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were given that, if much further delay occurred, it might be expe-
dient to address the crown upon the subject. 2

Having vindicated the right of the sovereign to the
free choice of his constitutional advisers, by whom the
administration of the government is to be conducted
a freedom which necessitates that they should be unre-
servedly accepted by Parliament at the outset of their

w See ante, pp. 174-177. r Ib. pp. 2024-2079.

* Mir. of Parl. 1832, pp. 1970- See ante, p. 224.


career, and until they prove themselves by their general Personal
policy and public conduct to be undeserving of conn- lioiTof
dence it remains to be seen to what extent the sove- th . e 80 T e -

. . reign in

reign is at liberty to exercise his personal inclinations the forma-
in the choice or dismissal of individual ministers. ministry

The cabinet, as will be hereafter more fully explained,
is a committee of the Privy Council. The sovereign is
empowered by his prerogative to summon whom he will
to the Privy Council ; and he is at liberty to dismiss any
member thereof, at any time, who may incur his dis-
pleasure.* As every cabinet minister is necessarily a
member of the Privy Council, the sovereign is thereby
enabled to remove an obnoxious member from his cabi-
net council whenever he may think fit to do so. But
by modern constitutional practice the freedom of choice
possessed by the crown in the selection of its advisers
has been subjected to important limitations.

Theoretically, it is presumed that the sovereign acts
in this matter according to his own discretion. William
III., it is notorious, allowed no interference with his
own will in appointing whom he would to fill the high
-offices of state ; b but the necessities of parliamentary
government, coupled with the inferior capability of his
immediate successors upon the throne, soon entangled
the reigning monarch in the meshes of party, and de-
prived him of free agency, even in the choice of his own

From the accession of the House of Hanover until
at least the year 1812, it appears to have been a funda-
mental article of the Whig creed that the ministers of
the crown, and especially the prime minister, should be
nominated by the chiefs of their own party, when in
power ; and that the choice of the sovereign, in regard
to his ministers generally, should be limited to the

See post, v. 2. b Macaulay, Hist, of Eng. passim*

y 2



tion of
by the

members of certain leading aristocratic families. In
this they were partially successful, the earlier sovereigns
of this dynasty being unable to resist the strength of
the party by whom this claim was set up. But George
III., immediately upon his accession, endeavoured to
free himself from such trammels, and to break down
the great Whig oligarchy. As a matter of compromise,
he succeeded in making good his right to appoint a por-
tion of every administration, whilst the remainder were
nominated by the leading statesmen who were invited
to join the same. This arrangement appears to have
continued in operation until after the accession of
William IV. It was not until Sir Eobert Peel took
office, in 1834, that we find the present constitutional
practice which renders the prime minister responsible
for the choice of his colleagues distinctly and unre-
servedly established. d

In 1778, in view of the proposed retirement of Lord North, we
find George III. stipulating in regard to the personnel of the in-
coming administration. 6

In 1782, George III. was allowed to nominate Lord Thurlow as
Lord Chancellor and a member of the cabinet, whilst the Shelburne
and Rockingham parties introduced five members each. f Thurlow
was first appointed to the chancellorship in 1778, and continued to
hold the office during successive administrations, until 1792, on
account of the king's strong partiality for him. But the imprudence
of this arrangement was afterwards manifested by Thurlow's own
conduct, for he pertinaciously opposed the policy of his colleagues,
and boasted of his independence on the ground that he was ' the
king's friend.' &

During Mr. Pitt's administration, the king, who had great confi-
dence in that statesman, did not interfere at all in his arrangement
of the political offices, though in regard to some of them he privately
expressed his extreme disapprobation. 11

Duringthe Regency, in 181 2, the negotiations with Lords Grey and

e See ante, p.236.

d In regard to the deference paid
to the wishes of the sovereign, in the
choice, by the Premier, of his col-
leagues, see post, p.332.

