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« These persons made up the Committee of State, which
was reproachfully after called the junto, and enviously " then in the Court the Cabinet Council.”
In the fourth volume of his History of England, Lord Macaulay has traced with considerable precision the rise of a true responsible Ministry to the period in the reign of William III. which intervened between 1693 and 1696. He describes how in the earlier years of the reign of William there was no Ministry at all; and that at the close of 1693 the chief offices in the Government were distributed not unequally between the two great parties; that the men who held those offices were perpetually caballing against each other, haranguing against each other, moving votes of censure on each other, exhibiting articles of impeachment against each other; and that the temper of the House of Commons was wild, ungovernable, and uncertain. “Everybody could perceive,' says Lord Macaulay, that at the close of 1696 all the principal • servants of the Crown were Whigs, closely bound • together by public and private ties, and prompt to • defend one another against every attack, and that the ó majority of the House of Commons was arrayed in 'good order under those leaders, and had learnt to ' move like one man at the word of command.' In giving the history of the period of transition and of the steps by which the change was effected, Lord Macaulay attributes the chief share in forming the
first English Ministry' to Sunderland, who had disappeared at the time of the fight of James, and did not reappear at Court till 1691, nor attend regularly
· History of the Rebellion, vol. i. p. 211, ed. 1849.
'The First English Ministry. 271 in the House of Lords till the following year. Early in 1693, it was rumoured that Sunderland was consulted on all important questions relating to the internal administration of the realm ; and Lord Macaulay says that he formed the opinion that “as long as the King i • tried to balance the two great parties against each
other, and to divide his favours equally between them, • both would think themselves ill-used, and neither would lend to the Government that hearty and steady
support which was now greatly needed. His Majesty must make up his mind to give a marked preference to one or the other; and there were weighty reasons for giving the preference to the Whigs. Lord Macaulay proceeds to describe the formation of the first Whig Ministry, observing that the organisation of the Whigs
was not indeed so perfect as it afterwards became, but they had already begun to look for guidance to a small • knot of distinguished men, which was long afterwards
widely known by the name of the Junto. There is, ' perhaps, no parallel in history, ancient or modern, to 'the authority exercised by this Council, during twenty • troubled years, over the Wbig body. The men who • acquired that authority in the days of William and Mary continued to possess it without interruption, in
office and out of office, till George I. was on the • throne.''
The problem which now had to be solved was how to reconcile this effective Parliamentary Committee, the institution of which is thus seen to have been due to the special condition of parties in the time of William III. and to the personal character and peculiar
· History of England from the Accession of James II. By Thomas Babington Macaulay. Vol. iv. p. 435.
position of that King, with the older and permanent organisation of the Privy Council, which was far too deeply rooted in the monarchical system of this country to be superseded by the mere will or influence of any single statesman or group of statesmen. In bis account of the framing of the Act of Settlement in the year 1700 (12th and 13th William III. cap. 2), and especially of the clause already alluded to, for requiring the signatures of the members of the Privy Council to the measures which they severally should recommend or assent to, Mr. Hallam points out that a distinction bad arisen long before between the confidential advisers of the Sovereign, who had formed a sort of spontaneous organisation for the more close and private management of business, and the sworn and notorious councillors' whose deliberation and assent were needed in the case of all formal resolutions of the Crown as to foreign alliances, or the issuing of proclamations and orders at home, or any other overt act of government. Mr. Hallam cites an interesting passage in proof of this from Trenchard's “Short History of Standing Armies,' published in 1698. •Formerly all matters of state and • discretion were debated and resolved in the Privy • Council, where every man subscribed his opinion and 6 was answerable for it. The late King Charles was the • first who broke this most excellent part of our Consti* tution, by settling a Cabal or Cabinet Council where • all matters of consequence were debated and resolved, 6 and then brought to the Privy Council to be con“firmed.'' The following passage from the Report in the Parliamentary history of a debate in Queen Anne's The Cabinet and the Privy Council. 273
illallam's Constitutional History, vol. iii. p. 183, note. 7th ed.
reign, in the House of Lords (January, 1711), points emphatically to the current confusion between the use of the expressions “Cabinet Council’and · Privy Council, or at least to the transition of functions from one to the other that was taking place: • The Earl of Scarsdale ' proposed the following question : That it appears by
the Earl of Sunderland's letter to Mr. Stanhope, that “the design of an offensive war in Spain was approved "and directed by the Cabinet Council.' But the mover afterwards substituted the word “ Ministers' for • Cabinet Council, as better known. Lord Cowper said, they were both terms of an uncertain signification, and the latter unknown to our law. Some contended that ‘Ministers’and • Cabinet Council' were synonymous, . others that there might be a difference. Peterborough said he had heard a distinction between the Cabinet • Council and the Privy Council ; that the Privy Council • were such as were thought to know everything, and • knew nothing, and those of the Cabinet Council thought nobody knew anything but themselves.''
Mr. Hallam says that during the reign of William * this distinction of the Cabinet from the Privy Council,
and the exclusion of the latter from all business of • State, became more fully established. This, however,
produced a serious consequence as to the responsibility • of the advisers of the Crown; and at the very time o when the controlling and chastising power of Parlia• ment was most effectually recognised, it was silently "eluded by the concealment in which the objects of
its inquiry could wrap themselves. He also notices that William III., from the reservedness of his dis
| Parl. Hist. vi. 971. See Hallam loc. cit.
position, as well as from the great superiority of his capacity for affairs to that of any of our former kings, was far less guided by any responsible counsellors than the spirit of our Constitution requires.
The next stage in the development of the Cabinet Council is marked by the increased independence which it assumed, owing to the Sovereign withdrawing himself from taking any share in its deliberations. This state of things, again, was precipitated by the historical accident that George I. was unable to speak English. The transition period is described by Mr. Hallam. After noticing that William III. was truly his own Minister, and much better fitted for that office than those who served him, Mr. Hallam says: “The King, • according to our Constitution, is supposed to be pre
sent in Council, and was in fact usually or very fre6 quently present, so long as the Council remained as a
deliberative body upon matters of domestic and foreign policy. But when a junto or Cabinet came to supersede that ancient and responsible body, the King himself ceased to preside, and received their advice
separately, according to their respective functions of · Treasurer, Secretary, or Chancellor, or that of the whole • Cabinet through one of its leading members. This • change, however, was gradual; for Cabinet Councils
were sometimes held in the presence of William and • Anne, to which other councillors, not strictly of that 6 select number, were occasionally summoned. But on • the accession of the House of Hanover, this personal superintendence of the Sovereign necessarily came to
an end. The fact is hardly credible that, George I. • being incapable of speaking English, as Sir Robert Walpole was of conversing in French, the monarch