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cabinet

cabinet. The executive committee of the government, appointed by and answerable to the prime minister. It evolved in the later 17th cent. out of the Privy Council, which had become too large and too miscellaneous to be efficient. During Anne's reign, the inner group of ministers called themselves the cabinet when the queen was present, the lords of the committee when she was not. In 1710/11 there were 62 cabinet meetings and 106 committee meetings, the attendance at cabinet averaging eleven and at the committee five or six. Two developments of crucial importance were the withdrawal of the monarch from attendance during George I's reign, allowing the first minister to take the chair and impose his views on his colleagues, and the slow growth of the principle of cabinet solidarity.

In the 18th cent., the cabinet was overwhelmingly aristocratic. George Grenville in the 1760s had a cabinet of nine, in which he was the only commoner—yet he was the nephew of a viscount and younger brother of an earl. Not until the later 19th cent. did commoners predominate: in 1892 Gladstone's cabinet had five peers and twelve commoners. Like most committees, the cabinet has tended to grow, with periodic attempts to prune it, particularly in wartime. The Fox–North coalition in 1783 had seven cabinet members; Liverpool in 1812 had thirteen; Peel in 1841 had fourteen; Salisbury in 1895 had nineteen; MacDonald in 1924 had 20, and John Major in July 1995 had 23.

J. A. Cannon

In Bagehot's words, the cabinet links the legislative part of the state to the executive. Its members are normally drawn from the majority party in the House of Commons, together with some peers: at the same time, they head the executive departments and effectively constitute the leadership of the party. The government as a whole consists of about 100 ministers, ministers of state, junior ministers, and whips: as a body, it never meets. The decisions of the cabinet are the decisions of the government. Its internal disagreements are governed by the hallowed doctrine of collective responsibility, which declares that decisions taken by the cabinet are binding on all its members, and indeed on all members of the government. A minister who disagrees with his cabinet colleagues may express those differences within the cabinet room, but unless he resigns, he may not voice them outside. To the world beyond, the cabinet presents a united front, however harsh the disputes may have been.

The 20th cent. saw the transformation of the 19th-cent. cabinet under the twin impact of war and welfare. The First World War led to the introduction of the cabinet secretariat, one of whose tasks was to minute the decisions of the cabinet. What is remarkable is that the cabinet had for so long been run on the basis of human memory. The exigencies of war meant that the cabinet could no longer work in such a casual way, but the growing functions of the state in economic and social matters would, in any case, have required the development.

The extension of the state's functions imposed a further burden on an institution better suited to the minimal state of the 19th cent. Committees had long been a feature of the cabinet but they were ad hoc and temporary. The modern system of permanent standing committees of the cabinet dates effectively from the Second World War. Small committees of ministers, chaired by either the prime minister or a senior member of the government and including ministers not in the cabinet, deal with matters too important, too sensitive, or too broad to be determined within a single department. Over the years the system developed, so that by 1995 there were nineteen cabinet committees or subcommittees. These included the committee on economic and domestic policy, chaired by the prime minister; another on the environment, presided over by the deputy prime minister; and a committee on public expenditure whose chairman was the chancellor of the Exchequer.

These committees have, in effect, become subcabinets. Membership is small and largely consists of those ministers whose departments are most closely concerned. Their brief is to resolve as many issues as possible without going to the full cabinet, and if they cannot reach a decision to refer the question to that body. The powers of cabinet committees are therefore extensive and the principle of collective responsibility applies as forcefully there as to the cabinet itself.

The permanent committees are not the only way in which decisions are taken outside the full cabinet. Quite apart from decisions ministers reach in their departments, decisions may be taken by officially constituted ad hoc committees or by the prime minister after consultation with another minister or after discussion with informal groups of ministers. Many decisions going beyond departmental boundaries, or involving questions of general government policy, are taken outside the traditional full cabinet.

The crucial problem of 20th-cent. cabinet government was to adapt an institution which developed in the 19th cent. Though the cabinet has grown in size in absolute terms, a smaller proportion of ministers are appointed to it. Cabinet committees were one response: another solution has been to create super-ministries, e.g. the Department of the Environment, headed by a secretary of state who sits in the cabinet, containing a number of subordinate ministers who, in earlier years, would have been heads of their department and would have had a seat in the cabinet.

The growth of cabinet committees has meant that the cabinet itself no longer has the central importance it once had. ‘Cabinet meetings’, said Nigel Lawson, former chancellor of the Exchequer, ‘are ninety per cent of the time a dignified [rather than an] efficient part of cabinet government.’

Recent discussion has emphasized the increasing power of the prime minister and the declining status of the cabinet. The argument has perhaps been overdone, but there is little doubt that during the 20th cent. the office of prime minister expanded in power, partly at the expense of the cabinet. However, the cabinet remains the ultimate court of appeal within the government. Moreover, it remains, along with Parliament and in certain fields the judiciary, one of the organs which confers legitimacy possessed neither by cabinet committees nor by the prime minister himself.

