The 1818 Parliament saw an intensification of party conflict, as the Whig opposition, having gained a few seats in the general election and installed George Tierney as their Commons leader, made a strong initial muster. However, their motion of censure against the Liverpool ministry in May 1819 was crushed by two to one; and there was a significant falling off in their numbers in opposition to the government’s repressive legislation (the so-called ‘Six Acts’) introduced in the emergency session of late 1819 in the aftermath of the Manchester ‘Peterloo’ incident. The Grenvillite squad pursued their own course, moving ever closer to the administration. The death of George III in late January 1820 brought the regent to the throne as George IV and necessitated a dissolution.
The general election began on 17 June and ended on 18 July 1818. Of the 380 constituencies, 120 (32 per cent) were contested. The principal issues aired were parliamentary reform, restrictions on civil liberty, economy and retrenchment and Catholic relief. A subsequent publication, entitled The Late Elections, purported to provide a record of the electoral professions of the candidates to act as a test for their future conduct, but its coverage was uneven and in many cases scanty. The Whig opposition did particularly well in the large English boroughs and gained about half a dozen seats overall. In Westminster, the Whig lawyer Sir Samuel Romilly and the radical Sir Francis Burdett beat the Tory candidate, but the outcome was seen as a tactical victory for the Whigs over the local reformers and a blow to Burdett’s prestige. In the by-election of March 1819, precipitated by Romilly’s suicide, the Whigs, with government and Court backing, returned their own man over Burdett’s acolyte. The radical bore Joseph Hume was returned for Aberdeen Burghs. Investigation of election petitions uncovered gross corruption at Barnstaple, Penryn and Camelford. The scapegoat Jew Sir Manasseh Masseh