SPENCER, see John Charles, John Charles, Visct. Althorp (1782-1845), of Wiseton Hall, nr. East Retford, Notts.
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Family and Education
b. 30 May 1782, 1st s. of George John Spencer†, 2nd Earl Spencer, and Lady Lavinia Bingham, da. of Charles Bingham†, 1st earl of Lucan [I]; bro. of Hon. Frederick Spencer*. educ. Harrow 1790-8; Trinity Coll. Camb. 1800-2; grand tour 1802-3. m. 13 Apr. 1814, Esther, da. and h. of Richard Acklom of Wiseton, s.p. suc. fa. as 3rd Earl Spencer 10 Nov. 1834. d. 1 Oct. 1845.
Ld. of treasury Feb. 1806-Mar. 1807; PC 22 Nov. 1830; chan. of exch. and leader of House of Commons Nov. 1830-Dec. 1834.
Cornet, Northants. yeoman cav. 1802, capt.-lt. 1805.
In a fragment of autobiography begun on his retirement from politics at the end of 1834, Althorp, the most personally attractive of the half dozen men who dominated the Commons in this period, wrote:
There is only one object ... worthy of the ambition of a man of sense, and that is, to obtain the favour of God. Political pursuits and political rivalships are not the means to conduce to this end ... The occupations and the compliances which necessarily belong to a political man must ... have a tendency to diminish religious feelings.1
In March 1818 he told his friend Lord Milton* that ‘my vanity was very near overpowering my reason’ when he was asked by some Whig activists to undertake the leadership of the Whig party in the Commons: although he was aware of his ‘total incapacity for the office’ and ‘decidedly refused’, he recognized that he had strong credentials for it, in that his good relations with the mainstream Whigs George Tierney* and Henry Brougham* and the reformers Sir Francis Burdett* and John Lambton*, and his intimacy with Lord Folkestone* and Henry Grey Bennet* of the ‘Mountain’, with whom he had acted sporadically in the 1807 Parliament, made ‘my personal influence in the ... Commons perhaps more general than that of any of our party’. His close friendship with Lord Lansdowne, a potential leader in the Lords, was another asset.2 The death of his wife in childbed three months later devastated him and drove him for a time to a reclusive life at their home at Wiseton, where he took consolation in his simple religious faith, which was strengthened by his grief. Thereafter he surrendered himself to God’s will and, unable to withdraw from politics because they were both a duty and a compulsion, perceived his political conduct in terms of his relationship with God and his ultimate salvation. In effect if not in name an Evangelical, he sought atonement through public service. He gave up fox hunting (but not shooting) and intensified his interest in farming and the breeding of stock, which was his consolation in dark moments. He coupled his religious reading with a study of the tenets of political economy: both strands of thought influenced his subsequent career as one of the ‘Young Whigs’ who, despairing of the laziness and cynicism of the older Foxite leadership, sought to prevent the radicals from seizing the initiative in the promotion of a liberal agenda, which included parliamentary reform.3 In person Althorp was ‘short and corpulent’, but robustly built. After his wife’s death he invariably wore predominantly black clothes. His habit of keeping his double-breasted cashmere waistcoat ‘buttoned up close to his chin’, even in the hottest weather, doubtless enhanced the ‘florid’ hue of his face, which one observer wrote in 1837 generally bore a ‘soft and stupid’ expression: ‘His appearance altogether is exactly that of a farmer, and his manners are remarkable for their unaffected simplicity’.4
Althorp’s determined parliamentary opposition to the Liverpool ministry’s repressive legislation after Peterloo and his appearance on the platform at the Westminster protest meeting, 8 Dec. 1819 (which annoyed his sour natured mother, from whom he was more or less alienated) prompted some of the Northamptonshire Tories to consider opposing him at the 1820 general election, but the notion ended in smoke and he came in unopposed again with the Tory Cartwright, in accordance with the tacit compromise which had operated since their return together in 1806.5 Had he been faced with a contest, he would, as he had confided to his father, have retired from Parliament, both to save Lord Spencer and himself wasted expenditure and because ‘attendance ... is a diminution instead of an increase of my happiness, and I have not the satisfaction of feeling that I do any good by the sacrifice I am making’. He anticipated a heavy defeat for the opposition and the early retirement through ill health of Tierney, the Commons leader since 1818, which would leave the Whigs ‘worse off than ever’, as Brougham, the only serious alternative, was not ‘fit’ to be a leader. Ironically, Tierney himself, telling Sir James Mackintosh* that he could not go on much longer, saw Brougham as the only choice and ‘regretted that Lord Althorp, whom he most wished, was not acceptable to many’.6 A half-expected bid to oust him as chairman of the county quarter sessions came to nothing. At the dinner, he toasted the royal family ‘without the naming ... Queen [Caroline] particularly, which is the Tory mode of doing it at present’, but he ‘thought it would be foolish to do anything which may produce anger, as everyone seemed to be in very good humour’. Stricken by ‘a fit of gout’, he went in mid-April 1820 to Leamington in order to ‘get me into good trim to stand the House ... which will give me probably some pretty hard work’. After benefiting from the waters, he told his father, 23 Apr. 1820:
I do not apprehend that the ... session will be a very busy one ... If the ministers are contented with the same civil list that the late king had, I should not think it would be adviseable for us to endeavour to reduce it ... By taking a conciliatory line with the people the country might be very well governed without the additional 11,000 ... [troops] raised in the autumn, but it would be a very disadvantageous question for us if we were to press for ... reduction ... at the very time when the disturbances in Yorkshire and Scotland have compelled the military to be called upon actual service ... There does not remain much to do, except any question relative to the queen should arise ... I shall have my hands quite full, for I must instantly begin upon the insolvent debtors.7
Althorp reintroduced his bill to amend the Insolvent Debtors Act, which had passed both Houses in the previous Parliament but had been overtaken by the dissolution, on 17 May 1820. It empowered three commissioners to investigate the affairs of debtors and gave creditors the right to compel them to surrender their effects after nine months’ imprisonment. With the backing of the government law officers he saw the measure to a third reading, 16 June.8 It was amended in the Lords and received royal assent on 26 July 1820. On 21 Feb. 1821 he secured leave to introduce a bill to improve further the system of recovering small debts by establishing new county courts, presided over by reputable barristers, to administer it. The measure was condemned by the attorney-general, 15 Mar., and Althorp abandoned it for the session on 11 May.9 He tried again in 1823, when he had a select committee appointed, 18 Feb., and brought in a bill based on its report, which he did not press that session.10 He reintroduced his measure in 1824 and 1825, when he unsuccessfully resisted ministerial attempts to include compensation for Westminster Hall lawyers for loss of income. In the latter session, when he secured the appointment of another select committee (15 Feb.) and accepted an element of compensation, the bill foundered in the Upper House on the intractability of lord chancellor Eldon, and Althorp gave it up as a hopeless cause as long as he remained in office. In the House, 27 Mar. 1826, he urged Peel, the home secretary, to take over the measure, as its only chance of success. Peel’s response was guarded, but Althorp left the business in his hands for the future.11
He attended a party meeting at Burlington House, ‘the first which I ever attended that I thought likely to be useful’, 4 May 1820, when it was decided that Brougham should attack the droits of admiralty as part of the civil list next day. He voted in the opposition minority, and again on the general civil list, 8 May, and told his father on the 12th that they had had ‘two very good divisions’ and that ministers seemed ‘considerably alarmed at the state of things’.12 He continued to divide regularly but mostly silently with opposition in this short session. He voted for referring agricultural distress petitions to a select committee, 30 May, though he expected nothing to be ‘gained’, especially when the inquiry’s remit was restricted by ministers, and he observed to his father that by taking out repeated loans the chancellor of the exchequer Vansittart was ‘going directly forward to ruin’; Tierney would ‘not stir’ on this issue, which Althorp and others wished to raise.13 On 14 June he spoke and was a minority teller with his friend and mentor on economic issues Sir Henry Parnell for inquiry into the Irish Union duties. He had already predicted ‘a terrible combustion in the party’ over Queen Caroline, whose ‘very indiscreet’ championing by Brougham worried him;14 but he was a teller for the minority against Wilberforce’s compromise resolution, 22 June, and divided against the appointment of the green bag committee, 26 June. Condemning the barrack agreement bill, 10 July 1820, he ‘protested vehemently’ at the argument of the war secretary Lord Palmerston that troops were best kept isolated from the public.15 After the session he moved from Spencer House into his ‘old quarters’ in the Albany, where he planned to set up a chemistry laboratory to investigate the application of science to farming, in which he was ‘pretty sure I am more likely to be of use to my fellow creatures ... than in politics, for they are more hopeless than ever’.16 His doing so ‘without ever having dropped the slightest hint ... to me’ angered his mother, who roundly condemned him:
He is certainly the most unamiable and unsocial being ... reserved, suspicious, and repelling to a degree seldom seen ... I am sure he needed not to have feared any persuasion from me to alter his determination, since his society affords me very little else than regret at his unhappy disposition and strange lack of all affectionate feeling and openness of heart ... This additional instance of his poverty of mind and contraction of heart is ... only a confirmation of what I have had too long reason to know.17
Althorp, who believed the queen to be ‘guilty, though I do not think it has been anything like proved’, was against Milton’s notion of calling a county meeting on the issue, while admitting that he approved of its ‘objects’ of demanding the dismissal of ministers and a prorogation of Parliament. At Althorp in October he found both parents ‘stout anti-queenites’, but at the Whig gathering at Holkham subsequently he discovered that she was there ‘considered as nothing else than spotless innocence personified’. His private hope that the bill of pains and penalties would not come before the Commons was gratified by ministers’ abandonment of it in mid-November.18 He remained adverse to holding county meetings, both because he thought that thereby the Whigs would ‘undo all the good’ which ministers’ ‘extreme folly has done during the last few months’, for the comparatively unimportant object of trying to secure the queen’s rights, and because in the case of a Northamptonshire meeting, which he would be obliged to attend, it would be ‘rather awkward to be obliged to differ ... with our friends as to the propriety of calling it’.19
Yet he was delighted with the Whig ‘victory’ at the Derbyshire meeting in January 1821, when he told Milton that he was ‘rather inclined to think that notwithstanding all that has passed the ministers will be too strong for us this session’.20 He was absent from the division on the omission of the queen’s name from the liturgy, 23 Jan., but voted for its restoration and presented a Wellingborough petition for inquiry into the prosecution and for parliamentary reform, 26 Jan.21 He attended but did not speak at the Surrey county meeting called to air the same issues, 2 Feb., and testified to its ‘respectability’ in the House, 8 Feb., having duly voted for the opposition censure motion on the 6th.22 On 12 Feb. he wrote to his constituent John Gotch deploring ‘the recent conduct of the House of Commons’:
No man can now ... assert that they express the feelings of the country. If the people choose to submit, well and good, and they must be satisfied to be told by Lord Londonderry that they have been under a delusion; but if there is a grain of English spirit left, petitions for reform of Parliament will come from every parish ... I do not mean that they should be for universal suffrage or anything of that kind, but generally for such a reform as will give the people a greater influence on the decisions of the ... Commons.23
He spoke and voted for Milton’s proposal to make Leeds a scot and lot borough if it got Grampound’s seats, 2 Mar., wanted inquiry into the Lyme Regis petitioners’ allegations of Lord Westmorland’s electoral interference, 12 Apr., and divided for Lord John Russell’s parliamentary reform motion, 9 May. He voted for Catholic relief, 28 Feb. He divided only sporadically in support of the Mountaineers’ campaign for economy and retrenchment. On 29 Mar. he said the ministerial proposals for the timber duties were ‘quite at variance with true commercial principles’; but on 5 Apr. he opposed Parnell’s attempt to reduce them on the ground that as long as the colonial system was maintained, reasonable protection was justified. He presented and endorsed petitions against the additional malt duty, 3 Apr., and urged Tory country gentlemen to disregard the empty government threat to resign if the repeal bill was carried against them;24 he was in the minority for it, 12 Apr., when he supported (as ever) a proposal to repeal the usury laws. He was named to the select committee on agricultural distress, 7 Mar. He evidently gave up attendance for the session in the second week of May, partly on account of a severe attack of bilious gout, which took several weeks to shake off.25 At a Holkham sheep-shearing dinner, 2 July, he described himself as ‘but a young agriculturist’ who had ‘never expected any good’ from the distress committee, which had largely ignored what he considered to be the root of the problem, excessive taxation.26 In early October 1821 his brother George told their sibling Frederick that Althorp was
more eager than ever after his present hobby of cows, sheep and pigs ... It is ... the best employment for anybody who lives so much alone as he does ... and ... I never knew a person who knew as well how to get on by himself, without being more or less unfitted for society. I wish he would marry ... but I am convinced he is as much determined against that as ever. He says he lives alone more comfortably as he grows older, but I do not think he will find his account in it when he really grows positively old.27
At the turn of the year his brother-in-law William Henry Lyttelton† reported that he was
in much better health than he has had for many years, owing to prescriptions and rules of a Dr. Scudamore’s, who put him upon a sensible, plain but nourishing diet, which he has kept now for five months ... He has had no cold nor any ailment at all for a long time, and can ride 45 miles on end without fatigue. He says he thinks he is as strong as ever again. He looks uncommonly well, and quite sufficiently fat ... and yet within these three months he has lost sixteen pounds.28
In January 1822 Russell, surveying the Commons scene after the ministerial reshuffle and absorption of the Grenvillites, judged the Whigs to be ‘the strongest party in the House’ and thought that Althorp ‘might be leader of the band’, with Brougham as ‘first fiddle’.29 This did not happen, but Althorp was much more active in the Commons than in the previous year, even though he missed the early divisions on the address and against the repressive legislation for Ireland. He voted for Brougham’s motion for extensive tax cuts to relieve distress, 11 Feb., and on the 15th, presenting a petition for abolition of the leather tax, pressed ministers to act decisively on this issue.30 On 21 Feb. he proposed a resolution that their planned cuts were ‘not sufficient to satisfy the just expectations of the people’, arguing that the £5,000,000 surplus could be used to reduce taxes. He got 126 votes to 234.31 He voted fairly steadily for economy and retrenchment until mid-March: he spoke for admiralty reductions, 1 Mar., and for taking 10,000 men from the army, 4 Mar. A week later he wrote to Milton:
I do not know whether I agree with you in wishing to see our friends in administration. I like some of them very much and I had much rather the ship should go ashore, as she indubitably will, when my adversaries are at the helm ... I do not see a possibility of our getting through our difficulties ... We shall go on in an alternation of agricultural and manufacturing distress. This must be the case with any country taxed out of proportion beyond the rest of the world ... Capital must leave us and we shall go from bad to worse, till our ruin is complete. I fear it is not in the power of man to prevent this and I therefore do not wish to see any of my friends in a situation where disgrace will accompany failure though there is no chance of success.32
Resuming attendance after Easter, he voted for Russell’s reform motion, 25 Apr. He threw ‘a great deal of cold water’, as his mother reported, on an unsuccessful Northamptonshire farmers’ attempt to secure a county meeting to petition for tax cuts and reform; but when he presented the petition, 12 June, he said that in refusing the requisition the sheriff had ‘not exercised a sound discretion’.33 He denounced the leather tax, on behalf of his constituents, 30 Apr., but defended ministerial relaxation of the navigation laws, 6 May.34 Later that month he was mentioned again as the ‘best man’ to lead the Whigs in the Commons, but he was supposed to have approved Lord Tavistock’s* fanciful notion of installing Burdett at the helm.35 He divided with his friends on most major issues for the rest of the session, including for criminal law reform, 4 June, but he appears to have absconded after 1 July. He spoke and was a teller for the minority against the ‘most arbitrary’ Irish constables bill, 7 June, and was a teller for the minority against the aliens bill, 14 June. Although he agreed with it in principle, he declined to vote for Wyvill’s amendment for large tax reductions, moved to oppose considering the agricultural distress report, 8 May, because he considered the existing corn laws to be ‘so bad, that any of the proposed resolutions would be much better’. In the committee, he contended that farmers wanted the ‘steady price’ which a duty of 60-70s. per quarter would ensure. Next day he moved for a duty of 20s. on wheat imports and an enhanced bounty of 18s. on exports. Ricardo opposed this proposal, which was beaten by 201-24. Althorp then voted in the minority of 25 for Ricardo’s plan for a 20s. fixed duty. He complained that it was ‘highly unfair that it should be insinuated that all persons who voted for a reduction of taxes contemplated a national bankruptcy’, 13 May. On 10 July 1822 he reluctantly agreed to act on ‘the Christian principle’ by complying with the urgent plea of James Abercromby* for him to accompany him to Scotland as his second in a possible duel with the advocate William Menzies. They reached Ferrybridge next day, but turned back on discovering that the Commons had intervened to prevent further action.36
Althorp agreed with Milton that it was ‘foolish’ to move an amendment to the address in 1823, as some intended, and decided to stay away. He confessed that French aggression against Spain had put him in ‘such a fury that I have not proper possession of my faculties’ and argued that ministers ‘should have proposed an offensive and defensive alliance with Spain on condition of her acknowledging the independence of South America’: war was preferable to passivity while ‘every vestige of liberty is destroyed on the continent and everything is to be dependent on an oligarchy of barbarian tyrants’.37 He voted against the appointment of a lieutenant-general of the ordnance in peacetime, 19 Feb., and for inquiry into the parliamentary franchise, 20 Feb. He was absent until 6 Mar., when he voted against the national debt reduction bill. He joined the Political Economy Club at this time. He divided for a repeal of assessed taxes, 18 Mar. He told Brougham, 17 Mar., that he thought the scheme of ‘a republican form of government for the opposition’ concocted by Lambton and Lord Duncannon* was ‘rather a bad plan’, but that he would not object to it if Brougham endorsed it.38 On 16 Apr. he got 110 votes (to 216) for repeal of the Foreign Enlistment Act. He voted for inquiry into the prosecution of the Dublin Orange rioters, 22 Apr., for Russell’s reform motion, 24 Apr., and reform of the Scottish representative system, 2 June. He led the opposition to renewal of the Irish Insurrection Act, 12 May, and advocated prior inquiry into the state of the country; he was defeated by 162-82. On 15 May he declared against the precipitate abolition of slavery and endorsed the government’s amelioration resolutions as a step in the right direction. He differed from Ricardo and John Maberly in their wish to see malt rather than beer taxed, 28 May 1823. He divided for information on Catholic burials, 6 Feb., secured detailed returns relating to the state of Ireland, 19 Feb.,39 and was a minority teller for an account of Irish Catholic office-holders, which would expose the prevailing ‘exclusive system’, 19 Feb. 1824. He divided for reform of Edinburgh’s representation, 26 Feb., and in small minorities against items of the ordnance estimates next day. He presented petitions for repeal of the leather tax, 1 Mar.40 He spoke and voted for Hobhouse’s motion for repeal of the window tax, 2 Mar., but in so doing expressed approval of the government’s plans for the silk and wool duties, though not for those on coal; he condemned the sinking fund system. He presented constituency petitions for improvement of the conditions of West Indian slaves, 2 Mar., and for the abolition of slavery, 22 Mar.;41 but he did not vote to censure the prosecution of the Methodist missionary John Smith in Demerara, 11 June. (He had been ‘unavoidably absent’ the previous day.)42 He moved unsuccessfully for information on the Irish government’s dealings with ribbon men, arguing that the time was ripe for conciliation, 11 Mar. That day he was in a minority of 14 against the Welsh judicature bill and brought in a measure to restrict Irish landlords’ right to distrain their tenants’ growing crops. He abandoned this on 17 May, pending a select committee’s report.43 He acquiesced in the grant for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospels in the colonies, 13 Mar. On the 15th, when he voted to end army flogging, he objected to Maberly’s proposal for the separate collection of the malt and beer duties. He offered to support the grant for Irish Protestant charter schools if ministers would concede an inquiry into Irish education, 15 Mar., but when this was refused he divided in the hostile minority of 33. He was in that of 27 against the grant for publishing Irish proclamations, 19 Mar. He spoke and voted against the aliens bill, though he wished Hobhouse had not called it a blot on the statute book, 23 Mar., and was a teller for the minority against the second reading, 2 Apr. He welcomed Canning’s assurance that it would be allowed to lapse next year, 3 Apr. He voted for defence by counsel in felony trials, 6 Apr., and against the subsidy for new church building, 9, 12 Apr. He supported a motion for an advance of capital to Ireland, which he likened to a ‘very rich’ but ‘out of condition’ farm. He did not vote for Hume’s motion for inquiry into the Irish church establishment, 6 May, but on the 11th he proposed investigation by select committee of the whole state of Ireland, recommending tax cuts, reform of the ‘jobbing’ culture and of grand jury presentments, a modest redistribution of church revenues and the abolition of all secret societies. He had a respectable minority of 136 to 184. He divided to end Irish pluralism, 27 May. He voted for repeal of the assessed taxes, 10 May, and of the leather tax, 18 May, and said that the warehoused wheat bill was a matter of ‘perfect indifference’ to the agricultural interest, 17 May 1824.
