English Government, the executive

The Crown

The crown, that is the monarch with or without its ministers was still a formidable power in 1700. Whereas nowadays the fruits of office for most West-European members of parliament are limited to a high salary and the petty offerings of lobbyists, the M.P.'s of Queen Anne did not receive a salary, and had to invest heavily to get into parliament. This meant that most of them wanted to get some R.O.I. by getting themselves a job or commission in which they could reimburse themselves for their labors, not only by the attached salary, but also by methods called corruption and fraud nowadays. In a situation where only the monarch had the power to appoint civil servants, including the members of government, this meant that everyone seeking a profitable public or military career needed the favor of the monarch and or his secretaries. This of course gave the crown great influence over members of parliament.

The appointment of secretaries by the sovereign deserves special consideration. Who would become e.g. secretary of state was dependant on the equilibrium between the favour the sovereign had for someone, the prestige the sovereign had with parliament and the parliamentary support the candidate commanded. This way Sunderland was appointed secretary of state through massive Whig support though Anne detested him. On the other hand Anne could sack Godolphin in 1710 though he had good parliamentary support. But this had also to do with another right of the sovereign i.e. to dissolve parliament and decree elections, and manipulate them to some degree. A parliament that had public opinion against it could thus be blackmailed with the threat of elections.

The Court

The court was not only the palace where the monarch lived, but also an institute employing about a thousand persons, amongst whom were about a dozen M.P.'s. Though Parliament was now more important, it was still the place to be socially and could still provide wealth and privilege. This was especially true for about two dozen members of the House of Lords who filled posts at court.

The Treasury

The Treasury was the department concerned with getting money for the government. It controlled all affairs concerning taxation, and also some sub-departments like Customs, Excise, the Mint and the Tax Office. It was quite professional about its work and employed thousands of officials.

The Exchequer

The Exchequer was the mirror image of the Treasury. It was a department concerning itself with spending money and controlling this. It still sported a lot of bought offices and sinecures (see J.H. Plumb.)

The Army and Navy boards

The large navy and army generated a lot of clerical business. The departments handling it employed thousands of officials.