Let your own discretion be your tutor: suit the action to the word, the word to the action. (W. Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act III, scene 2, line 18.)
The Commonwealth Council of State is the direct advisor to the Lord Protector and acts as the executive of the country's government in place of the King and the Privy Council. It directs domestic and foreign policy and ensures the security of the English Commonwealth. Also in a state of war the Lord Protector-in-Council has supreme executive powers.
It was formerly known as Council of State (1649-1653) and Protector's Privy Council (1653-1660).
Functions and role
The chief role of the Council of State in brief words is coordinating authorities and advising the Lord Protector in the exercise of his executive powers. The members of the Council (13 to 21) are nominated by the Protector and approved by Parliament.
By custom and convention the Council of State issues: Orders in Council (by Order of the Lord Protector and Council, Lord Protector exercises authority on advice of the Council), Orders of Council (by Order of the Council, secondary legislation drafted by the Council for government regulations and appointments) and Commonwealth Charters (special status granted to corporation and incorporated bodies). All above mentioned deal with a wide variety of matters and issues.
Foreign relations are dealt by the Council’s (Foreign) Secretary of State under instructions Council and advises the Lord Protector.
The Council of State delegates part of its executive and administrative powers in Scotland and Ireland by means of two separate councils. Its Isle of Mann and Channel Islands Affairs Committee deals with legislation and executive orders of the said territories.
Meetings and procedures of the State Council
The State Council meets at large on a regular basis, usually once or twice a week to discuss the most important issues of government policy, and to make decisions. Its full member meetings are chaired by the Lord President of the Council, with or without the Lord Protector attending them. The State Council has numerous committees which focus on particular areas of government and coordinates their work. There may be permanent committees or ad hoc committees set up for a short duration to look at particular issues.
The New Palace of Whitehall, with over 1500 rooms, functions as the administrative center of the Council and also has the venue for the state and ceremonial meetings of the Lord Protector. A large staff of secretaries, clerks, courier, archivists,and accountants provide the necessary administrative services. Civilian courtiers that serve as secretaries, advisors or agents of the Protector and Council, are also part of the staff. However, the transactions or matters discussed or verbatim reports of the full sessions of the Council are not available nor published and are kept in secret. To its meetings or committees the Council can invite or demand the assistance of other state officials. It usual to for the Lord Chancellors to attend meetings and the committees when the Council is dealing with constitutional or legal matters.
The National Building or Public Offices, is a large Neoclassical building situated on the south side of the Strand in central London, overlooking the River Thames, just east of Strand Bridge. Somerset House, as its more commonly called, functions as an accommodation of the various administrative offices and the National Board of Public Works. Also serves as complementary venue for state and ceremonial meetings or events.
Council of State had several standing and ad hoc committees and commissions. The main ones are:
- Treasury commissioners (members named Lords Commissioners of the Commonwealth's Treasury)
- Board of Customs
- Board of Excise
- National Estate Board
- Army Council
- Admiralty Committee
- Navy Commission
- Board of Ordnance
- Council for Foreign Plantations
- Council of Trade
- Committee for the Business of the Law
- Committee of Public Peace
- National Board of Works (established as an independent section of the National Estate Board)
- Indian Affairs Department
- Board of Commissioners for the Affairs of India (1804 to date), replaced the Board of Control (for the administration of British India 1764-1804)
Administration of the Home Countries
The Council of State delegates part of its executive and administrative powers in Scotland and Ireland by means of two separate councils and a Committee of the Isle of Mann and Channel Islands.
The Council of State for Scotland with nine members (starting 1655), named by the Council of State and at least half of its members must be Scotsmen. The Lord President chairs the Council. The seat of Council and main government offices are at Palace of Holyroodhouse (Edinburgh, Scotland). In addition to ensuring the continuance of the Union and the establishment of good government, the Council were directed to encourage the preaching of the Gospel; encourage the growth of Universities and schools; purge the burghs of disaffected magistrates; administer justice; to approximate the judicial system to that of England; encourage trade and foster the revenue. Important measures of the Council are the ones that allowed The burghs to elect their own magistrates and Justice of the Peace courts were set up in all of Scotland.
The Irish Council of State (or Irish Council) with six members and the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland (named by the Protector-in-Council) administers the island. The seat of Council and main government offices are at Dublin Castle.
The Isle of Mann and Channel Islands Affairs Committee deals with legislation and executive orders of the said territories.
The role of the President of the Council of State (usually addressed as "Lord President") was originally intended to simply preside over the Council of State. However, its role became more powerful as successive Acts of Parliament delegated to it the power to issue ordinances and designations with the the approval of the Lord Protector. Initially these acts provided the means to administer all overseas dominions, colonies and territories. From 1651 to 1658 Parliament had limited the chair of the Council to one month.
