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LECTURE II.

THE MINISTRY.

“A patriot both the king and country serves,

Prerogative and privilege preserves ;
Of each our laws the certain limit show,
One must not ebb, nor th’ other overflow;
Betwixt the Prince and Parliament we stand,
The barriers of the State on either hand :
May neither overflow, for then they drown the land.”

-DRYDEN.

“ The patriot aims at his private good in the public: the knave makes the public subservient to his private interest. The former considers himself as part of a whole, the latter considers himself as the whole.”

"A man who hath no sense of God or conscience, would you make such a one guardian to your child ? If not, why guardian to the State ?"

“When the heart is right there is true patriotism."-BISHOP BERKELEY, Maxims concerning Patriotism.

GENTLEMEN,—As in my last lecture to you I stated that much of the power which formerly belonged to English sovereigns had, owing to the development of the system of parliamentary government, been

DIVIDED INTO THREE CLASSES.

delegated to the hands of resposible ministers, I shall to-night try to explain to you who those ministers are, what offices they control, and what is their exact constitutional position; and in order to facilitate this explanation, I shall divide my subject into three heads.

. I. The Ministers who are Privy Councillors ex

officio. II. The Ministers who belong to that select com

mittee of the Privy Council which we call

the “Cabinet Council ;” and III. The Ministers who are not Privy Councillors.

Firstly. Ever since the introduction of monarchial institutions into Britain, the Sovereign has always been surrounded by a select band of confidential advisers to assist him or her in the government of the country. At no time could the Sovereign act according to law, without advice, in the public concerns of the kingdom. The institution of the Crown of England and the institution of the Privy Council are coeval—that is to say, the one never existed without the other. At the era of the Norman Conquest, the King's Council, or, as we now call it; the Privy Council, was composed of certain select persons of the nobility and great officers of state, specially summoned by the royal command, and with whom the King usually advised in matters of state and government. At first the King's councillors, as confidential servants of the Crown, were present at every meeting of the High Court of Parliament, to advise upon matters judicial in the House of Lords ; but in the reign of Richard II. the Privy Council dissolved its judicial connection with the Lords, and assumed an independent jurisdiction of its own. To trace to you the rise and fall of the power of the Privy Council would be beyond the object of my lecture ; suffice it to say, that in the earlier stages of our history the Council, with a vigorous prince on the throne, became the mere instrument of his will; and at other times its influence was exerted to curb the arbitrary exercise of kingly rule, and to aggrandise the authority of the ministers. The King's councillors were privileged to approach the Sovereign with advice or remonstrance upon any matter affecting the common weal. Through the instrumentality of the Chancellor they could refuse to give effect to the King's wishes or to legalise his grant, for from a very early period they had claimed to take cognisance of every grant or writ issued by the King ; and as the Great Seal was always in the custody of

THE PRIVY COUNCIL.

the Chancellor, it could not be affixed to any document except by his hand. The business before the Council was an extraordinary combination of the executive and legislative functions of the Government-grave affairs of state and questions of domestic and foreign policy, the preservation of the King's peace, the management of the finances, the affairs of aliens, the regulation of trade, the settlement of ecclesiastical disputes, and numerous other duties, appear to have formed part of its ordinary administrative labours. It was in the reign of Henry VI. that the King's Council first assumed the name of the “Privy Council,” and it was also during the minority of this King that a select Council was gradually emerging from out of the larger body of the Privy Council, which ultimately resulted in the institution of our modern Cabinet. From the accession of Henry VII. to the reign of Charles I. the Privy Council was wholly subservient to the royal will, and the instrument of unconstitutional and arbitrary proceedings. The first act of the Long Parliament was to deprive the Council of most of its judicial power, leaving, however, its constitution and political functions unchanged. Since the Revolution of 1688 the Privy Council has dwindled into comparative insignificance, when con

trasted with its original authoritative position. Its judicial functions are now restrained within very narrow limits. The only relic of its ancient authority in criminal matters is its power of taking examinations, and issuing commitments for treason. It still, however, continues to exercise an original jurisdiction in advising the Crown concerning the grant of charters, and it has exclusively assumed the appellate jurisdiction over the colonies and dependencies of the Crown, which formerly appertained to the Council in Parliament Theoretically, the Privy Council still retains its ancient supremacy, and in a constitutional point of view is presumed to be the only legal and responsible Council of the Crown.

Though, as I have just said, most of the high and important powers of the Privy Council have been curtailed, yet it still possesses no inconsiderable amount of its original functions, both in the prosecution of public inquiries, and also in the discharge of special administrative duties. As her Majesty can only act through her privy councillors, or upon their advice, all the higher and more formal acts of administration must proceed from the authority of the Sovereign in Council, and their performance be directed by orders issued by the Sovereign at a meeting of the Privy Council

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