Fitzraaurice, Life of Ld. Shel-

burne, v. 3, p. 20.

f Parl. D. v. 23, p. 413.

g Campbell's Chanc. v. 5, pp. 517,

h Rose, Corresp. v. 2, pp. 158,


Grenville for the reconstruction of the ministry fell through, because Precedents
the Prince Regent claimed the right to nominate three members of of nomina-
the cabinet (including the prime minister) himself. This claim was m i n i s t er s
objected to by the Whig lords, not as being unconstitutional, but by the
because they deemed it to be opposed to the spirit of mutual conn- crown
dence and freedom from suspicion which ought to characterise the
cabinet council, and which rendered it essential that parties invited
to co-operate in forming an administration should be at liberty to
arrange its personnel amongst themselves. 1

In 1827, when George IV. accepted Canning as the head of a
coalition ministry, he imagined that he would be able to exercise,
more directly than before, personal influence and control in nomina-
tions to office. This led him to propose Herries as chancellor of
the exchequer, and though Canning made no objection to the choice,
Lord Lansdowne (with other of his colleagues) demurred to this de-
parture from constitutional usage, and tendered his resignation.
The king became alarmed. He consulted the Duke of Wellington,
who told him that the choice of a first minister must be the king's
own act ; that ' it was the only personal act the king of England
had to perform ; and that when he had appointed his first minister,
all the rest devolved upon the person so appointed, who became re-
sponsible for the king's acts.' Finally his Majesty yielded the point,
and induced Lord Lansdowne to remain in office.J

Nevertheless, in 1828, upon the formation of a ministry by the
Duke of Wellington, George IV. was requested to state 'whether
he had any wishes for particular persons, or objections to any 1 ' k
When, shortly afterwards, it became necessary to reorganise the
cabinet, upon the resignation of Mr. Huskisson and Lord Palmerston,
the king forwarded to the duke a list of his own, in which it was
proposed to assign different offices to the men recommended by the
duke for places in the ministry. The duke objected to the proposed
arrangement, whereupon his Majesty did not urge it any further. 1

Upon the formation of Sir Eobert Peel's administration, in 1834,
he being abroad when the king resolved upon selecting him as
premier, his Majesty appointed the Duke of Wellington to be secre-
tary of state, and named Lord Lyndhurst for the office of chancellor.
But it was distinctly understood that this was to be a mere 'ad
interim arrangement ; and upon the arrival of Sir Robert Peel in
England, three weeks afterwards, one of his first acts was the formal
recommendation to the king that the Duke of Wellington should be

1 Parl. D. v. 23, p. 428. k Peel's Mem.v. 1, p. 11.

i Torrens, Life of Melbourne, v. 1, ' Well. Desp. 3rd s. v. 4, pp. 455,

p. 233. Colchester's Diary, v. 3, p. 462, and v. 5, p. 134.




choice of
the prime
by the

Choice of
the pre-
mier by
his col-
in the

appointed foreign secretary, and that Lord Lyndhurst should be
the chancellor.

It is only since the accession of George IV. that the
unrestricted choice of the crown in the selection of the
prime minister himself has been freely admitted by all
parties in the state.

During the debates on the Regency, in 1788, Mr. Pitt publicly
referred in the House of Commons to the pretensions of the Whig
party to be allowed to nominate the king's ministers, including
the prime minister. Mr. Fox, who was present, did not attempt
to deny the claim. 11 Its existence serves to explain many obscure
passages of political history, wherein ministerial negotiations,
otherwise promising, proved unsuccessful, because of the attempt
to assert the independence of the crown in the choice of its
first minister. It continued in operation until the time of the
Regency, when Lord Wellesley, having been authorised by the
Prince Regent to reconstruct the ministry, after the assassination of
Mr. Perceval, failed in the endeavour, as we learn upon Whig testi-
mony, mainly because that party had not been empowered to choose
the premier, although they were invited to enter a cabinet to be
formed upon their own political principles. In the debate upon the
failure of these negotiations, Mr. Canning adverted to this doctrine,
and claimed, on behalf of the constitution, that the crown should be
unfettered in the choice of its ministers, save only by the advice and
control of a free Parliament.? It is somewhat remarkable, however,
that Mr. Pitt, who in 1783 had contended for the rights of the
sovereign in this particular, should himself have been a party, in
1803, to a negotiation with Mr. Addington (the then prime minister)
for his own return to power, as the head of the administration,
without having previously obtained the consent of the king to the
proposed arrangement. The correspondence between Pitt and
Addington was presented to the king by the latter, after the scheme
had proved abortive ; but his Majesty refused to read it, caustically
remarking that ' it was a foolish business, which was begun ill, con-
ducted ill, and terminated ill.' Q

The Prince Regent being unable to reconstruct the ministry in
1812, in consequence of the obstinate adherence of the Whig leaders
to their favourite maxim, requiring a surrender of the prerogative
of the crown in the choice of its advisers as the condition of their
support and co-operation, his Royal Highness was induced to appoint

m Peel's Mem. v. 2, pp. 17, 27, 35.
D See ante, p. 125. Parl. Hist. v.
27, p. 772.

