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specially convened for that purpose. No rule can be laid down defining those political acts of the Crown which may be performed upon the advice of particular ministers, or those which must be exercised only “in Council” —the distinction depends partly on usage and partly on the wording of Acts of Parliament. The subjects generally disposed of by the authority of an Order in Council I have already specified to you in my lecture on the Queen.'* The law officers of the Crown are also invariably consulted upon such Orders, and are responsible for their legality. When the matter to be determined in Council relates to a mere question of administration—such as the creation of additional secretaries of state from time to time, and the appointment of the necessary establishments for the new departments - it is usual for a declaration of the Queen in Council to be made thereupon. Again, all declarations of, or public engagements by, the Sovereign, all consents to marriages by members of the royal family, all appointments of sheriffs for England and Wales, and the like, are made by the Queen in Council. The ancient functions of the Privy Council are now performed by committees, excepting those formal measures which proceed from the authority of her Majesty in Council. The acts of these committees are designated as those of the Lords of the Council. These Lords of Council (who are usually selected by the Lord President of the Council, of whom more hereafter) constitute a high court of record for the investigation of all offences against the Government, and of such other extraordinary matters as may be brought before them. It is competent for the Queen in Council to receive petitions and appeals from India and the colonies, and to refer these or any other matter whatever to the consideration of a committee of the Privy Council, upon whose report the decision of the Sovereign in Council is pronounced. If the matter be one properly cognisable by a legal tribunal, it is referred to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. This committee, which is composed of the Lord President, the Lord Chancellor, and such members of the Privy Council as from time to time hold certain high judicial offices, has jurisdiction in appeals from all colonial courts : it is also the supreme court of maritime jurisdiction, and the tribunal wherein the Crown exercises its judicial supremacy in ecclesiastical cases. The Privy Council has also to direct local authorities through
* See p. 31.
out the kingdom in matters affecting the preservation of the public health. A committee of the Privy Council is also appointed to provide “for the general management and superintendence of Education," and subject to this committee is the Science and Art Department for the United Kingdom. There is also another important committee of the Privy Council which performs administrative functions as a distinct department of government, and that is the committee of her Majesty's Privy Council appointed for the consideration of matters relating to Trade and Foreign Plantations.
Such, briefly, are the chief functions of the Privy Council in these days. Formerly meetings of the Council were frequently held, but they now seldom occur oftener than once in three or four weeks, and are always convened to assemble at the royal residence for the time being. The attendance of seven Privy Councillors used to be regarded as the quorum necessary to constitute a Council for ordinary purposes of state, but this number has been diminished frequently to only three. No Privy Councillor presumes to attend upon any meeting of the Privy Council unless specially summoned. The last time the whole Council was convoked was in 1839.
Privy Councillors are appointed absolutely, without patent or grant, at the discretion of the Sovereign. Their number is unlimited, and they may be dismissed, or the whole Council dissolved, at the royal pleasure. No qualification is necessary in a Privy Councillor except that he be a natural-born subject of Great Britain, and even this disability may be removed by special Act of Parliament, as in the cases of the late Prince-Consort and the late King of the Belgians. On the accession of a new Sovereign, the Privy Councillors of the preceding reign are resworn.
The ancient oath of office which Privy Councillors had to take was as follows :-“1. To advise the Sovereign according to the best of their cunning and discretion. 2. To advise for the Sovereign's honour and good of the public; without partiality through affection, love, meed, doubt, or dread. 3. To keep the Sovereign's counsel secret. 4. To avoid corruption. 5. To help and strengthen the execution of what shall be resolved. 6. To withstand all persons who would attempt the contrary. 7. To observe, keep, and do all that a true and good councillor ought to do to his Sovereign.” The following declaration embodies the substance of the oath now in force :-“ You shall solemnly and sin
cerely declare that you will be a true and faithful servant unto her Majesty Queen Victoria as one of her Majesty's Privy Council ; you shall keep secret all matters committed and revealed unto you, or that shall be secretly treated of in Council, and generally in all things you shall do as a faithful and true servant ought to do to her Majesty.”
This obligation of secrecy is a great constitutional principle, for it is of the greatest importance that there should be entire freedom in the confidential intercourse between the Crown and its advisers. Without the express permission of her Majesty, nothing that has passed between the Queen and her Ministers in their confidential relations with each other can be disclosed to Parliament or to any other body. And this permission would only be granted for state purposes, so as to enable a minister to explain and justify to Parliament his political conduct.
Since the separate existence of the Cabinet Council, meetings of the Privy Council for purposes of deliberation have ceased to be held.
The Privy Council consists ordinarily of the members of the Royal Family, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, the Bishop of London, all the Cabinet Ministers, the Lord. Chancellor, the chief