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er, a little before Lord Rockingham's administrahad asked the king's leave not to sit in the latter.' ve still to consider the most remarkable feature in
system, the almost entire exclusion of members of e of Commons from every successive cabinet.
At several of the great offices of the State are almost
allotted to commoners. The chancellor of the ris always a member of the House of Commons.
has filled the office of home secretary for fifty It is becoming a tradition that the heads of the anding departments and the majority of the secre
state should, if possible, be commoners; and the fices, the Board of Trade, the Local Government he Ministries of Education and Agriculture, are indeed almost uniformly filled by members of r House of Parliament. The chancellorship, the y of the council, and the Foreign Office are the
in a modern ministry which are almost exclusively or the peerage. In the reign of George II., on ry, a commoner was hardly thought good enough of the high offices of the State. We believe that ht in saying that throughout the reign no com1 the office of secretary of state except Sir T. to whose appointment we shall refer immediately, der Pitt. Mr. Morley says, in his monograph on er, that it was remarked as an extraordinary Walpole's power that in 1733 he insisted on giving
of first lord of the admiralty to Sir Charles hough no commoner had been thought worthy fice since the accession of the House of BrunsIr. Torrens tells us that, after the fall of Walpole, ge, having served eight years as secretary at war, hoped
be forgotten in the day of promotions. . . . In debate aght by his contemporaries to have few equals; and 1 often given him unstinted praise. Even now, when his arly faded out of recollection, the reports of his speeches I reading. But he was a poor man, had married a plebeian 1 no rotten borough. How could he expect a seat in the
most striking instance of the treatment which
striking proof of Mr. Torrens's inability to appreciate Walle ascribes Sir C. Wager's appointment to a whimsical which [Walpole] had just then conceived for vulgar commoners usually received when George II. was king is to be found after the death of Pelham. It became then absolutely necessary to select some one in the House of Commons as the representative of a cabinet composed exclusively of peers. Two men there were--the elder Pitt and the elder Fox-whose abilities and eloquence placed them far above their contemporaries. Pitt, especially, had been a warm supporter of Newcastle, and had uniformly treated the duke with great, perhaps excessive, deference. He seemed, from every point of view, marked out for the leadership of the Commons, which Pelham's death had vacated. But the duke had no desire to place any one in that office whose abilities would render him independent of himself. He was persuaded, indeed, to offer Henry Fox the exchequer, stipulating, however, that the whole power of the department * [should rest] unconditionally in his own hands.' Sach an arrangement was obviously unacceptable to any man who had any respect for his own abilities or any confidence in his own future. Fox refused, as he was probably intended to refuse, the offer; and Newcastle was thus enabled to fill up the vacant places in the cabinet with Legge, a younger son of Lord Dartmouth, who was made chancellor of the exchequer, and with Sir T. Robinson, who for many years had represented this country at Vienna-a man whose • large 'family and small private income 'promised to make him a subservient colleague. Legge, a man of respectable abilities and character, proved a little too independent for the duke, who, it seems, thereupon proposed to replace him with Lord Dupplin, a man with no abilities at all. Lord Hardwicke, however, had the good sense to see that this proposal 'could not be thought of. All engines of ridicule • would be set to work. It would give countenance to what ' was propagated, that his Grace would bear with nobody in • that office but one they would, though opprobriously, call ‘an absolute fool.'
Even the Duke of Newcastle would hardly have been able to suggest the appointment of an absolute fool’ as finance minister if the chancellorship of the exchequer had acquired the status which attaches to this office now. The man who controls the finances of the State occupies a position in a modern administration inferior only to that of the prime minister; and it is a striking testimony to the importance of the office that, since 1830, the House of Commons has usually been led by either the prime minister himself or the chancellor of the exchequer. But up to 1830 the
office was one which was inferior in its rank and inferior in its emoluments. There is some difficulty in ascertaining the value of a post which was partly paid by fees, but we believe that we are right in saying that its remuneration was only one-half-or not one-half-of that of a secretary of state. Except, then, on the many occasions when the post was held by the first lord of the treasury himself, as it was by Walpole, Pelham, Pitt, Canning, and other statesmen, it was usually allotted to old men of inferior ability, or young men whose capacity was not proved. The chancellors of the exchequer in the reign of George II. were Walpole and Pelham, who held the office in conjunction with the first place at the treasury; Sandys-afterwards Lord Sandys; Legge, who has already been alluded to, and Sir G. Lyttelton, who, Mr. Torrens says, “stumbled over millions and
strode pompously over farthings. Even at the commencement of the present century similar appointments were made to the office. Lord H. Petty (Lord Lansdowne) received it when he was quite unknown. Lord Palmerston and Mr. Milnes were offered it almost immediately after their introduction into Parliament, and, later on, when such men as Sir R. Peel and Mr. Huskisson were available, the post was filled by Vansittart, Prosperity' Robinson, and Mr. Herries. We shall not appreciate the political history of England rightly if we do not realise the inferior status which so long attached to the chancellorship of the exchequer. In the days of George II. its emoluments were, no doubt, thought good enough, since it was the only office which a peer could not fill,* and the only post in many cabinets which was not filled by a peer.
