History & Purpose Of The Empire

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The Empire considered as a political institution

The Empire was officially founded in 495 ATD (AD 2748) as a joint undertaking of the Eichberger Foundation and the several colonies that fought it in the Formation Wars. The Treaty of Luna is both the peace treaty that ended the Formation Wars and the constitution of the Empire. It is now 111 years old, which means that the people who were born before it was founded are all past retirement age. They are by no means all dead yet, but people who were politically significant in setting it up or opposing it are getting pretty thin on the ground these days.

The Eichberger Foundation was established in 417 ATD, by Tomitomo Eichberger — the fellow who invented practical faster-than-light travel. It was endowed with the enormous fortune he made out of interstellar commerce. Its purpose was to ameliorate all the problems that FTL travel has caused, including the depredations of unscrupulous people who pirated Eichberger’s intellectual property and used their ships to raid and invade weaker colonies. It became fanatical about weapons of mass destruction in 431 ATD, when a pirate used an Eichberger drive as an improvised weapon to destroy Eichberger's home planet. Then it became involved in a complex of wars against other high-tech colonies that fought it to preserve their sovereignty. These wars ended in an exhausted stalemate about 490 ATD, and as a compromise the parties created the Empire: an organisation that was subject to oversight by the colonies through an Imperial Senate, that had sufficient independence and prerogative powers to prevent interstellar war and the use of weapons of mass destruction.

When the Empire was formed it had the authority of the colonies in Senate assembled and the mission of the Eichberger Foundation. Its executive was entrusted to a self-perpetuating Imperial Council of which the inaugural members were half trustees of the Eichberger Foundation and half jurists, diplomats, and others appointed by the leading colonies. The warships and most of the staff of the Eichberger Foundation were transferred to the Empire. But the other property of the Eichberger Foundation was not.

The original intention of the framers of the Treaty of Luna was that the Senate should exercise control of the Imperial executive by the power of the pursestrings, as in a parliamentary system. The Treaty of Luna gave the Senate alone the power to impose taxes or to authorise appropriations from the Imperial treasury. Fatefully, the first thing the colonies tried to do when the Senate met was to strangle the Empire in its cradle. The Senate would not enact any taxes nor approve any appropriations. The Empire survived this attempt because it was supported by donations from the Eichberger Foundation, which held a monopoly on interstellar trade. The Empire ran on a shoestring for thirty years while the Eichberger Foundation ploughed its profits into expanding its merchant fleet. During these decades interstellar affairs were virtually non-existent, and the colonies mostly treated the Empire as an irrelevance. But during all that time the Imperial Council was laying the economic and psychosocial foundations of a vigorous if limited interstellar government.

In the late 520s the Eichberger Foundation switched its revenues from expansion into funding a large array of programs run by the Empire. But this time all the trustees of the Eichberger Foundation had been co-opted to the Council, and all the member of the Council appointed as trustees, but the property and revenues of the Foundation were still not — and have never become — property of the Empire and subject to the Senate's control of the treasury. Funded by the Eichberger Trust, the Empire explored and expanded, created aid agencies to relieve famine, plague, and poverty, and gradually garnered to itself prominence and legitimacy. By 549 ATD, when it opened a magnificent new capital in an orbital habitat orbiting Earth, the Empire was widely accepted as part of the status quo and, in some slightly fuzzy way, the legitimate suzerain of all the colonies. In 566 ATD the Senate went so far as to create an Independent Commission for Justice empowered under strict supervision to enforce the long-neglected Imperial Crimes Act, with police powers in colonial jurisdiction.

From 565 the Empire began to collect enormous revenues by developing unsettled planets for new colonies and selling the real estate on them, whole worlds of real estate, to settlers and speculators. At first, when it set up such new worlds it established them as liberal, democratic, federal republics, figuring that such were the governments least likely to produce the conditions for famine, massacre and civil war. But by 580 ATD many senators and Councillors had come to realise that in time these colonies would begin to flood the Senate with senators who held dangerous democratic notions. They threatened in time to establish a majority for imposing democratic standards on the other colonies and in time to subject the Empire itself to democratic processes that the Council did not trust to prosecute the Imperial Mission. A crisis developed over the routine Establishment Acts that the Empire needed to conduct interim government of new colonies; this was resolved in 584 ATD in a complicated agreement under which colonies should be established with different forms of government that would preserve the balance of power in the Senate.

