| Government and Society, 750 – 890
A "DEMOCRATIC" CONSTITUTION
"Democracy" was the watchword of the Fourth Empire, but as we have seen, the uprisings in 750 frightened Thildoyon into modifying considerably his original ideas. The result was a sort of compromise between the extreme democracy of the early Republican constitution, and the far more traditional arrangements of the Second Empire. At the lowest level of local government there were the urban councils (which included rural areas as well), members of which were effectively limited to the middle classes, as a result of educational and property or financial qualifications required for the post. This in itself limited the democratic credentials of representatives at all levels of government, although within these limitations, candidates for the urban councils were chosen by vote. The next stage up the provincial administrative hierarchy was the district council. Its members were elected from the urban councils. As was traditional in Atlantis, members of this council could continue upwards into provincial administration, but contrary to the case in the Second Empire, they could not also apply directly to become members of the Imperial Council or indeed Ministers of Government. Instead members of the Imperial Council were now chosen by direct election of the populace at large, the elections being supervised in each District by the local district council.
There were, in the 750s, 340 Imperial Councillors, two for each district in the Empire (there were generally about 10 district in each of the 17 Provinces). Numbers varied over the years, increasing as Guilds and other bodies were given their own representatives, and then decreasing again at the end of the century, as the Rabarrans overran Atlantean districts in the south. Now it was the method of electing these Councillors which represented the greatest change in Atlantean history, and the nearest approach to true democracy. Elections were held at various times in the chief city in each district, and every citizen who passed the income qualification required, could vote for his or her choice, as long as they could reach the town in person on the day. Initially voting was simply done in the open by acclamation or the raising of hands, but in the 760s this was changed to a written vote. In this form, voters could write their choice secretly or not, as they wished, but they had to use official, stamped voting-papers. Counting of the vote was undertaken by all the members of the local district council, minus any members actually standing for the election. There was clearly scope for corruption here, and as the years passed, independent scrutinisers were appointed to check the fairness of the voting and the counting. The candidates for election were often district councillors, but did not need to be. However, they were initially vetted by the Provincial administration.
THE EXECUTIVE – PROVINCIAL GOVERNORS, MINISTERS AND THE EMPEROR
Provincial Governors were chosen by the Imperial Council, subject to the approval of the Emperor, but their powers were much less now than they had been in the Second Empire. Real power lay in the hands of the Imperial Ministers, and these were chosen by the Emperor, advised by his other Ministers, and were conventionally chosen from the Imperial Council. The overall balance of power, till the 770s, lay more in the hands of the Council than ever before, but the Emperor retained the most important powers. Thus the Council had to approve most of the executive’s decisions and legislation, including changes in taxation. But the Emperor could introduce emergency financial decrees. He also had the final say in declaring and waging war, and had sole control of the Army at all times. However, the Council could censure or delay military appointments or decisions. The police and internal security, apart form the Emperor’s personal bodyguard, were under joint Ministerial and Council control.
As the years passed, a number of important changes gradually modified these arrangements. The most important was the rise in the role of the Chief Minister, who, particularly after the reign of Creholos Tuolden, came to hold the real power in the Empire. He took over the day-to-day running of the Empire from the Emperors, who were increasingly bypassed or made into figureheads or rubber-stamps. The Imperial Council also gradually became split along party lines. One cause of this was an increasing real democratisation of elections of Councillors, with almost secret ballots and a relaxation in the property qualifications for voting. On the other hand, more and more Councillors became dependent on or representative of ethnic or religious groups, or the Guilds, after the 780s: in an anti-democratic tendency, these were allowed their own representatives in the Council, chosen only from within their groupings. After the 790s, the Emperors clawed back some of their powers from the Chief Ministers, but in a wayward and impetuous fashion, which was disastrous for the running of the Empire. Its final destruction was achieved by the dominance in and out of the Council on nationalist and militarist parties and groups, most particularly the Brotherhood Party.
