Council of Correspondence

Council of Correspondence
尚書臺
djang′-st′ja-le
Government overview
Formed22 November 265 (265-11-22)
JurisdictionThemiclesia
HeadquartersKien-k'ang
Employees322 (council proper)
Annual budget$560 billion (OSD, 2017 nominal)
Parent GovernmentPrivy Treasury (formally)

The Council of Correspondence (尚書臺, djang′-st′ja-le) is the executive branch of the Themiclesian government. The Council consists of a number of ministers, politically responsible to the Parliament of Themiclesia. The meeting of the prime minister and other senior ministers is referred to as the Cabinet, in the Hadaway system.

Names

The two Shinasthana terms that refer to this body differ in their emphasis. The first describes it as a public body and assembly of individuals, while the second technically refers to the place where the body sits. This second sense overlaps with the first readily when the body is described as an institution. Both phrases share the phrase ′djang′-st′ja, meaning "to manage correspondence".

The Council has several names in Hallian and Tyrannian, varying in fidelity to the literal meaning of its name or accuracy to its function. In Hallian, the terms Royal Court, Royal Council, Great Council, Council of Affairs, Council of Letters, and Council of State have all been applied to the body at some point. Some of them have also been applied to other institutions, even by the same authors, generating some confusion. In Tyrannian, the terms Council of State and High Council seem most common, but Privy Council has also been used, probably in analogy to Tyrannian political institutions. In the 19th century, the Tyrannian term Council of Correspondence has been settled as the standard translation of the Shinasthana original.

The Council of Correspondence includes only one part of the broader Ministry, which is the group of all government ministers appointed by the crown with the confidence of Parliament.

Current composition

Title Holder Party Portfolio
President of Correspondence
Chancellor of Themiclesia
尚書令
晉相邦
djang′-st′ja-ringh
tsjinh-smjangh-prong
徐貽 Lja Le Liberal Head of government
Minister of the Left
Foreign Secretary
Left Vice Chancellor
Comptroller of Embassies
左僕射
客曹尚書
晉左丞相
典客
dzar-bok-ljagh
kr′ak-dzaw-djang′-st′ja
tsjinh-dzar-djêng-smjangh
den′-k.r′ak
蘇賀 Snga Gai Liberal Foreign affairs
Minister of the Right
Secretary of State for Education
Right Vice Chancellor
右僕射
祠部侯尚書
晉右丞相
gwrje′-bok-ljagh
mlje-be′-go-djang′-st′ja
tsjinh-gwrje′-djêng-smjangh
枚寬衍 Me Kwan-grên Liberal Education
Secretary of State for Public Affairs 左民尚書 dzar-mrjing-djang′-st′ja 司徒長 Slje-da Ntrjang Liberal Local government, law and order
Secretary of State for Finance
Inner Administrator of Themiclesia
Privy Treasurer
Comptroller of Waters
度支尚書
中内史
少府
水黃令
dagh-krjê-djang′-st′ja
trjung-nubh-srje
sm′jaws-pjo′
st′jui-gwrang-ringh
李睢 Rje Sklur Liberal
Secretary of State for the Environment 虞部尚書 ngwa-be'-djang′-st′ja 楚用初 Sng′rja′ Longh-ts′rja Liberal Environment, energy
Secretary of State for Health 紹曹尚書 stjawh-dzaw-djang′-st′ja 奐方  Hwarh Pjang Liberal Heath
Secretary of State for Social Services 右民尚書 gwrje′-mrjing-djang′-st′ja 周緄 Tju Kun Liberal Social security
Secretary of State for Transport 道途尚書 lu′-la-djang′-st′ja 商其涂 Stjang Gje-lra Liberal Roads, railways, aviation
Secretary of State for Technology 藝術尚書 ngjaih-sljut-djang′-st′ja 苡濙倫 Le Gwrjingh-run Liberal Technological development, industrial application
Secretary of State for Defence 衛邦尚書 gwrjaih-prjang-djang′-st′ja 沈最 Sdjem Tsodh Liberal
Secretary of State for Commerce 貿易尚書 mruh-lis-djang′-st′ja 孫之章 Sun Tje-tjang Liberal Domestic and international commerce
Secretary of State for Labour 從業尚書 dzjong-ljap-djang′-st′ja 陳徽 Drjen M′jei Liberal Labour, employment
Secretary of State for the East
Comptroller of Associated States
東國尚書
屬邦
tong-kwek-djang-st′ja
tjo′-prong
式袞 L′jek Kror′ Liberal Ethnic minority states
Minister without Portfolio 殿中尚書 ntenh-trjung-djang′-st′ja 王弱 Ghwjang Njakw Liberal
Minister without Portfolio 殿中尚書 ntenh-trjung-djang′-st′ja 高黎 Kaw Rji Liberal
Sometimes attending cabinet meetings
Secretary of the Left 尚書左丞 djang-stja-dzar-djêng 何鏞 Gar Long
Secretary of the Right 尚書右丞 djang-stja-gwrje-djêng 余參 La S.r′um
Marshal of Peers 主爵中尉 tjo-tsjakw-trjung-′judh 許佑 Mghja′ Gwrjes Liberal Leader of the House of Lords
Royal Secretary of Tribunes 御史中丞 ngjah-srje′-trjung-djêng 羅尚理 Ra Djang′-rje′ Chief Prosecutor
Secretary of Tribunes 御史丞 ngjah-srje′-djêng 琵科 Pri Kar  
President of the Privy Council 中大夫令 trjung-ladh-pja-ringh 雷稴 Rui K.rêm Liberal
First Lord-in-waiting
Keeper of Seals
侍中侯
典符節
lje′-trjung-go 嫝遂 K.r′ang Luih Liberal 
Usher-in-chief 大謁者 ladh-′jat-tja′ 呂麟 P.rja Rjing Liberal 
President of Protonotaries 中書令 trjung-stja-ringh 張懸 Trjang Gwên Liberal  Leader of the House of Commons