See historical precedents, cited

in Stapleton's Canning and his Times,
pp. 202-207.

P Parl. D. v. 23, p. 455.

q See ante, p. 151.


Lord Liverpool to be first minister, because it was notorious that
every member of the ministry considered him the fittest person to be
placed at their head. It was thus that Lord Liverpool began his
long and prosperous career as premier. 1 "

After Lord Liverpool's resignation, in 1827, Mr. Canning was
obviously the one who, from his position and influence, should have
succeeded him ; but his known opinions in favour of Roman Catholic
Emancipation made the king averse to placing him in such a pro-
minent office. Accordingly, after a fruitless interview with Mr.
Canning, his Majesty resorted to an undignified and unwarrantable
expedient, and sent the following minute to the cabinet : ' That
his Majesty is desirous of retaining all his present servants in the
stations which they at present fill, placing at their head, in the
station vacated by Lord Liverpool, some peer professing opinions
upon whom his Majesty's confidential servants may agree, of the
same principles as Lord Liverpool.' He afterwards sent a verbal
message to Mr. Canning, leaving it to his discretion to make or with-
hold this communication to his colleagues. Mr. Canning being of
opinion that it was inexpedient and objectionable to refer the selec-
tion of their chief to the suffrages of the cabinet (an opinion which
he shared with the Duke of Wellington and Mr. Peel), 8 decided
upon withholding it ; while he at the same time privately made known
to them its general purport, to which they responded by simply ex-
pressing their earnest desire for a speedy termination of the present
embarrassing position of the government : whereupon the king
allowed his proposal to drop. Several days were then spent in con-
ferences between his Majesty and leading members of the cabinet,
which terminated at last in the issue of the royal commands to Mr.
Canning to prepare, with the least possible delay, a plan for the
reconstruction of the administration. Thus commenced the premier-
ship of Mr. Canning, which, in a few short weeks, was brought to a
sudden and unexpected close by his premature decease.*

It is now universally conceded that the prime minis- The prime

7 .. . , , ill- minister

ter as the minister in whom the crown has placed its to be the

constitutional confidence, and who is responsible to his
sovereign for the government of the whole empire crown.
should be the free and unbiassed choice of the crown
itself. In 1 827, as we have seen," the Duke of Wel-
lington declared that this was the sole act of personal

r See ante, p. 365. * Stapleton, Canning and his

' See Well. Desp. 3rd S. v. 4, p. 18, Times, pp. 586-590. See ante,?. 177.
and Colchester Diary, v. 3, p. 501. u See ante, p. 325.






dence of

government now exercised by the king. And in 1845,
Sir Eobert Peel said, in explaining the particulars of
his resignation of office : ' I offered no opinion as to
the choice of a successor. That is almost the only act
which is the personal act of the sovereign ; it is for the
sovereign to determine in whom her confidence shall be
placed.' v A retiring minister may, if requested by the
sovereign, suggest that any particular statesman should
be empowered to form a new administration, but such
advice should not be obtruded upon the sovereign un-
asked. Being debarred by his own resignation, or dis-
missal from office, from the constitutional right to tender
advice to the crown, he can only do so, if required, in
the quality of a peer or a privy councillor ; being still
responsible, in that capacity, for any advice he may give
to the sovereign. w

But while the doctrine is now fully established, that
the sovereign has a free choice in the appointment of
^ e P r i me minister, the selection of that functionary is
nevertheless practically limited by the all-important fact,
that no minister can, for any length of time, carry on
the government of the country who does not possess the
confidence of Parliament, and more especially of the
House of Commons. 1 This circumstance has contributed
to restrain the undue exercise of the prerogative of the
crown to choose or change its responsible advisers, at
discretion, and to compel the crown, in all its dealings
with an administration, to govern itself by considera-
tions of high political expediency/ Ample security,
moreover, that no changes of ministry will be effected
by the authority of the crown but such as would com-
mend themselves to the judgment of Parliament, is

v Hans. D. v. 83, p. 1004. See
also Ld. Derby, ib. v. 123, p. 1701.
Mr. Disraeli, ib. v. 214, p. 1943.

