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under the

Stuart kings.

consequence, the mutinous Parliament of James I., and the rebellious Parliament of Charles I." And, concurrently with these proceedings, new requirements arose on the part of the crown, which could only be met by the cordial assistance of the House of Commons. The circumstances under which the power of Parliament, in contradistinction to that of the monarchy, gained strength and development under the Stuart kings, belong to general history, and need not be here enlarged upon. It will suffice to refer to two leading events, which indicate the process whereby the House of Commons attained the position, co-ordinate in power with the crown itself, which it has occupied since the Revolution of 1688.

During the altercations between the Crown and Parliament which characterised the reign of Charles I., it became necessary to provide for the maintenance of a standing army. At first the troops were paid out of the king's own revenues; but James II. having increased his army to 30,000 men, it began to be regarded with great jealousy, as being calculated to strengthen the power of the crown, to the detriment of the rights and liberties of the subject. Accordingly, a provision was inserted in the Bill of Rights, forbidding the raising or keeping a standing army within the kingdom, in time of peace, without the consent of Parliament. The practice of appropriating the supplies granted to the crown by Parliament to separate and distinct services, was first introduced in the time of Charles II., though it did not become an established usage until the Revolution, when it was formally incorporated amongst the maxims of the Constitution, that the grant of supply, and the control of the public expenditure in conformity therewith, belongs inalienably to Parliament, and pre-eminently to the House of Commons. By the recognition of these two principles a salutary check


Bagehot, English Const. Fortnightly Review, vol. vii. p. 83.

1 Will. and Mary, Sess. 2, c. 2.

and see ante, vol. i. p. 320.

See Hearn, Govt. of Eng. p. 342. * See ante, vol. i. p. 527.

was provided against the exercise of arbitrary power, and

at the same time the constitutional influence of the House Downfall of pre

of Commons, as the source of all aids and supplies, was rogative asserted and guaranteed. From this epoch we may date governthe downfall of prerogative government in England, and the rise of parliamentary government.

But this momentous change in our political system was not effected at once, or without an effort on the part of the crown to recover its ancient supremacy. Irritated by the opposition he systematically encountered from the House of Commons, Charles I. abstained from convoking Parliament for a period of eleven years, from March 1629 to April 1640-a longer interval than had ever before elapsed without some meeting of the national council. At length, in 1640, the famous Long Parliament was assembled.


The first act of this Parliament, however, was, as we have seen, to abolish the Star Chamber, and to deprive the Privy Council of most of its judicial power, leaving its constitution and political functions unchanged. In all matters of government the will of the sovereign continued supreme; and though ministers were individually powerful, they had not, and were not expected to have, a mutual agreement in regard to public affairs. They often differed amongst themselves on important questions; Minisbut as each minister was responsible merely for the ad- terial ministration of his own department, it was not considered bility. essential that they should be of one mind on matters of state policy. The responsibility of ministers, moreover, for the ordinary fulfilment of their official functions, was practically to the king, and to him alone.

The course of events which ensued upon the accession of Charles I. to the throne unmistakably proved that a more intimate and cordial understanding between the Crown and Parliament, in the conduct of public affairs, Macaulay, Hist. of England, vol.

Knight, Hist. of Eng. vol. v. pp. 71, 76.

i. p. 85.


and the

House of

Charles I. had become indispensable to the very existence of monarchical government. In the protracted contest that Commons. arose between the King and the House of Commons, much mutual misunderstanding might have been avoided if Charles had had some confidential minister to espouse his cause and defend his policy within the walls of Parliament. The bitter antagonisms which arose between the king and his people might have been reconciled if only the king's ministers had not been so distasteful to the House of Commons. As it was, the servants of the crown were generally regarded by the commons with mistrust or aversion; and if their acts merited condemnation, there was no alternative but to proceed against them by way of impeachment-a procedure which at the best was a cumbrous process, fruitful of delay, uncertain in its issue, and provocative, meanwhile, of further illwill against the crown itself. If only some method could have been devised to enable the king's ministers to commend themselves to the goodwill of Parliament, these perpetual causes of irritation might have been effectually removed.



