By Walter Bagehot
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In its origin it belongs to the one, in its function it belongs to the other. The most curious point about the cabinet is that so very little is known The Cabinet about it. The meetings are not only secret in theory, but secret in reality. By the present practice, no oﬃcial minute2 is kept of them. Even a private note is discouraged and disliked. The House of Commons, even in its most inquisitive and turbulent moments, would not permit a note of a cabinet meeting to be read. No minister who respected the fundamental usages of political practice would attempt to read such a note.
But he tries to get a chairman of the Finance Committee who likes his tax; through that chairman he tries to The Cabinet persuade the committee to recommend such tax; by that committee he tries to induce the house to adopt that tax. But such a chain of communications is liable to continual interruptions; it may suﬃce for a single tax on a fortunate occasion, but will scarcely pass a complicated budget – we do not say in a war or a rebellion – we are now comparing the cabinet system and the presidential system in quiet times – but in times of ﬁnancial diﬃculty.
This critical opposition is the consequence of cabinet government. The great scene of debate, the great engine of popular instruction and political controversy, is the legislative assembly. A speech there by an eminent statesman, a party movement by a great political combination, are the best means yet known for arousing, enlivening, and teaching a people. The cabinet system ensures such debates, for it makes them the means by which statesmen advertise themselves for future and conﬁrm themselves in present governments.