* See post, v. 2.

y See ante, p. 316. And see Mar-
tin's Pr. Consort, v. 1, p. 110. And

And Massey's George III. v. 3, p. Prince Albert's opinion, quoted by

O1 Q TT* 1 T 11 TT T"k _ tftfr


See ante, p. 116.

Earl Russell, in Hans. D. v. 165,
p. 44.


obtained by the operation of the constitutional rule
which requires that whenever a change of ministry
takes place in consequence of an act of the crown, the so
incoming ministers shall be held responsible to Parlia- their pre-
ment for the policy which occasioned the retirement of
their predecessors in office. z

This principle was first recognised by Mr. Pitt in 1783, when he
accepted office upon the dismissal of the Portland administration. 4

It was qualified by Mr. Perceval, in 1807, who, while admitting
that every act of the crown must be vouched for by a responsible
minister, nevertheless contended that, in the interim between
successive ministries, the action of the crown was necessarily inde-
pendent ; and that whatever then took place was beyond Parlia-
mentary criticism or censure. b But this argument was distinctly
repudiated in 1835, when Sir R. Peel took office.

In 1807, when George III. dismissed the Grenville ministry,
because of their refusal to carry out his particular views in reference
to the Roman Catholics, the incoming administration endeavoured to
evade the responsibility which had devolved upon them in regard to
the change of government : but it was emphatically asserted, by the
best parliamentary authorities, ' that there was not a moment in the
king's life, from his accession to his demise, when there was not a
person constitutionally responsible for his actions ; ' and that although
he might seem to be acting without advice when, in the exercise of
his undoubted prerogative, he dismissed his ministers and appointed
others, yet that the incoming ministers were themselves responsible
for the dismissal of their predecessors.

In 1834, William IV., having become a convert to Tory principles,
suddenly determined to dismiss the Whig ministry of Lord Melbourne.
It did not appear that either the interests of the state or the wishes
of Parliament necessitated this proceeding ; for there had been no
immediate difference of opinion between the king and the cabinet on
any point of public policy, nor had ministers lost the confidence of
the House of Commons. d His Majesty, however, determined to en-
trust to Sir R. Peel the formation of a new ministry. Sir Robert
was absent from England at the time, and was ignorant of the cir-
cumstances attending: the dismissal of Lord Melbourne. When

1 Grey, Parl. Govt. 189, n. Hearn, e See ante, p. 158. And see the

Govt. of Eng. p. 98. Ld. Brougham, case of Ld. Danby, cited by Lds.

in Mir. of Parl. 1835, p. 25 ; and see Lauderdale and Holland, on this

ante, pp. 135, 196. occasion, Hans. D. v. 9, pp. 405,

See ante, p. 118. 414.

b Ib. p. 158. Hans. D. v. 246, p. d See ante, p. 133.


informed of the facts, he expressed great doubts of the policy which
had occasioned the change of government. Nevertheless, so fully
did he recognise the extent of his obligations in accepting office,
that he boldly avowed his constitutional responsibility ' for the dis-
solution of the preceding government, although he had not the
remotest concern in it.' e The late ministry had a large majority in
the House of Commons, and one of Sir R. Peel's first acts was to
appeal to the people. The new House, although more favourably
inclined to the new minister, failed to put him in a sufficiently strong
position to enable him to carry on the government ; and, after a
gallant struggle for several weeks against an adverse majority, Sir
R. Peel was compelled to retire from office. The king had then no
alternative but to recall to his councils the Melbourne ministry,
which he had before so summarily dismissed.

