Cabinet Government. Professor Burgess’s Classification:- Burgess adopts the following canons of distinction in classifying governmental forms: first, the identity or non-identity of the state with its government, second, the nature of the official tenure, including the method of constituting the official relation, third, the relation of the legislature to executive, and fourth, the concentration or distribution of governmental power.
Upon the basis of the identity or non-identity of the state with the government, he classified them as primary or representative. The pure democracy, where the citizens assemble in mass meeting and enact the laws of the state and frame administrative regulations, is, of course, the nearest approach to what he called primary government. Where, on the other hand, the people have delegated to an organ or organs the power to act for it in matters of government, as is now the almost universal practice, we have representative government in some form, though not necessarily popular government.
Considered from the standpoint of the nature and source of the official tenure, he classified governments as hereditary and elective. Such a classification is manifestly of little value, since there are no governments and never have been any which were. Wither entirely hereditary or entirely elective. There are and have been many governments in which the chief of state held office by hereditary succession, and Others in which he and other functionaries were elective, but none in which the governing class as a whole was either hereditary or elective.
With respect to the relation of the executive to the legislature, governments may be classified as cabinet government (the terms “ministerial,” “parliamentary,” and “responsible” are sometimes preferred), and what, for lack of a more suitable term, has been called presidential or congressional government.
Cabinet Government Defined :
Cabinet government is that system in which the real executive the cabinet or ministry is immediately and locally responsible to the legislature or one branch of it (usually the more popular chamber) for its political policies and acts, and immediately or ultimately responsible to the electorate, while the titular or nominal executive the chief of state occupies a position of irresponsibility.
The members of the ministry are usually members of the legislature and the leaders of the party in the majority, but whether they are members or not they usually have the privilege of occupying seats therein, of being heard, and of participating in the deliberations but without the right to vote unless they are members.
It is also the practice (sometimes it is so provided in the constitution) that they may be subjected to interpolation by the chamber of which they are members or in which they appear. In short, the ministerial office is not incompatible with legislative mandate. On the contrary, the cabinet system normally presupposes the double character of minister and member, and thus executive and legislative functions are inextricably commingled.
There is,observes Courtenay Ilbert, “no such separation between the executive and legislative powers as that which. forms the distinguishing mark of the American Constitution,” but the relation is one of intimacy and interdependence. Bagehot described the British cabinet as a hyphen that joins, a buckle that fastens, the executive and legislative together.
In another place he spoke of it as a committee of parliament chosen to rule the nation. It might be more accurately described as a committee of the party which has a majority in the House of Commons, ordinarily the minority party having no representation at all upon it. In this respect it differs from all other parliamentary committees. In its essence, says Lowell, it is an informal but permanent caucus of the parliamentary chiefs of the party in power.
The nominal or titular executive, according to a legalization, is incapable of doing wrong, in a political sense, and is, as it were, under the guardianship of his ministers, who assume the responsibility for his official acts. Collectively they constitute the “government” they prepare, initiate, and urge the adoption by the legislature of all the more important legislative projects, and from their seats in the legislature they defend their policies from attack, and when called upon must give an account of their official conduct.
They are the heads of the great administrative departments and are, as stated above, usually the leaders of the majority party in the legislature. So long as their policies and official conduct command the support of the majority of the members of the legislature, or rather of that chamber to which they are responsible, they continue to hold the reins of office and govern the country.
But as soon as the legislature clearly manifests its want of confidence in the ministry, through a vote of censure or by a refusal to pass the measures which it proposes or vote the sums of money which it asks, the ministry either resigns office in a body or it dissolves the chamber to which it owes responsibility, orders a new election, and appeals to the electorate to sustain it by returning a new legislature which is in sympathy with its policies and acts.
If the results of the election are favorable to the ministry, it continues in office, if adverse, it resigns as soon as the results are fully known or when the new legislature has assembled and by positive vote has made known its want of sympathy.
Cabinet Government in Great Britain :
In a typical cabinet system like that of Great Britain the ministry is usually taken Wholly horn the ranks of the party having a majority in the Popular chamber, and thus possesses the character of homogeneity. In legal theory the prime minister is chosen by the nominal of titular executive, and he selects his colleagues,though where the system of responsibility to the legislature is fully developed they are in reality chosen by the legislature and the designation by the chief of state of the prime minister is little more than a ceremonial function of investing him with the symbols of office.
The number of ministers is rarely fixed either by law or by custom, and hence the size of the ministry is uncertain and variable, the exact number in any case being usually determined by the premier or by executive decree.
