This Parliament existed for only 138 days, but saw two administrations. The general election consolidated the numerical supremacy of Lord Grenville’s coalition ministry of ‘All the Talents’, but, after carrying abolition of the slave trade, it was brought down in March 1807 by the king’s unyielding resistance to any concessions on Catholic relief. The ailing 3rd duke of Portland became the figurehead premier of a largely Pittite government. Their displaced opponents mustered strongly in hostile divisions in April 1807, and the king readily granted Portland a dissolution at the end of the month.
The 1806 general election ran from 29 Oct. to 2 Dec. There were contests in 87 of the 380 constituencies (23 per cent). There was a bitter struggle between government and the Pittite opposition in Hampshire, where the ministerialists won, but there ensued a parliamentary vendetta over alleged treasury interference. The highest rate of contests occurred in Scotland (12, or 27 per cent), where the Scottish Foxites harboured hopes of overturning the long-established Melvillite supremacy. Grenville entrusted the Scottish campaign to William Adam, who did his best, but had to concede after the elections that ministers could count on at most 28 friends among the 45 Scottish Members, with 14 in opposition and three uncertain. This was the least satisfactory return for government for any part of the kingdom; but the election had come too soon for the Scottish Foxites, who were inhibited by Grenville’s reluctance to alienate the Pittites by a wholesale purge of Melvillites. Overall, 137 Members with no previous parliamentary experience came in (21 per cent); and a further nine were returned at by-elections.
The Grenville ministry probably increased its majority over the Pittite opposition by about 30. The Sidmouthites lost about a dozen of their 30 or so seats. Yet within four months the government was terminated. Meanwhile, Grenville, who in June 1806 had, at the prompting of Charles James Fox and the Evangelical M