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mentary government.

everything and knew nothing,' and the Cabinet as those 'who thought nobody knew anything but themselves.'*

More than half a century afterwards, in the elaborate treatises of Blackstone and De Lolme upon the British constitution, the existence of the Cabinet was entirely ignored, and no writer has hitherto attempted to trace the rise and progress of this institution, and to explain, in detail, its formation and functions.'

II. The later history and present organisation of the

In entering upon this branch of our subject, it will be profitable to inquire more particularly into the origin and Principles working of three cardinal principles of parliamentary government, to which-taken in connection with the authoritative introduction of ministers into the legislature -we owe its present organisation and efficiency. These are (1) the rule (already partially considered) which requires political unanimity in the Cabinet; (2) the practice of simultaneous changes of the whole Cabinet, as a result of its dependence upon parliamentary majorities; (3) the office of Prime Minister, as a means of perfecting the machinery of administration, and of insuring the carrying out of a policy that shall be acceptable alike to the sovereign and to Parliament.

1. The rule requiring political unanimity in the Cabinet. By this is meant, not merely union of the ministers in their administrative capacity, but a unanimity, real or professed, in advocating or opposing legislative measures in Parliament." William III., as we have seen, was convinced of the advantages resulting from a bond of political

*Parl. Hist. vi. 974. And see Knight, Hist. of Eng. vol. v. p. 168.

See Macaulay, Hist. of Eng. vol. iv. pp. 435, 437. It is also very remarkable that in none of the writings of the statesmen who framed the

Constitution of the United States, is there any indication that they were acquainted with the position then occupied by the English Cabinet. Hearn, Govt. of Eng. p. 196.


Cox, Inst. 252.



agreement between the members of his Cabinet, and The princiformed his ministry in 1695 on this basis. A partial ple of attempt was made by the House of Commons, in 1698, to in the hold all the leading ministers responsible for advising the obnoxious Partition Treaties." But the value of the principle was not sufficiently appreciated either by the statesmen of that period, or by the king himself. In the various changes which ensued in the composition of the ministry during the remainder of this reign, it was lost sight of, and men of opposite parties were included in the same Cabinet. So long as the king was regarded as paramount in the government, and his views as those which should always prevail in council, the discordance of opinion. therein was comparatively unimportant. But in proportion as the dogma of the royal impersonality began to prevail, and the power of the Cabinet to increase, the necessity for political agreement amongst the ministers of the crown became more obvious and indisputable.

The ministries appointed by Queen Anne, however, exhibited the same want of agreement apparent in the later ministries of William III. Upon her accession, in 1702, her majesty, whose personal inclinations were in favour of Tory principles, lost no time in forming a new ministry, consisting for the most part of Tories, that continued in office until 1705, when it underwent extensive changes, which gave the predominance to the Whigs. In 1707, the Cabinet was again partially remodelled, and rendered still more Whiggish, Mr. Secretary Harley being the only Tory of note who was permitted to remain. But in the course of the year, Harley himself was removed, for endeavouring to set up for himself, and to act no longer under the direction of the Lord Treasurer.' Soon afterwards the Earl of Pembroke retired, when the ministry consisted, once more, entirely of Whigs." At length,

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through the influence of Dr. Sacheverell, Tory principles began to get the ascendancy throughout England, whereupon the queen took occasion, in 1710, to dismiss her ministry, and entrust the formation of another to Harley, the acknowledged leader of the Tory party. Harley, at first, attempted a coalition with the Whigs, but not succeeding, he obtained the queen's consent to a dissolution of Parliament, there being evident tokens that the existing Whig House of Commons would probably be replaced by one of opposite politics. This anticipation proved correct, and Harley had therefore no difficulty in forming a Cabinet composed exclusively of Tories."

