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'His Majesty had but to resolve, and he might be master of the situation. The realm is in such a state that we could best negotiate here sword in hand. They have neither money, leaders, nor fortresses.'
The position was truly a desperate one. It seemed inevitable that Great Britain would be conquered by France and Spain. To the surprise of the world, Queen Elizabeth once more created order in the country and made Great Britain more powerful, flourishing, and cultured than she had ever been in the past. She accomplished that marvellous feat not through her own genius but through the great ability of Lord Burleigh, the Bismarck of the time. In Froude's words : The wisdom of Elizabeth was the wisdom of her Ministers, and her chief merit lay in allowing her policy to be guided by Lord Burleigh.
The golden age of the Tudors was created by three allpowerful Ministers who with heart and soul worked for their country. Both Cardinal Wolsey and Thomas Cromwell governed the country during ten consecutive years, and Lord Burleigh toiled unceasingly on behalf of his Queen during no less than forty years. One-man government exercised through a single responsible and all-powerful Minister raised impoverished and diminished England to the greatest glory.
With the death of Queen Elizabeth in 1603 the line of Tudor monarchs came to an end. To England's misfortune these able, energetic, wise, and far-seeing rulers were succeeded by the weak, headstrong, capricious, and incapable Stuarts, who never felt at home in England, James the First, Charles the First, Charles the Second, and James the Second. They endeavoured to govern through Court favourites. They brought the Crown into contempt. They were followed by foreigners, by dull and weak monarchs, and the prestige of the Crown declined still further. The capable William the Third, a Dutchman, was succeeded by Queen Anne, the daughter of James the Second, whose husband was a Danish Prince, and at her death, in 1714, the Crown was given to George the First, the Elector of Hanover, a grandson of a daughter of James the First. He was installed by the aristocracy, which desired to keep all power in its own hands. George the First, like a Venetian Doge, was to be merely a shadow-king, a puppet of those who had made him. He felt a stranger in England, he never liked the country and the people, he did not know English, he painfully communicated with his Ministers in broken and ungrammatical Latin, and he was told by those who had installed him that his whole duty consisted in wearing his crown, drawing his pay, and saying ditto to his Ministers. According to Coxe’s ‘Walpole,' the French Ambassador reported to his Government on July 20, 1724, when George the First had been King for ten years :
The King, leaving the internal government entirely to Walpole, is more engaged with the German Ministers in regulating the affairs of Hanover than occupied with those of England. ... He has no predilection for the English nation, and never receives in private any English of either sex. . . . He rather considers England as a temporary possession, to be made the most of while it lasts, than as a perpetual inheritance to himself and family. He will have no disputes with the Parliament, but commits the entire transaction of that business to Walpole, choosing rather that the responsibility should fall on the Minister's head than his own.
As the foreign King did not preside over the Ministerial Councils, whose proceedings he could not follow owing to his ignorance of English, the Ministers decided without him in his absence. Thus the present form of Cabinet government arose.
George the Second, who had a German consort, felt almost as much a stranger in England as did his father. He did what he was told by his Ministers, whose omnipotence became still more firmly established. He told Chancellor Hardwicke The Ministers are the King in this country.' The wives of George the Third, George the Fourth,
and William the Fourth also were German Princesses. Monarchy and Government drifted apart. England became an oligarchy. Her government, as that of Venice, fell into the hands of aristocratic factions which dominated Parliament, filled all offices with their relatives and friends, fought one another for place and power, and divided the country against itself. They ruled largely by intrigue and corruption and they desired to enjoy power without responsibility.
The Cabinet is a Committee of the Privy Council from which it has sprung. The Act of Settlement of 1700 provided :
That from and after the time that the further limitation by this Act shall take effect, all matters and things relating to the well governing of this kingdom, which are properly recognisable in the Privy Council by the laws and customs of this realm, shall be transacted there, and all resolutions taken thereupon shall be signed by such of the Privy Council as shall advise and consent to the same.