Althorp agreed with Brougham that opposition must make Ireland and Catholic relief, which had been ‘opposed only by prejudice, folly and bigotry’, their priority in the 1825 session, regardless of the potential threat to his electoral interests. He approved of the Irish Catholic leader Daniel O’Connell’s* ‘wise line’.44 He spoke and voted against the bill to suppress the Catholic Association as ‘an infringement of the liberties of the people’, 15 Feb., and opposed it steadily thereafter. He was a teller for the minority in favour of allowing the Association to put its case at the bar of the House, 18 Feb. He was named to the select committee on the state of Ireland, 17 Feb., and on it shared in the examination of O’Connell, whom he had met socially beforehand.45 He voted silently for Catholic relief, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May, and on 22 Apr. said that as a reformer he would support the attendant bill to disfranchise the 40s. freeholders because it would only ‘deprive ... those who had no independent votes’. Supporting the first of Maberly’s resolutions for repeal of the assessed taxes, 3 Mar., he commended ministers for the progress they had made towards ‘bringing back our revenue to a sound and wholesome system’, but urged them not to maintain these taxes ‘against the wishes of the country’. He divided for repeal of the window tax, 17 May. He supported Whitmore’s motion for revision of the corn laws, 28 Apr., but next day presented petitions against any alterations.46 He supported the ministerial bill to rectify defects in Hume’s Combination Act of 1824, 3 May, in order to ‘secure from the effects of threats those workmen who were willing to labour’. He spoke and voted for Brougham’s motion to make puisne judges immovable, 20 May 1825. No further parliamentary activity has been found for that session: he evidently did not join in the opposition to the duke of Cumberland’s annuity bill. He had grave doubts about whether to subscribe to Brougham’s scheme for a London University, fearing that it would be godless, even though he recognized that it would be ‘a great benefit to the country to put scientific instruction within the reach of so many more people’. John Smith*, to whom Brougham showed his letter, commented that ‘his motives are creditable ... but it confirms the opinion I always entertained of his capacity. He certainly has not the art of expressing himself clearly, which everyone with distinct ideas is sure to attain sooner or later’.47
Althorp saw no merit in calling a county meeting to petition for the abolition of slavery, as he told Milton, 11 Feb. 1826. Apart from not wishing to agitate his constituents so close to an election, when ‘No Popery or corn’ might be raised against him, he reckoned that such meetings were ‘not so much intended and certainly not so much calculated to procure the emancipation of the slaves as to increase the power of the Methodists’. He hoped the government would be able to carry their bills to deal with the banking crisis, but was not convinced, as ‘they appeared very weak in the House last night’.48 One of the few leading Whigs who did not think that the Catholic question should be set aside until after the elections, he pressed Goulburn, the Irish secretary, to disclose ministerial plans for Ireland, 16 Feb. He subsequently let the issue alone.49 He voted in the minority of 24 on the promissory notes bill, 20 Feb., and supported Maberly’s call for the monthly publication of the amount of notes in circulation, 24 Feb. On the 28th he questioned the terms of the proposed exchequer bills loan. He voted with Hume for monthly bank returns, 7 Mar., and was named to the select committee on bank notes, 16 Mar. He presented anti-slavery petitions, 1 Mar., and next day, when he voted to condemn the Jamaican slave trials, told Gotch, who had sent the petitions to him, that ‘we have gained a step, for I should think the colonial legislature will hardly venture to refuse to pass the measure proposed to them by government’.50 He voted for army reductions, 3, 6, 7 Mar., and in the minority of 38 to exclude non-resident electors from Irish boroughs, 9 Mar. He divided against the salary arrangements for the president of the board of trade, 10 Apr., and for reform of Edinburgh’s representation, 13 Apr., and seconded Russell’s reform motion, which aimed to restore their lost ‘power’ to the people, 27 Apr. He had decided early in the session not to vote for Whitmore’s motion for revision of the corn laws (18 Apr.), because ‘nothing like a reasonable settlement can be expected just previous to a general election’ and the measures to restrict the circulation of small notes required ‘an importation of the precious metals’ to stabilize the currency.51 On 4 May, when he voted for Hume’s state of the nation motion, he demanded a final settlement of the corn question; and he opposed the emergency admission of bonded corn as mere tinkering, 5, 8 May. On 19 Apr. he said that Littleton’s proposals for the conduct of private bill committees ‘did not go precisely ... to any ... of the causes of complaint’ and ‘must inevitably throw a great deal of additional labour on ... Members’. He spoke and voted for defence by counsel to aid uneducated prisoners, 25 Apr. He was in the minority of 13 against the Irish prison laws bill, 5 May. His return for Northamptonshire at the general election in June 1826 was largely uneventful, but Cartwright’s exposition of his views obliged him to follow suit, as he told Spencer:
I spoke upon reform ... slavery, the Catholic question and the corn laws ... Some observations that were made upon the corn laws enabled me to explain again, and in more detail, to the farmers the principles that ought to be looked to ... and it appeared to satisfy them.
Afterwards he went to assist Tavistock in Bedfordshire, where he was standing on ‘free election’ principles.52
Russell, defeated in Huntingdonshire, publicly entrusted his planned measure to curb electoral bribery to Althorp in November 1826.53 On the 2nd he secured the renewal of Russell’s successful resolution of May 1826, which proposed that bribery cases should be referred to a select committee. He conceded that a bill embodying this would have no chance of passing the Lords, but bowed to the sense of the House and withdrew the proposition. He resumed the subject on 26 Feb.1827, but his resolution was negatived. On 15 Mar. he obtained the appointment of a select committee (which he chaired) to consider means of reducing the cost of county elections, suggesting county-wide polling places and a more rational system of registration. He brought up the report, 16 May, and on 1 June introduced a bill for the registration of freeholders, which he had committed and left over to next session. On 8 May he brought in a bill to curb corruption and excessive expenditure in borough elections by banning the specious employment of electors as agents, musicians and runners. He carried the third reading by 26-10, 28 May, and got the House to accept the Lords’ amendment excluding Scotland from its provisions, 18 June. It became law on 21 June 1827.
Althorp voiced his ‘considerable regret’ that ministers would not deal with the corn question before Christmas, 22 Nov. 1826. On the 28th he now concurred in Littleton’s resolutions on private bill committees as ‘a great improvement’ worth a fair trial. He signed a requisition for and attended a ‘thin’ and non-political county meeting to vote condolences on the death of the duke of York, 1 Feb. 1827.54 He saw great merit in Brougham’s scheme for a Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, but hesitated to subscribe until he was satisfied that its potentially ‘mischievous’ publications would be effectively vetted.55 He walked to the House on 6 Feb. with Hobhouse, and agreed with him that the grant for the duke of Clarence should not be opposed unless it was ‘too large’. Yet it seemed to him to be so, and he denounced it as inappropriate at a time when ‘distress and ruin [were] running through every part of the kingdom’. Grey’s son Lord Howick* thought this a ‘very good’ speech, and the duke of Bedford deemed it ‘plain, sensible and honest’. He was the teller for Hume’s minority of 65 in favour of postponement. But Lord Holland was furious with him and the other Whig ‘opposers’, calling them ‘a set of impracticable persons who never would come into place’.56 Althorp urged Lord Rancliffe not to divide the House against the second reading of the bill, 22 Mar., arguing that while it was objectionable, it was ‘not so important as to require a hostility so persevering’. He thought the allegations of improper electoral interference by Northampton corporation warranted investigation, 21 Feb., and he divided for inquiry into the activities of Leicester corporation, 15 Mar. He welcomed the ministry’s proposals to relax the corn laws, 1 Mar. He reported that farmers at Northampton market had generally liked them, 8 Mar., but after some adverse constituency reaction had to admit on the 23rd that they had become hostile.57 He would not support Whitmore’s amendment to lower the duties on barley, 12 Mar.58 He wanted the averages to be taken over six weeks rather than one and said that agriculturists did not want corn to be ‘at a price oppressive to the manufacturers’, 26 Mar.59 Supporting the corn bill, 6 Apr., he argued that ‘the principle of prohibition ... always gave rise to the most mischievous speculations’. He was in the minority for Catholic relief, 6 Mar. He divided for information on the Barrackpoor mutiny, 22 Mar., and the Lisburn Orange procession, 29 Mar. He spoke and was a majority teller for the spring guns bill, 23 Mar. 1827.
As the ministerial uncertainty which followed Lord Liverpool’s stroke dragged on, Althorp predicted to Brougham, 26 Mar. 1827, that it was ‘intended to patch up a divided administration with Lord Bathurst or some other King Log at the head of it’. While he thought that the Whigs would probably be able to ‘support most of their measures of foreign and commercial policy’, he felt that they would thereby be sanctioning ‘an administration which acts upon a system quite contrary to every constitutional principle and highly detrimental to the real permanent interests of the country’.60 He voted for Tierney’s motion to withhold supplies until the crisis was resolved, 30 Mar., and for inquiries into the Irish estimates and chancery delays, 5 Apr. Speculation that he was to become secretary at war in the new Canning ministry was wide of the mark.61 He disliked the Lansdowne Whigs’ coalition with Canning, whom he had never trusted. ‘Most of all’, he feared that it might destroy the Whig party, which he was anxious to keep united. With Milton and Tavistock, he decided that they could not endorse a junction with ‘a divided and do-nothing government’ which would not take up Catholic relief; but, viewing Canning’s separation from Peel and the reactionary Tories as ‘a great point gained’, they resolved to ‘take time and watch the government’, supporting it whenever possible as the lesser of two evils. As he told Gotch, 1 June, ‘I am not very sanguine as to any good being done, but there is a chance; if the old ministers came back into power, there would be no chance at all’. He and his close associates accordingly retained their seats on the opposition benches.62 In the House, 7 May, he frankly explained his attitude to the ministry as an alternative to ‘Toryism in its most odious forms’, but stressed his differences from Canning on reform and repeal of the Test Acts. The son of Tierney, who had joined the government, reported that Althorp’s speech and Milton’s had ‘worked miracles’; but Althorp told Thomas Creevey* that he was ‘gratified ... at finding the line which I have taken approved of by all those with whom I first began my political life’.63 He approved the government’s small debts bill, but was not sure that £20 was the correct benchmark, 23 May. As a member of the Penryn election committee, he said on the 28th that 20 years’ systematic corruption was indisputable and that the borough must be disfranchised; he voted in Russell’s majority for this. On 30 May he announced that Dissenters’ leaders had decided not to press for repeal of the Test Acts that session. He presented petitions for it, 15 June.64 He considered Canning’s budget `too sanguine’, 1 June, but would not follow Hume into the consideration of ‘multifarious abstract questions’. He approved the intention to appoint a finance committee in 1828, but warned that ‘if great economy were not introduced into all the estimates next year, he should feel himself obliged to withdraw his support from the government’. In late July 1827 he decided, after much agonizing, that his naval officer and favourite brother Robert could reasonably accept the offer of becoming private secretary to Clarence as lord high admiral. (He held the post until September 1828.) But it ‘amused Lansdowne, a member of both coalition ministries, to see the Spencers ‘brought into contact with royalty’.65
Althorp believed that Canning’s death would cause ‘a loss to our foreign politics ... beyond calculation’, while domestically the king’s decision to perpetuate the coalition was ‘absolute annihilation to the Tories’, and therefore ‘some consolation’. He saw no ‘reason to take a different course from the one we ... had taken already’, as the Goderich ministry remained ‘a less evil than a pure Tory one’. At the same time he expressed to Holland his hope that ‘our friends will not hold office the moment after they are not able to forward’ Catholic relief.66 Tavistock, believing that the Whigs had been humiliated by the rumoured appointment of the anti-Catholic John Herries* as chancellor of the exchequer at the king’s behest, suggested to Russell, Holland and Spencer that Althorp should become their active Commons leader.67 Althorp thought Tavistock was ‘quite mad’ to consider the notion, as he told Russell, 25 Aug., returning a letter from Holland to Russell detailing objections to Althorp, to which he himself could ‘add many better arguments’. He went on:
There is no chance whatever that it will be offered to you or to any man of decided character to take a place in this administration. They must have men of a more pliant disposition who will give up all the great principles on which we have acted for the sake of doing what I admit to be a good, viz., the [keeping] the Tories out ... I should certainly advise you or any other friend not to take upon yourself the responsibility of a cabinet office ... unless the Catholic question is to be made a government measure. There are many other questions which ought to be stipulated for, but this appears to me to be quite a sine qua non ... There is no change in the principles of the administration and therefore this ought to have our conditional but very jealous support.68
From the ministerial perspective, Alexander Baring* damned Althorp with faint praise by observing that ‘if we are to have a second rate performer’ as leader in the Commons, assuming Huskisson’s health would not stand it, ‘I always thought Althorp would please the House and satisfy the country better than anybody’.69 The confirmation of Herries’s appointment proved to Althorp, as he confessed to his father, that ‘I was wrong in hoping that any good would come from ... Goderich’s administration. I am afraid no good can be looked for in the present reign’.70 The Tory whip Billy Holmes* believed that Althorp, Milton and Tavistock were ‘quite furious and will go into decided opposition’;71 but Tierney had no reason to believe this of Althorp, while Abercromby, a supporter of the administration, told Lansdowne that he and Huskisson believed that Althorp
thought that he could turn his character and talents to the best account by watching measures, supporting what he liked, urging what he thought useful, and opposing what he disapproved ... I was enabled from personal knowledge ... to confirm this view to the fullest extent. We understood, therefore, that though he was not to be reckoned an adherent ... he would on many occasions be a useful ally, and never a mischievous opponent.72
From Leamington, 9 Sept., Althorp gave his opinion of the situation to Holland, who had informed him of ‘circumstances which ... must undoubtedly be considered to palliate the appointment of Herries’. Althorp conceded this, but criticized the Whig ministers for failing to attend the cabinet at which it was effected, which made it clear to ‘the whole country that they are holding office without possessing any influence whatever’:
I can ... see no course for myself but to withhold my confidence from a government in which those ministers of whose principles ... I approve are without the power of doing any good. I must be ... quite independent and look only to measures ... Looking forward ... with horror to finding myself in this situation next session, still I think it is the only thing I can honestly do. If these ministers act upon the principles they have hitherto most of them professed, I shall almost always find myself supporting them. If they do otherwise, I ought to oppose them.