The cabinet system originated in England and was the product of history rather than of invention. From England it spread little by little to Holland, France, Belgium, Romania, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Greece, and, in limited forms, to China and Japan, and the recently created new states of Europe, until it has become, says Esmein, the principal system of government in the world.
It made little headway in Germany, however, before the World War and none at all in Switzerland or the United States, and but little in Latin America. The cabinet system has received its fullest development in Great Britain, and there its workings have been attended with the most satisfactory results.
Cabinet Government in the British Dominions :
Not unnaturally the cabinet system of England was introduced in the British dominions, where it is “chiefly remarkable because of its close, resemblance to the English model on which it is based.” It has not however, worked with the same smoothness and facility as in the mother country from which it was imported. In some of the dominions, especially Australia, the system has been characterized by excessive instability.
In the latter country, ministry after ministry comes into office and disappears in the course of a few weeks or months. In Canada, however, the ministerial tenure has been longer and there has been consequently greater stability and continuity of policy. In most of the dominions “the inconsistent and stupid practice of requiring ministers after accepting office to vacate their seats,” prevails as it did in England until very recently, but in some of the Australian states the contrary practice has been adopted.
In the dominions, as in Great Britain, there is no uniform practice as to whether a defeated minority shall resign when the results of a disastrous election are known or whether they may wait until they are formally condemned by the newly elected legislature. As in Great Britain, the general rule is ,that the ministers may be turned out only by the lower house even where the upper house is popularly elected.
The Cabinet System in Belgium :
Among the cabinet systems of the Continent, that of Belgium most nearly resembles the British system, though the crown plays a more important role in that country than in England. The constitution expressly declares that no act of the king is valid unless it is countersigned by a minister who thereby assumes responsibility for it. The responsibility of ministers to the king is more real than in Great Britain, and he may direct and dismiss them with more freedom than the British sovereign may.
As there are generally recognized parliamentary leaders, the king rarely has any real choice, however, in the selection of his ministers. In Belgium, as in Great Britain,ministers without portfolios are sometimes appointed as a means of introducing into the government eminent persons Whose support and experience the government desires to avail itself of, yet who would hesitate to assume the burden of a cabinet portfolio. As in Great Britain, ministers are chosen not from the ranks of technical administrators, except in the case of the minister of war, who is always a soldier and usually an active general, but from the members of parliament and usually from the Chamber of Deputies rather than from the Senate. All ministers, whether members or not, have the entree into either chamber, where they have a right to be heard.
The Cabinet System in France :
The cabinet or parliamentary system of government was introduced in France by the Charter of 1814, but it was a rather imperfect Copy of the English model. While the king was declared to be irresponsible and the ministers responsible to the lower chamber, the dominating role which the restored Bourbon monarchs actually played in the government of the country was incompatible with the normal functioning of the parliamentary system.
With the advent of the July monarchy in , 1830 and the shifting of the preponderance of power from the crown to the lower chamber of parliament, the control of the latter body over the ministers became more effective and thus one of the conditions of the true parliamentary system came to prevail. In the language of M. Thiers, the king now reigned but did not govern. But from the first the French system differed from that of England, where this form of government has operated with the greatest success.
In the first place, the existence of a multiple party system under which no single political party usually had a majority in the Chamber of Deputies made it necessary that cabinets should be constituted on the coalition principle. Such cabinets are proverbially weak and consequently their tenure is usually very short, as compared With the tenure of British cabinets, the average being hardly more than eight months and in recent years only three months.
Naturally the choice of prime minister (the president of the council, as he is called) is often attended With great difficulty and long delays, and the selection by him of his colleagues is usually an even more difficult task. Under such a system continuity of policy is necessarily difficult and frequently impossible.
Other conditions and features of the French system differentiate it from that of Great Britain. French temperament is not especially favorable to the smooth working of the cabinet system. In Great Britain there is a disposition on the part of parliament to allow itself to be guided and directed by the ministry, the parliament contenting itself with the ultimate right of control.
In France, on the contrary, the respective roles of parliament and ministry are reversed the ministry instead of leading and guiding the parliament is itself controlled by the chambers even in respect to the details of administration and legislation and is frequently over the Own upon minor questions, notwithstanding the constitutional prescription that it shall be responsible only for its general policies. Through an excessive development of the practice of interpellations, ministers are harassed, compelled to give explanations in regard to relatively unimportant incidents, and are occasionally forced to resign on account of happenings which in England would not be regarded as meriting parliament my discussion.
This practice, which consume a large part of the time of parliament and leads to the upsetting of ministries upon relatively unimportant questions, has been the object of much criticism by French writers, who charge that the existing French system is not the true parliamentary system but one which might more accurately be called deputantisme.
