« PreviousContinue »
that law, and are therefore prepared to counsel the sovereign to assent to it.” And on this point Mr Gathorne Hardy says, “Her Majesty has no constitutional right to abdicate that part of her prerogative which entitles her to put a veto upon any measure she thinks fit. . . . Nor is this veto of the English monarch an empty form. It is not difficult to conceive the occasion when, supported by the sympathies of a loyal people, its exercise might defeat an unconstitutional ministry and a corrupt Parliament."
Again, the Queen has the unquestioned power of choosing her responsible ministers ; and the continuance of the royal confidence in an existing Ministry is an essential requisite to its remaining in office. Should the Ministry exhibit internal dissensions, or differ from the Sovereign, or from the country at large ; or should their measures be ruinous to the interests of the nation, or there exist a general feeling of distrust of them throughout the country, her Majesty can dismiss them. The Houses of Parliament have, it is true, the undeniable right to advise the Queen on this matter; but this right cannot be pressed so far as to render her Majesty accountable to Parliament for her conduct in changing her advisers. All
PRIME MINISTER NOMINATED BY HER.
ministers chosen by the Sovereign are entitled to receive from Parliament, if not implicit confidence, at least a fair trial. And that this has been the practice of the Constitution the political student will easily see by examining the questions that arose upon the appointments of Mr Pitt as Prime Minister in 1783, of Mr Addington in 1801, of the Duke of Portland in 1807, of Sir Robert Peel in 1834, and of the late lamented Earl of Derby in 1852, 1858, and in 1866. In all these instances the Prime Ministers were nominated solely by the Sovereign, in the face of a hostile majority in the House of Commons. It is now universally conceded that the Prime Minister should be the free choice of the Crown, and this is almost the only act which is the personal act of the Sovereign ;* yet, as no minister can carry on the government of the country for any length of time who does not possess the confidence of Parliament, this selection is hence practically limited. And as incoming ministers are held responsible to Parliament for the policy which occasioned the retirement of their predecessors in office, ample security is offered that no ministerial changes will be effected by the authority of the Crown but such as commend themselves to the judgment of Parliament. With regard to the appointment of the other members of the Ministry, the Sovereign has no authoritative voice in their selection ; that duty is left to the Prime Minister, who chooses his colleagues, and then submits their names for royal approval. Of course, the expression of a strong personal feeling on the part of the Crown has great weight in excluding a person from office or including him— at least for a time. Thus Fox was for a long time excluded from the Cabinet on account of George III.'s dislike to him. In the Ministry of Addington, in 1801, Lord Eldon became Lord Chancellor owing to the wish of George III. Mr Canning was for some time excluded from the Cabinet owing to the dislike of George IV. towards him. In 1828, on the formation of the Wellington Coali tion Ministry, George IV. objected to receive Lord Grey into the Cabinet. And in 1835, the late Lord Brougham was not replaced in the office of Lord Chancellor, because he was personally displeasing to William IV. However, all considerations on the part of the Crown must ultimately yield to a regard for the public interests and the Sovereign must
*“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.”—Sir R. Peel on his resignation of office.
HER RELATIONS WITH THE MINISTRY.
be prepared to accept as his or her advisers those selected by the Prime Minister.
Should difficulties occur in the formation of a Ministry, the Queen can send for any peer or privy councillor for advice, whose counsel she might consider serviceable to her in the emergency. Thus, upon the resignation of the Russell Ministry in 1851, her Majesty sent for the Duke of Wellington, not for the purpose of intrusting him with the formation of a Cabinet, but that she might take counsel from him ; and again, in 1852, upon the resignation of the Derby Ministry, the Queen sent for the Marquess of Lansdowne for a similar purpose. For all advice, however, so given, the peer or privy councillor is liable to be called to account by Parliament, should such advice be followed by consequences requiring parliamentary interposition. The Ministry once formed, the members of the Administration are formally appointed to their offices by the Queen, at a meeting of the Privy Council held especially for the purpose. They are introduced by the Prime Minister to her Majesty, and then receive the seals of office from the royal hands. It is always in the power of the Crown, acting through its responsible advisers, to dismiss from office a minister of state, and Parliament has
no right to interfere in such a case unless this prerogative has been exercised in an arbitrary manner. Thus, in 1795, Earl Fitzwilliam, when Lord - Lieutenant of Ireland, was recalled on account of having favoured a policy with regard to Roman Catholic emancipation which was embarrassing to the Government. The motives of the recall were demanded by Parliament, but the Ministry refused to enter into particulars, as the power of dismissing its servants without assigning any cause was vested in the Crown, and their determination was sustained by large majorities in both Houses of Parliament. The Prime Minister, on account of his being the proper medium of communication between the Sovereign and the Administration, owing to his position as head of the Government and the minister personally selected by the Queen, is bound to inform her Majesty of all events of political importance—such as decisions of Parliament on matters of public concern, and those of the Cabinet on public policy, and to take the royal pleasure thereupon. No important act of Government, committing her Majesty to a particular course, can be performed by ministers without the knowledge and consent of the Queen. Thus, in 1800, Mr Pitt, by neglecting this rule,