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In the British Empire, a self-governing colony was a colony with an elected government in which elected rulers were able to make most decisions without referring to the colonial power with nominal control of the colony. Most self-governing colonies had responsible government.
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. It originated with the overseas possessions and trading posts established by England between the late 16th and early 18th centuries. At its height, it was the largest empire in history and, for over a century, was the foremost global power. By 1913, the British Empire held sway over 412 million people, 23% of the world population at the time, and by 1920, it covered 35,500,000 km2 (13,700,000 sq mi), 24% of the Earth's total land area. As a result, its political, legal, linguistic and cultural legacy is widespread. At the peak of its power, the phrase "the empire on which the sun never sets" was often used to describe the British Empire, because its expanse around the globe meant that the sun was always shining on at least one of its territories.
In history, a colony is a territory under the immediate complete political control and occupied by settlers of a state, distinct from the home territory of the sovereign. For colonies in antiquity, city-states would often found their own colonies. Some colonies were historically countries, while others were territories without definite statehood from their inception.
Responsible government is a conception of a system of government that embodies the principle of parliamentary accountability, the foundation of the Westminster system of parliamentary democracy. Governments in Westminster democracies are responsible to parliament rather than to the monarch, or, in a colonial context, to the imperial government, and in a republican context, to the president, either in full or in part. If the parliament is bicameral, then the government is responsible first to the parliament's lower house, which is more representative than the upper house, as it has more members and they are always directly elected.
Self-governing colonies for the most part have no formal authority over constitutional matters such the monarchy and the constitutional relationship with Britain. The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, in London, serves as the ultimate avenue of appeal in matters of law and justice.
The monarchy of the United Kingdom, commonly referred to as the British monarchy, is the constitutional monarchy of the United Kingdom, its dependencies and its overseas territories. The current monarch and head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, who ascended the throne in 1952.
The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) is the highest court of appeal for certain British territories and Commonwealth countries. Established on 13 August 1833 to hear appeals formerly heard by the King-in-Council, the Privy Council formerly acted as the court of last resort for the entire British Empire, and continues to act as the highest court of appeal for several independent Commonwealth nations, the Crown Dependencies, and the British Overseas Territories.
Justice, in its broadest context, includes both the attainment of that which is just and the philosophical discussion of that which is just. The concept of justice is based on numerous fields, and many differing viewpoints and perspectives including the concepts of moral correctness based on ethics, rationality, law, religion, equity and fairness. Often, the general discussion of justice is divided into the realm of social justice as found in philosophy, theology and religion, and, procedural justice as found in the study and application of the law.
Colonies have sometimes been referred to as "self-governing" in situations where the executive has been under the control of neither the imperial government nor a local legislature elected by universal suffrage, but by a local oligarchy state. In most cases such control has been exercised by an elite class from a settler community.
The executive is the organ exercising authority in and holding responsibility for the governance of a state. The executive executes and enforces law.
The concept of universal suffrage, also known as general suffrage or common suffrage, consists of the right to vote of all adult citizens, regardless of property ownership, income, race, or ethnicity, subject only to minor exceptions. In its original 19th-century usage by political reformers, universal suffrage was understood to mean only universal manhood suffrage; the vote was extended to women later, during the women's suffrage movement.
Oligarchy is a form of power structure in which power rests with a small number of people. These people may be distinguished by nobility, wealth, family ties, education or corporate, religious, political, or military control. Such states are often controlled by families who typically pass their influence from one generation to the next, but inheritance is not a necessary condition for the application of this term.
The term "self-governing colony" has sometimes been used in relation to the direct rule of a Crown colony by an executive governor, elected under a limited franchise, such as in Massachusetts between 1630 and 1684.
Crown colony, dependent territory or royal colony were dependent territories under the administration of United Kingdom overseas territories that were controlled by the British Government. As such they are examples of dependencies that are under colonial rule. Crown colonies were renamed "British Dependent Territories" in 1981, and since 2002, Crown colonies have been known officially as British Overseas Territories.
Massachusetts, officially the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is the most populous state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It borders on the Atlantic Ocean to the east, the states of Connecticut and Rhode Island to the south, New Hampshire and Vermont to the north, and New York to the west. The state is named after the Massachusett tribe, which once inhabited the east side of the area, and is one of the original thirteen states. The capital of Massachusetts is Boston, which is also the most populous city in New England. Over 80% of Massachusetts's population lives in the Greater Boston metropolitan area, a region influential upon American history, academia, and industry. Originally dependent on agriculture, fishing and trade, Massachusetts was transformed into a manufacturing center during the Industrial Revolution. During the 20th century, Massachusetts's economy shifted from manufacturing to services. Modern Massachusetts is a global leader in biotechnology, engineering, higher education, finance, and maritime trade.