History

Precursor

The Council has its origins in Warring-States Menghe (2nd c. BCE to 3rd c. CE), in which the Correspondence Manager is found in some states as an official responsible for registering and dispatching the ruler's correspondence. During that period, the ruler had a smaller role in governance, most policies made and implemented by officials of the Outer Court, upon an expected approval from the throne. This situation continues into the early Meng dynasty, but later a more assertive emperor began to issue edicts through the Correspondence Manager and sidelined the Outer Court. Becoming the centre of policy, the Correspondence Manager gradually became a department, and officials there specialized into specific portfolios. The department became a college of ministers that become the de facto government, even though the Outer Court still retained administrative function.

Domestic origins

The Correspondence Manager first appeared in Themiclesian history during the Hexarchy, not long after its attestation in Menghe. It is mentioned in the Ran-lang Collection, dating to the 1st century CE and describing the chief officials of the Tsjinh state; however, the Collection provides no description of the office's roles, and no contemporary literature mentions the office at all. Historians attribute this office and a number of others to imitation of the Menghean court, though no direct evidence supports this conclusion. The vessels of investiture, bearing inscriptions recording appointments, yield only a single reference to the Correspondence Manager and then on an ostracon rather than bronze, suggesting that such an appointment was barely worth recording.

During the final century of the Tsjinh dynasty, the Correspondence Manager entered historical narratives as an agent of the Duke of N.rang (唐公), who became the guardian for the entire royal family and made decisions in its name. The Correspondence Manager was important in this case as he controlled the flow of information to and from the throne, whose duties the Duke assumed. In order to circumvent the bureaucracy controlled by the magnates of the demesne land and communicate with nobles beyond it, he appointed a confidant to the position.  In 397, N.rang's regency was overthrow by the Duke of Sungh (宋公), who relied on a different mechanism to secure power at court, so the Correspondence Manager again faded into anonymity.

In the middle of the 5th century, the Sungh ruler was compelled by battlefield logistics to reform his army, which hitherto was composed of royal, ducal, and baronial forces, each organizing its supplies. Prolonged warfare necessitated a central distribution of refurbishments and victuals; however, the barons were fearful that the nobles of the demesne land, free of military duty, would exempt themselves from supporting the war effort. Not willing to lose his barons' trust, the Sungh king promised to regulate the distribution of warfare burdens personally. He could not actually do this, so the barons selected a group amongst themselves to act as the Correspondence Manager, which had access to the papers of the Chancellor, the head of the bureaucracy dominated by the demesne nobles. But when the war ended, the demesne nobles forced the king to dissolve the new administration.

