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inquire into all offences against the government, and to exercise an appellate jurisdiction over admiralty prize causes, over the decisions of the Colonial and East India Courts, and in all cases of lunacy or idiotcy, constitute the immediate functions of this distinguished body of councillors. Under the authority of the Sovereign “in council," all proclamations are published, and the penalties of disobedience determined. The Privy Council can inquire into any offence or trespass against the law, but are destitute of the power of ordering punishment; they can only commit offenders for trial, in the same manner and under the same authority, as an ordinary justice of the peace.
The dissolution of the Privy Council depends wholly upon the will of the sovereign, who, whenever be thinks proper, may modify, dissolve, or reconstruct it. Formerly the demise of the Crown dissolved the Privy Counci), as well as the parliament; but the same statute which provides for the continuance of the latter, extends the duration of the Privy Council to six months after the death of the sovereign, unless the new monarch dissolves it sooner.
Anciently the number of privy councillors was about twelve, but it subsequently increased to such an unwieldy amount, that it was specially limited to thirty in 1679, of which fifteen were er-officio members, and the other half consisted of ten peers and five commoners chosen by the king. The number at present is quite indefinite, and the king's nomination is the only manner in which they are appointed. No patent or grant is requisite, and any natural born British subject, or any denizen under special act of parliament, is capable of being a member of the
Privy Council upon taking the necessary oaths. It was anciently the practice for the members to sit at the council board strictly according to their respective rights of precedence, and then the junior (or lowest) member delivered his opinion first, and so on retrogressively. But this precision is no longer observed, for although when any of the royal Dukes are present, they sit next the Queen on her right hand, and the Lord President always on the left next her Majesty, yet all the other members of the council are indiscriminately placed. Whenever the Lord Chancellor is present, however, he sits on the Queen's right, next after the royal Dukes. This inattention to precedence (with the three above mentioned exceptions,) has perhaps in some measure arisen from the performance of the active duties of the council by one or other of its sub-denominations or committees, so that the general body may almost be considered as a mere formal assembly for authorizing and promulgating certain orders, which must ema. nate from the Sovereign in person; for it is well known that few, if any, subjects come for discussion before the whole body, without having been previously considered by the Cabinet, or the Judicial Committee, or the Board of Trade.
In its collective capacity the council is styled, “ Her Majesty's most honourable Privy Council," and individually each member is entitled to the prefix of Right HONOURABLE; it is constituted a felony (by 9 Anne, cap. 16.) for any person to "unlawfully attempt to kill, or unlawfully assault, strike, or wound any privy councillor in the execution of his office.”
The graduated scale of mutually controlling powers, so conspicuous in the British constitution, does not cease with the formation of the privy council, for this body is again subdivided.
The whole royal authority, and all the powers of the council with regard to the government of the state, is committed to a select body called “the Cabinet;" the judicial functions of the privy council are delegated to the “ Judicial Committee,” while “the Board of Trade and Plantations" is entrusted with the commercial, manufacturing, and trading interests of the country.
THE CABINET Council is so called, it is said, from the ministers in the reign of Charles I. meeting in the cabinet or private closet of Queen Henrietta. Its members all belong to the Privy Council, but it does not include tithe of that body. The Cabinet is composed of the more eminent portion of the administration, but does not constitute more than a fourth part of those whom a change of ministry deprives of office, the persons included in that council being rarely less than ten or more than fifteen. As they are more immediately responsible for the conduct of public affairs, their deliberations are always consi. dered confidential, and kept secret even from their colleagues, who are less exalted in office. The distinguished individual who fills the situation of First Lord of the Treasury, and, combined with it, some. times that of Chancellor of the Exchequer, is the chief of the ministry, and therefore of the cabinet: he is usually styled the “ Premier,” or “ Prime Minister," but more properly designated as “the head of her Majesty's government.” It is at his immediate recommendation that his colleagues are appointed; and, with hardly an exception, he dispenses the patronage of the Crown. Every Cabinet includes the following high officers :—the first lord of the treasury, the lord chancellor, the lord president of the council, the chancellor of the exchequer, first lord of the admiralty, and the three secretaries of state. Several other ministerial functionaries, however, have seats in the cabinet; never less than three, and rarely so many as eight or nine of this latter class, are called to that station. Their offices are as follow:chief commissioner of woods and forests, chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, president of the Board of Control, president of the Board of Trade, secretary-atwar, paymaster-general of the forces, master of the Mint, judge-advocate-general, postmaster-general, master-general of the ordnance, chief secretary for Ireland, chief justice of the Queen's Bench * The selection usually falls upon those amongst the latter mentioned functionaries, whose rank, talents, reputation, and political weight, render them the most aseful auxiliaries, or whose services, while in opposition, may have created the strongest claims to the honours of the cabinet. It has occasionally happened that a peer possessing high character and influence accepts a seat in the cabinet without undertaking the labours and responsibility of any particular office. There is no formal or legal appoint
The first Lord Ellenborough was the last chief justice who held a seat in the cabinet ; having withdrawn from the administration, he afterwards expressed his disapprobation of the practice.
ment of any of the members of the cabinet, and they have therefore no formal mode of dismissal. On the retirement of any minister from office, he ipso facto ceases to be a member of the Cabinet Council.
THE JUDICIAL COMMITTEE of the Privy Council was established by an act passed in the third and fourth year of William the Fourth's reign, to exercise all previously existing judicial functions of the privy council, together with others then specially added, and to form a court of record. The matters which come before this body may be shortly stated as follow, viz. ; appeals in marine causes, and in admiralty prize cases; appeals from the decisions of the various courts of judicature in India and the colonies; appeals and petitions to the Sovereign, which used formerly to be heard by a specially appointed committee of the council, together with all other matters which the king in council shall think proper to refer to this judicial committee. For the performance of these high functions, the following are the officers of state who constitute the court :the lord president of the council, the lord chancellor or lord keeper, or first lord commissioner of the great seal, the chief justice of the Queen's or King's Bench, the master of the rolls, the three vice-chancellors, the chief justice of the Common Pleas, the chief baron of the Exchequer, the judge of the Prerogative Court, the judge of the High Court of Admiralty, the chief judge in bankruptcy, the members of the council who shall have held any of the offices beforementioned ; and two other privy councillors appointed by the Crown, who shall have held the office of judge