The first local legislatures raised in England's colonies were the House of Burgesses of Virginia (1619) and the House of Assembly of Bermuda (1620), originally part of Virginia. The Parliament of Bermuda, which now also includes a Senate, is the third-oldest in the Commonwealth of Nations, after the Tynwald and Westminster (currently the Parliament of the United Kingdom). Of the three, only Bermuda's has legislated continuously, with the Royalist camp maintaining control of the archipelago during the Commonwealth of England and the Protectorate.
The Virginia House of Burgesses was formed in 1642/43 by the General Assembly. By its creation, the General Assembly then became bicameral.
The Colony of Virginia, chartered in 1606 and settled in 1607, was the first enduring English colony in North America, following failed proprietary attempts at settlement on Newfoundland by Sir Humphrey Gilbert in 1583, and the subsequent further south Roanoke Island by Sir Walter Raleigh in the late 1580s.
The House of Assembly is the lower house of the Parliament of the British Overseas Territory of Bermuda. The house has 36 Members of Parliament (MPs), elected for a term of five years in single seat constituencies using first-past-the-post voting. Bermuda now has universal voting with a voting age of 18 years. Voting is non-compulsory. The presiding officer of the House is called the Speaker.
However, in the modern sense of the term, the first self-governing colony is generally considered to have been the Province of Canada, in 1841; the colony gained responsible government in 1849. All the colonies of British North America became self-governing between 1848 and 1855, except the Colony of Vancouver Island. Nova Scotia was the first colony to achieve responsible government in January–February 1848 through the efforts of Joseph Howe, followed by the Province of Canada later that year. They were followed by Prince Edward Island in 1851, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland in 1855 under Philip Francis Little. The Canadian colonies were federated as a Dominion in 1867, except for Newfoundland, which remained a separate self-governing colony, was a separate Dominion in 1907-1934, reverted to being a crown colony in 1934, and joined Canada in 1949. However, the term "self-governing colony" is not widely used by Canadian constitutional experts.
The Province of Canada was a British colony in North America from 1841 to 1867. Its formation reflected recommendations made by John Lambton, 1st Earl of Durham in the Report on the Affairs of British North America following the Rebellions of 1837–1838.
The term "British North America" refers to the former territories of the British Empire in North America, not including the Caribbean. The term was first used informally in 1783, but it was uncommon before the Report on the Affairs of British North America (1839), called the Durham Report. These territories today form modern-day Canada and the Pacific Northwest of the United States.
The Colony of Vancouver Island, officially known as the Island of Vancouver and its Dependencies, was a Crown colony of British North America from 1849 to 1866, after which it was united with the mainland to form the Colony of British Columbia. The united colony joined Canadian Confederation, thus becoming part of Canada, in 1871. The colony comprised Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands of the Strait of Georgia.
In Australasia, the term self-governing colony is widely used by historians and constitutional lawyers in relation to the political arrangements in the seven British settler colonies of Australasia — New South Wales, New Zealand, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia — between 1852 and 1901, when the six Australian colonies agreed to Federation and became a Dominion. New Zealand remained a separate colony until 1907, when it too became a Dominion.
In southern Africa, the Cape Colony was granted representative government in 1852, followed by responsible government in 1872. Natal became self-governing in 1893, Transvaal in 1906 and Orange Free State in 1908. These four colonies were united as a unitary Dominion, the Union of South Africa, in 1910). Southern Rhodesia (later Zimbabwe), became a self-governing colony in 1923.
Malta was also a self-governing colony between 1921 and 1933, 1947 and 1958, and 1962 until independence two years later.
The best-known examples of self-governing colonies are the Dominions, during the mid-to-late-19th century and early 20th century. In the Dominions, prior to the Statute of Westminster in 1931, a Governor General, officially the monarch's representative, was a de facto arm of the British government.
After the passing of the Statute of Westminster, the Dominions ceased to be considered colonies, although many colonies which did not have Dominion status were self-governing. However, after that time, the Dominions were largely free to act in matters of defence and foreign affairs, if they so chose and "Dominion" gradually acquired a new meaning: a state which was independent of Britain, but which shared the British monarch as the official head of state. The term Dominion has since largely fallen out of use and been replaced with the term Realm.
In 1981, under the British Nationality Act 1981 and reflecting the change in status toward devolved self-government (and depriving colonials of the rights of abode and work in the United Kingdom), self-governing and Crown colonies were renamed "British Dependent Territories".This terminology caused offence to both loyalists and nationalists in the territories and was changed in 2002, by the means of the British Overseas Territories Act 2002, to British Overseas Territories.