Hugh Berrington

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"cabinet." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Cabinet

Cabinet

CABINET. This body, which has existed since the presidency of George Washington, rests on the authority of custom rather than the Constitution or statute. During Washington's presidency the cabinet consisted of only four positions: secretary of state, secretary of the treasury, secretary of war, and attorney general. The size of the cabinet has grown steadily since. By the early 2000s, it was composed of the heads of the major federal administrative departments: State, Treasury, Defense, Justice, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Veterans Affairs, and Education. In terms of money spent, number of persons employed, and scope of legal authority, these are the most significant units of the administration. The heads of these departments are presidential appointees, subject to confirmation by the Senate and serving at the choice of the president.

Although all presidents have, periodically, held formal cabinet meetings, the role of the cabinet in presidential decision making has generally been limited. The importance of the cabinet varies depending on the particular president (for example, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Lyndon B. Johnson relied on the cabinet more than Franklin D. Roosevelt or John F. Kennedy did), but as a collective body it does not play a central role in any administration. Frequently cabinet meetings are largely symbolic; they are held because of the expectation that such meetings take place. The cabinet collectively may lack significance, but individual members can have great influence in an administration because of their expertise, political skill, or special relationship to the president. Examples of this kind of influence were noted with the service of John Mitchell as attorney general under Richard M. Nixon; Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara under Kennedy and Johnson; Attorney General Robert Kennedy under Kennedy; and Secretary of State James Baker under George H. W. Bush.

Frequently and increasingly, the expanding White House staff (personal assistants to the president) has over-shadowed cabinet members. Also of considerable importance in any administration are informal advisers to and confidants of the president. In no area have cabinet members found their influence with the president more severely challenged than in the realm of foreign affairs. In particular, the post of national security adviser, a non-cabinet position, has consistently generated conflict and rivalry with the secretary of state. Although the secretary of state technically holds a higher-ranking position, the national security adviser typically enjoys comparable access to the president, and in some cases even greater access, as during the administrations of Kennedy and Nixon. Similar rivalries continue to characterize the cabinet's relationship with the ever-expanding White House staff.

The cabinet in the United States, unlike that in most parliamentary systems, does not function as a collegial executive; the president clearly is the chief executive. Cabinet members in the course of their work find that their survival and success generally do not depend on their colleagues or on any sense of collegiality; rather, they must often fend for themselves. Particularly crucial are their own relationships to the president, the clientele of their agency, the Congress, and the national media. Also in contrast to parliamentary systems, U.S. cabinet members may not serve concurrently in the legislative body. If a person is a member of Congress when appointed to the cabinet, that person must resign the congressional seat.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Fenno, Richard F. The President's Cabinet: An Analysis in the Period from Wilson to Eisenhower. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1959.

Neustadt, Richard E. Presidential Power and the Modern Presidents: The Politics of Leadership from Roosevelt to Reagan. New York: Maxwell Macmillan, 1990.

DaleVinyard/a. g.

See alsoCouncil of National Defense ; Environmental Protection Agency ; Federal Agencies ; National Security Council ; President, U.S.

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"Cabinet." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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cabinet

cabinet, group of advisers to the head of the state who themselves are usually the heads of the administrative government departments. The nature of the cabinet differs widely in various countries. In Great Britain, where the cabinet system originated, it was at first a committee of the privy council and rose to its modern status only after the sovereignty of Parliament had been established by the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the gradual emergence of party government in the 18th cent. The British cabinet is a body of ministers drawn from the party that possesses a majority in the House of Commons; it is responsible to the Commons for the conduct of the administration. The cabinet is chosen by the prime minister, who is guided by the necessity of choosing a group that will represent the disparate elements in his party. The defeat in the Commons of an important ministerial measure or a general election adverse to the government results in the fall of the cabinet. In continental European countries, where the two-party system is not the rule, the coalition cabinet is more common. Cabinet members need not be selected from the majority party nor necessarily from the legislature, and they may speak in either house of the legislature.

The U.S. cabinet was not specifically established by the Constitution; it evolved through custom and is now defined by statute law. The members of the cabinet are not members of either house of Congress and are responsible, individually and not as a body, to the president, who appoints them with the approval of the Senate and may remove them at will. The cabinet member may not address Congress but may be called as a witness before congressional committees. As an advisory body, the U.S. cabinet is generally a weak institution and is often overshadowed by a strong president and his staff. The first cabinet appointments (1789) were the secretaries of State, the Treasury, and War. Since then the size and composition of the cabinet has varied considerably. Presently the 15 executive departments whose heads sit in the cabinet are the departments of State; the Treasury; Defense; Justice; the Interior; Agriculture; Commerce; Labor; Health and Human Services; Housing and Urban Development; Transportation; Energy; Education; Veterans Affairs; and Homeland Security.

See J. E. Cohen, The Politics of the U.S. Cabinet (1988).

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"cabinet." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Cabinet

Cabinet

The curtain-enclosed space in which mediums claim to condense the psychic energy necessary for séance-room manifestations. Hereward Carrington suggested an electrical analogy: less expenditure of energy is required to charge a small electric conductor to a given voltage than a large one, so it may be with the cabinet, "which acts as a sort of storage battery, retaining the energy and liberating it in bundles of quanta during the séance."

