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6. What makes the British Commonwealth hang together? Is the British commonwealth of native just another name for the British Empire?
According to http://www.historians.org the important matter, however, is not why we ask what makes the Commonwealth hold together but what the answer is. To reach it we must start off with another question: What is it that holds together? The map opposite page 1 will help us answer. Geographically the British Commonwealth is a rather large affair, for it includes the whole of one continent (Australia), half of North America, almost a third of Africa, an eighth of Asia, one-thirtieth of Europe, little bits of South and Central America, and islands in nearly every sea. It covers 13,000,000 square miles, or a quarter of the world’s land surface. And it houses about 550,000,000 people, or a quarter of the human race. Canada’s 3,700,000 square miles and Australia’s 3,000,000 account for half the area, but far less than 4 percent of the population. India contributes one-eighth of the size but holds 400,000,000 people, or more than 70 percent of the total. The native inhabitants of the other areas number 75,000,000. The whole white population of the Commonwealth amounts to about 75,000,000 or 14 percent. When we turn from the quantity of the Commonwealth to its political character, here are some recent definitions. A Canadian scholar says it is “a free and voluntary partnership or association of nations.” An Australian expert describes it as “an association or organization for common action of a group of communities historically linked by settlement or conquest with Britain.” To Field Marshal Smuts, the South African soldier and statesman, it is “a group of sovereign states working together, living together in peace and war under a system that has stood the greatest strain to which any nation can be subjected.” An American observer says, “It is on the whole the most effective league of nations that the world has ever seen.” But a British writer, remembering something the others forgot, says, “It is an association of free states with a tail of dependent states.” All these statements are alike on two points. They agree in the first place that it is an association, partnership, group, or league that is “free and voluntary,” and in the second place that this association is made up of nations, communities, sovereign states, free states. The independent Commonwealth. The “nations” are six in all—Australia, Canada, Eire, New Zealand, South Africa, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Each is an independent sovereign state, managing its own domestic and external affairs. Not one is subject to control by any of the other five. If any two or more of them act together it is because they have individually decided to do so. The only surviving constitutional link which binds the six together is the fact that they all have the same person as king. But he must act or speak as he is “advised” by his ministers, who in turn are responsible to their legislature. As king of Canada he does what his parliament and cabinet in Ottawa tell him to do; as king of New Zealand he takes orders from the cabinet and parliament in Wellington, and so on. His ministers in London told him to declare war on Germany in September 1939. In a few days’ time his parliaments in Ottawa and Cape Town gave him similar instructions. But his ministers in Dublin gave no such orders, for they had decided that Eire was to remain neutral. In May 1944 the prime ministers of his five fighting nations met in London to plan joint wartime steps. The prime minister of his neutral nation stayed at home. The dependent Empire. The six sovereign states are all either European (the United Kingdom and Eire) or are nations built up by Europeans who have settled overseas. What then of the “tail of dependent states”? A list of them would include about sixty names. Some of them are vast areas like Nigeria, which is as large as Texas,...
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