THE INDUSTRIALIASTION OF SOCIETY
Society, that is to say, ordinary people’s lives and the world they lived in,changed momentously and unprecedentedly in this period. Industrialisation, which had begun tentatively much earlier in the century, moved into full swing after 750. Factories sprang up everywhere, and an industrial working-class, Guilds, and factory managers became more and more important. Specific areas of the Empire, which had previously been countryside or small villages, became the homes of factories and industrial production. The area south of Ygohe (50 miles south of Atlantis city), the banks of the river Sulophaio, east of Leiyola, the mouths of many rivers which fed into the Helvengio in Helvrieh, and the area around Dhairosoir in Th. Thiss. were coastal areas which became centres of shipbuilding and industrial production. Inland many rivers became the focus of iron-working and textile industries – the rivers Bore and Ghesse in Atlantis, the Rollepp around Tilrase, and the region north of Lake Chalcris. All these factories worked, using steam-power, towards the production, above all, of iron and steel products. Ships were now ironclad and steam-powered; steam-engines were put to work in factories, and in steam-cars and steam-engines after the 780s. Gunpowder weapons were made of iron, or later, steel, and so on. The Empire was gradually knit together by a network of metallic roads and railways, and by regular steamship lines on the seas. The growth of the industrial working-class and the power of the Guilds led inevitably to the clashes and agreements with the Government after the 780s. At the same time, these changes, along with the growth of materialism, the decline of traditional religion, and changes in moral behaviour produced great uneasiness in society at large.
GOVERNMENT UNDER THE TYRANTS
A detailed description of the rule of the Tyrants is given below. The main feature was the completely dictatorial rule of the Tyrants themselves, especially the last two, and the way in which the Brotherhood organisation took over the running of the whole Empire as well as the Army. The Council did continue to exist as a purely figurehead organisation, under party control. An inner circle of Brothers, who were intimate with the Emperor, effectively ran everything, and kept control using the Internal Security Army, which became a rival in power and numbers to the Imperial Army. This was also under the control of the Tyrants, and its generals were increasingly Brothers themselves, or were "controlled" by a Brother as a sort of Chief of Staff. The leadership also of course appointed the Ministers of State (the Executive), who thus had no independence at all. The appointment of Provincial Governors was similarly under the control of the Brothers rather than the Ministers or the Council. Only local government Councillors were appointed by election by the people, but here too candidates were carefully vetted by the Brotherhood. Under the third Tyrant, Brindor, there was some loosening up of this authoritarian structure, due to the wayward and capricious nature of the man himself. So Provinces and Provincial Government became almost semi-independent after 824, but under the control of former Internal Security Army Chiefs. They thus became somewhat less closely subordinated to Brindor, but at the same time, were ruled even more dictatorially by the Security Chiefs.
THE FIFTH EMPIRE
After the overthrow of the Tyrants, Atlantis and her Empire reverted back towards a more traditional form of government. However, the new Emperors were determined to maintain close control of their subjects, even while seeming to return to a more representative mode of government. Gailonex is particularly associated with this new conservatism, which looked back to the Second Empire for its inspiration. Only at and after his death was it possible for demands for more democratic structures of government to make themselves heard. These had some sort of airing during the few years of Gailonex's sons' joint rule, but then the seizure of power by Gaistuyex and the outbreak of the Final Wars after 870 thrust Atlantis back into a rigid authoritarian mould, which lasted until its final defeat.
The new set-up of government took Gailonex many years, and placed him at the head, in charge of the Army and the Executive. He appointed an Advisory Council, which effectively ran the Provincial Administration alongside the Executive (or Imperial Administration), which soon became purely advisory. The populace could vote for urban Councils, and they elected candidates for District Councils or the Imperial Council, along traditional Second Empire lines. Direct elections, as per the Fourth Empire, were not reintroduced. The Imperial Council itself had of course only advisory functions over government and the law. There was no official Church, and the organisation of all religions was kept entirely separate from that of the government. A Court of Ethics was set up again, with control over the Law, and this quickly halted any advances in the area of inventions.