To his father the same day he confirmed that ‘nothing ... shall at present shake me from the resolution ... of being in an armed neutrality’.73 After consulting Grey, Althorp, Tavistock and Milton, Russell sent Tierney a list of ‘six propositions’ as conditions for their continued neutrality. Russell assured Tierney that Althorp was ‘far ... removed from anything like a hostile or captious spirit’, but was unwilling ‘in his place [to] say that he had full and perfect confidence in the government’, though he would support the propositions ‘as beneficial to the country; in short, his only doubt is whether the ministry is strong enough at Court to carry such points’. Tierney was unable to secure the sanction of his cabinet colleagues for the bargain.74 Althorp’s neutral stance did not please the whip Duncannon, who thought it would hand ‘absolute power to the crown; but Lyttelton considered his position, though uncomfortable, to be ‘a very honourable one’.75 Abercromby believed that Althorp had turned ‘hostile’ in mid-October, and a fortnight later Tierney heard that he was ‘determined to force on the Catholic question as soon as Parliament meets’: ‘It is thought ... that we are endeavouring by some compromise to prevent its being moved ... and so the watchmen are to spring their rattles’.76 In fact, Althorp was sticking to his line of ‘favourable neutrality’, as he assured Tierney, 2 Nov., when apprising him of an impending vacancy in the post of receiver-general of Northamptonshire, to which the appointment of the Whig aspirant would bolster the party in Northampton borough.77 To Edward Davies Davenport* he wrote on 11 Nov. 1827:
The most useful thing ... which public men can do in the present circumstances is to hang together and to compel the ministers to do that which they themselves think right, so that while the power of the king acts upon them in one direction to induce them to do that which is wrong, a good strong party in the ... Commons may act upon them in the opposite direction ... If I can effect this I shall accomplish the highest object of my political ambition, for I have only one personal object, only one point on which I am aware that my personal feelings may lead me to act corruptly, and that is to keep myself in such a position that I may not be compelled to take office. Nothing shall ever persuade me to do so, but I should be sorry to be placed in such a situation as to avow this selfish feeling publicly, though I think it right that all those who wish to act with me should be aware of my decision.78
In the last week of November 1827 Tierney, having obtained the blessing of Goderich and Huskisson, but not Herries, asked Althorp whether he would take the chairmanship of the finance committee if it was offered. Althorp was inclined to accept it, as affording him a small means of doing some practical good, but he did not expect the offer to be made, having, as he told his father, been ‘given to understand’ when he had been sounded about office on the formation of the ministry, that ‘the king would have objected to my being in the cabinet, had I not put a stop at once to any discussion on the subject’. He consulted and got the approval of Tavistock and Milton, and on 29 Nov. wrote to Tierney to ‘accept the chair ... on the clear understanding that I am to support or oppose the views of government in that committee as I may think right’.79 He had no direct part in the ministerial machinations, ostensibly over his chairmanship, which brought the ministry down, but he had talks with Tierney in mid-December 1827, when he expressed concern about being given a restricted remit and insisted that the annual estimates must be referred to the committee if ministers wished to be seen to be sincere in their professions of support for economy and retrenchment. His mother reported that he ‘says unless they give some strong test of their acting up to the principles which they professed ... he will vote for turning them out’.80 On Christmas Day Abercromby found him ‘in point of feeling well disposed’, but unhappy with ‘what has been done as to church patronage’, heavily in favour of Protestants, which ‘destroys the argument that sacrifices must be made to keep out the Tories, for what they would do worse’.81 Althorp, ‘the most silent of very cheerful and sensible men’, as Mackintosh referred to him,82 regarded the final collapse of the government as ‘an unmixed good’, and turned his mind towards the task of reuniting the fractured Whig party, setting aside all recriminations with the coalitionists. He called off a planned meeting of the ‘watchmen’ and argued to Russell that if the expected Tory government was formed ‘all persons who pretend to be Whigs will be in opposition’ and that they and their associates should ‘allow ourselves to be absorbed into the general Whig party’. Tavistock assured Hobhouse that Althorp ‘has no wish to form a party or to put himself at the head of any set of men’ and was ‘quite free from all selfish or ambitious views ... and looks to no object upon earth than the public good’.83 On better terms now with Lord Grey, after some years of coolness, Althorp had emerged as a figure of great stature in the party.84
He told an unknown spokesman for the Catholics, 25 Jan. 1828, that the new Wellington ministry, for all its professions of ‘neutrality’, was in reality ‘decidedly hostile to your claims’, for which the Catholics should agitate as before.85 On the address, 29 Jan., he objected to criticism of Admiral Codrington for his action at Navarino, but questioned the policy and justice of the Treaty of London, approved the sending of British troops to Portugal and, still more, their subsequent withdrawal, and said he had ‘no confidence whatever’ in the ministry. Peel and Herries felt that they could hardly avoid naming him to the finance committee, 15 Feb., but he assured Peel in private that he was no party to rumoured plans of some members of the late government to propose him rather than Parnell as chairman, which had alarmed Wellington.86 On 18 Feb. he stated the ‘little’ he knew of the events which had destroyed the Goderich administration, stressing the reluctance with which he had accepted the chairmanship of the committee. In reply to Herries’s attack, he admitted that ‘for the greater part of my life I have been a party man’, but insisted that the events of the previous year had ‘entirely separated me from party’. He presented several petitions for repeal of the Test Acts, 20, 21, 26 Feb., when he spoke and voted in the majority for that measure. He said on the 28th, when he presented the enabling bill, that the declaration which Peel proposed to substitute for the oath was unacceptable, but that he was willing to swallow ‘securities compatible with Dissenters’ consciences’. He would not vote for Waithman’s motion to reduce the army to 80,000 men, 25 Feb., because the estimates were to be considered by the finance committee. On 6 Mar. he was given leave to bring in a new freeholders registration bill. He carried the second reading by 32-17, 25 Mar., but had to abandon it at the report stage, 13 June. He welcomed the government’s plan to repeal the 1808 Life Annuities Act, as recommended by the finance committee, 12, 24 Mar. He spoke and voted for the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 21 Mar. On the corn bill, 22 Apr., he expressed his preference for the measure of 1827 and voted for a pivot price of 60s. He saw much to commend in Macqueen’s settlement by hiring bill, 29 Apr., but found fault with most of Peel’s offences against the person bill, 5 May. He voted for Catholic relief, 12 May, having presented a Northampton Catholics’ petition, 28 Apr. He was a teller for the majority for the second reading of Davies’s borough polls bill, 13 May, when the House was counted out. That day he led the opposition to the provision for Canning’s widow and family; when Stratford Canning asserted that he had a year ago promised to support Canning’s ministry, he retorted that he had only said it was preferable to a Tory one. The Canningite Lord Seaford described it as a ‘poor and miserable performance’, while Abercromby reflected that Althorp ‘must be rather ashamed of his company’ in the minority.87 On 16 May he confirmed that the finance committee, which was overwhelmed with work, was agreeable to the House’s dealing with the military estimates before it reported. In passing, he said that naval impressment, though unpleasant, was ‘necessary and unavoidable’. He later endorsed Parnell’s amendment to get rid of the coastal blockade. He supported repeal of the usury laws and spoke and voted for Hume’s motion for a return of civil list pensions, 20 May. A week later he was reported by Lord Rosslyn to be willing to support the ministry if Grey was brought into the cabinet; but Russell knew that in reality he remained ‘just where he was’.88 In the House, 12 June, he welcomed ‘the more moderate tone’ in which ministers, including Wellington, had discussed the Catholic question; but he deplored its being left open in cabinet when it was ‘unanimously agreed that the state of Ireland is one of great danger’. He was in the minority of 21 for the Irish assessment of lessors bill that day, and voted against the archbishop of Canterbury’s bill, 16 June, and the grant for Buckingham House refurbishment, 23 June. In the finance committee he was probably in the majority which rejected Goulburn’s proposal to allocate a fixed annual sum to reduction of the national debt; he persuaded the committee to recommend the application of any surplus to the conversion of annuities.89 When Peel abandoned his small debts bill for the session, 23 June, Althorp protested at the ‘monstrous principle’ of compensating the holders of patent offices for loss of fees, but admitted that the measure was an improvement on his own. On 2 July 1828 he wrote to Sir James Robert George Graham* from Althorp:
I ... expected ... that the ministers would follow the advice of the financial committee as to reducing the salaries of the clerks in public offices, and perhaps the daily pay of the labourers in the dock yards; but that they would reject our advice whenever we recommended any reduction in political offices ... I had made up my mind as to the course ... to ... pursue ... on as fair and impartial a consideration of the circumstances as a man very anxious to cull his ewes could be expected to give them. By being out of the way I have it in my power next session to say that I concluded that the recommendations of the finance committee would be attended to, but that, finding they were not, I for one decline being a party to such a delusion again. My main object being to see the Catholic question carried, I am inclined to sacrifice everything to this. But if there does not appear a prospect of this being done ... we must declare open war upon the government; and there cannot be a more hostile measure, or one more likely to be effective, than blowing up the finance committee upon the grounds which they are now about to give us ... I look forward with sanguine hopes of being relieved from my attendance ... next year and being at liberty to apply myself to other things of minor importance in which I am calculated to do much more good than by labouring at a subject above my abilities, and in a committee where consequently I have and ought to have no influence.90
In late august 1828 Althorp observed to his father that ‘the Catholic question looks uncommonly well, thanks to O’Connell and the freeholders of Clare’. By the end of September he was almost sure that the government intended to ‘do something for the Catholics’; but, still considering Wellington to be ‘a man of a little mind’, he feared, as he told Brougham, that he would
propose some half measure ... This ... will be a great evil. It will be a fresh ground for our opponents to say nothing will ever satisfy ... [the Catholics]; and although it is not in the power of man to prevent the carrying of Catholic emancipation ... very soon, now that the Catholics are acting like rational beings, yet it will be a difficulty in the way of us who support them ... Whatever may be the degree of concession which they propose, we ought to accept it, unless it should be something which would amount to persecution ... I mean any measure calling upon all Catholics ... to subscribe something contrary to their religion ... If it is not the whole, we must enter our protest that it will ... and ought not to satisfy the Catholics. With respect to foreign politics, I find many of those with whom we have acted ... inclined to open war with the ministry ... Though the figure we are cutting ... is far from satisfactory, my political mind is so entirely absorbed by Ireland that I cannot bring myself to any very violent feelings on any other subject. If nothing is proposed for Ireland I am for open war, and will then gladly make use of any other topics of attack.91
Abercromby heard from Althorp in mid-October that a visit on farming business from his county neighbour Charles Arbuthnot*, the duke’s confidant, had convinced him that nothing would be done and that he was now ‘prepared to act decisively if he can get support’. Abercromby felt that if Althorp ‘is stout, as I believe he will be’, Grey, who wanted to hold off until ministers declared their hand, could have little influence on Whig Members.92 Althorp poured cold water on the proposal of Holland and Russell to form a pro-Catholic club to counter the Brunswickers: ‘We must beat them if we can whenever they come out of their holes and corners, and expose them to the ridicule and execration of all men of liberal minds, and then their ... exertions will have but little effect in a country as well educated as England is’.93 Davenport, proposing to Holland the idea of a dining club of about 50 Members to co-ordinate hitherto chaotic opposition activity in the Commons, ruled out Althorp as a leader because he had ‘kicked as if a bribe had been tendered’ when Davenport had suggested such a plan in early 1828, and was now ‘incomprehensible’ and not ‘liberal’ enough on foreign policy.94 But John Fazakerley* thought that should Althorp be persuaded to press relentlessly for action on the Catholic question and promise ‘firm opposition’ if it was not conceded, ‘everyone will rally round him’ and even the prickly Edward Smith Stanley* would acquiesce in ‘such an arrangement as should leave the ostensible lead of the party to Althorp’, whose ‘great experience, and courage, and weight in the House deserve it’.95
Althorp, who was ‘lame’ again in December 1828, favoured ‘a good attendance on the first day’ of speakers, but not of ‘the foxhunters’, for ‘if the ministers intend to settle Ireland in a satisfactory manner they will want support [and] if they do not I hope they will be met by decisive opposition’:
I think Ireland of such critical importance now that if ministers will do their duty on that subject I would not annoy them on any other ... If ... not ... I would annoy them ... [and] ... attack them on every subject I could lay hold of and ... make every effort in my power to turn them out.
As for the growing notion that he should take a formal lead in the Commons, he wrote to Graham, 17 Dec. 1828:
No man ever underrates himself; and I do not believe that any individual, except the person himself, is able to make any estimate of the abilities of a man who is discreet enough not to make attempts to which he is unequal. I agree with you that a great many of our party fancy that I should make a good leader ... but I know I should not. I should not have been two months before I should have fallen into the greatest possible contempt. At present I am overrated, then I should be underrated ... Ask Littleton, or some other person not particularly connected with me, what he thinks of my abilities as a member of the finance committee. If he will tell you the truth, you will be satisfied as to my capacity for a leader ... When anyone on whose judgement I can depend shall be equally well informed with myself as to the qualities of my mind, and the amount of information which I possess, I shall admit him to be competent to controvert what I say when I assert that I am not equal to the post of the leader of a party.96
He interpreted Wellington’s letter to Dr. Curtis as a sign that he would ‘do nothing for the Catholics if he can help it’, but admitted that Russell and others did not see it in that light. On the question of O’Connell’s right to take his seat as Member for Clare, he gave Brougham his view that ‘we ought to vote and speak against’ as ‘he has clearly no legal right to sit’ and ‘we shall damage ourselves and diminish our means of giving effectual support to the Catholic question’ if they supported him.97 He consulted Russell, who drew up two resolutions throwing on ‘ministers the responsibility of not settling the question’. Althorp was not satisfied with them, but could offer nothing better.98 Holland tried to persuade him to attack the government’s foreign policy, but he would still have none of it, being unable to ‘feel any interest in what happens in Portugal or Turkey or Russia or anywhere else, with a religious war impending ... at home’.99 When it became clear that Wellington did intend to propose a measure of Catholic relief, Althorp argued that if it proved satisfactory and conceded the essential point of the right to sit in Parliament, ‘I cannot be in opposition to such a government. There is plenty of fault to be found with their foreign politics, but ... conciliation and economy at home will cover a multitude of sins abroad’.100 On the address, 6 Feb., he expressed ‘great satisfaction’ at the confirmation of the concession and praised the duke, but said he would prefer to see if emancipation gave a natural quietus to the Catholic Association than to have it suppressed by legislation. On 10 Feb. he sent through Arbuthnot a message to Peel to the effect that ‘he and many of his friends cared very little’ what the minister might say against the Association, but that as ‘there were many fiery and violent spirits among them’ it was ‘very desirable’ that he should not be provocative.101 In the House that evening he acquiesced ‘with a great reluctance’ in the suppression bill. When he found that Mackintosh had given notice of a motion for papers on relations with Portugal, which ‘must be considered as a motion of censure’, he told Brougham that although he thought government had ‘misbehaved grossly about the whole Portuguese business’, he considered that it was ‘of the highest importance that the ministers should feel confidence in our entire and cordial support and that they should not fancy that we have the slightest wish to take advantage of their unpopularity with their usual supporters to trip up their heels’. He would be obliged to vote against the motion, which was not ‘likely to have a very good effect politically’. Mackintosh was persuaded to desist.102 Althorp divided silently for the ministerial proposal to consider emancipation, 6 Mar. With Duncannon and Thomas Spring Rice*, he consulted Arbuthnot on the planned disfranchisement of Irish 40s. freeholders, with which he and many Whigs were unhappy. After being referred to Peel, who refused to give ground on it, Althorp convinced the majority at a party meeting that it must be swallowed in order to secure the greater object. He spoke in these terms, 18, 20 Mar., admitting his difference of opinion with Duncannon; but he had told Brougham a week before that he felt he ought to have spoken out sooner, and added that his failure of nerve ‘proves to everybody what I have known myself long, that I am quite useless in any public situation’.103 He presented petitions for emancipation, 12 Mar., and said that clergymen should not introduce politics to the pulpit, 19 Mar. He remained privately ‘nervous’ about the measure’s chances of passing the Lords, but concluded that Wellington ‘must know what he is about’. He pressed Arbuthnot to encourage the duke to turn out the junior ministers who were voting against the government, but accepted the argument that this might further enrage the king, who was threatening to change his mind and dismiss his ministers.104 He voted silently for the third reading of the relief bill, 30 Mar., having argued to Brougham (who was on the circuit) that provoking a debate, as he wished, would only enable ‘the Brunswickers’ to delay the measure: a continuation of ‘our quiet course’ was the best option.105 He was perplexed by an invitation from the lord mayor of London to attend the dinner on the day when Peel was to be given the freedom, as he told Brougham 1 Apr.:
Going may appear as if I wished much more than I do to support or join with the government. I do not and cannot act quite as a solitary being; doing anything of this kind may commit others ... This ... applies to refusing to go as much as to accepting ... For myself ... the matter is one nearly of indifference, not being a man who would, under any circumstances, at least any conceivable one, submit myself to the trammels of office ... But ... I cannot act without involving others. What I have done is to accept ... in the first instance, and in case before the day arrives I should see reason for not going, I shall have business to do which shall force me to leave town.