(1600 - 1664)
|Dec. 1653 - Nov. 1658||Cromwellian||1st (1654-1655),|
(1619 - 1685)
|Nov.. 1658 - July 1672||Cromwellian||3rd (1659-1662),|
|Lord Edward Montagu 1st Earl of Sandwich|
(1619 - 1687)
|July 1672 - March 1678||Cromwellian (Civil/Court party)||7th (1672-1677), 8th (1677-1682)|
|Anthony Ashley-Cooper 1st Earl of Shaftesbury|
(1621 - 1695)
|March 1678 - 1682||Cromwellian (Civil/Court party)||8th (1677-1682)|
|Overhauled finances and treasury. Established the practice that only the State Council could initiate money bills in Parliament.|
|William Russell, Lord Russell|
(1639 - 1703)
|John Somers, 1st Baron Somers|
(1651 - 1716)
|James Scott, 1st Duke of Monmouth|
(1649 - 1718)
|1691-1695||Moderate Whig||10th (1687-1692), 11th (1692-1697)|
|John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough|
|1695 - 1700||Moderate Whig||11th (1692-1697)|
|William Penn the Younger|
(the Old Radical)
(1644 - 1718)
|1700 -1703||Dissident Whig||12th (1697-1702),|
|Usually at odds with Protector Scott. Under his presidency of the Council promoted and secured the passage and approval of Claim of Rights Act (1702) after he secured a majority in the elections of 1702. Dismissed a week later after the returns of the early elections of House of Commons.|
|Charles Montagu, 1st Earl of Halifax|
(1661 - 1715)
|1703 - 1706||Whig Junto||14th (1703-1708)|
|Robert Harley, 1st Earl of Oxford and Earl Mortimer|
(1661 - 1724)
|1706 - 1708||Tory and Country-Whig Coalition||14th (1703-1708)|
|First conservative presidency and majority in the Council of State after gaining a partial working supplies and legislative majority in elections of 1703.|
|William Penn the Younger|
(The Old Radical)
(1644 - 1718)
|1708 -1712||Dissident Whig||15th (1708-1712),|
|Despite mutual animosity between Penn and Protector Scott, he was called to presidency of State Council after elections of 1708 gave Whigs a majority. Dismissed two months after elections of 1712 when Whig Junto voted down his Presidency under Protector Scott's clout.|
|Charles Talbot, 1st Duke of Shrewsbury|
(1660 - 1730)
|1712-1722||Whig Junto||16th (1712-1717),|
|Sir William Wyndham, 3rd Baronet|
|James Butler, 2nd Duke of Ormonde|
|1724-1730||Irish Whig||18th (1722-1727),|
|Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford|
|Philip Yorke, 1st Earl of Hardwicke,|
|William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham,|
|1759-1763||Patriot Whig --> Patriot Party||25th (1758-1763)|
|John Stuart, 3rd Earl of Bute,|
|1763-1768||Tory-Country Coalition||26th (1763-1768)|
|Frederick North, 2nd Earl of Guilford,|
|1769-1778||Tory-Country Coalition||27th (1768-1773)|
|1778-1788||Radical Reformer --> Radical Alliance||29th (1778-1783)|
|Passed the Representation of the People Act of 1780 that expanded franchise and made wide changes in polling. Gave limited female suffrage in England, Ireland and Scotland.|
|William Pitt the Younger,|
|1788-1806||National Reform PU -> National Unity Coalition (National Reform and Radicals) 1803||31th (1788-1793)|
|The natural leader of the country under Protectors Leveson-Gower and Spencer during the European Revolutionary Wars. Enacted several reforms and brought British India under direct rule. The Council of All Talents (1797-1806) and later the National Unity Coalition were his most successful moves to unite the country at War.|
|Henry Addington, 1st Viscount Sidmouth,|
|1806-1806||National Unity Coalition (National Reform and Radicals)||34th (1803-1806)|
|Fall of the Council of All Talents (1797-1806) the day after news of the North Sea Disaster and the withdrawal of Protector Spencer's confidence -despite Addington enjoying a majority in the House- that triggered immediate House elections and the Grand Court Martial for the Disaster (1806).|
|1806-1816||National Unity Coalition (National Reform and Radicals) => National and Civic Fusion||34th (1803-1806)|
|Led victory of European Revolutionary Wars. Reformed Army and Navy commissions with the help of Protector Spencer influence and patronage. One of the founders of the National and Civil Fusion. Retired in 1816 after securing the position of his successor in the following elections.|
|1816-1823||National and Civic Fusion||37th (1816-1821)|
|Reinstablishemt of relations with France under the guidance of Lord Protector FitzPatrick between 1820-1822.|
|Horace Marcus Gardiner,|
|1823-1835||Radical Progressive PU||39th (1823-1828)|
|Local Government Electoral Reform Act (1824) and London Metropolitan Police District (1830). Women named in government positions (1825) and all women given same franchise qualifications (vote and be elected) as men in 1831.|
|1835-1839||Radical Progressive PU||41th (1833-1838)|
|Repeatedly ill in 1839 State Council business were managed by his deputy Hunter Hilbert and party leadership by Lady Glenda Marvin. Minority government in 1838. Government fell after vote of no confidence on London Government Bill.|
|Lord Philip Cox|
|1839-1841||Civic PU||42th (1838-1843)|
|Minority Civic and National Constitutional government (1839-1841) sustained by Protector Yates|
|1841-1848||National Constitutional PU||42th (1838-1843)|
|First Lady President of the State Council. Minority Civic and National Constitutional government (1841-1843) sustained by Protector Yates.|
|Irvine McAlister||1848-...||National Constitutional PU||44th (1848-1853|
|Former Lord President of Scotland (1846-1848).|