But even then political union was not obtained. Harley Anne's was a dissenter, strongly inclined to toleration, and susCabinets. pected of Hanoverian proclivities. His principal colleague,

Bolingbroke, on the contrary, favoured the Jacobites, and was no friend either to Whiggery or dissent. This occasioned frequent disagreements, and even personal altercations in the council chamber, and in the royal presence. Moreover, the other members of the Cabinet were divided in their political sentiments, some being attached to the Protestant succession, and others partial to the Pretender.*

This want of concord between ministers upon questions of vital import was more and more apparent as the end of the queen's life drew nigh. Each party calculated eagerly upon the chances of that event, hoping to secure for themselves the supremacy. When the queen lay upon her death-bed Bolingbroke's influence was uppermost, and he managed to get the queen's authority to form a new administration. His plans were suddenly frustrated by an event which is quite unique in our parliamentary history, and which is worthy of notice, not merely as illustrating the evil effects of divided counsels, but also as exemplifying a state of things that could only have arisen in the infancy of parliamentary institutions.

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Bolingbroke was steadily engaged in the work of constructing his ministry, and had already filled up most of the principal offices with men of the Jacobite party. He had ulterior designs in view of favouring the claims of the Pretender to succeed to the throne upon the demise of the queen. Knowing her precarious state, he caused a Cabinet Council to be summoned for June 30, 1714. When that day arrived the Council assembled at Kensington, the high officers of state, already appointed thereon, alone being present. Lord Mahon gives the following graphic account of the meeting: The news of the queen's desperate condition had just been received. The Jacobites sat dispirited, but not hopeless, nor without resources. Suddenly the doors were thrown open, and Argyle and Somerset (who were members of the Privy Council, though not of the Cabinet) were announced. They said that, understanding the danger of the queen, they had hastened, though not specially summoned, to offer their assistance. In the pause of surprise which ensued, Shrewsbury rose and thanked them for their offer.' (This nobleman, it appears, was in reality a Whig, but he had succeeded in deceiving Bolingbroke, who fully relied upon his fidelity, and had bestowed upon him the offices of lord chamberlain and lord lieutenant of Ireland, while he was actually concerting in secret measures with the two Whig peers, the Dukes of Argyle and Somerset, whose unexpected appearance at the Council filled the Cabinet conspirators with dismay.) They, immediately taking their seats, proposed an examination of the physicians; and on their report suggested that the post of Lord Treasurer (which Bolingbroke had intended to put into commission) should be filled without delay, and that the Duke of Shrewsbury should be recommended to her majesty.' 'The Jacobite ministers, thus taken completely by surprise, did not venture to offer any opposition to this recommendation, and accordingly a deputation, comprising Shrewsbury himself, waited upon her

majesty the same morning, to lay before her what seemed the unanimous opinion of the Council. The queen, who by this time had been roused to some degree of consciousness, faintly acquiesced, delivered the treasurer's staff to Shrewsbury, and bade him use it for the good of her people. The duke would have returned his staff as chamberlain, but she desired him to keep them both; and thus by a remarkable, and I believe unparalleled combination, he was invested for some days with three of the highest offices of court and state, being at once Lord Treasurer, Lord Chamberlain, and Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland.' 'Another proposal of the Dukes of Somerset and Argyle, which had passed at the morning meeting, was to send immediately a special summons to all Privy Councillors in or near London. Many of the Whigs accordingly attended the same afternoon, and amongst them the illustrious Somers. . . . His great name was in itself a tower of strength to his party; and the Council, with this new infusion of healthy blood in its veins, forthwith took vigorous measures to secure the legal order of succession.' Thus ends the narrative of this startling and successful coup d'état.

Circumstances favoured the daring statesmen by whom it was accomplished. The next day the queen sank back into a lethargy, and died on the following morning. Nothing but a consideration of the eminence of the peril encompassing the state, and of the necessity for prompt and decided action, could have warranted such a high-handed proceeding; for then, as now, the meetings of Council were open to those Councillors only who had been specially summoned in the name of the sovereign to attend. With a monarch in possession of his proper faculties, such an event could not happen; for, as we have seen, a Privy Councillor may be struck off the list at the royal discretion, so that even if one were to venture upon attend

• Mahon's Hist. of Eng. i. 133, 144,

See ante, p. 53.

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