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Commonwealth

 

Commonwealth is a traditional English term for a political community founded for the common good. Historically it has sometimes been synonymous with "republic". The noun "commonwealth", meaning "public welfare general good or advantage" dates from the 15th century. Originally a phrase (the common-wealth or the common weal Ė echoed in the modern synonym "public weal") it comes from the old meaning of "wealth", which is "well-being", and is itself a loose translation of the Latin res publica (republic). 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".

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 Kingdom of England (after the English Civil War) from 1649Ė53 and 1659Ė60, 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, united with the former Kingdom of Scotland, operated under different institutions (at times as a de facto monarchy) and is known by historians as the Protectorate. In a British context, it is sometimes referred to as the "Old Commonwealth".

The Commonwealth of the Philippines was the administrative body that governed the Philippines from 1935 to 1946, aside from a period of exile in the Second World War from 1942 to 1945 when Japan occupied the country. It replaced the Insular Government, a United States territorial government, and was established by the TydingsĖMcDuffie Act. The Commonwealth was designed as a transitional administration in preparation for the country's full achievement of independence, which was achieved in 1946. The Commonwealth of the Philippines was a founding member of the United Nations.

It is also often referred as "Nobles' Commonwealth" (1505Ė1795, i.e., before the union). In the contemporary political doctrine of the PolishĖLithuanian Commonwealth, "our state is a Republic (or Commonwealth) under the presidency of the King". The Commonwealth introduced a doctrine of religious tolerance called Warsaw Confederation, had its own parliament Sejm (although elections were restricted to nobility and elected kings, who were bound to certain contracts Pacta conventa from the beginning of the reign).

Between 1914 and 1925, Catalonia was an autonomous region of Spain. Its government during that time was given the title mancomunidad (Catalan: mancomunitat), which is translated into English as "commonwealth". The Commonwealth of Catalonia had limited powers and was formed as a federation of the four Catalan provinces. A number of Catalan-language institutions were created during its existence.

"Commonwealth" was first proposed as a term for a federation of the six Australian crown colonies at the 1891 constitutional convention in Sydney. Its adoption was initially controversial, as it was associated by some with the republicanism of Oliver Cromwell (see above), but it was retained in all subsequent drafts of the constitution. The term was finally incorporated into law in the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1901, which established the federation. Australia operates under a federal system, in which power is divided between the federal (national) government and the state governments (the successors of the six colonies). So, in an Australian context, the term "Commonwealth" (capitalized) refers to the federal government, and "Commonwealth of Australia" is the official name of the country.

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, Ukraine, and Georgia. Georgia left the CIS in August 2008 after a clash with Russia over South Ossetia. Its creation signalled the dissolution of the Soviet Union, its purpose being to "allow a civilised divorce" between the Soviet Republics. The CIS has developed as a forum by which the member-states can co-operate in economics, defence, and foreign policy.

Missouri Civil War Museum