The Correspondence Manager, after the 450s, became a standard wartime council on which internal political borders were broken on the pretext of war. Many historians believe the council's purpose during the Sungh era was mediative—resolving the difference between groups of nobles that had divergent expectations or motives. The real operation of the council is difficult to ascertain, as it did not leave many records of itself. It thus followed that the council was not above the Chancellor in authority, and in some instances he dominated the barons appointed to it due to their inexperience, disunity, or his own charisma. In 497, a renewed round of warfare began under the Rjang king, who deposed the Sunghs in 492. The Council appears to have been transformed into a permanent chancery at this point with the power over all correspondence between the king and his subjects. Appointments to the council also evolved from barons to a mixture of demesne nobles and barons.

Institutionalization

The Council of Correspondence emerged as a permanent institution during the reign of King Ngjon of Rjang. It is an emergent view amongst historians that the Council evolved towards a college of ministers that had peacetime administrative functions as much as wartime utility. While its precursors during the Tsjinh and Sungh consisted of one or several undifferentiated "Correspondence Managers", it seems they began to assume different roles during the Rjang. The date for this change cannot be firmly dated, though some tentatively assign it to the 510s. The "Secretary for Dukes" (公), "Secretary for Barons" (侯), "Secretary for Treasuries" (諸府), and "Left Secretary for Envoys" (左客) are three titles attested in an edict of 544, the second year of Emperor Ngjon's reign; judging by his unfamiliarity with politcs, historians disfavour the possibility that he introduced these positions, instead consigning them to the period before his rule.

Historical treatises from the 7th century, with some discrepancies from 6th-century materials, say that the first dealt with the Chancellor's jurisdiction, which was the demesne land of the former Tsjinh area, the second, the barons and their feudal lands, and the third, the affairs of the palatine princes. Scholars infer the existence of a complementary "Right Secretary for Envoys" that dealt with truly-foreign states. This division of duties, once regarded as anomalous, is now regarded as firm support to the mediative function of the original Council. Whatever the original division of duties within it, the first Mrangh monarchs sought to reshape it in the image of Chŏllo's institutions that enabled much more centralized rule. Emperor Ngjon successfully portrayed existing institutions as backwards, but he met limited success in aggregating power to himself.

Departmentalization

The Council of Correspondence underwent some changes at the end of the 6th century, reflecting the Mrangh monarchy's desire for increased authority. Historians note that the secretaryships for "subjects" (民曹) and "appropriations" (度支) appeared in annals in 587. These positions are interpreted as imports from Chŏllo rule, since their portfolios were covered by the Chancellor up to this point.  Some writers start using the term "secretary of state" for members of the Council in the Mrangh dynasty to indicate their increased responsibilities, but other hold the Council did not enjoy primacy in policy-making, and thus its members should not be called "secretaries of state". In the post-restoration political scene, much power rested with the barons. They made known their political will in the celebration of the new administrative year, for which they travelled to the royal capital city.

During the early 7th century, the throne wished to dispense with the barons, who up to this point had been supporting him in exchange for baronial autonomy and some control over his royal court. The theme of centralization continues in the Tsjinh area but is reversed under the first handful of Mrangh emperors for the palatine states, where he sought to strenghthen the barons there relative to their rulers. This led to the re-emergence of a politics not unlike the end of the Rjang, where distant allies are sought at the expense of nearby enemies, with the hope the former outnumbered the latter. The cultural import of the Mrangh ruler is canonically thought to explain its success at this time, rather than during the Rjang period; however, modern historians have proposed other theories to explain this development.

In order to establish control over the Council, the ruler began to merge into it some functions of the Chancery. Thus, in 642, the Treasuries secretaryship was merged into that of Appropriations, which unified royal finances with that of the demesne land. The appearance of the Subjects secretaryship heralded the fraying of the Chancellor's power, since the Council then oversaw judicial and census records. In 694, the secretaryship for Forces appeared, which duplicated or subsumed the functions of two departments of the Chancery—the Command Department and Marshal Department. At the same time, the secretaryships also appeared on official bureaucratic ranks, a process of harmonization with the accustomed governance structure of the demesne land. In turn, it meant the emperor now sided with the bureaucracy and tried to extend its influence over baronial sub-polities.

At the end of the Mrangh dynasty, the familiar septimal configuration began to take shape. The Barons secretaryship was renamed Cults, since the chief role of barons during peacetime was contribution to cultic activities. Additionally, the maintenance of the royal ancestral cult was used as a device to control barons' incomes and lands, whose products were permanently assigned to sacrificial ends after rebellion. This deprived them of much of their disposable income but avoided harsh treatment that could have provoked other barons into a unified revolt. In 752, the Cults secretaryship was retro-named Barons, but its role was unchanged.

