Commonwealth

Commonwealth is a traditional English term for a political community founded for the common good. Historically, it has sometimes been synonymous with "republic."

More recently it has been used for fraternal associations of some sovereign nations. Most notably, the Commonwealth of Nations, an association primarily of former members of the British Empire, is often referred to as simply "the Commonwealth."

Contents

Etymology

The English noun commonwealth in the sense meaning "public welfare; general good or advantage" dates from the 15th century.[1] The original phrase "the common-wealth" or "the common weal" (echoed in the modern synonym "public weal") comes from the old meaning of "wealth," which is "well-being." The term literally meant "common well-being." In the 17th century the definition of "commonwealth" expanded from its original sense of "public welfare" or "commonweal" to mean "a state in which the supreme power is vested in the people; a republic or democratic state."[2]

Historic usage

Iceland

The Icelandic Commonwealth or the Icelandic Free State (Icelandic: Þjóðveldið) was the state existing in Iceland between the establishment of the Althing in 930 and the pledge of fealty to the Norwegian king in 1262. It was initially established by a public consisting largely of recent immigrants from Norway who had fled the unification of that country under King Harald Fairhair.

Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Commonwealth of Poland

Republic is still an alternative translation of the traditional name of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Wincenty Kadłubek (Vincent Kadlubo, 1160–1223) used for the first time the original Latin term res publica in the context of Poland in his "Chronicles of the Kings and Princes of Poland." The name was used officially for the confederal country formed by Poland and Lithuania 1569–1795.

It is also often referred as "Nobles' Commonwealth" (1505–1795, i.e. before the union). In contemporary political doctrine of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, "our state is a Republic (Commonwealth) under presidency of the King." The commonwealth introduced a doctrine of religious tolerance (see Warsaw Confederation), had its own parliament Sejm (although elections were restricted to the gentry or szlachta) and elected kings, who were bound to certain contracts Pacta conventa from the beginning of the reign. The foundation stones of the Commonwealth (also called the Golden Freedoms) used to be

  • free election of the king
  • Pacta conventa, a binding pledge agreed to by the King on his election
  • rokosz, the right of rebellion against kings who did not rule in accordance with their pledge
  • liberum veto (a later development), the right for a single representative to veto the entire proceedings of the Sejm
  • confœderatio (confederation), a military organisation of the citizens for the attainment of common political aims.

"A commonwealth of good counsaile" was the title of the 1607 English translation of the work of Wawrzyniec Grzymała Goślicki "De optimo senatore" that presented to English readers many of the ideas present in the political system of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

United Kingdom

The Commonwealth of England was the official name of the political unit (de facto military rule in the name of parliamentary supremacy) that replaced the kingdoms of Scotland and England (after the English Civil War) from 1649 to 1653 and 1659 to 1660. Under the rule of Oliver Cromwell and his son and successor Richard from 1653 to 1659, although still legally known as a Commonwealth, the republic operated under different institutions (at times as a de facto monarchy) and is known by historians as the Protectorate. The Commonwealth of England formed the first republic in the English-speaking world. In a British context, it is sometimes referred to as the "Old Commonwealth."

Labour MP Tony Benn introduced a Commonwealth of Britain Bill several times between 1991 and 2001, intended to abolish the monarchy and establish a British republic. It never reached second reading.

National

Australia

The term also served when six Australian colonies federated to form the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901. The Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act created a federal system, in which power is divided between the federal, or national, government and the States—the evolved status of the colonies. The Constitution stipulated that Australia was a constitutional monarchy, where the Head of State is the British (or, since 1942, Australian) monarch, who is represented at the federal level by a Governor-General, and at the state level by six Governors, one for each state. The Parliament of Australia was derived from the British and American systems to form a uniquely Australian system. It is largely based on the British Westminster System, adopting many of its practices and precedents, but with a similar structure—House of Representatives, and Senate—to the U.S. Congress. In an Australian context, the term "Commonwealth" (capitalised) thus refers to the federal government and "Commonwealth of Australia" is the official name of the country.

Dominica

The small Caribbean republic of Dominica has used the official style Commonwealth of Dominica since 1970.

The Bahamas

The Bahamas, a Commonwealth realm, uses the official style Commonwealth of The Bahamas.

