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of men to form a


only into the cabinet. The Marquis of Rockingham's cabinet, in 1782, consisted of nine or ten persons. That of Earl Shelburne, in the following year, of eleven.' In 1783 Mr. Pitt's cabinet was limited to seven members, of whom all, except himself, had seats in the House of Lords. After the death of Mr. Pitt it became customary for the cabinet to consist of from ten to sixteen individuals. At the present time (1869) it comprises fifteen members, which has been the limitation observed under several successive administrations. This number is as large as it ought to be, and it seems to be generally adopted as such by both parties. There are general and other reasons which make it very undesirable to extend the number of the cabinet.'" In fact Sir Robert Peel, in 1835, expressed his opinion that the executive government of this country would be infinitely better conducted by a cabinet composed of only nine members, than by one of thirteen or fourteen.'


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The task of forming an administration is left almost exclusively with the Prime Minister," and yet he can ministry. scarcely be regarded as unfettered in the choice of his colleagues, inasmuch as he is obliged to select them from amongst the most prominent and able men of his own party who are likely to command the confidence of Parliament, and the selection of individual ministers is sometimes the result of a combination of parties rather than the act of a Prime Minister himself. It has been well observed, by an able political writer, that the position of most men in Parliament forbids their being invited to the cabinet; the position of a few men ensures their being invited. Between the compulsory list, whom he must take, and the impossible list, whom he cannot

1 Bentham's Works, vol. ix. p. 218,n.
m Stanhope's Pitt, i. 71, 165.

Earl Granville, Rep. Commons'
Com. on Education, 1865; Ev. 1883.
• Mirror of Parl. 1835, p. 1797.
P See ante, p. 146.

Rep. on Off. Salaries, 1850;
Evid. 285, 299. Moreover, aristo-

cratic prejudices on the part of influential statesmen have often operated to debar acknowledged talent from its rightful position in the Cabinet. Witness the cases Edmund Burke, and of George Canning-See Campbell's Chancellors, iv. 97, n.


take, a Prime Minister's independent choice in the formation of a cabinet is not very large; it extends rather to the division of the cabinet offices than to the choice of cabinet ministers. Parliament and the nation have pretty well settled who shall have the first places; but they have not discriminated with the same accuracy which man shall have which place."

The following are officers of State, who, according to modern usage, would, under any circumstance, form part of the cabinet, namely, the First Lord of the Treasury, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Principal Secretaries of State, now five in number, the First Lord of the Admiralty, and the Lord High Chancellor." But it is also customary to include amongst the number the Lord President of the Council and the Lord Privy Seal. Several other ministerial functionaries usually have seats in the cabinet; never less than three, and rarely so many as seven or eight, in addition to those above mentioned. The selection is made either from amongst such of the principal officers of State, and heads of departments, having seats in Parliament, whose rank, talents, reputation, and political weight would be likely to render them the most useful auxiliaries; or from those whose services to their party, while in Opposition, may have given them the strongest claims to this distinction: in other words, the matter is commonly decided according to what may be considered the claims of the individual, rather than the special importance of the office he may hold. In the choice of persons to fill this honourable and responsible position it has been aptly remarked that it is of the highest consequence that they should be men looking to the public good rather than to private advantage; sufficiently independent in their judgment to originate or adopt a progressive system of policy; and sufficiently independent in their personal character to resist the

Bagehot on the Cabinet, Fortnightly Review, No. i. p. 10.


Rep. on Off. Sal. 1850, Evid. 325. (Opinion of Sir Robert Peel.)

A seat in



exactions of the sovereign, or the impulses of the people, when these are at variance with the permanent interests of the State.t