Structure

All ministers on the Cabinet, as all members of the broader Ministry, are appointed by the sovereign with the confidence of the House of Commons, which can also withdraw confidence. The confidence of the House is effective as far ministerial rank is concerned; the specific portfolios each minister is, legally speaking, not subject to the approval of the House of Commons, though conflicts rarely arise over this discrepancy. Likewise, it is custom that a minister also be a member of either house of Parliament. The leader of the parliamentary party will almost always be the President of the Council, though exceptions have occurred. If party leader has made a commitment to one policy area, he may take that portfolio himself to ensure the implementation of the policy.

President of Correspondence

Rui L′jam, prime minister, with a Hallian military officer, 1960

The head of government is the President of Correspondence (尚書令), though in Tyrannian media this title is universally rendered as "Prime Minister". As the senior member of the Cabinet, he is expected to lead the discussion in interdepartmental matters and to settle disputes between other Cabinet members. Politics prevents him from making new policies and introducing bills without the consensus of his colleages. A prime minister unable to maintain a united Council or Parliamentary confidence is vulnerable to intrigue from within the Council and dissatisfaction in the parliamentary party. If most of the Council chooses to endorse another person as President, they may introduce bills to compel the President to switch places with someone else.

It should be noted that the prime minister does not always carry the title of President of Correspondence. In the 19th century, it was customary for prime ministers to be peers, but Lord Tl'jang-mjen (governed 1872 – 1878) and Lord L'ong-mjen (1880 – 85 and 88 – 90) thought they would be politically weakened if elevated to the peerage and removed from the House of Commons; thus, they used the title Minister of Correspondence (尚書僕射) or Deputy Prime Minister to circumvent this dilemma. The title of the President remained vacant during their respective tenures. The first non-peer to become President of Correspondence was Go Mjanh-kre, in 1910.

The style and conduct of each prime minister varies considerably. The prime minister is conventionally permitted to make the first and last speeches on any topic, but individual ministers are expected to lead the discussion within their respective portfolios. The prime minister supervises the Council's secretariat, which supports Cabinet deliberation and handles issues not assigned to any specific department. Because originally the Council met in the early morning and reported to the emperor after the meeting, the prime minister has the implied power to constrain time on each debate. As a political weapon, the President could deploy it against an initiative he did not like, though prolonged reliance on this tactic generates acrimony and casts a negative light on his ability to lead the Ministry.

Left and Right Minister

Both the Left Minister and Right Minister are titled "Assistant" (僕射), a title rendered as "Deputy Prime Minister", though this can be misleading interpreted literally. The title of Left Minister is customarily granted to the Secretary of State for Aliens, who regularly presides over the Cabinet when the prime minister is absent. The Right Minister almost always simultaneously holds the title Secretary of State for Barons. Though historically this position had more oversight in the maintenance of mausolea, temples, and shrines, these institutions often accumulated large stores of literature and functioned as studies for aspiring scholars. Jurisdiction over them evolved into that over education, and today that has become the holder's function.

Other members

The most senior member less the three above is the Civil Secretary, who is responsible for maintaining the civil service through recruitment, regulation, compensation, and honours. He has the final say in filling positions of the Seventh Class (county magistrate) and lower, which represent more than 99% of all positions. For those higher, he is also expected to nominate competent candidates, and it is not unknown for holders of this position to resign after particularly poor appointments have been made. It should be noted that the Civil Secretary must still abide by statutory restrictions in filling positions in the civil service, and a considerable portion of them do require prior experience in related fields or qualifying through competitive examinations; within these bounds and subject to conscientious practice, the Civil Secretary can generally act according to his own will.

Seat

The seat of the Council of Correspondence is the Court Hall in the Sk'ên'-ljang Palace. It is simply called the "court of audience" (朝廷) by most Themiclesian authors in both the geographic and political sense; by later ages, the seat has become synonymous to the government that occupies it.

Council of Six

For a long period after the Dzi, the formal membership of the Council and its connections with other parts of the medieval bureaucracy have become customary and resisted changes from multiple sources. The eight customary positions are as follows:

  • President: appointed by the crown
  • Left Minister, Secretary of State for Aliens: foreign affairs
  • Right Minister, Secretary of State for Barons: judicial appeals and administrative submissions from baronies
  • Secretary of State for Elections: oversight of the civic election process, assessment of administrators
  • Secretary of State for Appropriations: state coffers
  • Secretary of State for Military Forces: military activities, both demesne and baronial

See also

Notes