England's new rulers wished to replace the divine right of kings by the divine right of party leaders. Personal responsibility was felt by the men in power to be an inconvenience. The paragraph quoted was repealed in 1706. The fiction of the joint responsibility of the Cabinet was created in order to make the responsibility of individual Ministers unascertainable. The British Cabinet Council, like the Venetian Council of Ten, its prototype, sits in secret. Nothing is transacted in writing. No notes are allowed to be taken. No records of the proceedings are kept for the information and guidance of future generations. As in a conspiracy, no traces are left which might help to attribute the responsibility for decisions arrived at to any individuals or enable posterity to discover the reasons why they were taken.
Committee government through a Cabinet has proved as improvident, dilatory, inefficient, and wasteful in England as it has in Venice. The British Government was a byword of inefficiency during the rule of the Georges, except in the time of the elder Pitt, the great Lord Chatham. Then it suddenly became most efficient because Pitt's powerful personality absolutely dominated his nominal colleagues. Under his energetic direction England once more enjoyed one-man rule. Pitt converted defeat, humiliation, and disorder into efficiency, order, and victory. His ministerial colleagues were his subordinates. Important decisions were taken by an inner Cabinet composed of Pitt, Holderness, and Newcastle. Basil Williams, in his excellent 'Life of William Pitt,' has briefly and correctly described his government as follows :
Much as he asked from his subordinates, Pitt gave more himself. He had trained himself for directing campaigns by his military studies, for diplomacy by his industry in acquiring a knowledge of French history and standard works on treaties and negotiations. .. Where his own knowledge was deficient he was always ready to learn from those better informed. . . . His regular system of intelligence from foreign countries was admirably organised. ... All these advantages—a well-ordered office, his own industry and knowledge, good intelligence-were subservient to the daemonic energy with which he executed his plans. His maxim was that nothing was impossible. When an admiral came to him with a tale that his task was impossible, 'Sir, I walk on impossibilities,' replied Pitt, showing his two gouty crutches, and bade him be off to the impossible task. .
Pitt's Cabinet, on the whole, worked well with him, for the members rarely ventured to oppose him. Newcastle was cowed and could always be brought to reason by a threat of resignation by Pitt; Holderness was too devoid of convictions to give much trouble; the Lord Keeper Henley had not found his feet; Temple was devoted to his brother-in-law, and not yet jealous; Anson and Ligonier were really no more than chiefs of the Navy and Army staffs ; Legge was timid; Halifax, of the Board of Trade, was only admitted on sufferance ; Devonshire and Bedford
took little part; Hardwicke was kept in order by Granville, who had generally dined and pleased himself with unpalatable truths about his colleagues; and Mansfield, if he ever had an opinion to express, was reduced to silence by Pitt's withering 'The Chief Justice of England has no opinion to give on this matter.'
Pitt made Cabinet government a success by subordinating the Ministers to his imperious will and his vast ability, by not allowing his so-called colleagues to restrain his daemonical energy and his all-embracing genius.
To those who have studied English history at its source it is clear that Great Britain was most progressive, that her government was most efficient, and that her diplomacy and army were most ably handled in the time of the Tudors, of Cromwell, and of the elder Pitt, when she enjoyed the advantages of one-man government. England's experience confirms the views of Richelieu, Bismarck, Frederick the Great, Napoleon the First, Alexander Hamilton, and of the greatest statesman of antiquity given in these pages.
Unfortunately the British Cabinet tends to become from year to year more unwieldy and more inefficient. A friendly and discriminating American critic, Professor Lowell, wrote in his classical book, " The Government of England':
The number of members in the Cabinet has varied very much at different times, and of late ycars it has shown a marked tendency to increase. ... The development of the parliamentary system has made it necessary for the Cabinet to have an ever stronger and stronger hold upon the House of Commons; and, therefore, the different shades of feeling in the party that has a majority in that House must be more and more fully represented in the Cabinet. This alone would tend to increase the number of its members ; but far more important still is the fact that a seat in the Cabinet has become the ambition of all the prominent men in Parliament. Consequently the desire to be included is very great, and the disappointment correspondingly acute. For these various reasons there is a constant pressure to