He appears not to have attended the event, 8 Apr. A week later he was ‘laid up’ at Wiseton ‘with a regular fit of the gout after having had it flying about me for six to seven months’.106
On 20 Feb. 1829 he said that even if ministers did not reappoint the finance committee, the House and country would expect them to ‘make the greatest possible reductions’, as they now had ‘the materials to do so’. He acquiesced in the navy estimates, 27 Feb., and on 12 Mar. obtained information concerning the role of the Bank in management of the national debt. When he questioned Peel on his intentions for reform of small debt recovery, 8 May, the minister insisted that compensation was essential. Althorp urged Western to leave repeal of the tax on agricultural horses to ministers, 13 May, and approved the principle of the bill to prevent the payment of labourers’ wages from the poor rates and of the anatomy bill, 15 May, when he did not get to bed until four next morning. He encouraged O’Connell privately and voted to allow him to take his seat unhindered, 18 May.107 He opposed Hume’s motion for a fixed duty on corn imports, 19 May, arguing that the 1828 sliding scale deserved a fair trial. He spoke and voted against the ‘most wasteful’ Buckingham House expenditure, 25 May. When Rosslyn took office as lord privy seal that month, Althorp remarked to his father that while he had ‘no objection to any Whig joining the present ministry, if he can do so in such company as will enable him to have some degree of influence in the cabinet’, he thought Rosslyn ‘unwise’. He also expressed his disapproval of James Scarlett’s* becoming attorney-general.108 On a visit to the Arbuthnots at Woodford in mid-June, he had ‘some political conversation’ with Charles, whose wife recorded:
He is a very honest, good kind of man but a weak liberal in politics, and certainly not a man whose support I would ever seek. He is, however, the sort of head of a party in the ... Commons who pretend to stand aloof and see what the ministers will do, and act accordingly and talk of the government strengthening themselves; that is to say, taking some of them in ... I heard him say ... the government was too weak in the ... Commons to go on as it was, and I remarked to him that, if everybody was to go on his principle of standing aloof, it was no wonder the government was weak ... To [Arbuthnot] he said that in the ... Lords the government would do perfectly, that the duke managed it excessively well and was very strong, but that in the Commons they had no party or power at all ... that his party considered the taking of Lord Rosslyn as a demonstration of cordiality towards them, but that they thought nothing of Scarlett ... He pretended that his party did not require offices (this is true as regards himself individually), though they would all have joined in a body if Lord Grey had come in; but he let out that the way to have them was to put one of their body in the ... Commons into the cabinet and to make Brougham master of the rolls!109
News of this encounter apparently worried the king, who became ‘alarmed at the idea of having more Whigs forced upon him’; but Wellington knew better. Lord Camden thought that if the ministry could not conciliate the Ultras, they ‘must get a few Whigs’, including ‘the Althorp people’.110 To Brougham, 17 June 1829, Althorp gave his view on ‘the state of the ministry’, encouraging Brougham to say something about it in the House before the end of the session:
They are so weak that they are unfit to govern ... I am doubtful whether it might not be expedient to say that, with every wish not to oppose them ... unless something is done to strengthen their hands before the next session, we shall feel it our duty not to allow the country to remain in such inefficient hands, if we can prevent it ... A great deal depends on the real wishes of the duke ... If he wishes to form a junction with us, and is only prevented by the bad humour of the king, it is perhaps the most prudent thing to say nothing. If ... he is absurd enough to think he can govern without the ... Commons, a gentle notice of this kind might tend to bring him to his senses ... I am rather, on the whole, inclined to think that they are favourably disposed.111
Althorp was outraged by Scarlett’s instigation of ex-officio prosecutions of newspapers for libels of Wellington at the end of 1829.112 In January 1830, when the Whig organizer Edward Ellice* identified ‘the Watchers under Althorp’ as one of four parties in the Commons (the others being ‘government’, ‘Canningites’ and ‘Ultras’), he argued in favour of raising these prosecutions and some foreign policy issues on the first day, while avoiding specific motions on them which might ‘involve ourselves in confederacy with the Ultra Tories and turn out the ministry, which, weak and inefficient as it undoubtedly is, is probably the best that under present circumstances we can hope for’. At the same time, he could not ‘see how they can stand through the session’. Towards the end of the month he told Russell that he would support the government if Grey was a member of it, but Russell deemed this unlikely.113 According to George Fortescue*, a notion of ‘us Whigs ... organizing ourselves under the joint leadership of Althorp and Brougham’ had been abandoned ‘for the present’.114 Althorp took a risk by dividing for the Ultra Knatchbull’s amendment to the address, because it failed to stress the extent and severity of distress, 4 Feb. 1830, but he was careful to praise the ministry for carrying emancipation and to dissociate himself from the Ultras’ agenda. A number of leading Whigs voted with government.115 He voted for the transfer of East Retford’s seats to Birmingham, 11 Feb., and again, 5 Mar., when he declared his support for the ballot to diminish ‘the illegitimate influence of fear’, but rebuked O’Connell for his condemnation of the aristocracy. He was in O’Connell’s minority of 21 for incorporating the ballot in the East Retford bill, 15 Mar. Howick had found him ‘very much inclined to oppose the government’, but utterly ‘hostile’ to the Huskissonites, 14 Feb.116 Next day he spoke and voted for Hume’s motion for a large reduction in taxes, though he endorsed ministers’ refusal to tinker with the currency. He called for repeal of the beer duty, 16 Feb., and reduction of the malt duty, 2 Mar. He could not go the whole way with Hume in army economies, 19 Feb., and welcomed those proposed by ministers, as far as they went; but he divided in small minorities that day and on 22 Feb. for less severe cuts than in Hume’s original plan. His amendment to Lord Blandford’s reform scheme, which stated the desirability of change, was negatived, 18 Feb., but he voted in the minority when Blandford divided the House. He voted silently for the enfranchisement of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester, 23 Feb., and to receive the Newark petition complaining of the duke of Newcastle’s improper electoral interference, 1 Mar. Next day he damned the press prosecutions as ‘imprudent’, but conceded that Scarlett had not exceeded his brief. Althorp, who thought the Commons was ‘in a strange state’, told Grey, 19 Feb., that ‘if the ministers have strength enough to carry their measures I am very well satisfied to let them stay where they are’; but he felt that ‘a ministry doing nothing’ was ‘nearly as bad’ as one ‘doing what is wrong’. Yet he gave them credit for genuinely believing that they had gone as far as was safe in military retrenchment.117 He and Brougham intervened to prevent Graham from bringing on a motion criticizing the appointment of a treasurer of the navy, wanting Wellington to ‘feel his weakness on reform’ but ‘not to carry a vote against him which might have the effect of overturning his administration, without any security as to what would succeed’; Grey washed his hands of this. But a few days later Grey’s brother-in-law Lord Durham (Lambton) told Althorp, who included himself among the ‘many in the ... Commons’ who ‘would not be supporters of any government’ excluding Grey, that Grey ‘reposed more confidence in him personally and those who acted with him, than in any other party’; Althorp seemed ‘greatly pleased’ to hear this.118 At noon on 3 Mar. 1830, at the instigation of the influential backbenchers Edward Berkeley Portman II and Francis Lawley, there was a meeting at Althorp’s Albany rooms of 27 Members, who included five county Members, Russell, Fazakerley, Howick and Henry Warburton of the ‘Mountain’. They sought to ‘form a party under the guidance of Lord Althorp with a view to take off some of the most oppressive taxes’. The Huskissonite Littleton commented cynically that Althorp and Brougham between them had ‘paralyzed the Whig party’ and that the promoters of the meeting wanted to ‘bind Althorp down to a certain line of conduct’:
But this object is only to be compassed in a manner flattering to Althorp, who is a vain man. He is a person of great respectability and purity of character, public and private, and withal rich in connection. Otherwise he has no qualifications ... except his industry.
‘Very little was done’, as Howick noted, because most of those present would not swallow a property tax, which Althorp favoured. However, he agreed to become leader for the purpose of promoting tax cuts if at least 45 Members turned up to a similar meeting planned for the 6th. He also wished to consult Brougham, Graham and Russell, whose blessing he obtained.119 Over 60 Members attended on the 6th, when, according to Howick, there was again much disagreement, but it was resolved ‘not to attempt any union with any other party and to endeavour as far as possible to promote every measure of economy’.120 Althorp reported to Grey:
The principle of the junction is that it is to extend only to measures of retrenchment and reduction of taxes. On all other points we are to continue as much disunited as ever. We have determined not on any pretence to hold any intercourse with the Tory or Canning party previous to measures being brought forward, but to support anything brought forward by either ... with perfect cordiality, if it comes within the principle of our union. I am to take occasion to state this determination ... before Goulburn brings forward his budget, in the hope - a vain one I fear - that it may have some influence ... There was so much variety of opinion in our meeting on ... [the 3rd], that I almost expected that the result of today would be to dissolve it; but today there was less difference of opinion, and I now hope that some good may be effected.121
In the House, 8 Mar., Althorp indicated that ‘a union had been formed’ to promote ‘economy and reduction of taxes’, but stressed that this party had no wish to turn ministers out.122 Grey told Howick that he thought the ‘object ... very laudable’, but that he doubted ‘the policy of avowing such a combination formally in the House and would have preferred to ‘let it be seen and felt’. He went on:
I quite approve of your connecting yourself with Althorp, of whose good sense and honour and integrity I have a high opinion. But I should doubt his having all the requisites for management of such a concern, above all readiness to take his part on the spur of the occasion and firmness to assert it by a direct, simple and open line of conduct.
Grey argued that ultimately the only feasible and creditable basis for a party was its projection as an alternative government to one which it opposed as inadequate; but he ruled himself out as too tired and old (66) to take office.123 On 9 Mar. Althorp spoke and voted for reduction of the volunteers grant and, while dismissing Wilmot Horton’s motion to consider the poor laws in committee of the whole House, admitted that they needed attention: those who married unwisely and procreated intemperately should be rendered worse off than the prudent. On 11 Mar. 1830 he left London to attend the Nothamptonshire county meeting called to petition for relief from distress and reform, having told Brougham the previous day:
We hear that from two to two and a half millions of taxes will be the reduction proposed. I think they might safely take from four to five without substituting any tax, assuming that they can reduce the four per cents ... It is impossible to expect a comprehensive view of our finances, which alone will do any good, from our present financial ministers ... Huskisson undertook last night to move upon pensions ... I should have preferred this motion being in the hands of one of our own men, because I have no great confidence in Huskisson’s spirit of economy; but still it is good to have him committed to the cause.124
Lady Spencer was ‘happy’ to hear Althorp say that ‘since he has been in Parliament, he has never felt so much interest, never been so satisfactorily employed, never so conscious of having been so useful, nor ever been so capable, as to health, of his work sitting light upon him, as he feels himself at present’.125
On Goulburn’s budget statement, 15 Mar. 1830, Althorp concurred in his assertion that the sinking fund was not a breach of faith with creditors and approved his selection of taxes for repeal, but thought he could have gone further. He supported Slaney’s poor law amendment bill. When Cartwright presented the Northamptonshire distress petition, as that of the sheriff, 16 Mar., Althorp claimed that a more radical one for reform had had a majority. There had been another meeting at his rooms that morning, ‘more numerously attended and less divided in opinion than the former ones’. More took place as the session progressed.126 Althorp refused to support Davenport’s motion on the state of the nation, 18 Mar., because it hinged on revision of the currency and was ‘a direct censure’ of ministers, whom he praised for declining to court popularity by interfering with the sugar duties. Howick thought he ‘spoke ... well’, while Lord Ellenborough, a member of the cabinet, heard that his tone was ‘very friendly’.127 He presented a Wellingborough petition for mitigation of the criminal code, 19 Mar. Next day he was in a deputation of nine who had an interview with Wellington and Goulburn on the banking system; and a week later he talked privately to Goulburn about the leather tax.128 In the House, 22 Mar., he urged Goulburn to couple repeal of the malt and beer duties and spoke and voted for cuts in items of the navy estimates. On the 24th he told Thomas Francis Kennedy*:
We are in a strange state; acting together pretty well and likely to do so better; but without any party views at all. I never saw people more inclined to be honest, and it is the first time I believe that a party could be brought to act together on an avowed principle of neutrality without any prospect of individual ambition.129
Supporting his protégé Poulett Thomson’s motion for a revision of taxation, for which he was a minority teller, 25 Mar., he declared his preference for a property tax; but this, in Howick’s view, ‘frightened away’ a ‘great many of our own people’ and reduced the minority to 78.130 He approved the principle of Goulburn’s plan to convert the four per cents, but spoke and voted against the Bathurst and Dundas pensions, 26 Mar. He acquiesced in the grant for a new naval hospital at Malta, 29 Mar., but supported Graham’s bid to abolish the office of lieutenant-general of the ordnance. He divided for inquiry into crown lands revenues, 30 Mar. 1830.
After Easter he presented a Kettering petition for abolition of the death penalty for forgery, 26 Apr.; he voted to that effect, 24 May 1830. He divided with O’ Connell for reform of Irish vestries, 27 Apr., and with the now resurgent opposition for inquiry into the Terceira affair, 28 Apr. Next day he explained his current views on the debtors laws, which turned on his wish to treat ‘the unavoidably unfortunate’ less harshly while bringing to book the ‘fraudulent or willfully extravagant’. He gave his ‘warmest support’ that day to Brougham’s scheme to establish cheap local courts. He spoke and voted for cuts in the ordnance estimates, 30 Apr., and the public buildings grant, 3 May. He was a majority teller for repeal of the usury laws, 6 May. ‘Nearly satisfied’ that the Irish lord lieutenancy should be abolished, he divided with Hume to consider this, 11 May. He did not think there were sufficient grounds for censuring the Irish solicitor-general John Doherty* over the Cork conspiracy trials and voted accordingly, 12 May,131 but next day he supported repeal of the Irish coal duties. He endorsed and was a minority teller for Graham’s motion for a return of privy councillors’ emoluments, 14 May, and was a minority teller for one to reform Irish first fruits revenues, 18 May. He divided for Jewish emancipation, 17 May. He was willing to accept a salary of £5,000 for Welsh judges, but hoped it might be reduced to £4,000, 18 May. He spoke and voted for giving Canada an independent legislature, 25 May, and for inquiry into the revenue and expenditure of Ceylon, 27 May. Next day he refused to support O’Connell’s radical reform motion because universal suffrage would ensure that ‘one class alone will return the representatives’, though he was content with triennial parliaments and the ballot. He divided silently for Russell’s more moderate plan. He voted to reduce the grant for consular services, 11 June, and supported various cuts in colonial establishments, 14 June. On William IV’s accession message, 30 June, he objected to hasty acquiescence in its contingent regency proposals and moved an adjournment, but was beaten by 185-139. His amendment that the House should complete the ordinary business of the session before the dissolution was rejected by 193-146; he was cross with Brougham for his ‘violent’ attack on Peel, which, he told Spencer, had ‘split us into every sort of bad temper, quarrel and jealousy’.132 He protested again at the precipitate dissolution, 2 July. He supported Robert Grant’s motion on the regency, 6 July 1830, but he had not wanted a division on it and was not surprised when it was ‘well beaten’ (247-93). He told Spencer, ‘I am happy to say that I shall not put my foot in the ... Commons any more this Parliament’.133
Althorp had drawn closer to Grey, who had shaken off his selfish indolence, during the second half of the session. In mid-May 1830 they talked of the possibility of an approach from Wellington, or even the formation of a new ministry, when the new reign began. According to Howick, Althorp ‘said he should prefer not being in office, but if my father made it a condition he would consent’.134 Mrs. Arbuthnot did not think Wellington would ‘ever consent to try Lord Grey’, but reckoned that Althorp ‘would be the most powerful man for us to gain in the ... Commons’; and the minister Sir Henry Hardinge* thought he might be put at the board of trade, with Hobhouse at the exchequer, if Goulburn became Speaker.135 Arbuthnot heard from Althorp’s maternal uncle Lord Lucan that his (and Grey and Brougham’s) aim at the beginning of July was ‘not to break down the government’ but to compel Wellington and Peel to turn to them ‘for strength’. He reported that as late as 2 July Althorp had ‘told Lucan that he feared the junction was now impossible, but that he was staying in London, not to excite further enmity, but to try to prevent it’.136 In fact, on 4 July about 60 Members, including Brougham, Hobhouse, Graham and Hume, met at Althorp’s and resolved to form after the elections a ‘systematic’ and ‘vigorous opposition’ with a view to turning out the government if they had not strengthened themselves by the time Parliament met. They ruled out coalition with the Huskissonites ‘at present’.137 The size of the ministerial majority on the regency question had convinced Althorp that the duke had no intention of recruiting from the opposition groups, and he reflected that ‘I shall not be put to any difficulty about refusing office’.138 Abercromby was ‘very much pleased with what I hear of the union of the Whigs’, adding that Althorp ‘has his faults, but there is no more honest man, and it is always a cause of regret to me when ... he does not get all the help he might have’.139 Richard Monckton Milnes† quoted to his sister the opinion of ‘a very acute’ observer that Althorp was ‘certainly the most rising man in the House, and to whose party a young man ought to attach himself if he meant to stick by any party’.140 Althorp busied himself with some electoral activities, which included chairing Hume’s Middlesex committee and appearing (to no avail) at St. Albans, where his family had an interest, in support of Henry Gally Knight*. His own election, with Cartwright, was uneventful.141
Soon afterwards Poulett Thomson, wondering who might take up reform vigorously in the Commons in the wake of events in France, discounted Brougham and Graham and could ‘see but Althorp, who from station ... character and ... honesty can do it’, though ‘his modesty and diffidence prevent his using all the power which he possesses’.142 Althorp himself told Lord Ebrington*, 29 Aug. 1830, that he had agreed to ‘continue’ next session ‘the arrangement which existed last’ for meetings and concert, but did not
conceal from myself that the difficulty of my situation will be very much increased. If I could back out I would, but I cannot ... I was ... just a little surprised at seeing you had said [in Devon] you were not opposed to the ministers, for I thought everyone must agree that they are so weak that they cannot carry on the government ... I shall on this ground declare open war when Parliament meets. I fear Brougham is likely to be more violent than in prudence he ought ... Perhaps both he and myself are more disgusted with the administration than others, from having been witness to the shabbiness ... of their conduct to ... Grey. My private opinion is that they are quite incapable from ability, as well as through weakness in numbers, to carry on ... the ... duke is as incapable as executing his office as any of the rest, while ... it is impossible to put any confidence in his integrity. How much of this it will be prudent to disclose is another thing.143
Althorp was reported by Brougham in late September, after Huskisson’s death, to be keen on a junction with his followers; but two of these, Lords Palmerston* and Melbourne, told Holland that they ‘did not feel any great confidence in the discretion’ of either man.144 On 5 Oct. Althorp informed Brougham that he would be in London on the 26th to discuss tactics:
I am inclined to ground our opposition to the government mainly, if not entirely, on their total inefficiency. I think the thing most to be avoided, is the giving people an opportunity of saying that we were very moderate and mealy-mouthed as long as there was a chance of the duke ... taking us in, but that now we despair of this we are become violent ... We ought to be cautious how we urge anything against the ministers which might have been equally well brought forward last session. I should also be for giving them more credit for the quickness with which they acceded to the wishes of the people in acknowledging Louis Philippe.145
Privately, he still feared that Brougham would not ‘confine his attack ... to such topics as will be intelligible to the country’. He also lamented the ‘great scrape’ into which his kinsman Lord Exeter had got himself by turning out hostile Stamford electors, which might oblige Althorp to ‘vote against him on some violent resolution’: ‘it really appears as if grandees never could learn anything by looking at what was going on’.146 Althorp, who was described by James Macdonald*, 22 Oct., as ‘frightened and shrinking from his own position, but quite as hostile’ to government as Brougham and Graham, organized on 31 Oct. an Albany meeting of Whigs ‘to concert measures’. Howick recorded:
It was not very numerously attended, but there was much less difference of opinion than at any of those last year. Althorp began by saying that at the beginning of the last session he had been unwilling to do anything which might have the effect of driving out the government, but that in consequence of its inefficiency and the apparent determination of the duke not to strengthen it he had no longer any such feeling ... It was agreed that retrenchment and parliamentary reform were to be our great objects ... Althorp ... gave notice that John Russell meant ... to give notice of the renewal of his motion for giving representatives to the three great towns, but the feeling of all present was so strongly expressed that such a motion as not going far enough ought not to be made that he engaged to write to John Russell to induce him to give it up.147
Althorp gave his own view of the meeting to Milton, 2 Nov.:
We agreed for war against the ministry, but ... to be conducted in a reasonable manner. I am therefore to say today that I have no confidence in the government, but that if they propose good measures they may depend upon our support ... If ... any vote is proposed to which we feel favourable but which if carried would have the effect of removing the administration, this last circumstance will by no means prevent us from giving it our support. Brougham is in a much more controllable state than he was.148
He duly spoke in these terms on the address later that day, approving the promise of economies and advocating ‘extensive’ parliamentary reform. Howick considered the speech ‘injudicious’, in that Althorp ought to have moved an amendment on the foreign policy element, but he accepted that he probably felt ‘bound by [what] was agreed the other day’. John Campbell II, a new Member, told his brother that ‘there is a better speaker than Lord Althorp in every vestry in England’.149 On 7 Nov. Althorp discussed ‘reform and the present situation of affairs’ with Grey and Howick, and at dinner at Brougham’s that evening with Smith Stanley, Denman, Hobhouse, Macdonald, Graham and Howick settled that the first major division would be on Brougham’s reform motion on the 16th.150 After presenting Dissenters’ anti-slavery petitions, 8 Nov., he asked Peel to explain ‘one of the most alarming events that I have ever known’, the cancellation of the king’s visit to the City. Next day he ‘walked about some time’ with Hobhouse, who described him as ‘an excellent person, too good for a party man. He told me he should retire from public life the moment he got into the "Hospital for Incurables"’.151 After a ‘small party meeting’ which ‘went through lists of the House of Commons with reference to the reform motion’, 12 Nov.,152 he condemned Goulburn’s ‘confused arrangement for the civil list’, voted in the minority of 39 to reduce the duty on West Indian wheat imports and supported the Irish Subletting Act amendment bill. On 13 Nov. he hosted a ‘very unanimous’ meeting of ‘above 90 Members’, which settled the terms of Brougham’s motion. Next day he told Milton that he expected to ‘divide 200 on it’, but knew ‘we shall be beaten pretty hollow’. Yet
I never saw such a change in opinion on any question ... I used to think it never could be carried, but now I think that an administration favourable to it may effect it. I cannot at present foresee what will happen to the ministry. I hardly think we shall be able to carry any question which will have the immediate effect of turning them out, but still I do not think it possible they can carry on the business of the ... Commons ... I do not ... think there is any real danger [of insurrection], but people generally are much alarmed ... I can only write a political letter for I have nothing else in my head.153
He spoke and was a minority teller for Parnell’s motion for inquiry into the ‘monstrous’ civil list, which brought the ministry down, 15 Nov. He was named to the select committee. He condemned the ‘Swing’ rioters, 18 Nov. 1830.