In France, ministers are usually member of one or the other chamber subject to the exception that occasionally the ministers of war and of marine are army or naval officers and not therefore members of parliament. Different from the British practice, ministers have the entree to both chambers, where they may be heard and interpellated, even when they are not members of either. As in Belgium and since 1919 in Great Britain, members who are appointed to ministerial positions are not required to submit to a new election.
Between 1868 and 1914 no ministers without portfolio appear to have been appointed, but during the World War the earlier practice was revived. Under secretaries of state who have charge of a portion of the administrative work of the department to which they are attached are frequently appointed, there being several such in the Viviani ministry of 1915. In 1906 the practice was introduced of inviting them to attend the meetings of the council of ministers. Strictly speaking, they are not responsible to parliament, but in practice they resign with the ministries to which they are attached.
There has been much discussion among the commentators on the French constitution as to whether the ministers are responsible to the Senate as well as to the Chamber of Deputies. On the one hand, it is argued on the basis of British and Belgian practice and upon French practice during the monarchy from 1814 to 1848, that the ministry is responsible only to the Chamber of Deputies. Moreover, since the Senate cannot be dissolved while the Chamber of Deputies may be, it would, it is pointed out, place the Senate in a position of mastery over the Chamber to allow it to overthrow a ministry.
On the other hand, the constitution declares in plain language that the ministry shall be responsible to the chambers, and not merely to one of them the Senate has equal powers of legislation with the Chamber of Deputies unlike the upper chambers in Great Britain and in the old French monarchy the French Senate is elected and it may interpellate the ministers and vote orders of confidence or censure equally with the Chamber of Deputies.
In practice ministries have on several occasions resigned in consequence of the hostile attitude or votes of the Senate, 24 and it now seems definitely established that the senate may compel a ministry to resign. The responsibility of the ministry to both chambers and the necessity which the president is under of obtaining the consent of the Senate to dissolve the Chamber of Deputies undoubtedly increase the difficulties of cabinet government in France.
In this connection it may be remarked that the practice of dissolution in France has fallen into desuetude. Exercise in 1877 by President MacMahon against a chamber which undoubtedly represented the overwhelming majority of the electorate (and exercised therefore in violation of the Spirit if not the letter of the constitution), the French have come to regard it with a certain fear and as being inconsistent with the Spirit of the republican regime.
This represents a curious departure from the system of cabinet government in Great Britain, where dissolution of the House of Commons and appeals to the electorate are not uncommon and where such a procedure is regarded as one of the most fundamental and essential features of responsible government.
Cabinet Government in Italy :
In Italy the conditions under which cabinet government is conducted are similar in many respects to those prevailing in France. As in France, the chambers are usually divided into a number of political groups or factions, each of which must be given representation in the cabinet, and each must be placated Whenever it shows signs of disaffection. Cabinets formed after long and laborious negotiations, says Dupriez, sometimes go to pieces over the first question which provokes debate. The role of the chamber in determining the selection of the ministers is less than it is in either England or France. The king enjoys a much larger freedom and discretion in choosing his ministers, and the constitution says he may dismiss them.
It also declares that they are responsible, but unlike the French constitution it does not say that they are responsible to the chambers or to one of them, and they have, we are told, “obsequiously surrendered their powers of control, so that the responsibility is now due mainly to the king.” The ministers are generally taken from the Chamber of Deputies, the premier practically always,29 but they have the entree to both houses and must be heard when they request it.
The ministers of war and marine are usually army and navy officers respectively, and if not already senators, they are made such by royal appointment at the time they are chosen to the cabinet. Ministers without portfolio are sometimes appointed, and since 1888 each minister has had under his control an undersecretary, who may represent the minister in the chamber and defend the acts of the government.
In consequence of the establishment of the dictatorship of Mussolini, the responsibility of the ministers to parliament virtually ceased to exist. For a time after the World War a succession of weak, timid, and short lived cabinets followed which were powerless to deal with the extraordinary situation then existing in Italy, in consequence of which the cabinet system virtually broke down. By a law passed in 1928, it was provided that the political party Which polled the largest vote for the Chamber of Deputies should have two thirds of the membership.
This enables the Fascisti party to control the chamber even though it does not elect an actual majority of the membership. Still later a law was passed making the ministers responsible to the king rather than to the chamber, thus establishing fully Mussolini’s independence of parliament. The chamber has in fact been reduced to the role of a mere consultative body.
