The Commonwealth was Humanity's first true united government. Though it was the result of hastily established compromises stitched together in the aftermath of a devastating war, its vestiges remained in place, at least on Earth, until the fall of the Confederation three centuries later. The Commonwealth was never called the "Terran Commonwealth" by its citizens or in any formal documentation. That prefix, like that attached to the Confederation which followed, was a distinction applied by interstellar scholars during the subsequent centuries of the Dark Age.
The Commonwealth, like the earlier League of Nations and United Nations, was an organization designed by the victors, in this case the Pan Anglo European Alliance and the Chinese Republic. As such it reflected and maintained the influence of these groups over the rest of the world. But unlike previous "world bodies" the Commonwealth aimed to finally supplant national sovereignty with a true universal government. It was to be a government of peoples not states.
The cease fire that ended the Last World War was negotiated by the Copernicus Five, surviving members of the leadership of major powers who happened to be on the moon when hostilities began. The five were Thomas Atkinson, Wu Jun, Anatoly Dmitriev, Arianne Bourassa and Pradeep Virma. From their communications center at the neutral Copernicus Base, they contacted military and civilian leadership and coordinated the cease fire that began on 1 November 2052.
With the death toll already near a billion and with ecological collapse, disease and starvation on the horizon, the Copernicus Five and most surviving leaders agreed that the era of the nation state had past. The Human Race was too close to extinction to allow anything but a unified government.
Those in space were trapped there by the storm of debris from the destroyed satellites stations and beanstalks. It would be summer 2053 before spacecraft again lifted from Earth. While the situation in space was dire and rations cut to half, the twenty-five thousand above the atmosphere were much better off than the billions below, who were dying at a rate of millions per day.
With all satellite communications destroyed, all negotiations were funneled through the moon or one of the three surviving orbital stations, allowing the Copernicus Five to influence the course of negotiations. Bourassa had been a constitutional scholar prior to entering politics and used her experience with the shortcomings of the European Union to help draft a more centralized governing state.
The first order of business was not the creation of government institutions, but the salvation of the Human race. The Copernicus Five and their ten counterparts on Earth formed a Provisional Executive Council (PEC) to coordinate relief efforts. Istanbul was chosen as the provisional capital. It was one of the few relatively intact cities, a neutral party to the conflict, and stood symbolically at the crossroads of Asia and Europe. The PEC divided the world into nine Districts, four for Asia and one for each of the remaining inhabited continents. Relief efforts focused at the District level, asserting authority over fragmented or disintegrating governments and military units, securing or creating refugee camps and distribution centers near remaining transportation hubs.
Conditions on most of Earth were harsh. Despite heroic efforts, even the best run camps fell far short of the rations and shelter needed to support the refugees. Martial law, harsh justice and strict rationing were the norm. Outside the camps, scavengers and renegades preyed on survivors in the harsh winter.
Dust from bombs and fires choked out the sun. The northern winter of 2052/3 was averaged twelve degrees below normal; it was the coldest winter of the century. Spring brought a quick thaw, massive storms, mud-clogged roads and epidemics of pneumonia, dysentery and cholera.
Many feared that civilization was on the verge of collapse. The PEC's solution was to centralize power, ignoring old national and ideological differences to quickly provide food and shelter. The arcologies and hydroponic factories that dominated the Confederation Era were nowhere to be seen in the first few years. The focus was on clearing fields and roads, building strongpoints and shantytowns. By summer, one and three quarters billion people had died, but the population loss began to level off and a semblance of order had returned.
Determined to retain democratic support, the PEC took a quick survey of surviving populations and divided the Earth into fifteen Districts, each of approximately even population, but following geographic and ethnic borders were possible. Each Council member accepted three rolls, governor of a District, representative to the government in Istanbul, and delegate to the Constitutional committee. This arranged proved impractical, especially for the five still on the moon, and the role of District governor was quickly delegated to appointees in each District.
By September 2053, the basics of the Commonwealth Government had taken shape. The capital city took back its ancient name of Byzantium. Nuclear powered spacecraft returned to space, helping to clear orbital debris and restore global communication and navigation. By the first anniversary of the cease fire, the Copernicus Five had joined their counterparts in Byzantium and begun work on finalizing the constitution.
