Cabal

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A cabal is a number of people greater than two together in some close design, usually to promote their private views and interests in a church, state, or other community, often by intrigue. Cabals are sometimes secret societies composed of a few designing persons, and at other times are manifestations of emergent behavior in society or governance on the part of a community of persons who have well established public affiliation or kinship. The term can also be used to refer to the designs of such persons or to the practical consequences of their emergent behavior, and also holds a general meaning of intrigue and conspiracy. Its usage carries strong connotations of shadowy corners, back rooms and insidious influence; a cabal is more evil and selective than, say, a faction, which is simply selfish; because of this negative connotation, few organizations use the term to refer to themselves or their internal subdivisions. Amongst the exceptions is Discordianism, in which the term is used to refer to an identifiable group within the Discordian religion.

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Origins of the word

The term cabal derives from Kabbalah (a word that has numerous spelling variations), the mystical interpretation of the Hebrew scripture, and originally meant either an occult doctrine or a secret. It was introduced into English in the publication of Cabalaoa, a curious medley of letters and papers of the reigns of James and Charles I that appeared in 1654.[1]

Association with Charles II

The term took on its present meaning from a group of ministers of King Charles II of England (Sir Thomas Clifford, Lord Arlington, the Duke of Buckingham, Lord Ashley, and Lord Lauderdale), whose initial letters coincidentally spelled CABAL, and who were the signers of the public Treaty of Dover that allied England to France in a prospective war against the Dutch.[2] However, the Cabal Ministry they formed can hardly be seen as such — the Scot Lauderdale was not much involved in English governance at all; while the Catholic ministers of the Cabal, Clifford and Arlington, were never much in sympathy with the Protestants, Buckingham and Ashley, nor did Buckingham and Ashley get on very well with each other. Thus the "Cabal Ministry" never really unified in its members' aims and sympathies, and fell apart by 1672; Lord Ashley, who became Earl of Shaftesbury, later became one of Charles II's fiercest opponents. The explanation that the word originated as an acronym from the names of the group of ministers is a folk etymology, although the coincidence was noted at the time and could possibly have popularized its use. The group, who came to prominence after the fall of Charles's first prime minister, Lord Clarendon, in 1667, was rather called the Cabal because of its secretiveness and lack of responsibility to the "Country party" then run out of power.

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