In 565 it also became apparent that the Empire had established in 504 ATD a program to raise certain children from birth to be rulers, to be Guardians such as Plato might have admired. At first controversial and the cause of demonstrations and riots on some colonies, of assassinations of people enrolled in the program, this fact has gradually become accepted as just another aspect of the way things are. The Imperial Council is now substantially composed of graduates of the Imperial Heirs Training Program, of “regularii”. The Council has not co-opted anyone but a regularius for twenty years, all the younger Councillors are regularii, and it is acknowledged and accepted that the Imperial executive is developing into an aristocratic oligarchy of Platonic guardians psychoengineered from birth to carry out the Imperial Mission.

The Empire considered as a people: “Imperials”

Until the destruction of Mayflower in 431 ATD the personnel of the Eichberger Foundation did not constitute a people. many were Mayflowerites, the rest were citizens of other colonies where the Foundation had recruited them. After the frightful events of 431–432 some resigned and left. The rest became fanatical about preventing the use of weapons of mass destruction to ruin whole worlds. And they were joined by other surviving Mayflowerites, who had been safe in space on on distant worlds. These people were essentially stateless from the destruction of their homeworld, other Foundation employees became so as their homeworlds exiled and attainted them for treason during the Formation Wars. With the inauguration of the Empire in 495 thesse people and their descendants became the founding Imperials, citizens of the Empire who are not nationals of any colony.

These original Imperials were almost all fanatics of the Imperial cause, first because they had had their homeworld destroyed and had sworn to prevent it ever happening again, second because those lacking fanaticism had fallen by the wayside, or else they had been raised from birth by fanatic parents in a fanatic society. When the Imperial society stood down from a war footing and established a regular education system the new parents naturally wanted their children brought up to share their ideals and dedication. And they were able to hire such developmental psychologists as could design the pedagogies they desired. The Imperial school system soon began to produce a stream of graduates most of whom believed strongly that lots of people getting killed is bad, and that every decent person will exert his or her full effort to prevent it where possible. such people and their like-minded descendants now make up the majority of Imperial officials and of the residents of Imperial direct jurisdiction.

An early piece of legislation obliges the Empire to recruit at least as many new hires from the colonies as it does from its direct jurisdiction so a substantial number (less than half) of Imperial employees are recruits from assorted colonies. But the Imperial Service Recruiting Bureaus have access to psychological testing tech that is just as advanced as the developmental psych used in Imperial schools. Colonial recruits to the Imperial Service have by selection as much dedication as the products of Imperial high schools and similarly high ideals. The upshot is that the society of Imperial servants, retire Imperial servants, children of Imperial servants, and their self-employed relatives, which is to say the society that occupies Imperial enclaves and orbital habitats, is strongly marked by dedication to or even fanaticism for the Imperial cause.

The purpose of the Empire

Tomitomo Eichberger set up his Foundation to apply the profits of interstellar trade to repairing the harmful results of his invention, and most of his employees were just decent people doing a worthwhile job for good pay. The destruction of Mayflower and Orinoco changed all that. The obsession of the Foundation during the Formation Wars was not with “harmful effects of interstellar travel” but “mass deaths, especially in the use of weapons of mass destruction, and most especially in the use of Eichberger Drives as weapons of mass destruction”. That is the obsession that is recognised in the Treaty of Luna. That is the obsession instilled in Imperial schools. Workers in the Imperial assistance programs that merely prevent famines and plagues and wars often feel slightly unsatisfied by their successes. Imperials working in the Eichberger Foundation, Imperial Spaceways, Universal Imports, the Universal Bank, New World Realty, and the other institutions that raise the Empire's revenues for it are able to go on only because they know that the profits they earn are vital to the continued work of the Imperial Navy.

The Empire exists to prevent mass deaths, especially those resulting from terrorism, war, or the use of WMD. It raises money to fund that mission, in enormous amounts. And it does what it has to to protect its ability to go on doing so in the future. It really does. Not pretending. It is able to do so because it is largely staffed by people who are actually pretty strange. But most people in the colonies — even in official positions in the colonies — are so used to people pretending to such virtues that it never crosses their minds that the Imperials are in earnest.

Dedicated, often to the point of fanaticism…. Altruistic, sometimes to the point of self-destruction…. Almost incorruptible. Imperials are a strange obsessed synthetic race, and often terrify those rare outsiders who ever figure out what they are.

Copyright © 2015 by Brett Evill