Grey, charged with forming a government, offered Althorp the premiership, which he flatly rejected. Grey browbeat him into becoming chancellor of the exchequer and leader of the Commons (on which Palmerston, the foreign secretary, deferred to him), by saying that otherwise he would give up the commission. Althorp consented with ‘great reluctance’ and on condition that he should not be asked to succeed Grey as prime minister and that Brougham must be persuaded to take the lord chancellorship rather than the mastership of the rolls, which would have made him a dangerous loose cannon in the Commons. He persuaded Brougham to swallow this and was also credited with securing the appointment of Poulett Thomson as Lord Auckland’s efficient deputy at the board of trade.154 Greville wrote on 1 Dec. 1830 that ‘nobody expects much’ from Althorp as a finance minister ‘from anything that is already known about him’; and he certainly struggled in that role.155 Croker thought that as leader of the House, where he was one of the worst speakers among those who regularly addressed it, he would be Palmerston’s ‘puppet’. Although he genuinely ‘detested office’ (he later told Russell that ‘every morning when he woke, while he was in office, he wished himself dead’) he confounded his critics and came to command through his unaffected ‘sincerity’ and capacity to inspire trust, plus his remarkably equable temperament, great influence and respect in the House.156
A week after the fall of the Wellington ministry Althorp wrote to Milton:
The accounts from the country are very bad and certainly we come into office in as difficult a time as men ever had to engage with ... Attention to politics is a dangerous duty, and to no one ... more ... than to myself. I have a weakish head and a great inclination to please people, and I am therefore as likely as any man that ever came into office to do great jobs. I hope ... and ... feel sure that allowance must be made for the temptations in which we are placed. I am only placed in it because I thought that it was an imperative duty upon me to take office. And had I not thought so I should at the present moment be a happier man. I must however now buckle to and forget what I was and what my pursuits were ... I have hoisted the standard of reform in my advertisement to the freeholders of Northamptonshire.157
He was triumphantly re-elected on 6 Dec. 1830,158 and in the House next day assured Parnell and Peel that ministers intended to look closely at the civil list and supported the principle of Lord Chandos’s game bill. On 9 Dec. he said that the ‘great evil’ afflicting Ireland was ‘the want of capital’, but he thought O’Connell’s remedial plan was too cumbersome. He secured the appointment of a select committee (which he chaired) on salary reductions, evincing the new ministry’s determination to enforce ‘the most rigid economy’. He defended the composition of the committee, 10 Dec., and, explaining the government’s decision not to stop the trades’ procession to St. James’s Palace, caused a stir by extolling the tricolour as the symbol of the ‘glorious’ French revolution of July 1830.159 He obtained a vote of credit of £100,000 to tide over the civil list till next session. He refuted charges that the government had already demonstrated its indifference to the problems of Ireland and asked for time, 11 Dec. On the 13th he declared that slavery should be abolished as soon as possible, but with due regard to the education and improvement of the slaves, and that ministers had no intention of fiddling with the currency. He defended the appointment of a chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster (Holland) and lord privy seal (Durham). He clashed with O’Connell over Irish pensions and judicial appointments and, while assuring Hume that he wished to ‘relieve the country as much as possible from the ... dead weight’ pension fund, disagreed with his contention that all military promotion should cease. Moving for a supply of £1,850,000 for the deficiency of 1830, he promised to try to keep down the 1831 estimates, but ‘warned that inflated public expectations on this score were almost certain to be disappointed’. He had to tell Hume that ministers had been obliged to increase the army by 7,000 men, not because they wanted ‘to govern by military, but in consequence of the disorders in the country’. On 14 Dec. he opposed Hume’s motion for a select committee on truck payments as ‘dangerous’ in the circumstances of the manufacturing districts, and endorsed in principle Littleton’s bill to abolish them. He confirmed that Bishop Phillpotts of Exeter would not be allowed to hold the living of Stanhope in commendam and said his reverence for the Church of England only intensified his ‘regret’ at the `abuses’ which undermined it, 15 Dec. He persuaded the O’Gorman Mahon to drop his ‘insidious’ motion to name Irish magistrates who had been bankrupts. He did not oppose the withholding of the Evesham writ, as the Tories wished, even though he thought Peel’s cited precedents were unconvincing, 16 Dec. The following day he received a devastating blow when he was called out of a cabinet meeting to be told that news had arrived of the death of his brother Robert from ‘inflammation of the bowels’ on board ship off Egypt on 4 Nov. This put him in ‘a terrible state’ and robbed him of all appetite for the House for a week; Palmerston deputized for him.160 On 23 Dec., when he was ‘tolerably well’, he moved the adjournment of the House until 3 Feb. 1831 and fielded questions on a variety of subjects, but failed this time to prevent the O’Gorman Mahon from carrying his motion on bankrupt Irish magistrates.161 On 28 Dec. he told Milton that his parents had ‘borne their severe loss uncommonly well’ and that
the constant stretch in which my mind is kept very soon overcame the first terrible shock ... The necessity for the exertion very soon enabled me to make it. Our task is a very difficult one. At present we are very popular, but I suppose when it is seen how little we can do our popularity will be at an end. With respect to the corn laws, nothing can be done with them in an unreformed ... Commons. If we carry reform, as I feel pretty confident we can ... then will be the time for us to do good; till then we can only nibble at the various abuses of the present system. I have been a pretty strenuous advocate for reform a good while, but I never knew half the importance [of] and necessity for it till I became a minister.162
Robert Price* had told Milton, 15 Dec.:
Althorp bears ... [the Commons] well, and puts down opposition by a conduct as plain and straightforward as that we used to see him display when sitting on the other side ... but still he is evidently annoyed by a want of confidence too early shown, and I believe, if he could have his choice would soon again be an independent Member and out of office.163
Next day Creevey informed Miss Ord, ‘You have no conception how our Clunch is distinguishing himself in his speaking as well as honesty’.164 Rumours persisted that he was unhappy in office and would soon go out, but the general Whig view was that he was ‘doing excellently well’.165 On Christmas Day 1830 Holland reported to Lord George William Russell* that Althorp had ‘really done wonderfully ... and has gained character as a speaker as well as answered fully to the expectation formed of him as a man and a minister’; but Ellice, a born pessimist, thought Althorp and Grey were too complacent.166
Althorp had set his treasury team to work on tax collection and superannuations at the beginning of December 1830.167 His well-intentioned attempts to prune the civil list quickly ran into trouble on the problem of life pensions granted by George IV, which had technically lapsed on his death. Althorp considered them to be debts of honour, which had to be continued, as William IV insisted. He also found the king reluctant to accept too radical an overhaul of the list, though he approved the removal of diplomatic salaries to the consolidated fund.168 When he outlined his proposals to the House, 4 Feb. 1831, in what was generally thought to be a poor and garbled speech (he apologized, 17 Feb., for having ‘mystified’ the subject), he was attacked by Hume, and there was ‘great disappointment’ on the government back benches at the ‘meagre’ savings. Brougham urged him to make significant cuts in the list, in defiance of the king, but Althorp would not give way and threatened to resign.169 Holland, however, thought that ‘the unpopularity of the measure does not seem to shake the confidence and respect felt for ... [Althorp] both in and out of doors’.170 On 7 Feb. he defended reduction of the barilla duty, an ‘error’ inherited from the Wellington ministry. (George Traill*, who had seen him privately on this subject, had found him ‘a very fair and candid person, and quite unassuming and frank in his deportment’.)171 Althorp had reported in mid-January that ‘the state of Ireland is getting as bad as possible’, that the government might be ‘forced to adopt some very violent measures’ and that O’Connell ‘must be put down’. Yet a week later he expressed ‘doubts of the legality of O’Connell’s arrest’ and surmised that if it proved to be illegal, ministers would be obliged to ‘strike our colours, which to me at least, will be a most agreeable result’: ‘if I am once turned out’, he told Spencer, ‘they will have some difficulty in catching me again’.172 In the House, 8 Feb., he answered the O’Gorman Mahon’s furious rant against the Irish proclamation and O’Connell’s arrest, stood by his view that O’Connell had been inciting violence and stated the government’s determination to uphold the law and maintain the Union while pursuing measures of conciliation. On 10 Feb. he said that ‘the whole system of colonial expenditure is vicious, and requires a strict investigation’. He now declared his dissent from Chandos’s game bill, which obliged him to bring in an alternative. His first budget, presented as ‘a bold experiment’, 11 Feb., when he admitted that he was ‘wholly unaccustomed to the statement of long financial details’, was a humiliating botch. He proposed to repeal or reduce taxes on coals, slates, newspapers, candles, tobacco, glass and printed calicoes, which would yield a net saving of about £3,000,000. To balance the accounts, he planned to end colonial preference in the timber and wine duties, tax imports of raw cotton, coal exports and steamboat journeys, and, controversially, to impose a half per cent tax on transfers of real and funded property.173 The House’s initial reaction was favourable, but Goulburn attacked the whole plan (details of which had clearly been leaked) and made a strong case against the transfer tax as a ‘breach of national faith’.174 The City was soon in an uproar about it, and it became obvious that it could not be carried through the Commons. Althorp convened a meeting of over 200 Members and City men, 13 Feb., and reported to Grey afterwards:
I think we must give way. Now as to going out, I have considered it maturely, and though personally I should not be disinclined to do it, yet upon the very same principles which induced me to come in, I think we are bound to stay, if we can, till we have tried the question of reform. I think our going out just now would be producing the greatest possible danger, therefore we cannot be justified in doing so. I think the right way to retreat is to say that my opinion remains unchanged, but that I find I cannot carry it and therefore must give it up.