Thus, then, though government by cabinet had superseded government by prerogative in the middle of the eighteenth century, the members of each cabinet were almost exclusively selected from the House of Lords, and were even chiefly recruited from the highest rank in the peerage. But the peers did not owe their remarkable influence solely to their position in the Upper House. Many of them were borough owners as well as peers. Thus they not merely helped to make history by their votes in one House; they concurrently controlled politics by regulating
* With the exception of a few months after Stanhope's elevation to a peerage, in 1717, the chancellorship of the exchequer has uniformly been held by a commoner since Walpole's acceptance of the office in 1715.
the formation of the other. The Duke of Newcastle was the most striking example of this kind. Few, if any, men in this country have ever held office for a longer period. He said himself, in 1760, that he had been in ministerial
office for thirty-six years. Few men, again, have exercised greater influence in successive ministries. Yet it is evident that the duke's success was not attributable to his abilities, which were only moderate, but to his vast territorial possessions, which gave him a political influence which he did not scruple to exercise.
Few persons-even among those who have most closely studied the history of an unreforped Parliament-have any conception of the extent of the duke's influence. The House of Commons largely consisted of his nominees. Green, in his 'Short History,' says that the duke at one * time returned a third of all the borough members in the • House.' Mr. Torrens, only a little more moderate, declares that, in the Parliament of 1754, Newcastle's dependents (numbered still two score and ten.' No minister, however strong, could stand without his support. Pitt, to use his own words, in 1757 had to borrow the Duke of Newcastle's 'majority to carry on the public business.'
‘His Grace of Newcastle's landed property in several counties,' writes Mr. Torrens, 'gave him the nomination of more members than any of his social equals; and, from the matter-of-fact turn of his mind, he took to the extension of the power it gave him as the surest means of securing a prominent place at Court, and an influential one in council. At the general election of 1722 five Pelhams rejoiced his heart. Sir Philip Yorke and Sir William Gage were returned, to his great satisfaction, for Seaford. To his surprise Hastings was lost by a single vote; but, on the whole, Sussex acknowledged his sway, and portions of Notts, Suffolk, and Yorkshire proved faithful. Thus he congratulated himself on being successful in almost all his elections.'
So far as the smaller places were concerned, the duke's will was law. No one had yet questioned the right of a great nobleman to do what he would with his own, and such boroughs as Aldborough and Boroughbridge returned his nominees as a matter of course. But in the larger constituencies more elaborate measures were necessary.
Mr. Torrens says in one place :
' His grace was never weary of electioneering, and kept up a correspondence with a staff of agents that is truly amazing. . . . Treating had not then been advanced to the dignity of a political offence. It went on without let, hindrance, or qualm, and was estimated chiefly by the prodigality with which it was sustained.'
The duke himself gave a dinner to 1,200 Sussex voters during the general election of 1733, and Sir W. Ashburnham on the same occasion 'entertained all the freeholders ' in the Rye district, and was about to feed those in the * adjoining one, that all might drink Mr. Pelham’s health,
who was present on both occasions. ... The non-voters, • too, had their bowls of punch. The duke's time at Bishopstone during the same election was óspent in nothing • but canvassing, drink, and brutality.
Lavish expenditure of this kind was more than even the duke's large income could afford. He was frequently so pressed for money that the very labourers on his estate were unpaid, while his tradesmen—at any rate on one occasionrefused to go on serving him. The great political power which he enjoyed could only be sustained by continuous outlay; and the duke, perhaps, considered that the ruin of his private estate was not too high a price to pay for an influence which kept him in office almost continuously during the reign of George II., and which made him twice prime minister of England.
Let us now consider how far the revolution with which Mr. Torrens is concerned had proceeded before the death of George II. On the one hand, it is evident that the power of Parliament had increased, and that the power of the crown had diminished. The king no longer presided over the cabinet. Sir R. Walpole had made the office of prime minister a fact and a necessity, and the growing importance of finance had made it convenient for the prime minister to preside over the treasury. On the other hand, parliamentary government was still to a large extent government by the Lords. The cabinet was chiefly composed of the representatives of a few great families. More than three-fourths of its members were usually peers; one-half of its members were selected from among the dukes. The great offices of the Household usually carried with them seats in the cabinet. Only the inferior offices were, as a rule, reserved for members of the House of Commons. The members of that House were expected to vote as their patrons required them. Their leader was occasionally chosen not on account of his ability, but on account of his dependence. In theory, the cabinet as it exists to-day had already been constructed. In practice, it was constituted in a manner as different from that which prevails now as it is possible to imagine. • One result had, indeed, already ensued from the supersession of government by prerogative by government by