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.
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.
Henry's thirty-eight years of Protectorship were a watershed moment for the British Commonwealth. At Oliver Cromwell's death the survival of the Parliamentary gains of the British Civil Wars opened the possibility of a Royal Restoration. Perhaps a man of lesser skills would have led the end of the Commonwealth, however it prevailed and flourished under Henry.
The General's Republic at the beginning of Henry's Protectorship became near his death a bourgeoisie and aristocratic republic with religious tolerance as a norm. The idea and custom of society with no royalty became widespread and commonsense by the 1680s.
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.
It is usual to divide the history of the Commonwealth in the following periods
- Puritan (1649-1659),
- Two Lords (1659-1718),
- Whig Hegemony (1718-1761)
- Early Modern or Early Industrial (1761-1790)
- Age of Reforms and Revolution (1790-1840)
- National and Reformist or British Belle Époque (1840-1900)
- Late Industrial (1900-...)
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
|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 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 (1638-1662 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)
- 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.
- 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.
- ↑ Banks of England, Scotland and Ireland