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• working of the British Government is that which • determines, without formally defining, the internal • relations of the Cabinet. On the one hand, while each • Minister is an adviser of the Crown, the Cabinet is an • unity, and none of its members can advise as an indi
vidual without,-or in opposition, actual or presumed, 6 to,-his colleagues. On the other hand, the business of “the State is a hundredfold too great in volume to allow
of the actual passing of the whole under the view of the collected Ministry. It is therefore a prime office of discretion for each minister to settle what are the departmental acts in which he can presume the con"currence of his colleagues, and in what more delicate, • or weighty, or peculiar cases, he must positively 6 ascertain it. So much for the relation of each Minister
to the Cabinet; but here we touch the point which • involves another relation, perbaps the least known of • all, his relation to its head. The head of the British • Government is not a Grand Vizier. He has no powers,
properly so-called, over his colleagues : on the rare occasions, when a Cabinet determines its course by the votes of its members, his vote counts only as one of • theirs. But they are appointed and dismissed by the • Sovereign on his advice. In a perfectly organised 6 administration, such for example as was that of Sir * Robert Peel in 1841-6, nothing of great importance
is matured, or would even be projected, in any departoment without his personal cognisance; and any • weighty business would commonly go to him before • being submitted to the Cabinet. He reports to the
Sovereign its proceedings, and he also has many • audiences of the august occupant of the throne. He 'is bound, in these reports and audiences, not to counter
Relation of Ministers to the Premier. 281
· work the Cabinet; not to divide it; not to undermine 'the position of any of his colleagues in the Royal • favour. If he departs in any degree from strict
adherence to these rules, and uses his great oppo)'tunities to increase his own influence, or pursue aims • not shared by his colleagues, then, unless he is prepared 'to advise their dismissal, he not only departs from * rule, but commits an act of treachery and baseness. • As the Cabinet stands between the Sovereign and the
Parliament, and is bound to be loyal to both, so he stands between his colleagues and the Sovereign, and is bound to be loyal to both.''
In a similar spirit Earl Grey, another modern constitutional authority who combines practical experience with that sort of intuitive sagacity which is essentially necessary for tracing the fine lines of division between the requirements of law, of morality, of expediency, and of courtesy, enforces the duties of unity in a Cabinet, and marks the limits of those duties, as follows: •It * is right, or rather it is absolutely necessary, that all * the members of a Ministry should be guided by this • feeling, (that, in considering any question brought • before them, much deference is due to the opinion of • the head of the Government, and to that of the chief
of the department to which it relates,] because, unless "the measures adopted in any of the principal branches of the public service are allowed to take their main
direction and colour from a single mind, they must 'necessarily become marked with that character of
feebleness and uncertainty always attaching to any • important course of action, the successive steps of
Gladstone's Gleanings, vol. i. p. 242.
• which are decided upon by several persons entertaining 6 views not perfectly identical. So long therefore as
there is no such difference upon great questions of • policy, as to make it necessary that the members of a • Cabinet should cease to act together, they best dis• charge their public duty by generally acquiescing in « what may be recommended by each Minister in his • own department, after he has fully heard the opinions of his colleagues. Every Minister presiding over a
great department ought to derive much assistance • from the advice of his colleagues, and his own views 'must often be modified by theirs ; and yet it ought
seldom to happen, that the difficulty of obtaining their • assent should prevent him from following the final • dictates of his own judgment, when he has a decided • opinion on any important question he may bring before • the Cabinet. Injury to the public service is most apt
to arise from the common responsibility of the mem
bers of the Cabinet, when its chief, or the Minister • entrusted with any department, throws himself too 6 much on the assistance of others, and does not recom• mend with sufficient decision what measures should be • taken in pursuance of the policy he is charged with • directing. The deliberations of a Cabinet seldom lead • to a satisfactory result, when any question of difficulty • is brought under its consideration by a Minister who • is not prepared to lay before his colleagues some dis* tinct opinion of his own. The true cause of questions • being submitted to the Cabinet in this unsatisfactory * manner, is sometimes to be found in the fact, that a • difference of opinion on some great principle, or on
some vital point of policy, really exists among the • members of an Administration, though it is concealed Lord Palmerston's Theory.
' for a time by a reluctance on both sides to come to a
clear understanding on the subject. In such cases • both parties are generally wrong in seeking to avoid,
or to defer, a separation which ought, for the public 'good, to take place at once. Of two lines of policy, it
often happens that either might succeed if steadily pursued, while failure is certain if neither is consistently pursued ; and the conduct of the Government is sure to be marked by a want of consistency when the members of an Administration, knowing that they could ' not agree, shrink from coming to a clear decision as 'to the course they are to adopt, and are content to • determine separately each step that has to be taken,
so long as it is possible to stave off a rupture by • abstaining from any decided measure on the one side or on the other."
The position of Lord Palmerston in Lord John Russell's Cabinet in 1851 was one peculiarly likely to strain to the uttermost the theory of administrative independence on the one hand, and that of Cabinet unity on the other. In the words of his biographer, Mr. Ashley, ' Lord Palmerston, who had acquired a complete ' mastery over the business of his department, who • always acted on a thorough conviction that his views
were undeniably right, and who refrained from any 'interference in the internal policy of the country, was
disposed to think that very great latitude within the • sphere of his own attributes should be allowed to him.
His notion was that a Foreign Minister ought to be • strictly bound to pursue the policy of the Cabinet he • belonged to, but that he ought to be left free to follow
| Parliamentary Gorernment and Reform. By Earl Grey, 1864. P. 55.
out that policy in the ordinary details of his office, without having every despatch he wrote submitted to criticism and comment. On the 2nd of December 1851, what is now usually known as the coup d'état of that year took place in Paris, the Assembly having recently met after the recess. On Tuesday, the 2nd, the leading members of the Opposition were arrested in their beds, and, in obedience to the commands of Louis Napoleon, the President of the Republic, a purely military rule was established, pending an appeal to universal suffrage as to the future government of France. The event was known in London the next day, and Count Walewski, the French ambassador, called that day (the 3rd) upon Lord Palmerston to inform him of what had taken place. Lord Palmerston had already formed a strong individual opinion that such a state of antagonism had arisen between the President and the Assembly that it was becoming every day more clear that their co-existence could not be of long duration ; and it seemed to him (as he expressed it in a letter written on the 6th to Lord Normanby) better for the interests
of France, and through them for the interests of the • rest of Europe, that the power of the President should
prevail, inasmuch as the continuance of his authority "might afford a prospect of the maintenance of social • order in France, whereas the divisions of opinions and * parties in the Assembly appeared to betoken that their
victory over the President would only be the startingpoint for disastrous civil strife.' Lord Palmerston also believed that it was the intention of the leaders of the majority of the Assembly,—if a proposed law had been
Life of Henry John Temple, Viscourt Palmerston, 1846–1865. By the Hon. Evelyn Ashley, M.P. Vol. i. p. 281.