Until at least the 16th century, individual Officers of State had separate property, powers and responsibilities granted with their separate offices by Royal Command, and the Crown and the Privy Council constituted the only co-ordinating authorities. In England, phrases such as "cabinet counsel", meaning advice given in private, in a cabinet in the sense of a small room, to the monarch, occur from the late 16th century, and, given the non-standardised spelling of the day, it is often hard to distinguish whether "council" or "counsel" is meant. The OED credits Francis Bacon in his Essays (1605) with the first use of "Cabinet council", where it is described as a foreign habit, of which he disapproves: "For which inconveniences, the doctrine of Italy, and practice of France, in some kings’ times, hath introduced cabinet counsels; a remedy worse than the disease". Charles I began a formal "Cabinet Council" from his accession in 1625, as his Privy Council, or "private council", and the first recorded use of "cabinet" by itself for such a body comes from 1644, and is again hostile and associates the term with dubious foreign practices.
Since the reign of King George I the Cabinet has been the principal executive group of British government. Both he and George II made use of the system, as both were non-native English speakers, unfamiliar with British politics, and thus relied heavily on selected groups of advisers. The term "minister" came into being since the royal officers "ministered" to the sovereign. The name and institution have been adopted by most English-speaking countries, and the Council of Ministers or similar bodies of other countries are often informally referred to as cabinets.
The modern Cabinet system was set up by Prime Minister David Lloyd George during his premiership, 1916–1922, with a Cabinet Office and Secretariat, committee structures, unpublished minutes, and a clearer relationship with departmental Cabinet ministers. (The formal procedures, practice and proceedings of the Cabinet remain largely unpublished, if not secret.)
This development grew out of the exigencies of the First World War, where faster and better co-ordinated decisions across Government were seen as a crucial part of the war effort. Decisions on mass conscription, co-ordination worldwide with other governments across international theatres, and armament production tied into a general war strategy that could be developed and overseen from an inner "War Cabinet". The country went through successive crises after the war: the 1922–1926 General Strike; the Great Depression of 1929–32; the rise of Bolshevism after 1917 and Fascism after 1922; the Spanish Civil War 1936 onwards; the invasion of Abyssinia 1936; the League of Nations Crisis which followed; and the re-armament and resurgence of Germany from 1933, leading into another World War. All these demanded a highly organised and centralised Government centred on the Cabinet.
This centralisation inevitably enhanced the power of the Prime Minister, who moved from being the primus inter pares of the Asquith Cabinets of 1906 onwards, with a glittering set of huge individual talents leading powerful departments, to the dominating figures of David Lloyd George, Stanley Baldwin and Winston Churchill.
Read more about this topic: History Of The Cabinet Of The United Kingdom
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Famous quotes containing the word historical:
“Quite apart from any conscious program, the great cultural historians have always been historical morphologists: seekers after the forms of life, thought, custom, knowledge, art.”
—Johan Huizinga (18721945)
“Yet the companions of the Muses
will keep their collective nose in my books
And weary with historical data, they will turn to my dance tune.”
—Ezra Pound (18851972)
“This seems a long while ago, and yet it happened since Milton wrote his Paradise Lost. But its antiquity is not the less great for that, for we do not regulate our historical time by the English standard, nor did the English by the Roman, nor the Roman by the Greek.... From this September afternoon, and from between these now cultivated shores, those times seemed more remote than the dark ages.”
—Henry David Thoreau (18171862)