The new Parliament was elected in a tumult of national excitement. The members were for the most part Churchmen and country gentlemen, but they shared the alarm of the country, and even before their assembly in March their temper had told on the King's policy. James was sent to Brussels. Charles began to disband the army and promised that Danby should soon withdraw from office. In his speech from the throne he asked for supplies to maintain the Protestant attitude of his Government in foreign affairs. But it was impossible to avert Danby's fall. The Commons insisted on carrying his impeachment to the bar of the Lords. It was necessary to dismiss him from his post of Treasurer and to construct a new ministry. Shaftesbury became President of the Council. The chiefs of the Country party, Lord Russell and Lord Cavendish, took their seats at the board with Lords Holies and Roberts, the older representatives of the Presbyterian party which had merged in the general Opposition. Savile, Lord Halifax, as yet known only as a keen and ingenious speaker, entered the ministry in the train of Shaftesbury, with whom he was connected; Lord Sunderland was admitted to the Council; while Lord Essex and Lord Capel, two of the most popular among the Country leaders, went to the Treasury. The recall of Sir William Temple, the negotiator of the Triple Alliance, from his embassy at the Hague to fill the post of Secretary of State, promised a foreign policy which would again place England high among the European powers.
Temple returned with a plan of administration which, fruitless as it directly proved, is of great importance as marking the silent change which was passing over the Constitution. Like many men of his time, he was equally alarmed at the power both of the Crown and of the Parliament. In moments of national excitement the power of the Houses seemed irresistible. They had overthrown Clarendon. They had overthrown Clifford and the Cabal. They had just overthrown Danby. But though they were strong enough in the end to punish ill government, they showed no power of securing good government or of permanently influencing the policy of the Crown. For nineteen years, with a Parliament always sitting, Charles as far as foreign policy went had it pretty much his own way. He had made war against the will of the nation and he had refused to make war when the nation demanded it. While every Englishman hated France, he had made England a mere dependency of the French King. The remedy for this state of things, as it was afterwards found, was a very simple one.
[Authorities. - As before. We may add for this period Earl Russell's Life of his ancestor, William, Lord Russell].
By a change which we shall have to trace, the Ministry has now become a Committee of State-officers, named by the majority of the House of Commons from amongst the more prominent of its representatives in either House, whose object in accepting office is to do the will of that majority. So long as the majority of the House of Commons itself represents the more powerful current of public opinion it is clear that such an arrangement makes government an accurate reflection of the national will. But obvious as such a plan may seem to us, it had as yet occurred to no English statesman. Even to Temple the one remedy seemed to lie in the restoration of the Royal Council to its older powers. This body, composed as it was of the great officers of the Court, the royal Treasurer and Secretaries, and a few nobles specially summoned to it by the sovereign, formed up to the close of Elizabeth's reign a sort of deliberative assembly to which the graver matters of public administration were commonly submitted by the Crown. A practice, however, of previously submitting such measures to a smaller body of the more important councillors must always have existed; and under James this secret committee, which was then known as the Cabala or Cabal, began almost wholly to supersede the Council itself.
In the large and balanced Council which was formed after the Restoration all real power rested with the "Cabala" of Clarendon, Southampton, Ormond, Monk, and the two Secretaries; and on Clarendon's fall these were succeeded by Clifford, Arlington, Buckingham, Ashley, and Lauderdale. By a mere coincidence the initials of the latter names formed the word " Cabal," which has ever since retained the sinister meaning their unpopularity gave to it. The effect of these smaller committees had undoubtedly been to remove the check which the larger numbers and the more popular composition of the Royal Council laid upon the Crown. The unscrupulous projects which made the Cabal of Clifford and his fellows a by-word among Englishmen could never have been laid before a Council of great peers and hereditary officers of State. To Temple therefore the organization of the Council seemed to furnish a check on mere personal government which Parliament was unable to supply. For this purpose the Cabala, or Cabinet, as it was now becoming the fashion to term the confidential committee of the Council, was abolished.
The Council itself was restricted to thirty members, and their joint income was not to fall below, £300,000, a sum little less than what was estimated as the income of the whole House of Commons. A body of great nobles and proprietors, not too numerous for secret deliberation, and wealthy enough to counterbalance either the Commons or the Crown, would form, Temple hoped, a barrier against the violence and aggression of the one power, and a check on the mere despotism of the other.
The new Council and the new ministry gave fair hope of a wise and patriotic government. But the difficulties were still great. The nation was frenzied with suspicion and panic. The elections to the Parliament had taken place amidst a whirl of excitement which left no place for candidates of the Court. The appointment of the new ministry, indeed, was welcomed with a general burst of joy. But the question of the Succession threw all others into the shade. At the bottom of the national panic lay the dread of a Catholic King, a dread which the after history of James fully justified. Shaftesbury was earnest for the exclusion of James, but as yet the majority of the Council shrank from the step, and supported a plan which Charles brought forward for preserving the rights of the Duke of York while restraining his powers as sovereign. By this project the presentation to Church livings was to be taken out of his hands on his accession. The last Parliament of the preceding reign was to continue to sit; and the appointment of all Councillors, Judges, Lord-Lieutenants, and officers in the fleet, was vested in the two Houses so long as a Catholic sovereign was on the throne.