Cabinet Government in Germany :
In Germany, the cabinet system was unknown before the close of the close of the world War, although it found a place in the constitution proposed by the Frankfort parliament of 1848 and was constantly demanded by the Social? Democratic party after the founding of the Empire in 1871. The imperial chancellor, the chief minister, and the other ministers who were associated with him not as his colleagues but as his subordinates and who were administrative functionaries taken from the ranks of the bureaucracy rather than from parliament, were responsible only to the emperor and could not be forced to, resign by a hostile vote of the Reichstag.
On several notable occasions the Reichstag by a large majority condemned the policy of the government and the Social Democrats demanded the resignation of the chancellor but he usually replied that such a vote merely represented a difference of Opinion between him and the Reichstag and could not be interpreted as a binding command to resign, that his responsibility was to the emperor alone and that he had no intention of resigning so long as he had the confidence of his Majesty.
In consequence, the Reichstag was not able to exercise any effective control over the government aside from its control Over appropriations, and under the prevailing , German doctrine of the budget this control was considerably limited. It must be said, however, that apart from the Social Democrats the number of Germans who demanded a system of parliamentary responsibility was not large. Many German political writers and statesmen condemned the parliamentary system on the around that it was a form of government by “fleeting majorities,” that it was not in accordance with German notions of strong personal government, and,because they did not desire to be put in the position of seeming to imitate the English and French.
With the accession of the Social Democrats to power at the close of the World War, however, the establishment of, parliamentary responsible government was assured. Accordingly the new constitution (1919) provided not only that this system should be established for the Reich, but that each of the individual member states (Lander) should likewise be governed by a cabinet which must have the confidence of the representatives of the people (Art. 17). In short, having proscribed the system of personal government in the Reich, logic and consistency required that it should be equally proscribed in the states composing the Reich.
The constitution expressly requires that the chancellor and the other ministers must possess the confidence of the Reichstag and must resign whenever that confidence is Withdrawn by formal resolution. It requires all official acts of the president of the republic (who is declared to be politically irresponsible to parliament) to be -countersigned either by the chancellor or some other minister who thereby assumes the responsibility to the Reichstag for his acts.
The president is given the power to dissolve the Reichstag, but he is obliged to obtain the countersignature of a minister in order to do so, a requirement which may on occasion prove to be impossible. The German system is peculiar in that it distinguishes sharply between the role of the chancellor and that of the other ministers.
The president appoints the chancellor and upon the proposal of the latter, he appoints and dismisses the other ministers. The chancellor is empowered to determine the general policy of the government he countersigns the official acts of the president relating to maters of general policy, and he assumes responsibility for such policies. The other ministers are declared to be responsible to the Reichstag for the policies-of their particular departments and they countersign the acts of the president which relate to the policies of their re5pective departments.
Thus a distinction is attempted to be made between what the French call “governing” and “administering” the chancellor is responsible for policies which fall within the former class the other ministers for policies of the latter character. The result is that the principle of collective responsibility does not exist even in respect to questions of general policy. This feature gives the German cabinet system a unique character and its practical working will be watched with much interest by students of political science.
On account of the multiple-party system which exists in Germany, the task of constituting cabinets has not always been easy. In practice they are necessarily of the coalition type, the principal republican parties usually being represented by a number of members roughly in proportion to their strength in the Reichstag. The establishment of the Hitler regime in 1933 virtually displaced the system introduced by the constitution of 1919.
The Cabinet System in Other European States :
The constitution of the new republic of Austria (1920) establishes a somewhat similar system of cabinet government. All official acts of the president of the republic are required to be countersigned by the chancellor or some other minister. The president is declared to be irresponsible to the legislature except for Violation of the law, but the ministry as a whole or its individual members are declared to be responsible to the lower chamber and they are automatically removed from office by the adoption of a resolution of the chamber withdrawing its confidence.
A feature which distinguishes the cabinet system of Austria from that of all other countries is found in the constitutional provision that the ministry shall be elected by the lower chamber instead Of being appointed by the head of the state, and that the ministers, although required to be eligible to seats in the lower chamber, are not required to be members. In Austria as in other parliamentary governed countries the existence of the multiple party system makes it necessary that cabinets shall be constituted on the coalition principle.
The cabinet system of Poland is modeled to some extent on that of France. Thus the lower chamber can be dissolved only with the consent of the senate, but with this difference,that the consent of three fifths of the senators is necessary instead of a majority of the senate as in France.
In Yugoslavia the ministers are responsible to both the king and the parliament. The latter may be dissolved by the king only if the decree of dissolution is signed by all the ministers. In Czechoslovakia the president can dissolve parliament (both houses) only during the last six months of his term. The cabinet, however, is responsible only to the chamber of deputies. In Romania the king has a larger control over the ministers than the head of the state usually has in parliamentary governed countries. Recently he compelled the cabinet to resign and took a new ministry from the minority party.