SECRETARY OF STATE. The office of secretary of state is one of very antient date, and the person who fills it has been called variously " the king's chief secretary," "principal secretary," and, after the Restoration, " principal se cretary of state." He was in fact the king's private secretary, and had custody of the king's signet. The duties of the office were originally performed 1) a single person, who had the aid of four clerks. The statute 27 Hen. VIII. c. which regulates the fees to be taken by " the king's clerks of his grace's signet and privy seal," directs that all grants to be passed under any of his majesty's seals shall, before they are so sealed, be brougl.t sad delivered to the king's principal se cretary or to one of the clerks of the signet. The division of the office be tween two persons is said to have oc curred at the end of the reign of Henry VIII., but it is probable that the two secretaries were not until long afterwards of equal rank. Thus we find Sir Francis Walsingham, in the time of Queen Eliza beth, addressed as her majesty's principal secretary of state, although Dr. Thomas Wilson was his colleague in the office. Clarendon, when describing the chief ministers at the beginning of the reign of Charles I., mentions the two secre taries of state, " who were not in those days officers of that magnitude they have been since ; being only to make dispatches upon the conclusion of councils, not to govern or preside in those councils." Nevertheless the principal secretary of state must, by his immediate and constant access to the king, have been always a person of great influence in the state. The statute 31 Hen. VIII. c. 10, gives the king's chief secretary, if he is a baron or a bishop, place above all peers of the same degree ; and it enacts that if he is not a peer he shall have a seat reserved for him on the woolsack in parliament ; and in the Star Chamber and other con ferences of the council, that he shall be placed next to the ten great officers of state named in the statute. He probably
was always a member of the privy coun cil. Lord Camden, in his judgment in the case of Entick v. Carrington (1 1 Har grave's State Trials, p. 317), attributes the growth of the secretary of state's importance to his intercourse with am bassadors and the management of all the foreign correspondence of the state, after the policy of having resident ministers in foreign courts was established in Europe. Lord Camden, indeed, denies that he was antiently a privy counsellor.
The number of secretaries of state seems to have varied from time to time : in the reign of George III. there were often only two ; hut of late years there have been three principal secretaries of state. whose duties are divided into three departments—home affairs, foreign affairs, and the colonies. They are always made members of the privy council and the cabinet. They are appointed (without patent) by mere delivery to them of the seals of office by the king. Each is ca pable of performing the duties of all the three departments, and the offices are so far considered as one, that upon being removed from one secretaryship of state to another, a member of the House of Commons does not vacate his seat.
To the Secretary of State for the Home department belongs the maintenance of the peace within the kingdom, and the administration of justice so far as the royal prerogative is involved in it. All patents, charters of incorporation, com missions of the peace and of inquiry, pass through his office. He superintends the administration of affairs in Ireland.
The Secretary for Foreign affairs con ducts the correspondence with foreign states, and negotiates treaties with them, either through British ministers resident there, or personally with foreign minis ters at this court. He recommends to the crown ambassadors, ministers, and con suls to represent Great Britain abroad, and countersigns their warrants.