Imperial Conferences were periodic gatherings of government leaders from the self-governing colonies and dominions of the British Empire between 1887 and 1937, before the establishment of regular Meetings of Commonwealth Prime Ministers in 1944. They were held in 1887, 1894, 1897, 1902, 1907, 1911, 1921, 1923, 1926, 1930, 1932 and 1937.
The Statute of Westminster 1931 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom and modified versions of it are now domestic law within Australia and Canada; it has been repealed in New Zealand and implicitly in former Dominions that are no longer Commonwealth realms. Passed on 11 December 1931, the act, either immediately or upon ratification, effectively both established the legislative independence of the self-governing Dominions of the British Empire from the United Kingdom and bound them all to seek each other's approval for changes to monarchical titles and the common line of succession. It thus became a statutory embodiment of the principles of equality and common allegiance to the Crown set out in the Balfour Declaration of 1926. As the Statute removed nearly all of the British Parliament's authority to legislate for the Dominions, it had the effect of making the Dominions largely sovereign nations in their own right. It was a crucial step in the development of the Dominions as separate states.
British colonization of the Americas began in 1607 in Jamestown, Virginia, and reached its peak when colonies had been established throughout the Americas. The English, and later the British, were among the most important colonizers of the Americas, and their American empire came to surpass the Spanish American colonies in military and economic might.
A Commonwealth realm is a sovereign state in which Queen Elizabeth II is the reigning constitutional monarch and head of state. Each realm is independent from the other realms. As of 2019, there are 16 Commonwealth realms: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, and the United Kingdom. All 16 Commonwealth realms are members of the Commonwealth of Nations, an intergovernmental organisation of 53 member states. Elizabeth II is Head of the Commonwealth.
The British Overseas Territories (BOTs) or United Kingdom Overseas Territories (UKOTs) are 14 territories under the jurisdiction and sovereignty of the United Kingdom. They are remnants of the British Empire that have not been granted independence or have voted to remain British territories. These territories do not form part of the United Kingdom and, with the exception of Gibraltar, are not part of the European Union. Most of the permanently inhabited territories are internally self-governing, with the UK retaining responsibility for defence and foreign relations. Three are inhabited only by a transitory population of military or scientific personnel. They all share the British monarch as head of state.
The Dominion of New Zealand was the historical successor to the Colony of New Zealand. It was a constitutional monarchy with a high level of self-government within the British Empire.
Newfoundland was a British dominion from 1907 to 1949. The dominion, situated in northeastern North America along the Atlantic coast, comprised the island of Newfoundland as well as Labrador on the continental mainland. Before attaining dominion status, Newfoundland was a British colony, self-governing from 1855.
The Colonial Laws Validity Act 1865 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Its long title is "An Act to remove Doubts as to the Validity of Colonial Laws".
The territorial evolution of the British Empire is considered to have begun with the foundation of the English colonial empire in the late 16th century. Since then, many territories around the world have been under the control of the United Kingdom or its predecessor states.
The Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 1942 is an Act of the Australian Parliament that formally adopted sections 2–6 of the Statute of Westminster 1931, an Act of the British Imperial Parliament enabling the total legislative independence of the various self-governing Dominions of the British Empire. The Statute of Westminster further restricted the ability of the Parliament of the United Kingdom to legislate for the Dominions.
The independence of New Zealand is a matter of continued academic and social debate. New Zealand has no fixed date of independence; instead, political independence came about as a result of New Zealand's evolving constitutional status. The concept of a national "Independence Day" does not exist in New Zealand.
In the Commonwealth of Nations, a high commissioner is the senior diplomat in charge of the diplomatic mission of one Commonwealth government to another. Instead of an embassy, the diplomatic mission is generally called a high commission.
The Constitutional history of Australia began with the first white settlement in Sydney in 1788 and has undergone numerous constitutional changes since.
A Dominion was the "title" given to the semi-independent polities under the British Crown, constituting the British Empire, beginning with Canadian Confederation in 1867. "Dominion status" was a constitutional term of art used to signify an independent Commonwealth realm; they included Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland, South Africa, and the Irish Free State, and then from the late 1940s also India, Pakistan, and Ceylon. The Balfour Declaration of 1926 recognised the Dominions as "autonomous Communities within the British Empire", and the 1931 Statute of Westminster confirmed their full legislative independence.
The Historical flags of the British Empire and the overseas territories refers to the various flags that were used across the various Dominions, Crown Colonies, Protectorates, territories which made up the British Empire and current Overseas territories. Early flags that were used across the Empire tended to variations of the Red and Blue Ensigns of Great Britain with no colonial badges or coat of arms attached to them. In the first half of the 19th Century, the first colonies started to acquire their own colony badges, but it was not until the 1860s when legislation was passed by the UK Parliament that the colonies were encouraged to apply for their own emblems.