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Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V22, Page 338 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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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 Adding-ton 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 . . 1721-1742 Earl of Shelburne John, Lord Carteret (afterwards Mar- quess of Lans- downe) . 1782-1783 Lord North (after- wards Earl of Guil- ford . . . 1783 (afterwards Earl 1742—1744 Granville) . Henry Pelham . 1744-174 Duke of Newcastle . 1754-1756 William Pitt and Duke of Newcastle 1756-1762 W. Pitt . . 1783-1801 Earl of Bute . . 1762-1763 H. Addington (after- George Grenville . 1763-1765 wards Viscount Marquess of Rock- Sidmouth) . 1301-1.804 ingham 1765-1766 W. Pitt . . . 1804-1806 W. Pitt, Earl of Lord Grenville 1806-1807 Chatham . . 1766-1767 Duke of Grafton . 1767-1770 Duke of Portland 18o7-18o9 Lord North . . 1770-1782 Spencer Perceval . 1809-1812 Marquess of Rock- Earl of Liverpool . 1812-1827 ingham . . . 1782 G. Canning . 1827 1 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." Viscount Goderich B. Disraeli (after- 1868 (afterwards Earl wards Earl of of Ripon) . . . 1827-1828 Beaconsfield) . . Duke of Wellington . 1828-183o W. E. Gladstone . 1868-1874 Earl Grey . . 183o-1834 B. Disraeli (Beacons- 1874-1880 Viscount Melbourne 1834 field) . . . Sir R. Peel . . 1834-1835 W. E. Gladstone. . 188o-1885 Viscount Melbourne 1835-1841 Marquess of Salis- Sir R. Peel 1841-1846 bury . . 1885-1886 Lord John Russell W. E. Gladstone. . 1886 (afterwards Earl Marquess of Salis- 1886-1892 Russell) . 1846-1852 bury . . . Earl of Derby . 1852 W. E. Gladstone. . 1892-1894 Earl of Aberdeen . 1852-1855 Earl of Rosebery . 1894-1895 Viscount Palmerston 1855-1858 Marquess of Salis- Earl of Derby . . 1858-1859 bury . . . . 1895-1902 Viscount Palmerston 1859-1865 A. J. Balfour . 1902-1905 Earl Russell . 1865-1866 Sir H. Campbell- 1905-1908 Earl of Derby . 1866-1868 Bannerman . . H. H. Asquith . . 1908-
PRIMATES (Lat. primas, first)

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