He offered his own resignation, but Grey refused to accept it.175 On 14 Feb. Althorp had what Grey admitted to the king was the ‘mortifying’ task of announcing the abandonment of the transfer tax, which he said would oblige him to make other adjustments to the budget scheme.176 Greville wrote:
A more miserable figure was never cut than his; but how should it be otherwise? A respectable country gentlemen, well versed in rural administration, in farming and sporting, with all the integrity of £15,000 a year in possession and £50,000 in reversion, is all of a sudden made leader in the ... Commons without being able to speak, and chancellor of the exchequer without any knowledge, theoretical or practical, of finance. By way of being discreet, and that his plan may be a secret, he consults nobody: and then he closets himself with his familiar Poulett Thomson, who puts this notable scheme into his head, and out he blurts it in the House ... without an idea of how it will be received, without making either preparations for defending it or for an alternative in case of its rejection ... The opposition cannot contain themselves.177
The Tory Thomas Gladstone* felt that Althorp had blundered ‘in introducing what he was not determined to stand up to’ and by failing to ‘consult any of the authorities usually and naturally consulted on such occasions’.178 Arbuthnot was delighted to see ‘that Jacobin Lord Althorp ... in so great a scrape’.179 But Holland told Lord Granville on 15 Feb. that while ‘poor Althorp’ had been ‘discomfited’, the ‘retreat ... has been admirably conducted’ and ‘we have as firm a seat and as willing and powerful a horse as before’.180 Althorp’s humiliation was not over, however, for he was besieged by disgruntled cotton manufacturers, who persuaded him to reduce the tax on raw cotton imports. He also had to surrender the reduction of duties on tobacco and glass to make up for the loss of the transfer tax, and he made concessions on Cape wines and the steamboat tax. He defended himself in the House, 17 Feb., when he acquiesced in Parnell’s motion for a public accounts select committee; but in private he was evidently still despondent and lamenting his own inadequacy. Brougham, who was never prone to self-doubt, urged him to stop his ‘absurd’ self-pity, to ‘give up abusing yourself’ and to ‘borrow a little of Peel’s’ self-delight and approbation’.181 The civil list and budget fiascoes damaged the government and Althorp’s reputation.182 The political economist McCulloch reckoned that ‘everybody is now satisfied that Althorp is utterly unfit for his situation’, for ‘with the best intentions in the world, and incorruptible honesty, he has no knowledge and no power of speaking’.183 Greville claimed that ‘even’ the Whig Lord Sefton* ‘now confesses that Althorp is wretched ... leading the ... Commons without the slightest acquaintance with the various subjects that come under discussion, and hardly able to speak at all’.184 Bedford observed that Althorp was ‘no great financier, though an excellent and well-meaning man’; and Tavistock conceded that the budget had ‘damaged him as a financier’ and would ‘shake his influence’, though not permanently.185 When Hobhouse visited him with a deputation of calico tradesmen in late February, he thought he ‘did not seem to know much about the matter’.186 James Hope Vere* heard on 28 Feb. ‘a very strange thing. Someone wanting to please the Countess Spencer remarked that he thought Lord Althorp had done very well. The reply was, "I should like to know how you would define what is meant by very bad"’.187 Althorp opposed Chandos’s motion for inquiry into West Indian distress and refused to budge on the sugar duties, 21 Feb., when he defended the ‘judicious’ increase in the army. Next day he endorsed the ministerial emigration scheme. He replied to Hume’s criticisms of details of the navy estimates, 25 Feb. 1831, and on the 28th insisted that O’Connell’s speeches in Ireland were ‘calculated to excite sedition’. That day Creevey, noting favourable articles in The Times and the Morning Herald, judged that ‘we are recovering by gentle degrees from Althorp. He has very nearly killed us, poor fellow, honest as he is, but it must be admitted that he has been damned conceited’.188
Althorp was not one of the committee of four (Russell, Durham, Graham and Duncannon) to whom the task of drafting the English reform bill was entrusted in late November 1830, but he and Grey had a close supervisory role. In the first instance, he drew up a set of minimum proposals, which included the disfranchisement of 100 ‘seats’, of which 42 would go to unrepresented manufacturing towns, and a £10 householder franchise in the boroughs. He also wanted the ballot, and got Duncannon to advocate this in the committee’s deliberations.189 (Lord John Townshend could not fathom how ‘such an able and judicious man’ could support such a ‘crotchet’.)190 Although the ballot was abandoned in the final scheme, Althorp, who was reported in early January to be ‘coaxing the ultra radicals’ by dining ‘Maberly, Hume and others of that stamp, in small select parties’, was broadly satisfied with it: he ‘should not be afraid of going further’, but thought ‘it will do’. He was not sure that it had not ‘given too much power to the land’, but reflected that ‘the great principle of the measure is that henceforward there will be no privileged class and, the power of the country being placed in the hands of the intelligence of the country, we may be satisfied that any improvements which may hereafter be required may be easily made, for there will be nobody interested to oppose them as the proprietors of boroughs now are’.191 Littleton found the eve of session dinner at Althorp’s, 3 Feb., ‘amusing’:
I sat next to Althorp, whom I like more and more daily. He has more simplicity and honesty about him than any man I ever knew. He laughed at the badgerings he has had in Parliament and said he cared less about them than he could have imagined, talked about his farms and his calves ... and his not having a minute night or day to himself ... He spoke most satisfactorily on the cordiality and union of the cabinet. Reform is to be brought on by Lord John Russell ... The government have thought it due to him not to take the question out of his hands, Althorp said he had always considered himself a pretty good radical before, but that he was ten times more so now, since he had been in office and had a peep behind the curtain.192
Greville thought giving the introduction of the bill to Russell was a ‘pretence’ of a compliment to him, but was really an expedient to take the burden off Althorp, who was ‘wholly unequal to it’; but Brougham believed that he was entirely qualified to handle the measure if necessary.193 Presenting a large number of reform petitions, 26 Feb., Althorp said he had only taken office to effect reform, without which ‘there is no security for good government’. He ‘spoke out manfully’ for the English reform bill, 1 Mar., as Hobhouse recalled: he said that it aimed to ‘remove all cause for discontent’, to ‘satisfy the people, and so avert all danger of a revolution’ and to ‘place the election of Members in the hands of the middle classes’.194 Thomas Gladstone thought he ‘bungled through’ his speech, ‘but was better than usual’; and Arbuthnot was told that Althorp, who believed that Peel had blundered by not opposing the introduction of the bill, had informed ‘a near relative’ that ‘he could now breathe again, that he had had a weight upon his mind not to be imagined, but that the introduction of their reform bill had now relieved him’.195 The king was still making difficulties over the civil list, which Althorp had had referred to a committee upstairs.196 On 7 Mar. he said he could hold out no expectation of further tax cuts and denied Chandos’s allegation that ministers were ‘encouraging’ Members to ‘inflame the public mind’, with reference to George De Lacy Evans’s diatribe at the Crown and Anchor, which he deplored as ‘violent and foolish’. Ellenborough was well wide of the mark in commenting, 10 Mar., that Althorp ‘is alarmed now and has more reform than he wants’. That day he was unable in the ‘circumstances’ to support Warburton’s bill to ban tobacco growing in Ireland, but said this must be terminated as soon as possible. He saw off Chandos’s motion to reduce the sugar duties by 147-49, 11 Mar., but said on the 14th that he hoped to be able to assist West India proprietors by other means. He defended reduction of the barilla duties against the complaints of Scottish Members and explained the transfer of the steamboat tax from passengers to tonnage of vessels, 16 Mar. Next day he saw Traill on the contentious subject of the use of sugar in distilleries.197 On 18 Mar. he reported that while ministers could not apply money to relieve Irish distress locally, they were considering the general problem. He presented his modified proposals for the timber duties, of which he was privately ‘very proud’, but he was accused by Herries of deception, and a factious combination of opponents defeated them by 236-190.198 He carried the previous question against Inglis’s motion accusing The Times of breach of privilege in libeling anti-reform Members, 21 Mar. He voted silently for the second reading of the reform bill next day. In an angry debate arising out of the Cambridge University petition against the measure, 24 Mar., he maintained that it was ‘not revolutionary’. He would not compromise on the disfranchisement of ‘rotten boroughs’, but indicated that ministers were willing to reconsider individual cases if errors had occurred in the 1821 population returns. On 25 Mar. he proposed a civil list of £11,530 more than that recommended by the finance committee and carried it against Hume’s half-hearted opposition.199 He dismissed Vyvyan’s taunt of inconsistency on the issue of indifference to popular opinion, 30 Mar., when he secured an advance of money for local and temporary Irish relief. His humiliation over the budget was still haunting him, and even Brougham was critical of him behind his back.200 By arrangement with Ellice, he wrote ‘a circular, which will have more effect than a common treasury note’, to muster attendance for the committee stage of the reform bill, 7 Apr.201 On that and the following day he discussed and settled with Graham, Duncannon and Durham ‘all the alterations’ to be made to the measure.202 On 12 Apr. he accepted Goulburn’s suggestion that the £10,000 proposed for civil list ‘emergencies’ should be doubled, and carried it by 44-10. He now emphatically declared his support for Littleton’s truck bill. Next day he explained that schedule A boroughs which had been found to have populations over 2,000 would be transferred to B, but that the changes entailed would be ‘very small’; and that the plan to reduce the membership of the House to 596 would be maintained unless it proved to be impractical, though it was not ‘essential’. Before securing the third reading of the civil list bill by 72-17 and defeating amendments proposed by Hume and Davies, 14 Apr., he clashed with Goulburn over the merits of their respective schemes. He obtained a grant of £100,000 for the queen’s widowhood, 15 Apr., when he opposed Buxton’s motion for the immediate abolition of slavery, preferring an amendment condemning the failure of the colonial assemblies to act on the 1823 amelioration resolution and threatening commercial reprisals. On the 18th he led for the government in opposing Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment to the reform bill, that the number of English and Welsh Members should not be diminished, arguing that ‘we can no longer go on with a system of representation which is defensible only by prescription’. Grey thought his speech was ‘quite excellent’ and had taken ‘the right tone and stated truly that, on the decision on this question ... the fate of the bill really depended’; but Mackintosh, who remarked on ‘some unwonted spirit in Althorp’s speech’, heard that he ‘left it somewhat doubtful’ whether the outcome was to be so considered.203 Ellenborough was told that ‘while in the lobby Althorp, thinking they had a majority, begged people to stay, that they might go into committee at once’; but in the event the government was defeated by 299-291.204 On 21 Apr. 1831 Althorp refused to answer Vyvyan’s question as to whether ministers had secured a dissolution because the House had refused to reduce the number of English Members and failed by 142-164 to block William Bankes’s motion for an adjournment. Next day, according to Hobhouse, he ‘stood silent and quite unmoved’ amid the sound and fury (chiefly of Peel) which was terminated by the arrival of Black Rod; he later commented, ‘well, I think I beat Peel in temper’.205 Through no fault of his own, he was dragged into a ‘hazardous’, protracted and expensive contest for Northamptonshire, where Milton allowed himself to be nominated by the local reformers, which prompted the Tories to put up another man with Cartwright. Condemned unfairly for a breach of trust, Althorp answered vigorously on the hustings and in print; but his indignation with Milton was intensified by his friend’s refusal to appear in person or to bear his share of the costs. He headed the poll, and brought Milton in with him.206
During this distraction Poulett Thomson had kept Althorp au fait with exchange rates and the state of the bullion market.207 He approved Grey’s firm resistance at the end of May 1831 to the king’s pressure for modifications to be made to the reform bill in order to conciliate the Lords and, convinced that the new voting qualifications must be preserved intact, was relieved when it appeared that ‘we shall keep the franchise as it is’.208 The death of his mother on 8 June obliged him to observe the decencies, but did not much upset him.209 As he had hoped, there was no division on the address, 21 June, when he replied ‘with spirit’ to Peel’s condemnation of the dissolution.210 Next day he told Hume that he intended to persevere with the duty on raw cotton and the adjustment of the wine duties, and O’Connell that government would only introduce poor laws to Ireland as a last resort. He defended the Irish yeomanry and got leave for his bill to end tobacco cultivation, 27 June. He gave his view that ‘any attempt to remedy the evils of the poor laws, upon correct principles, must be attended by severe pressure on the poor’, 28 June. On the 30th he conceded that the 1830 Sale of Beer Act had created difficulties, but stood by its principle. He also forced the withdrawal of Alderman Wood’s ‘censure’ motion for a revision of salaries to 1797 levels; this pleased him, as it ‘showed that our men were very steady’.211 He endorsed the appointment of a select committee on the use of molasses in brewing and distilling and justified the establishment of an Irish public works board. He had confided to his father, 25 June, that Milton had been ‘imprudent’ in ‘talking about the corn laws without any conversation with me’. He feared that Milton’s notice of a repeal motion would be ‘injurious to me in the ... Lords’, where he was already anticipating defeat by over 20 votes for the reform bill, even leaving the bishops out of the calculation. He admitted to Spencer on the 30th that a ‘blunder’ in the bill, by which claimants to the vote were required to pay their rents at least half-yearly, would have to be ‘rectified instantly’. He was happy with the state of the revenue, but afraid that it would be lowered by cholera quarantine. He expected a Commons ‘majority of about 150 on the reform bill’, but bitterly regretted having gone the previous evening to hear Paganini, who ‘made every noise that could be made with a fiddle, and a great many more than I ever heard before, but ... [with] no pretence of a tune’.212 He got his customs duties through ‘very easily’, 1 July, when he refuted as ‘absurd’ Hunt’s attack on Grey’s blatant nepotism. He was horrified, however, by the Irish arms bill, which Smith Stanley, the Irish secretary, had surreptitiously changed into ‘one of the most tyrannical measures I ever heard proposed’. He told his father, ‘We must stand by Stanley, but we must tone down his measure’.213 On 4 July, when he was becoming increasingly worried by the prospect of conflict between Belgium and Holland, he admitted the government’s mistake over rent payment, but denied that the draftsman Gregson was responsible for it. He was anxious to get the reform bill as quickly as possible to the Lords, even though he was sure they would reject it. He anticipated (wrongly) defeat there on the proposal to appoint lord lieutenants of Irish counties, but reasoned that this, unlike the reform bill, was not a resignation issue, though he would ‘throw no obstacle in the way of resigning’ if his colleagues wished to do so: ‘I hate my situation more and more every day, and really go down to the House ... as if I was going to execution’. (Littleton noted that ‘when once in the melee of the House, he recovered his spirits’.)214 He spoke for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 5 July. He admitted that it was proving difficult to root out ‘abuse’ in the system of exchequer accounts, 8 July. On the 11th he carried his modified wine duties, which favoured Cape produce, and, replying to Wetherell’s jibe that he had filled his speech with figures, said that if he would ‘show me how to state sums, and subtract one from another without the introduction of figures, I shall be very much obliged to him’. He got through the grant for civil services, which included £75,000 for pensions, 18 July, opposed a motion for information on Brazilian captures of British ships, 19 July, and refused to acceded to De Lacy Evans’s demand for the official papers relating to the Deacles’ allegations against William Bingham Baring*, 21 July, thinking privately that this would ‘increase my power in the House’ and ‘soften’ Alexander Baring’s opposition to reform.215 He answered questions on the Belgian situation, defended the grant for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospels in the colonies as a temporary expedient and the increased subsidy for the militia, and proposed an issue of exchequer bills to promote public works, 25 July. He produced the king’s message concerning provision for the duchess of Kent and Princess Victoria, and crushed Hunt’s amendment to halve it by 223-0, 3 Aug. Next day he forced an alteration to the terms of Attwood’s motion for a copy of the authority by which the additional duty on wines had been levied; he called it ‘a kind of impeachment against me’. Worried by the ‘critical state’ of foreign affairs, he appealed unsuccessfully to Vyvyan to drop his intended motion, which would jeopardize national interests, 6 Aug.; but he subsequently got Vyvyan to oblige.216 He rejected Peel’s suggestion of an inquiry into the administration of justice in Ireland, 10 Aug., and reluctantly opposed printing the Waterford petition for disarming the yeomanry, to avoid intensifying the ‘violent party feelings’ which blighted that country. He defended the Irish lord lieutenants bill and public works loan, 15 Aug. He and Smith Stanley had a hostile reception when they met 50 Irish Members ‘professedly friendly to our government’ to explain their plan to store the arms of and regulate the yeomanry, 18 Aug.; and he subsequently recommended abandonment of the scheme.217 On 22 Aug. he pushed through the Irish estimates and justified the reduction of duty on French wines. The following day he put the ministerial case on the Dublin election controversy. Behind the scenes he thwarted the lord steward Lord Wellesley’s attempt to apply some of the money voted for the coronation to the civil list.218 He announced the good news that French troops had been ordered to leave Belgium, 25 Aug. He carried by 64-52 the previous question against Sadler’s proposal for legislation for the Irish poor, arguing that it would be ‘insane’ to adopt such a vague resolution. He made a concession on the wine duties, 1 Sept., and repudiated Hume’s accusation that he had violated an agreement, 7 Sept.; but he gave way again, 12 Sept. He secured the third reading of the game bill, 2 Sept. On the 6th he told Hume that ministers were considering a fairer distribution of Irish church revenues and opposed Alderman Wood’s motion to repeal the quarantine duties and Hunt’s for an Act of Grace for crown debtors on the occasion of the coronation. He failed by 73-77 to stop a motion for inquiry into the effects on the West India interest of renewing the Sugar Refinery Act, 12 Sept., but refused to suspend business in view of the smallness of the majority. He forced on the bill by 125-113, 28 Sept. When Hunt proposed consideration of the corn laws, 15 Sept., Althorp endorsed Hume’s moving of the previous question. That day he admitted to Herries that ‘the greatest portion’ of his February budget had now been ‘given up’, but claimed credit for the reduction of duties on coals, candles and calicoes. He opposed De Lacy Evans’s motion for inquiry into the Deacles’ case, 22 Sept., and on the 27th denied the truth of O’Connell’s allegation that ‘the affairs of Ireland have not been attended to by this House’. He explained the make-up of the £163,670 still required to complete the work on Windsor Castle and Buckingham House, 28 Sept. Next day he upheld the recommendation of the public salaries committee to reduce the pay of the president of the board of control to £3,500. He carried by 67-37 an amendment to Hobhouse’s vestries bill, which raised the required majority to two-thirds, 30 Sept. His ways and means statement, 3 Oct., forecast a surplus revenue of £493,000. He reiterated his faith in tax cuts as the way forward. He secured the appointment of a select committee on the condition of the West Indian colonies, 6 Oct., and uneasily defended the bill to abolish the Scottish exchequer court and award the chief baron, Abercromby, a compensatory pension, 7 Oct. 1831.
