Bible Encyclopedias

1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

Prime Minister

Or Premier, in England, the first minister of the Crown. Until 1905 the office of prime minister was unknown to the law,' but by a royal warrant of the 2nd of December of that year the holder of the office, as such, was given precedence next after the archbishop of York. The prime minister is the medium of intercourse between the cabinet and the sovereign; he has to be cognizant of all matters of real importance that take place in the different departments so as to exercise a controlling influence in the cabinet; he is virtually responsible for the disposal of the entire patronage of the Crown; he selects his colleagues, and by his resignation of office dissolves the ministry. Yet he was until 1905, in theory at least, but the equal of the colleagues he appointed. The prime minister is nominated by the sovereign. "I offered," said Sir Robert Peel on his resignation of office, "no opinion as to the choice of a successor. That is almost the only act which is the personal act of the sovereign; it is for the sovereign to determine in whom her confidence shall be placed." Yet this selection by the Crown is practically limited. No prime minister could carry on the government of the country for any length of time who did not possess the confidence of the House of Commons. The prime minister has no salary as prime minister, but he usually holds the premiership in connexion with the first lordship of the treasury, the chancellorship of the exchequer, a secretaryship of state or the privy seal. Sir Robert Walpole must be regarded as the first prime minister - that is, a minister who imposed harmonious action upon his colleagues in the cabinet. This was brought about partly by the capacity of the man himself, partly by the lack of interest of George I. and II. in English home affairs. This creation, as it were, of a superior minister was so gradually and silently effected that it is difficult to realize its full importance. In previous ministries there was no prime minister except so far as one member of the administration dominated over his colleagues by the force of character and intelligence. In the reign of George III. even North and Addington were universally acknowledged by the title of prime minister, though they had little claim to the independence of action of a Walpole or a Pitt.

British Prime Ministers. Sir R. Walpole.. John, Lord Carteret (afterwards Earl Granville). .

Henry Pelham. Duke of Newcastle. William Pitt and Duke of Newcastle Earl of Bute. George Grenville Marquess of Rockingham W. Pitt, Earl of Chatham. Duke of Grafton Lord North. Marquess of Rockingham .

' The first formal mention in a public document appears to be in 1878, where, in the opening clause of the treaty of Berlin, the earl of Beaconsfield is referred to as "First Lord of Her Majesty's Treasury, Prime Minister of England."1721-1742-1742-17441744-1754-1754-17561756-1762-1762-17631763-1765-1765-17661766-1767-1767-17701770-1782-1782 Earl of Shelburne (afterwards Mar quess of Lans downe).1782-1783Lord North (after wards Earl of Guil ford. 1783 W. Pitt..1783-1801H. Addington (after wards Viscount Sidmouth).1801-1804W. Pitt. ..1804-1806Lord Grenville.1806-1807Duke of Portland

1807-1809 Spencer Perceval1809-1812Earl of Liverpool 1812-18271827 G. Canning.. 1827

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.

Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Prime Minister'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. 1910.

Search for…
Enter query in the box below:
Choose a letter to browse:
Prev Entry
Next Entry
Prime Vertical