Upon the resignation or dismissal of a ministry, it
is customary for the sovereign to send for the recog-
nised leader of the Opposition, or for some other person
of known weight and influence in either House of Par-
liament, who is capable of leading successfully the po-
litical party to which he belongs, and to authorise him
to undertake the formation of a new administration.
It is not essential, however, that the person selected to
bring about the construction of a new cabinet should be
the intended prime minister. It may be difficult at first
to fix upon any one suitable for this office with whom
a new administration could be induced to co-operate.
Under such circumstances some less prominent person
could be chosen to negotiate for the formation of the

Thus, in 1742, upon the resignation of Sir Robert Walpole,
George II. (upon the advice of -Walpole) sent for Mr. Pulteney, the
leader of the Opposition, and empowered him to form a new adminis-
tration. Having the disposition of places in his own hands, Pulteney
refused to accept office for himself, demanding only a peerage and a
seat in the cabinet/

In 1812, Lord Moira received a commission of this
kind from the Prince Eegent, with the understanding

Peel's Mini. v. 2, p. 31. f Ewald, Life of Walpole, pp. 422- 425.


that he should receive some inferior office, together with
a seat in the cabinet. 8

In 1859, upon the resignation of the Derby ministry, 1859.
consequent upon the adoption, by the House of Com- of p^ 1 .
mons, of a vote of want of confidence, which was moved mier -
by Lord Hartington, the Queen charged Lord Granville
to form a ministry, upon the ground that ' to make so
marked a distinction as is implied in the choice of one
or other as prime minister, of two statesmen, so full of
years and honours as Lord Palmerston and Lord John
Russell, would be a very invidious and unwelcome task.'
But notwithstanding Lord Palmerston's willingness to
serve under Lord Granville, Lord John Eussell was not
equally compliant. Accordingly, Lord Granville failed
in his endeavour ; whereupon Her Majesty commissioned
Lord Palmerston to form a ministry. 11

But if, in the opinion of the sovereign, the state of
parties would render a coalition ministry expedient, the
sovereign would suitably communicate directly with the
two leading statesmen whose co-operation was desired,
indicating of course the one to whom the formation
_of the ministry was entrusted. 1

We have already seen that it has of late years Pri me

i -IT . , , -i -i i / minister

become a settled principle that the political chiefs to empower-
whom the sovereign may confide the task of forming a ^ ^ se his
ministry are at liberty to select the individuals to com- coi-
pose the same, and to submit their names for the royal
approval. This privilege is indispensable to the suc-
cessful working of our parliamentary system, and, after
a long struggle, it has been conceded to every political
party which may, in turn, acquire the pre-eminence.* It

* See the Duke of Wellington's Adminis. p. 96. Mr. Canning's letter

remarks on this point, in Hans. D. of 1827, in Hans. D. N.S. v. 17, p.

N.S. v. 17, p. 464 ; and in Well. 457 ; Duke of Wellington's letter of

Desp. 3rd. S. v. 3, pp. 636-642 ; v. 4, 1828, in Peel's Mem. v. 1, p. 11 ; Sir

pp. 3, 17, 22. E. Peel, Evidence, 285, Com", on

11 See ante, p. 234. ' Ib. p. 222. Official Salaries, in 1850 ; and see

J See ante, p. 324. And see Lewis, Mill, Rep. Govt. p. 96.


1859. is a constitutional necessity that the first minister of the
crown should be able to assume full personal responsi-
bility before Parliament for the appointment of every
member of the administration. This he can only do
when he has been empowered to advise the crown in
regard to the selection of the persons who are to be
associated with him in the functions of government.
The sovereign has, indeed, an undoubted right to ex-
press his wishes in favour of the introduction or exclu-
sion of particular persons, but by modern constitutional
usage he has no authoritative voice in the selection of
any one but the prime minister. It is true that, in this
as in other matters, the expression of a strong personal
feeling on the part of the crown may have great weight
in excluding a person from office, or including him, at
least for a time ; but even this consideration must ulti-
mately yield to a regard for the public interests, and
the sovereign must be prepared to accept as his advisers
and officers of state those who have been chosen for
such functions by the premier.

Personal George III., it is notorious, had such a repugnance to Mr. Fox,

that for a long time he absolutely refused to admit him into the

reign in cabinet. k

the selec- In 1801, after entrusting the formation of a new ministry to

ministers ^ r ' -Aldington, an d giving him full authority to make such ar-
rangements for carrying on the public service as he should think fit,
George III. expressed a ' wish ' that he might be enabled to place
the Great Seal in the hands of Lord Eldon, and place Sir Pepper
Arden in the office of Chief Justice of the Common Pleas. 1 Both
these appointments were conferred agreeably to the king's desire.
George IV. refused to allow the readmission of Mr. Canning into
the cabinet, in 1821, after the death of Queen Caroline, although

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