(Note: This is from The Century, a world-building project of mine.)
The Great Convention of 1829-30 came at a very difficult time for the British Empire, but then again it was because the Empire was having difficulties that the Convention was necessary. After many disastrous events, one thing became plain for anyone to see: the Empire was massively, disgustingly, overstretched.
The build up to the Great Convention began with the Cape Wars of 1802-1809, an total disaster for all parties involved. Despite the fact that neither of the rebelling factions actually managed to capture anything and were generally characterized by gross incompetence and panicked disorganization, it still took British forces seven years to regain control of the entire Cape, a worrying sign.
The next major event worrying away at Parliament were the Western Revolts. The Revolts were not exactly wars, closer to a prolonged period of intense unrest in the less-settled west of the American colonies. The King had banned settlement beyond a certain line, but his proclamations were mostly ignored by American colonists hungry for all the land they could get. Unfortunately, this meant they had to set up effectively independent governments, which aren’t exactly taxable. Quite a few Royal Governors eventually got tired of tax revenues slipping out of their fingers, and began clamping down in the west, establishing their own authority and formalizing the governments there. Of course, there was the small problem that the colonists weren’t supposed to be there in the first place. Both the King and Parliament told the colonial governments in no uncertain terms to stop formalizing western settlement. The colonial governments acknowledged this and continued to do it anyway. The central British government was completely unable to do anything, with tensions in Europe holding its attention.
Then, of course, came the War, lasting for nearly eight years and leaving Britain in possession of all the former Dutch colonies across the globe, as well as several other spoils of war including effective control over most of the Indian subcontinent. Needless to say, this was a lot to handle for anyone. Thus, while at first glance, the British Empire seemed to be at its highest peak, it was in fact an overstretched house of cards ready to collapse at the slightest provocation.
Most everyone in positions of power in Britain saw this, and realized that if the Empire was to maintain its power, something would have to be done. Thus, the Convention was called to determine the future course of Britain all over the globe. What finally came out of it, after a drafting and ratification process taking over a year, was a complete restructuring of the British Empire.
The Empire would be divided into several categories of state:
- The Colonies would be ruled in much the same way as before, with an increased role for Companies under Crown charter like the East India Company being the only significant change.
- The Provinces would be given some measure of self-government; on the local level mayors and representatives would be elected, and Provincial Assemblies existed in an advisory capacity. However, the Royal Governor appointed by HM would have final say on most matters of importance. The various provinces would have their own militias, but any standing armies would be a part of the British military structure.
- The Kingdoms would be effectively independent, ruled in Personal Union by HM, free to run their own domestic and some of their foreign policy. They were so independent they were allowed to write their own Charters or Constitutions, if they so pleased (and most of them did). On military matters, they were allowed to keep their own standing armies and navies, but they still had to co-operate on the broader strokes of foreign policy, and were a fully integrated part of the Empire’s economic sphere.
Though the first Kingdom created would be that of the Cape, the vast majority of the Kingdoms would be in North America, hammered out of the former Colonies during the Great Convention. They were, of course, fully allowed to settle their western lands (if they had any) and determine their own form of government. Despite this, Pennsylvania was the only Kingdom that really adopted a radical system, having a unicameral parliament with no upper house and no voting requirements. Slavery is still prevalent in many of the southern Kingdoms, though the slave trade has long been abolished and the land is beginning to grow tired in many states. The current hope of HM’s Government is that it may die out on its own in the Kingdoms soon, but no one can be certain.
(If you have any questions about the history and politics of the Kingdoms, the Imperial structure, or the foreign relations of the Kingdoms/Empire, please ask and I will be happy to give a detailed answer.)
And thank you.