United States

U.S. states

Four states in the United States officially designate themselves as "commonwealths":

  • Massachusetts is a commonwealth,[4] declaring itself as such in its constitution, which states that "The body politic is formed by a voluntary association of individuals: it is a social compact, by which the whole people covenants with each citizen, and each citizen with the whole people, that all shall be governed by certain laws for the common good."[5]
  • Pennsylvania uses the "Commonwealth of Pennsylvania" as its official title.[6]
  • Virginia has been known as the "Commonwealth of Virginia"[7] since before joining the United States.[1]

U.S. insular areas

"Commonwealth" is also used in the U.S. to describe the political relationship between the United States and the overseas unincorporated territories:

  • Commonwealth of Puerto Rico — became a commonwealth[8] in 1952.

International

Commonwealth of Nations

The Commonwealth of Nations—formerly the "British Commonwealth"—is a voluntary association of 54 independent sovereign states, most of which are former British colonies, or dependencies of these colonies with three exceptions, Mozambique (which was a Portuguese possession), Rwanda (which was a Belgian mandate) and Cameroon[9] (which is a union of a French mandate and a British mandate) plus the United Kingdom itself. The Commonwealth's membership includes both republics and monarchies. The head of the Commonwealth of Nations is Queen Elizabeth II. She also reigns as monarch directly in a number of states, known as Commonwealth realms, notably the United Kingdom, Australia, Barbados, Canada, Jamaica, and New Zealand. The Commonwealth of Nations is sometimes referred to as the New Commonwealth in a British context.

Commonwealth of Independent States

The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) is a loose alliance or confederation consisting of 10 of the 15 former Soviet Republics, the exceptions being Turkmenistan (a CIS associate member), Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Georgia. Georgia left the CIS in August 2008 after a clash with Russia over South Ossetia. Its creation signaled the dissolution of the Soviet Union, its purpose being to "allow a civilized divorce" between the Soviet Republics. The CIS has developed as a forum by which the member-states can co-operate in economics, defense and foreign policy.

See also

References

External links


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Commonwealth — of Nations « Commonwealth » redirige ici. Pour les autres significations, voir Commonwealth (homonymie) …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Commonwealth — Com‧mon‧wealth [ˈkɒmənwelθ ǁ ˈkɑː ] also ˌCommonwealth of ˈNations noun ORGANIZATIONS an organization of about 50 countries that were once part of the British empire, and that are now connected politically and economically: • Britain s gradual… …   Financial and business terms

  • commonwealth — [käm′ənwelth΄] n. [ME commun welthe: see COMMON & WEALTH] 1. the people of a nation or state; body politic 2. a) a nation or state in which there is self government; democracy or republic b) a federation of states [the Commonwealth of Australia ] …   English World dictionary

  • commonwealth — com·mon·wealth / kä mən ˌwelth/ n 1: a nation, state, or other political unit: as a: one founded on law and united by compact or tacit agreement by the people for the common good b: one in which supreme authority is vested in the people c …   Law dictionary

  • commonwealth — ► NOUN 1) an independent state or community, especially a democratic republic. 2) (the Commonwealth or in full the Commonwealth of Nations) an association consisting of the UK together with states that were previously part of the British Empire,… …   English terms dictionary

  • commonwealth — /comănwéls/ s. n. grup de state. (<engl. commonwealth) Trimis de raduborza, 09.09.2006. Sursa: MDN  COMMONWEALTH COMĂNUÉLS/ s. n. grup de state. (< engl. commonwealth) Trimis de raduborza, 15.09.2007. Sursa: MDN …   Dicționar Român

  • commonwealth — [kɔmɔnwɛls] n. m. ÉTYM. 1948, Larousse; mot angl., « communauté », abrév. de Commonwealth of Nations. ❖ ♦ Ensemble des États et territoires émancipés de l ancien Empire britannique, liés entre eux par le seul serment d allégeance à la Couronne… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Commonwealth — Com mon*wealth (?; 277), n. [Common + wealth well being.] 1. A state; a body politic consisting of a certain number of men, united, by compact or tacit agreement, under one form of government and system of laws. [1913 Webster] The trappings of a… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Commonwealth — (izg. kȍmonvelt) m DEFINICIJA pol. naziv za zajednicu zemalja koje sačinjavaju Britansko Kraljevstvo ETIMOLOGIJA engl. The Commonwealth of Nations …   Hrvatski jezični portal

  • commonwealth — late 15c., public welfare, general good, from COMMON (Cf. common) (adj.) + WEALTH (Cf. wealth); meaning the state is attested from 1510s; applied specifically to the government of England in the period 1649 1660 …   Etymology dictionary

  • commonwealth — [n] political or geographic area body politic, citizenry, citizens, commonality, democracy, federation, nation, people, polity, republic, society; concepts 301,512 …   New thesaurus

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