The Commonwealth Constitution consisted of 231 articles with provisions for amendments by a 3/4 vote of the Legislature. It envisioned a centralized government, federalized only at the Regional level, dominated by the multi-level legislative and executive structure and supported by a strong bureaucracy.
The base units of the Commonwealth were the seventy-five Regions. Each of the fifteen Districts was to be composed of five Regions of approximately equal population. The Regional governments often corresponded to national or ethnic territories, but their authority was limited. A Region had only police powers within its borders. It could establish and regulate provincial or municipal governments within its borders, but Commonwealth Law superseded any local regulations. It had the power to elect its own legislature and Administrator and was responsible for electing five representatives to the Commonwealth Legislature every five years.
The three hundred and seventy-five Commonwealth representatives elected seventy-five of their number to serve in the Commonwealth Senate and the Senate in turn elected fifteen of its members to sit on the Executive Council.
The fifteen Districts were not self-governing. The Regional legislatures each elected fifteen members of the District Council, but the District governor was appointed by the Commonwealth Senate. District government had limited and mostly ceremonial functions with most actual administration in the hand of District offices of Commonwealth Bureaus and Agencies.
The Executive Council was responsible for the operation of the government. Each of the fifteen Councilors was a Minister of a government function. Each of those ministries had three to five Bureaus which were responsible for specific government functions and led by a combination of appointee and civil service managers.
The Executive and Senate appointed Supreme and District judges, respectively, each for a term of twenty years.
The Constitution delineated the Rights of Humans. It established a definition of Human that excluded artificial life-forms, mechanical or biological, clones and most prenatal genetic engineering or selection, including selection for gender or ability. In effect, it ended most experimentation in artificial intelligence and post human development. The Rights of Humans were further limited by the definition of Citizenship, which included an Age of Responsibility of twenty years after birth and required the mastering of a citizenship test for enfranchisement. Privacy rights were balanced against security concerns.
Additionally, the Constitution allowed for the appointment and investment of ranks of nobility as rewards for service or achievement.
The Constitution required a 2/3 vote of delegates in every District for adoption. The PEC and the governors appointed twenty-four political, military, cultural or economic leaders from each District and flew them to Byzantium for the Ratification Convention in March 2054.
The delegates had little opportunity to change the text of the constitution. Any changes to articles, clauses, even wording required a 3/4 vote of the entire convention. During the three weeks of reading the articles, most changes were limited to wording.
Finally, the Constitution was put to a vote. Veiled threats of withholding aid cowed many reluctant delegates, but after the first vote, thirteen of fifteen Districts adopted the Constitution. The hold-outs were the First Districts, comprising North America and Oceania, and the Tenth, comprising northern China. In the First District, the vote was just half in favor, in the Tenth, it fell short 14-10.
The PEC worked compromises with the reluctant delegates, proposing a clause that allowed for the establishment of District militias with "limited air and see capability". This change passed the 3/4 vote and gained a favorable vote from the Tenth District. To appease the First District, still two votes short, a proposal to make American English the official language of the Commonwealth won over the last votes, but fell considerably short of the 3/4 needed for change.
Finally, on 11 April 2054, the Constitution passed in every District with wording that made American English the "standard" language of the Commonwealth but named Mandarin, Hindi, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Russian, Bengali and French as eight "supported" languages.
The First Election
In spring 2055, the Commonwealth held its first Legislative election. Regional boundaries were still in flux, with finalization awaiting the result of a planned 2060 census. Former national institutions still co-existed with the District administrations. The first election was chaotic, with several races contested to the point of insurrection. The only mature political party on a global scale was the conservative Horizon Party, dominated by Chinese, European and American leadership; it elected 143 Assembly Legislators. The Unity Coalition of more liberal groups crumbled as the Assembly Legislature convened in Byzantium in January 2056, and the Senate Election was a chaotic contest which the Horizon Party won with 40 Assembly Senators. As a result, the Executive Council was composed of eight Horizon Ministers, four Progressives and three representing regional interests. The Horizon Party would come to dominate the Commonwealth for most of its history.
The First Census
All pages and images ©1999 - 2011
by Geir Lanesskog, All Rights Reserved