A Guide to the Contemporary Commonwealth

By W. David McIntyre | Go to book overview

2
Dominion Status and the 1926
Declaration

The Dominions made up the original core of the Commonwealth, but this label would soon disappear from the political dictionary. Ironically, Virginia is still known as the ‘Old Dominion’, but ‘Dominion of Canada’ dropped out of common use from the 1920s. Canada joined the United Nations under the style used in the British North America Act – ‘Canada’ – though it continued to celebrate Dominion Day until 1982. New Zealand joined the United Nations as ‘New Zealand’, but continued to have Dominion Weather Forecasts until the 1970s. ‘Dominions beyond the Seas’ was removed from the royal title in 1952 when Queen Elizabeth was proclaimed as ‘Queen of this Realm and all Her other Realms and Territories, and Head of the Commonwealth’. Among the few relics of this usage to remain are New Zealand’s Dominion Museum and the Inter-Dominion Trotting Championships between Australia and New Zealand.

The original ‘Dominions’ that chose this distinguishing mark in 1907 were – in order of ‘seniority’ – Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland, Cape Colony, Natal and Transvaal. The last three came together in 1910, along with the Orange Free State (not represented in 1907), to make a single Dominion called the Union of South Africa. When the southern counties of Ireland, as the Irish Free State, became the sixth Dominion in 1922, the seeds of complete transition were sown.

Dominion status was a halfway house between colonial status and independence. It proved short-lived because the six Dominions could not agree about the meaning of their status. Australia and the smallest, most remote, Dominions (New Zealand and Newfoundland) were happy with it and cherished the British Empire. Canada, South Africa and the Irish Free State had their reasons for pressing self-government

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