law||Irish Gaelic and English|
|Isle of Man||572||Douglas||Yes||Isle of Man law||English and Manx|
|Channel Islands||194||Saint Helier||Yes||Channel Islands law||English, Norman and French|
Colonies and overseas territories
The long established colonies in North America usually have a Governor (named either by the Protector, the proprietary, the Chartered company, or the colonists), an executive council, and a legislative council (elected or partially named). Law courts are usually created and named by the Governor or directly named by the Protector.
The directives of the policy and everyday administration reside in the Lord Protector and the Commonwealth Council of State. Though most issues are derived or resolved by the Council for Foreign Plantations and Council of Trade, both permanent bodies of the State Council. However colonies with high degree of self government as in continental America have wide powers and usually trade regulations, customs duties, currency, organization of the judiciary, defense and Indian affairs are issues that reside in Parliament and Protector-in-Council.
The Commonwealth as several territories. For example across the Atlantic Ocean 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 (1638-1662 merged to Connecticut). Abolished in 1675 on the formation of the Dominion of New England
- Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (established 1636) Abolished in 1675 on the formation of the Dominion of New England
- 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)
- Borealia (Created 1670)
- Dominion of New England (Created 1675)
- Ohio (Created 1766)
- Tennessee (Created 1768)
- For more details see Colonies and territories
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).
The incipient and lasting political republicanism of Britannia established a liberal parliamentary system. Its capitalism along free trade and Industrial Revolution lead to the Britannia becoming the workshop of the World and one main colonial and imperial powers. Its predominantly Christian religious life and embracing religious tolerance awoke later freedom of expression and other liberties that embedded today's British Liberties. Its composition of the four home countries—England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland—each of which has a distinct customs, languages, cultures and symbolism formed part of the current and distinctive British multiculturalism.
- 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.
Trade and Economy
Mercantilism was the basic and national economic policy of the Commonwealth also imposed on its colonies from the 1660s to the 18th centuries until the emerge of free trade as an alternative system.. 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.
The creation of the Three Banks as the Commonwealth's bankers started to transform the economy to a more capitalist one.
The pound sterling (£), commonly known as the pound, is the official currency of the British Commonwealth and its territories.
The British Agricultural Revolution increased in agricultural production in Britain between the mid-17th and late 19th centuries. Agricultural output grew faster than the population over the century to 1770, and thereafter productivity remained among the highest in the world. This increase in the food supply contributed to the rapid growth of population in England and Wales.
The Industrial Revolution, began in Britain between 1760 and 1830. This rapid British industrialization started with mechanized spinning in the 1780s, with high rates of growth in steam power and iron production occurring after 1800. Mechanized textile production spread from Britain to continental Europe and America in the early 19th century, with important centres of textiles, iron and coal emerging in Flanders, Netherlands and the the Ruhr valley and later textiles in France.
Many of the technological innovations were British or French. By the mid-18th century Britain controlled a global trading empire with colonies in North America and Africa, and with some political influence on the Indian subcontinent, through the activities of the East India Company. The development of trade and the rise of business were major causes of the Industrial Revolution.
- 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.
- ↑ Originally a British patriotic song, later used widely by the British Navy and Navy becoming an unofficial national anthem
- ↑ Reipublicae Angliae, Scotiae et Hiberniae (Latin), Gwerinlywodraeth Lloegr, yr Alban ac Iwerddon (Welsh), Chomhlathas Shasana, na hAlban agus na hÉireann (Irish Gaelic), Co-fhlaitheas Shasainn, Alba agus Èirinn (Scottish Gaelic)
- ↑ Reipublicae Britannicae (Latin), Gymanwlad Brydeinig (Welsh), Comhlathas na Breataine (Irish Gaelic), Co-fhlaitheas Bhreatainn (Scottish Gaelic)
- ↑ The wider series of conflicts that spanned the entire British Isles, involving Scotland and Ireland as well as England and Wales was initially called the Civil War, The Great Rebellion or The Wars of the Three Kingdoms. Some more radical groups speak of the The English Revolution or Puritan Revolution.
- ↑ The Act also marks the beginning of year one of the Commonwealth Year. See Commonwealth Era
- ↑ War of Devolution (1667–68), [Franco-Dutch War 1672-78 (1672-78), Nine Years' War (1688–97) and War of the Spanish Succession (1702–15)
- ↑ Banks of England, Scotland and Ireland