Nineteenth-century biblical scholar Allen Putnam saw the ark of the covenant as an interesting model by which to under-stand the Spiritualist cabinet:

"The ark of the covenant was constructed expressly for use as a spirit battery, or an instrument through which to give forth the commands of the Lord. The special care taken to have the ark and all its appurtenances charged with the auras or magnetisms of a selected class of workmen, becomes very interesting in these days when much wonder is expressed at the customary stickling of spirits and mediums for right conditions. Biblical history furnishes precedent for great particularity, when constructing a cabinet for manifestations."

The cabinet is usually of very simple construction. It need not be more than a curtain thrown across a corner of the room. The Davenport brothers employed a special one. It had three doors; the middle door had a curtained opening on the top. Through this opening, phantom hands were immediately thrust out after the doors were shut on the mediums tied within to their seats. However, such an elaborate arrangement suggests a conjuror's apparatus, and the phenomenon of the Davenports is considered by many people to have been a stage illusion. It is described in some detail by Houdini in A Magician among the Spirits.

By the beginning of the twentieth century, many of the famous mediums, such as D. D. Home and Stainton Moses, had never used the cabinet. Through the course of the twentieth century it has gone almost entirely out of use; the majority of contemporary psychics and channels have never used the cabinet.

Sources:

Houdini, Harry. A Magician among the Spirits. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1924. Reprinted as Houdini: A Magician among the Spirits. New York: Arno Press, 1972.

Putnam, Allen. Bible Marvel Workers. Boston, 1876.

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"Cabinet." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Cabinet

CABINET

The counsel or group of advisers of a king or other chief executive of a government. A group of individuals who advise the president of the United States.

The president's cabinet was created by custom and tradition and was instituted by the first president. The heads of each of the executive departments of the government, including the secretary of state, the secretary of the treasury, the secretary of defense, the attorney general, the secretary of the interior, the secretary of agriculture, the secretary of commerce, the secretary of labor, the secretary of health and human services, the secretary of education, the secretary of housing and urban development, and the secretary of transportation, comprise the cabinet.

cross-references

Executive Branch.

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cabinet

cab·i·net / ˈkabənit/ • n. 1. a cupboard with drawers or shelves for storing or displaying articles: a medicine cabinet. ∎  a wooden box, container, or piece of furniture housing a radio, television set, or speaker. 2. (in the U.S.) a body of advisers to the President, composed of the heads of the executive departments of the government: [as adj.] a cabinet meeting. ∎  (also Cabinet) (in the UK, Canada, and other Commonwealth countries) the committee of senior ministers responsible for controlling government policy. 3. archaic a small private room.

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cabinet

cabinet Body of people collectively responsible to the legislature for government in a parliamentary system. Most cabinet ministers have individual responsibility for the management of a department of state. In the UK, cabinet ministers are chosen by the prime minister, but officially appointed by the crown. A cabinet minister need not sit in either House of Parliament, but usually sits in the House of Commons. In a presidential system, cabinets may be formed out of heads of major departments, but have only advisory status in relation to the president. Most present-day cabinets have about 20 members.

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cabinet

cabinet.
1. Cabin.

2. Relatively small room used for interviews or private conferences by e.g. a sovereign.

3. Small room, often richly ornamented, designed for the display of valuable objects. The ‘porcelain cabinets’ of Rococo palaces in Germany (e.g. in the Residenz (Seat of the Court), Ansbach (1739–40)) are examples.

4. Garden-compartment or arbour.

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cabinet

cabinet †hut, tent; †small chamber; †room for exhibiting works of art, etc.; case for keeping valuables XVI; †council room; body of councillors (orig. cabinet council) XVII. Early vars. are cabanet, cab(b)onet; perh. f. cabane, cabon CABIN, after F. cabinet (XVI), if the Eng. word is not to be considered as directly — F.; see -ET.

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"cabinet." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 May. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Cabinet

Cabinet

a body of persons, usually a limited number, of the ministers of state of a country, 1630; a secret store-house, hence, its contents.

Examples: cabinet of animal functions, 1667; of my secret thoughts, 1549; of his secret will, 1634.

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cabinet

cabinetdammit, Hammett, Mamet •emmet, semmit •helmet, pelmet •remit • limit • kismet • climate •comet, grommet, vomit •Goldschmidt •plummet, summit •Hindemith •hermit, Kermit, permit •gannet, granite, Janet, planet •magnet • Hamnett • pomegranate •Barnet, garnet •Bennett, genet, jennet, rennet, senate, sennet, sennit, tenet •innit, linnet, minute, sinnet •cygnet, signet •cabinet • definite • Plantagenetbonnet, sonnet •cornet, hornet •unit •punnet, whodunnit (US whodunit) •bayonet • dragonet • falconet •baronet • coronet •alternate, burnet •sandpit • carpet • armpit • decrepit •cesspit • bear pit • fleapit •pipit, sippet, skippet, snippet, tippet, Tippett, whippet •limpet • incipit • limepit •moppet, poppet •cockpit • cuckoo-spit • pulpit • puppet •crumpet, strumpet, trumpet •parapet • turnspit

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