The Kitchen Cabinet
was a term used by political opponents of U.S. President Andrew Jackson
to describe the collection of unofficial advisors he consulted in parallel to the United States Cabinet
(the "parlor cabinet") following his purge of the cabinet at the end of the Eaton Affair
and his break with Vice President John Calhoun
In an unprecedented dismissal of five of the six Cabinet officials in the middle of his first term, Jackson dismissed Calhoun's allies Samuel D. Ingham, John Branch, and John M. Berrien as well as his own supporters, Secretary of State Martin Van Buren and John Eaton. However, Jackson retained Van Buren in Washington as the minister to Great Britain.
Jackson's Kitchen Cabinet included his longtime political allies Martin Van Buren, Francis Preston Blair, Amos Kendall, William B. Lewis, Andrew Donelson, John Overton, and his new attorney general Roger Brooke Taney. As newspapermen, Blair and Kendall were given particular notice by rival papers.
Blair was Kendall's successor as editor of the Jacksonian Argus of Western America, the prominent pro-New Court newspaper of Kentucky. Jackson brought Blair to Washington D.C. to counter Calhounite Duff Green, editor of The United States Telegraph, with a new paper, the Globe. Lewis had been quartermaster under Jackson during the War of 1812; Andrew Donelson was Jackson's adoptive son and private secretary; and Overton Jackson's friend and business partner since the 1790s.
The first known appearance of the term is in December 1831 correspondence by Bank of the United States
head Nicholas Biddle
, who wrote of the presidential advisors that "the kitchen . . . predominate[s] over the Parlor." The first appearance in publication was March 13, 1832 by Mississippi Senator George Poindexter
, in an article in the Calhounite Telegraph
defending his vote against Van Buren as minister to Great Britain:
The President's press, edited under his own eye, by a 'pair of deserters from the Clay party' [Kendall and Blair] and a few others, familiarly known by the appellation of the 'Kitchen Cabinet,' is made the common reservoir of all the petty slanders which find a place in the most degraded prints of the Union.
Many people opposed the kitchen cabinet, feeling that they could not make decisions as good as the pro forma
cabinet. Jackson wanted people who were actually living in the world, not careerists without perspective.
In colloquial use, "kitchen cabinet" refers to any group of trusted friends and associates, particularly in reference to a President's or presidential candidate's closest unofficial advisers. Clark Clifford
was considered a member of the kitchen cabinet for John F. Kennedy
and Lyndon B. Johnson
before he was appointed Secretary of Defense
. Robert Kennedy
was uniquely considered to be a kitchen cabinet member as well as a Cabinet member whilst he was his brother's Attorney General
Ronald Reagan had a kitchen cabinet of allies and friends from California who advised him during his terms. This group of ten to twelve rich businessmen were all strong proponents of the free enterprise system. His wealthy, conservative California backers included: William French Smith, Charles Wick, auto dealer Holmes Tuttle, beer baron Joseph Coors, philanthropist Earle Jorgensen, and about six to eight others. Coors was the major funder and most active participant. He also funded many think tanks and policy institutes at about this time, including the Heritage Foundation.
The term was introduced to British policies to describe British Prime Minister Harold Wilson
's inner circle during his terms of office (1964-1970 and 1974-1976); prior to Tony Blair
, Wilson was the longest ever serving Labour Party
Prime Minister. Members included Marcia Williams
, George Wigg
, Joe Haines
, and Bernard Donoughue
. The term has been used subsequently, especially under Tony Blair, for the sidelining of traditional democratic cabinet
structures to rely far more on a close group of non-elected advisors and allies. Examples of this practice include Blair's reliance on advisor Andrew Adonis
before his appointment to the cabinet. Traditionally, the role of creation of education policy would have rested on the Secretary of State for Education and Skills
when formulating policy.
- Latner, Richard B. "The Kitchen Cabinet and Andrew Jackson's Advisory System". The Journal of American History, Vol. 65, No. 2 (Sep., 1978), pp. 367-388
- Longaker, Richard P. "Was Jackson's Kitchen Cabinet a Cabinet?" The Mississippi Valley Historical Review, Vol. 44, No. 1 (Jun., 1957), pp. 94-108