It occasionally happens that statesmen, possessed of the cabinet high character and experience, are admitted to a seat in the cabinet without being required to undertake the labour and responsibility of any departmental office. This practice dates back to the reign of Charles I., when we find Hyde, afterwards Lord Clarendon, a member of the king's inner cabinet,' without office." In 1757, we read that ex-Chancellor Hardwicke, and, in 1770, that General Conway" were respectively members of the cabinet, without office. Of late years the practice has been of frequent occurrence; but, owing to the difficulty of ascertaining with certainty of whom the cabinets previous to the present century consisted, it is not easy to cite examples; except as they may have been casually noticed in the pages of history. We find it alluded to, however, as a recognised usage, in a debate in the House of Lords, in 1806. In 1807, Earl Fitzwilliam is included in the list of Lord Grenville's administration, as having a seat in the cabinet without office. In 1812, the name of the Marquis Camden is inserted in the list of cabinet ministers, as given in the Annual Register,' but without office; and, in 1820, we notice a similar entry in reference to the Earl of Mulgrave. Subsequently, we find that the Duke of Wellington was a member of the cabinet without office, on different occasions, for several years previous to his death. So also were the Marquis of Lansdowne and Lord John Russell, together in 1854, and the latter alone in 1855 and 1856. Lords Sidmouth and Harrowby, moreover, continued in the cabinet for some time after their resignation of office; the former remaining for two years, after resigning the Home Secretaryship in 1822, Donne, Corresp. Geo. III. vol. i.

Sir G. C. Lewis, in Edinb. Rev. vol. cviii. p. 285.

"Campbell's Chancellors, iii. 132.

p. 12, n.

Parl. Deb. vi. 327.

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Ibid. v. 143.

and until he retired from public life; and the latter for a short period after his resignation of office in 1827.

No constitutional rule is violated by this practice. The sovereign, in the exercise of his undoubted prerogative, may summon whom he will to the Privy Council; and any member of this body is eligible to a seat in the cabinet. But while the principal executive officers of State are necessarily included in the Cabinet Council, it would be an undue limitation of the choice of the crown to declare that none but such as were able and willing to take charge of an executive department should be permitted to sit therein; thereby depriving the sovereign of the assistance of men who could give him the best advice, and render valuable assistance in Parliament upon questions of public policy. The choice of the sovereign in this particular should only be restricted in respect of persons who hold offices that are constitutionally incompatible with the position of a responsible adviser of the crown, or who have not and cannot obtain a seat in Parliament."

It is true that the appointment of a member of the House of Commons to a seat in the cabinet, without office, is open to greater objection than in the case of a peer. For the spirit of the statute of Anne would seem to require that all members accepting ministerial functions should offer themselves to their constituents for re-election. But the letter of the law is undoubtedly applicable to such members only as have accepted salaried offices, and the instances above quoted, of General Conway and of Lord John Russell, are sufficient to prove that there has been no disposition on the

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Haydn's Book of Dignities, pp. 88, 96. Pellew's Life of Sidmouth,


"It has been doubted whether a seat in the Cabinet without office should be given to one who has never held office; see Yonge, Life

of Lord Liverpool, ii. 377, iii. 204206.

See Mr. Walpole, in Hans. Deb. vol. cxxx. p. 383. And see post, p. 365.

See post, p. 260.

part of the House of Commons to enforce a strained interpretation of the law in this respect.

Moreover, the occasional appointment of a member of either House of Parliament to a seat in the cabinet, without office, is no infringement upon the principle of ministerial responsibility. Ministers of the crown are responsible by reason of their being privy councillors, not as members of the cabinet,' which, as a separate institution, is, as we have seen, unknown to the law. In ordinary cases, it is true, the resignation of a seat in the cabinet is necessarily accompanied by the relinquishment of a high lucrative office; but it is unquestionable that the possession of a seat at the Council Board, even without office, and, therefore, destitute of pecuniary advantages, furnishes more substantial means of influence than is conferred by any office in the State, however lucrative, to which a similar mark of the confidence of the crown and of Parliament is not attached; and that, therefore, the obligation to relinquish this exalted position upon the withdrawal of the confidence of Parliament from an existing ministry is as severely felt in the one case as in the other. In former times, when the members composing the cabinets, for the time being, were generally unknown, except by means of the offices they held, it is possible that such a practice might have given rise to abuse; but now-a-days there is a sufficient safeguard in the public notoriety which attaches to the person of every cabinet minister, and in the fact that he receives his appointment, not merely that he may preside over a particular executive department, but chiefly in order that he may be a mouthpiece and champion of the government in one or other of the Houses of Parliament. And should circumstances render it advisable to have recourse to such a proceeding, it is as strictly constitutional for Parliament to address the crown for the removal of a particular person from the list of the Privy Council, whether he be b See Parl. Deb. vi. pp. 288, 309.

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