Althorp’s part in guiding the reform bill through the hot, stinking, fractious and sometimes riotous Commons, 12 July-14 Sept. 1831, restored his battered reputation as a parliamentarian and did him great credit. On 11 July he held ‘an immense meeting of reformers’ at the foreign office to urge them to hang together, ‘never quit the House’ and ‘support the government by our votes rather than speeches’. He was cheered to the echo, but ‘stupid’ and ungrateful Milton declared his intention of moving various amendments.219 On the 12th he opposed the first of a succession of factious adjournment motions: he told Spencer next day that ‘the enemy have injured themselves very much’, would ‘certainly quarrel with one another’ and would offer ‘vexatious, but unskillful and inefficient’ resistance.220 He and Russell, backed by their large working majority, got the House into committee on schedule A on 13 July, when Althorp defended in passing the £10 householder franchise and three Member counties proposals. The following day he justified the population benchmark of under 2,000 for total disfranchisement of boroughs which could not be rescued from ‘corrupt influence’, and on 15 July he got rid of Agnew’s attempt to group these boroughs on the Scottish model. Consideration of individual boroughs began that day, and on the 19th Althorp opposed Mackinnon’s amendment to base the disfranchisement schedules on the recent 1831 census, arguing that using the 1821 returns would ‘remove all suspicion of partiality’. There was sudden alarm in the cabinet at this time at reports that Spencer was in ‘very precarious health’. Grey and others could see no adequate replacement for Althorp as leader, but the crisis passed as his father recovered.221 On 21 July Althorp provoked a furore by proposing that the House should bind itself to give precedence to the reform bill on all order days. Peel and Williams Wynn protested strongly and Althorp backed down, conceding that there should be an understanding, not ‘a standing order’. Hobhouse thought he had taken his characteristic ‘patience’ too far and that ‘our treasury bench is over-meek’; but Ellenborough, who heard that Althorp had been ‘frightened out of his monstrous proposition ... by mere looks of firmness’, acknowledged that in general ‘he puts his points shortly and clearly ... When his points are good, he adheres firmly to them. When they are bad, he gives them up at once’.222 But Campbell, who was still inclined to denigrate Althorp, wrote that his ‘reasoning’ in discussions of detail ‘consisted of saying "I think" and "I am of opinion" that so and so is the case, and he attempted nothing else’.223 Althorp ‘approved ... individually’ of Littleton’s suggestion that a select committee should be appointed to consider the boundaries of constituencies, but failed to convince the cabinet.224 On 26 July, he committed what he admitted in private was ‘a blunder’ on the case of Saltash, which was proposed for total disfranchisement. He admitted that the case for this was ‘one of the weakest’ and, not expecting a division, seemed to concede the justice of transferring the borough to schedule B, but in a ‘very indistinct’ fashion. Hunt forced a division, and the transfer was carried by 231-150, with Althorp himself in the majority, but at least three ministers in the minority of uncompromising reformers. The patronage secretary Ellice, according to Littleton, ‘went home in a rage’, and Althorp confessed to his father that ‘our friends were very angry’. He sought to appease them by making a stout stand for the partial disfranchisement of Chippenham next day, when opposition mustered strongly, and he carried this by 251-181. He told Spencer, 28 July:
I stand my work very well. The hot weather does better for the House ... than the cold because we have the windows all open and have therefore fresh air. The progress ... is terribly slow and the people are becoming terribly impatient. Their fury will be directed against the opposition, but they are also beginning to blame me for not doing what is impossible ... It is not quite agreeable to be found fault with by one’s friends, but there is this advantage in the impatience of the people, that it will prove to the ... Lords that the feeling in favour of the bill is not diminished.225
On 29 July he asked Hobhouse, whom he was seeing about his factories regulation bill, ‘how the devil shall we get on with the [reform] bill?’ Hobhouse facetiously replied that ‘one way was not to let the attorney-general [Denman] make bad speeches’.226 In a bid to ‘expedite’ the bill later that day, he proposed that as the House would not sit on Monday, 1 Aug., on account of the king’s City dinner, it should convene on Saturday, 30 July. There were protests, but he eventually got his way, at the cost of losing even more time. Duncannon complained to Hobhouse that ‘it was as much as he could do to keep Althorp and Graham ... to the sticking point’, as they were ‘wishing to give up’.227 Schedule B was completed (with a couple of cases left over for further consideration) on 2 Aug., when Althorp defended the schedule C enfranchisements, especially those of the metropolitan districts. On 4 Aug. he was obliged to oppose and defeat by 230-102 Milton’s attempt to give the schedule D boroughs two Members each instead of one. Next day he explained that the boundary commissioners would be empowered to extend boroughs to create viable constituencies and, stressing ministers’ desire to avoid differences of opinion with their supporters, said, ‘We are anxious, as far as it is in our power, to make this measure final’. Russell’s fragile health had given way, and on about 10 Aug., when the committee had reached schedule F (the Welsh boroughs), Althorp assumed sole overall management of the bill’s progress. Macaulay told his sister that of the ministers in the Commons, only Althorp was ‘not either useless or worse than useless’. On 13 Aug. Holland found him ‘better pleased at the attendance of our friends and prospects of the bill than I expected, though he was nettled by attacks in The Times on his successful defence of the division counties (carried by 241-132) on the 11th.228 The only committee defeat which he suffered occurred on 18 Aug., when Chandos’s amendment to enfranchise £50 tenants-at-will in the counties was carried against him by 232-148. He advised Grey that it would be unwise to try to overturn or materially alter this decision, and on the 19th had the relevant clause temporarily withdrawn for adjustments to be made. In any case, the whole complicated issue of urban voters in the counties had been exercising the cabinet for weeks, as the initial draft clauses turned out to have many defects; and at one point Althorp was driven to talk of resignation if he had to convey yet another change of mind to the government’s supporters. On 20 Aug. he secured the adoption of the revised borough freeholders clause, which was partly intended to counteract the impact of the Chandos amendment.229 He crushed by 123-1 Hunt’s bid to impose a general borough householder franchise, which he considered tantamount to universal suffrage, and defeated by 225-136 Davies’s amendment to confine urban freeholder electors to the boroughs, 24 Aug. He accepted some minor adjustments to the £10 franchise, but on 26 Aug. said that he was ‘satisfied that we have not gone in it a step too far’, as ‘it was absolutely necessary for us to adopt some systematic plan of voting ... founded on so extensive a basis as to satisfy the wishes ... of the great body of the people’. Campbell had observed to his brother that Althorp, ‘like Bottom the weaver, will play all the parts himself’; but after ‘several consultations’ with him he admitted that ‘he appears to more advantage than in the House’ and seemed ‘to know more law than some of his legal advisers’.230 Littleton wrote, 26 Aug.:
The temper, good nature, the firmness, the thorough understanding of all the points of legal difficulty in the clauses, exhibited by Althorp are admirable. In great debate he is nothing. As he said to me yesterday, ‘My memory then fails me - I forget my topics, but a committee is my forte’.231
Another observer praised the ‘calm, unpretending good sense, excellent temper and gentlemanlike feelings’ on which his authority over the House rested.232 But on 25 Aug. Althorp revealed to Brougham the personal unhappiness concealed by his calm and businesslike demeanour:
My being in office is nothing more or less than misery to me ... I have nothing to compensate me. I take no interest in any of my work. I see all of you interested in what you are doing, looking forward to success ... and therefore recompensed for present vexations and fatigues by the hope of future satisfaction. I have no such feelings of hope ... the only thing I can look forward to ... is the time when, consistently with my duty, I can be relieved from a situation to the duties of which I know I am unequal. This ... gives me ... some advantages, because it prevents me from being so much irritated as other people are by disappointments and attacks; for instance, being told I am incapable and unfit for my place has no effect upon me at all. I only rather wish that everybody would be convinced of it, for then I should at once be relieved.233
Next day he wrote to his father:
Since I have taken the management of the reform bill into my own hands, I have been so overwhelmed with work that I have not had a moment to spare. We are going on slowly, but well, in the ... Commons. I fear we have but little chance in the ... Lords, making allowance even for any number of coronation peers which is consistent with decency. The danger from the rejection of the bill, and consequent dissolution of the ministry, is great; but the relief to me will be so enormous, that my patriotism is not sufficient to induce me to look forward to it with any other feeling but that of hope. I do not consider the danger to be so great as some people do. It will undoubtedly be very difficult to govern; but the people are so accustomed to obedience to the law, that I do not apprehend any actual tumult. I keep quite well. I was knocked up a good deal last night, for I had to speak so very often ... I fall asleep the instant I am in bed, and do not wake till I am called.234
Macaulay dined with him on the 27th and found him
extremely pleasant ... We congratulated Althorp on his good health and spirits. He told us that he never took exercise now, that from his getting up till four o’clock he was engaged in the business of his office; that at four he dined, went down to the House at five, and never stirred till the House rose, which is always after midnight; that he then went home, took a basin of arrow root with a glass of sherry in it, and went to bed, where he always dropped asleep in three minutes. ‘During the week’, said he, ‘which followed my taking office, I did not close my eyes for anxiety. Since that time I have never been awake a quarter an hour after taking off my clothes’ ... We talked about timidity in speaking. Althorp said that he had only just got over his apprehensions. ‘I was as much afraid’, he said, ‘last year as when I first came into Parliament. But now I am forced to speak so often that I am quite hardened. Last Thursday I was up forty times’. I was not much surprised at this in Althorp, as he is certainly one of the most modest men in existence ... [and] simplicity itself ... My opinion of Althorp is extremely high ... His character is the only stay of the ministry. I doubt whether any person has ever lived in England who, with no eloquence, no brilliant talents, no profound information, with nothing in short but plain good sense and an excellent heart, possessed as much influence both in and out of Parliament. His temper is an absolute miracle. He has been worse used than any minister ever was in debate; and he has never said one thing inconsistent, I do not say with gentlemanlike courtesy, but with real benevolence. His candour is absolutely a vice in debate. He is perpetually showing excuses and ways of escape to his adversaries which they would never find themselves ... Althorp has the temper of Lord North† with the principles of [Sir Samuel] Romilly†. If he had the oratorical powers of either, he might do anything. But his understanding, though just, is slow; and his elocution painfully defective. It is however only justice to say to him that he has done more service to the reform bill even as a debater than all the other ministers together, Stanley excepted.235
A brief illness kept him from the House on 30 and 31 Aug., but he was back there on 1 Sept., when he explained and defended the plans for the boundary commission, which was ‘rather too hard work for a convalescent to begin with’, though he was ‘not the worse for it’ next day. ‘Surprised’ not yet to have had ‘a great fall’, he supposed ‘I shall hold my popularity till we are all turned out together, and that is all ... that I can wish’.236 In cabinet, 5 Sept., he ‘questioned the propriety or rather condemned the expediency of making peers’ to force the bill through the Lords, believing that the constitution surely must ‘provide some means of correcting the consequence of a disagreement ... [amounting] to an obstacle to the conduct of public affairs’.237 The bill left the committee stage on 14 Sept., and the report was quickly gone through. On the motion for its passage, 21 Sept. 1831, Althorp dissociated government from the Irish solicitor-general Crampton’s statement that its rejection by the Lords would precipitate a dissolution and the withholding of writs from the schedule A boroughs. He contended that the measure created ‘a representative system which, while it gives the power and influence which are due to the great manufacturing communities ... will also give a proper weight to the landed classes in this House’.
Althorp endorsed the Scottish reform bill, 23 Sept. 1831. (He had had discussions on it with Henry Cockburn, the Scottish solicitor-general, who wrote that ‘everyone admits and admires [his] ... candour, plainness, sense and honesty ... but I am much struck with his talent’.)238 He was also involved in talks with Russell, Smith Stanley, O’Connell and others on the Irish reform bill.239 He had persuaded the cabinet to give both countries three additional Members, which he believed would ‘greatly accelerate ... the progress of both bills’; but he kept ‘mysterious silence’ about this at a meeting with Scottish Members.240 In the House, 4 Oct., he defended the Scottish bill’s provisions and successfully resisted Tory attempts to increase the county representation. Privately, he admitted to Traill that he had made out a strong case for allocating Orkney and Shetland a Member each, but ‘did not give me room to expect any change in the plans of government’.241 Althorp now agreed with Brougham that if the Lords threw out the bill, ‘we ought ... to endeavour to make peers enough to carry it’; but he told Campbell at about this time that if the bill was rejected he would ‘not sleep the worse’: ‘he is a fellow of the most miraculous equanimity’.242 However, when the second reading in the Lords was defeated by 41 votes, 7 Oct., which did not surprise him, he told his father next day:
A majority of 41 is not to be coped with ... The reasonable part of the country would not support us in making 50 peers. I am sure neither Grey nor myself can stay in unless we have a reasonable prospect of carrying a measure as large as the one we lost; and I do not see how we can say that we have a reasonable prospect of doing this ... According to ... [the] ordinary rule, we ought to resign. I am inclined to think ... that this is the only mode of carrying reform [which] will never pass the ... Lords unless it is brought forward by its enemies, as the Catholic question was. There is a great meeting of reforming Members ... today ... and much may depend upon it. I am sure our cabinet will break to pieces; but if I saw my own course clearly, which at present I do not, I should ... take my own line and form a government, if the means were placed at my disposal, whichever of my colleagues resigned; or, if the means were not placed at my disposal, state that this was the reason why I did not do so.243
The cabinet agreed that on Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct., Althorp should, as the only minister to speak, declare that the government would resign unless they were able to bring in a new reform bill at least ‘as efficient’ as the last one. (Grey was to say the same in the Lords.) Palmerston, a reluctant reformer, unhappy with this, protested to Grey and argued that the only realistic way to secure reform was to modify the bill significantly. Althorp assured the premier that he ‘never had an idea of pledging Palmerston to anything’, but had been aware of his unease and would not say a word by which he would be ‘individually compromised’.244 Before going to the House on the 10th he reported to his father news of the Derby riots and a consensus that ‘our quitting office will be the signal for general confusion’:
The Tories are now very much frightened by what they have done; and the leaders of the political unions are equally frightened, as they find they have set a machine in motion which they cannot control ... The speech I have to make tonight is terrific; one word in its wrong place may produce the most disastrous consequences. If we can weather the next fortnight without a convulsion, everything will do. But just now the crisis is rather awful.245
His speech, in which he asserted that ‘by temperance, steadiness and perseverance, the cause of parliamentary reform must ultimately triumph’, was a great success.246 On 11 Oct. he confirmed that riots had occurred at Derby and that measures had been taken to suppress them. He allowed Sadler to bring in his bill to improve the condition of the labouring poor. Next day he defended against Vyvyan his public acknowledgement of a vote of thanks from the Birmingham Political Union: it was ‘as innocent a letter as ever was written’. In it, he had beseeched Thomas Attwood† to prevent violence and defiance of the law.247 He refused De Lacy Evans’s request for papers on Poland because negotiations were in progress, 13 Oct., when he repudiated Wetherell’s charge that government had not exerted themselves to prevent the destruction of the duke of Newcastle’s Nottingham property because he was an anti-reformer. On the 18th he declined to answer a question about the dismissal of Lord Howe as lord chamberlain and said that a petition presented by Hunt for the exclusion of bishops from the Lords was unacceptable. He very reluctantly submitted to pressure from Brougham to try to press through his bankruptcy court reform bill before the prorogation: he did not think there was time, but it became law on the last day of the session. On the question of whether to offer office to O’Connell, which was discussed in cabinet on 13 Oct., Althorp favoured ‘a more explicit communication with him without delay’, but ‘a half measure’ was adopted.248 Two days later his sister Lady Lyttelton called on him in Downing Street and found him
at his dinner, and so hurried and uneasy a meal I never saw ... He looked fagged and ill, just out of a long cabinet sitting, and before he had eaten one cutlet, arrived the governor of the Bank ... I felt quite oppressed with the air of Downing Street, and envying for Althorp every dandy and lounger I met afterwards with no responsibility on his mind.249
In the House, 19 Oct. 1831 Althorp (who was reported to General Dyott to have had ‘the strongest propensity to republicanism’ since his boyhood) said that the Birmingham Political Union’s petition for a creation of peers, though a marginal case, should be received, and, moving the prorogation, reiterated ministers’ determination to introduce a new reform bill at least as extensive as the one rejected by the Lords.