Overtures indeed, on the part of the Long Parliament, were not wanting to point out to the king terms of agreement and reconciliation; and although they involved for the most part the surrender of more power than the crown was willing to relinquish, it is remarkable that upon one occasion the principle of ministerial responsibility was distinctly adverted to, as a means of conciliating the favour of Parliament, and of protecting the king from evil counsellors. In the Grand Remonstrance addressed by the House of Commons to Charles I., in 1641, reference is made to those cases of not infrequent occurrence, when the commons might have just cause to take exceptions at particular men for being selected to advise the king, and yet have no just cause to charge them with crimes. It is added that the most cogent reasons might exist to be earnest with the king not to put his great affairs into such hands, though the commons might be

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unwilling to proceed against them in any legal way of impeachment.' It is then plainly stated, that supplies for support of the king's own estate could not be given, nor such assistance provided as the times required for the Protestant party beyond the sea, unless such councillors, ambassadors, and other ministers only were in future employed as Parliament could give its confidence to." But the king had already declared that he would neither separate the obedience of his servants from his own acts, nor permit them to be punished for executing his commands." The time for moderate counsels to prevail had gone by, and the downfall of the monarchy was the deplorable but inevitable consequence. The circumstances which led to this event belong to general history, and need not be dwelt upon in these pages. Suffice it to state that, after a Execution brief contest with the Long Parliament and its adherents, of the king. Charles I. was taken prisoner, tried, and executed on January 30, 1648.

Immediately afterwards Parliament proceeded to take steps to provide for the future government of the country. On February 7, they voted that the office of a king in this nation was unnecessary, burthensome, and dangerous,' and should be abolished; and having on the previous day decreed the abolition of the House of Peers, they ordered, Council of that there be a Council of State erected, to act and State. proceed according to such instructions as shall be given to them by the House of Commons." In the composition of this council, the parliamentary majority were in a position to carry out their own ideas as to the sort of persons who ought to be entrusted with supreme authority, and to ensure that the administration of public affairs should be in direct conformity with their own opinions. For a time the experiment proved successful, and, thanks

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e Parl. Hist. vol. iii. pp. 1285, 1292. Com. Journ. Feb. 7, 1643.

to the energy, learning, and political experience of the leading men in the Council of State, the government of the country, so long as it remained in their hands, was conducted with much wisdom and ability."

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The Council of State consisted of forty-one persons, lords and commoners, who were chosen by the House of Commons in the name of the Parliament of England,' and of whom nine were a quorum for the despatch of business. A majority of the councillors were also members of the House of Commons; and as the average number of members attending that House did not then exceed fifty, the Council naturally became the more powerful body; and having all the public business of the nation under review, they left but little for the House to do, except to confirm, by Act, such matters as the Council thought fit to submit for their sanction." But, in point of fact, it was usual for the Council to refer all matters of special importance to the consideration of the House, who were thus enabled to exercise a controlling influence over their proceedings.h

The Council of State was eminently a deliberative body, and the rules which they framed for their own guidance were calculated to ensure the most attentive and careful consideration of every subject before them, by the members present at any particular meeting. Either directly, or through their committees, the Council also transacted the business which is now apportioned amongst various departments of state. Besides affairs belonging to the Treasury, and to the different branches of the secretariat, they were charged with the trust heretofore exercised by the Lord High Admiral and by the Master of the Ordnance. The creditable and successful manner

Bisset, Commonwealth of England (2 vols. Lond. 1867), vol. i. pp. 49, 118-123.

Parl. Hist. vol. iii. p. 1291. Bisset, Commonwealth of England, vol. i. pp. 24, 36.-The original minutes of all the proceedings of the Council

of State, until its overthrow by Cromwell, are preserved in the State Paper Office, in excellent condition. (Ibid. p. 39.)

h Bisset, vol. i. p. 43; vol. ii. pp. 55, 57. i Ibid. vol. ii. pp. 293-296.

Ibid. vol. i. p. 116; vol ii. p. 72.

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