His period of rural respite was brief, for with Bristol in flames and unrest rife throughout the country, he was obliged to be back in London by 31 Oct. 1831. He organized precautions, which included bringing up guns from Woolwich and supplying the Bank with hand grenades, in case the White Conduit meeting on 7 Nov. went ahead. He was pleased that the new National Political Union, of which Burdett somewhat reluctantly became the president, did not seem to be flourishing, believing that such ‘associations are really revolutionary’, for ‘revolutions do not originate in riots like those at Bristol’.250 When the Birmingham Union later in the month called a meeting to promote non-payment of taxes, at which the members were urged to turn up armed, Althorp, to avoid using the government’s contentious proclamation against illegal gatherings, got the Birmingham solicitor Joseph Parkes to transmit to Attwood his personal appeal for the meeting to be cancelled; Attwood complied.251 From 11 to 26 Nov. Althorp was involved in a correspondence, which was later made public, with William Hulton of Hulton Park, chairman of the Lancashire bench at the time of Peterloo, who now resigned in response to Althorp’s remarks supposedly denigrating the magistrates’ conduct on that occasion during an earlier debate on the Deacles’ affair.252 On the question of when to recall Parliament, Althorp was initially in favour of 9 Jan. 1832, but, pressed by Brougham to consider an earlier date in order to avoid giving the impression that major changes to the reform bill were in contemplation, he came round to this view, and in cabinet, 19 Nov., was one of the majority of eight (to three) who decided on 6 Dec. 1831 as ‘necessary and wise’, though he was still not sure that the revised bill and its attendant documents would be ready in time.253 On 18 Nov. Althorp gave Littleton
an amusing account of the manner in which the late bill was drawn and prepared. He seemed to speak of Mr. Gregson’s draft of the bill in terms of very qualified praise - ‘It was drawn decently enough ... and yet when we came to get the great lawyers to look at it, they pulled every clause to pieces. I was obliged to make them all meet at my house, and to work with them, and so little would they pull together, when I was not with them, that ... [when] I returned from a cabinet ... I always found them disputing about the very point which was under discussion when I left. The consequence was we were ill prepared, and obliged to make daily changes in the bill, as we advanced, and it frequently happened that at the hour at which the House met the amended clause was not drawn ...’. All this he said with much merriment ... [and] the same glee that he would have formerly talked of direful scrapes with his fox hounds after they were well got over.254
During November he worked with Russell in a bid to improve the bill and make it more palatable to the ‘Waverer’ peers. He successfully resisted Russell’s wish to transfer urban freeholders from the counties to the boroughs, but made some other concessions. Their attempt to eliminate the single Member constituencies (schedules B and D) came to nothing.255 In mid-November the governor of the Bank, John Horsley Palmer, who had been in consultation with the ‘Waverer’ leader Lord Wharncliffe, indicated to Althorp the modifications which would swing respectable, moneyed opinion behind the bill. Althorp did not commit the government, but acknowledged the usefulness of the information. Yet he told Smith Stanley that while some such provisions might be adopted with advantage, ‘we must ... look more to keeping the support of our friends than to conciliating our enemies. The first is possible, the second is not, and the bill at last must be carried by force and fear, not from conviction or affection’.256 In Grey’s absence, Althorp read to the cabinet on 25 Nov. Wharncliffe’s detailed demands for modifications, but most of them were rejected as unreasonable. Althorp, who ‘rather’ hoped ‘to be a country gentleman again before long’, felt that ‘entering into anything like a negotiation with him for the purpose of making ... mutual concessions would be very unwise.257 The problem of peerage creations had been raised by Graham, who wanted the cabinet immediately to secure the king’s consent ‘to make the requisite number’ and to resign if he refused. Althorp, who still did not think a large creation was acceptable, persuaded Graham to talk to Grey on the 24th. To the premier, he laid out his own ‘views at present’, but admitted that they were ‘not very steady or fixed’:
I feel what I believe to be an insurmountable objection to overwhelming the ... Lords by a large creation ... but ... if it was clearly proved to me that a revolution would be the consequence of not taking this step, and that not only the ... Lords, but every other thing of value ... would be overturned, it would be a very strong thing to say that it ought not to be taken. I should prefer making use of the privileges of the Commons for the purpose of forcing the ... Lords, to using this prerogative of the crown ... Both, however, are desperate expedients ... If ... [Graham] perseveres in bringing the matter forward, and with the intention of resigning in case of failure, our days are numbered ... We are supposed by the reformers to have the full support of the king to the utmost extent of his prerogative ... I do not feel so much objection to requiring of the king that he should put this power in our hands - the possession of it would render the use of it unnecessary. If the king refused to give it to us, and we resigned now, our measure is carried; for no other ministry could be formed, and we should come back with such an overwhelming strength that the ... Lords must give way at once.258
Receipt of a letter from his father which advocated ‘making a great many peers’ surprised him, but he did not immediately change his mind. Yet he argued to Grey that if Graham went out ‘the people will desert us because we have not followed his advice and the peers, knowing we have not secured the power ... will be totally unmanageable’. In that case, with no ‘reasonable chance of carrying the bill’, he and Grey were ‘pledged to resign’.259 There was no respite for him, and on 1 Dec. 1831 Littleton was told by Smith Stanley and Graham how he
was instructing himself and his legal supporters ... how to defend his bill. He gave a dinner to ten lawyers, friends of the bill, among whom ... [was] Gregson ... After dinner Althorp and Gregson challenged the party to attack the bill. They went through it clause by clause, Campbell being the its acutest attacker; but Althorp always, except in two clauses, which were altered, being voted victor.260
On the address, 6 Dec. 1831, he defended the early recall of Parliament, said that renewal of the Bank and East India Company charters would be attended to in due course, declared that the revised reform bill would ‘satisfy the just expectations of the great majority of the people of England’ and accepted an amendment to the paragraph dealing with the treaty with Belgium. On 11 Dec. he was present at the inconclusive interview between Wharncliffe, Harrowby and Chandos, and Grey and Brougham: Chandos reported that he ‘sat saying nothing, with his hands in his pockets, and then, after an hour, went away to Fishmongers’ Hall’, where he and Russell were sworn in as members of the Company.261 Next day he told his father that while he thought ‘on the whole the prospect of carrying the second reading ... in the ... Lords is improved’ and ‘the tone of the enemy is moderated’, he was ‘very low at the prospect before me’ and ‘bitterly’ repented ‘ever having had anything to do with politics’.262 In the House later that day he followed Peel’s ‘angry’ speech on the introduction of the bill with one of ‘great vigour’, and was thought by his friends to have put Peel in his place; but he was reckoned to have let Croker off lightly on the 16th, when he endorsed the second reading, as his ‘good nature’ prevailed.263 At a cabinet dinner, 14 Dec., he read a letter from Ebrington which argued that Ireland was entitled to more Members than planned, but he and Smith Stanley stood firm against any increase. In his private reply to Ebrington, he contended that Scotland deserved more Members, as ‘the population of Ireland is not sufficiently advanced in civilization to make it desirable that they should have any great preponderance in the legislative assembly of a highly civilized state’. However, he assured Ebrington that if he brought on a motion for an increase and ‘the effect ... should be ... to oust us, I shall be under obligations greater to you than I shall ever be able to express’.264 When Peel raised the controversial issue of the Russian-Dutch loan (which had already been paid), 26 Dec., Althorp confirmed that the law officers believed that the government was bound to honour it, but he had to force Denman to defend this opinion.265 He did not oppose Herries’s motion for information, 17 Dec., but he refused to discuss the subject further. On the question of peerage creations, he still agreed with Grey that they could not ask for more than 20 without bringing the ministry down: ‘to make 40, 50 or 60 would be to effect a certain revolution with the view to preventing a contingent one’.266 At the turn of the year the junior treasury minister Francis Thornhill Baring* noted that Althorp was ‘low’ in spirits.267
On issues relating to his department, he told Grey that conceding ‘anything like prohibition’ to distressed Coventry silk weavers ‘would be ruinous to all our hopes of friendly commercial intercourse with France’ and would ‘injure the manufacturers of every other place’; and that the pensions of the widows of officers of the German Legion were probably indefensible, as ‘pensions are the greatest grievance that presses upon the finances of the country’.268 On 15 Jan. 1832 he confessed to Grey that he had discovered that he had been
out on both sides of my account both in receipts and expenditure ... Instead of my having a surplus of £493,479 as I stated in October, I have a deficiency of £698,858. This is much too large, but we must endeavour to meet it by reduction of estimates. I must admit that my financial operations have not been brilliant, and you would have done just right ... if you had thrown me overboard as I recommended the day after my budget. You cannot do so now, at least until we have got the reform bill through, and you will therefore suffer for my rashness.269
He was ‘full of sorrow and alarm’ about the finances and this latest blunder, of which opposition soon got wind.270 He was duly pilloried by Goulburn in the House, 6 Feb., when he admitted his mistake and, as Spring Rice reported, ‘calmly and rationally explained how he intended to engineer a surplus of £164,000. Littleton thought that ‘considering how bad his case was ... he defended himself with spirit, and spoke rather better than usual’.271 His detestation of office led him to preside casually and indifferently over a near disaster for the ministry on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., when they seemed certain to be defeated, as he resisted the opposition censure motion feebly and disregarded urgent messages from Grey and Brougham to ‘get rid of the question by an adjournment or by some other side wind’, which he considered would be ‘disgraceful’. His intimation that he would resign if the motion was carried and an adroit rallying cry by Palmerston secured the government a majority of 24. Althorp confessed to Spencer next day that he now considered the case for payment of the loan a bad one and that he had at one point felt ‘pretty sure that I should today be clear of all my annoyance’. Hobhouse reckoned that he ‘never saw him look so lively as he did just before the division ... when he expected to be beaten, but his face fell when the majority was declared’.272 Althorp refused Francis Baring’s entreaties ‘not to put the whole of the deadweight [pensions] in one estimate’, having ‘pledged himself to the king to support the political pensions’.273 He declined to impose a duty on chicory, as a deputation of West Indians wanted him to do.274 On 29 Feb. he agreed to postpone consideration of the sugar duties and moved for £100,000 in relief for West Indian colonies devastated by hurricanes. He made progress with the sugar duties bill, 23 Mar.275 He conspired with Hobhouse, the new war secretary, to ‘insinuate ... gradually’ with Grey his plan to reduce the colonial forces.276 On the army estimates, 17 Feb., he urged Members to ignore wild stories of the economies which could be made; and on 25 Feb. he privately rebuked Hobhouse for going ‘too far’ in telling the commander-in-chief Lord Hill that the colonial reductions were a fait accompli, which had prompted the colonial secretary Goderich to complain to Grey.277 On 28 Mar. he confirmed that no significant cuts would be made in the domestic army. He defended the government’s malt drawback proposals, 17 Feb., 1 Mar., 3 Apr., opposed a motion for modification of the soap duties, 28 Feb., and endorsed Poulett Thomson’s acquiescence in the appointment of a select committee on the silk trade, 1 Mar. He resisted Hunt’s motion for information on military punishments, 16 Feb., told Peel that ministers were considering the establishment of provincial police forces, 7 Mar., and disregarded Hunt’s ironical invitation to second his motion for inquiry into Peterloo, 15 Mar. He thought Sadler’s factories regulation bill could be improved in committee, 16 Mar., but felt that the intrinsically ‘unwholesome’ nature of labour in cotton factories was ‘an evil which does not admit of remedy’. On 27 Mar. he allowed Ewart to prepare a bill to abolish the death penalty for certain offences, but resisted Trench’s call for information on the costs of the Buckingham House refurbishment. He opposed Hunt’s attempt to end corporal punishment in the army, 2 Apr. He defended the Scottish exchequer court bill, 10 Apr., approved Warburton’s anatomy bill, 11 Apr., and boasted that there was at present ‘no prospect’ of war in Europe, 13 Apr. He supported repeal of the usury laws, 8 May 1832.
Althorp had been worried about the state of Ireland and O’Connell’s intransigence since mid-December 1831, but he was eager to avoid coercion if at all possible.278 In the House, 23 Jan. 1832, he dismissed Hume’s charge that ministers intended to enforce the payment of Irish tithes. Next day he explained and defended the composition of the tithes select committee. On 14 Feb. he was obliged to clarify Grey’s speech in the Lords in which he seemed to have threatened to ‘deluge Ireland with blood’ for the purpose of collecting tithes: he confirmed the government’s determination to uphold the law, but stressed their wish to bring in a conciliatory measure also. Grey witnessed and approved of this speech.279 Althorp differed with Grey in that he knew their supporters in the Commons would never accept the large increase in the army in Ireland which the premier favoured.280 On 8 Mar. he held a meeting at the foreign office of almost 200 ‘English Members supporting government’ (he had addressed the Irish Members the day before) to ‘beg support for the government plan ... [for] the gradual extinction of tithes’. Littleton recorded the scene:
Althorp opened the business. Surely never was there such a figure for an orator - especially to my eye - who had seen there on similar occasions Castlereagh, with his elegant and well-dressed figure and high-bred carriage, and Canning, with his air of quickness and intelligence greater than ever distinguished man. There stood Althorp at the top of the room, with his stout, honest face, and farmer-like figure, habited in ill-made black clothes, his trousers rucked up in a heap round his legs, one coat flap turned around, and exposing his posterior, and the pocket of the other crammed full of papers - his hat held awkwardly in one hand and his large snuff box in the other, with which he kept playing the devil’s tattoo on his thigh - while he briefly and bluntly told his plain, unsophisticated tale with his usual correct feeling and stout sense, and was warmly responded to by the whole party.281
In the House that evening he supported Smith Stanley’s motion to consider and reform Irish tithes, which was carried by 314-31; but he feared the consequences of Sheil’s ‘covert attack’ on the Irish reform bill.282 He defended the proposals, 13 Mar., and on 6 Apr. 1832 assured the House that the remedial measure had only been postponed because it was more complicated than the enforcement bill.
Althorp, who frankly and disarmingly admitted in private to the ‘strongest prejudices of the old Tory school’ which he had cast off at Cambridge, got the Commons into committee on the English reform bill on 20 Jan. 1832. A week later he told his father that having just obtained Hansard for the period 18 July-13 Aug. 1831, he was ‘amused at seeing my name in the index with such a string of numbers to it’ as indicated that he had ‘spoken 292 times’.283 He now repeated the process, steering the measure through over a seven-week stint of unremitting hard work, skilful advocacy and even-tempered defence of the details and technicalities. On 12 Feb. the lord advocate Francis Jeffrey*, who had been immediately captivated by Althorp’s ‘calm, clumsy, courageous, immutable probity and well-meaning’, reported to Cockburn his ‘pretended confession of faith and a sort of creed of his political morality’ at a small dinner party:
[He] avowed that, though it was a very shocking doctrine to promulgate, he must say that he had never sacrificed his own inclinations to a sense of duty without repenting it, and always found himself more substantially unhappy for having exerted himself for the public good! We all combated this atrocious heresy the best way we could; but he maintained it with an air of sincerity, and a half earnest, half humorous face, and a dexterity of statement, that was quite striking. I wish you could have seen his beaming eye and benevolent lips kindling as he answered us, and dealt out his natural familiar repartee with the fearlessness as if of perfect sincerity, and the artlessness of one who sought no applause, and despised all risk of misconstruction, and the thought that this was the leader of the English House of Commons, - no speculator, or discourser, or adventurer, - but a man of sense and business, of the highest rank, and the largest experience both of affairs and society.284
Althorp carried by 215-89 the proposal to divide a number of counties, 27 Jan.; successfully resisted amendments to the £10 franchise (now based on rates rather than rent), 3 Feb.; saw off Hunt’s attempt to lay the cost of booths and hustings on local authorities, 15 Feb., and secured the disfranchisement of Appleby (by 256-143), 21 Feb., and the partial disfranchisement of Helston (by 256-179), 23 Feb. He opposed and defeated (by 316-236) a Conservative amendment to get rid of the metropolitan districts, 28 Feb. On 2 Mar. he denied having stated that the bill was ‘not to be considered as a final measure’. On the 10th he presented the report and then went for a ride. There was serious talk in cabinet of his taking a peerage to conduct the bill through the Lords, as neither Grey nor Brougham felt equal to the task. The idea held strong appeal for him, not least because it would free him from the trammels of the ‘odious’ exchequer, but it foundered on the lack of a suitable man to replace him as leader of the Commons.285 He spoke for the third reading of the reform bill, 19 Mar., and on the 26th carried it to the Lords with Russell, ‘looking more triumphant than they felt’.286
From the beginning of the year Althorp had been tormented by the problem of whether to seek a creation of peers to get the measure through the Lords, which divided the cabinet and put him at odds with Grey, whom he had come almost to venerate and was reluctant to oppose. The king’s acquiescence in mid-January in the cabinet’s request that he pledge himself to create as many peers as proved necessary provided a temporary respite; but by the middle of February, when Althorp was determined to resign if the government were unable to send the bill to the Upper House without ‘a moral certainty’ of carrying it, and Grey, hoping that the ‘Waverers’ would secure the second reading, was now quite averse to pressing mass creations on the king, they seemed to be on a collision course. Althorp, who had removed his pistols from his bedroom to avoid the temptation to shoot himself in despair, and still spoke to Hobhouse of suicide as a way out of his torment, perceived that his own resignation would wreck the government, but that the likely outcome of that would be his succession as premier of a reform ministry kept in power by popular pressure, a prospect which appalled him. But he decided that he had no choice but conscientiously to try to convince Grey of the imperative need to insist on a creation and to resign, whatever the consequences, if this was refused. The cabinet was still divided and the issue unresolved when the bill passed the Commons, but Althorp was initially persuaded by Grey’s plea for caution and threat to resign to try the Lords without the promise of a creation.287 On 27 Mar., however, the cabinet ‘unanimously’ resolved to confront the king with ‘the alternatives of resignation and creation’ and to recommend ‘the necessary creation of peers in the case of the bill being rejected on the second reading’. The king agreed, and on 28 Mar. Hobhouse found Althorp in a more optimistic mood, inclined to agree that they ‘were on velvet’.288 But a week later, to Althorp’s annoyance, the king made difficulties about creating the requisite number of peers. Althorp told his father, 5 Apr.:
I am not sure that we shall be justified in going on till Monday [9th, when the second reading in the Lords was due to start] unless His Majesty gives way, for we must have the power of acting instantly, or we shall be ruined in our characters, in case we are beaten. I think by resigning now we might save a rag of character, but it is very doubtful whether we ought to give up our chance of success, considering that our resignation will be almost as bad as the defeat itself for the peace of the country. I think I must secure a passage in some packet for New York and have four horses to my carriage ready for the division in the ... Lords.
He anticipated a ‘small majority’ for the second reading, but an early defeat in committee, whereupon ‘they would propose 60 peers, the king would refuse, they would resign’, and Peel would ‘come in and ... propose a moderate reform bill, which they would support’.289 He was sure by the 9th that the second reading was safe, but assured Francis Baring that if he and his colleagues failed to secure reform, his own ‘case’ was ‘very easy. At one blow I shall expiate the great fault of my life, having ever entered into politics’.290 The majority of nine for the second reading, 13 Apr., exceeded his expectations and ‘justified’ ministers, as he saw it, ‘so far in not having made peers’, to which many of ‘our staunchest men’ in the Commons were averse. He even allowed himself to be ‘sanguine enough to think that we shall get pretty well through the committee’, as he left London to spend part of the recess at Wiseton, part at Leamington, hoping that ‘some very awkward twinges in my foot’ did not presage ‘a fit of the gout’.291 On 26 Apr. he and Grey were granted the freedom of the City by common council.292 Anticipating defeat on Lord Lyndhurst’s amendment to postpone consideration of schedules A and B, 7 May, when he went to the Lords to advise and support Grey, Althorp told Spencer that he was clear that they must then ask the king to create sufficient peers and to go out if he refused, but that Grey favoured immediate resignation.293 The amendment was carried by 151-116, which Althorp considered to be ‘as total a defeat first of the principle of the reform bill and secondly of the ministry as could well be imagined’. The leading members of the cabinet decided to send Grey and Brougham to Windsor to ask for a creation. The king refused and they resigned on 9 May, when Althorp told Spencer from Downing Street, ‘I am quite clear of this horrid place. I recollect 1807 and how it is not easy for a Whig administration to get back even if they wish it and I certainly shall take all fair means to avoid coming back myself’.294 Jeffrey reported ‘a characteristic scene’ with the ‘frank, true and stout-hearted’ Althorp that day, when he called on him to discuss arrangements for the Scottish reform bill:
I was led up to his dressing-room, where I found him sitting on a stool in a dark duffle dressing-gown, with his arms (very rough and hairy) bare above the elbows, and his beard half-shaved and half staring through the lather, with a desperate razor in one hand and a great soap-brush in the other. He gave me the loose finger of his brush hand, and with the twinkle of his bright eye and radiant smile, he said, ‘You need not be anxious about your Scotch bill for tonight, for I have the pleasure to tell you, we are no longer His Majesty’s ministers’.
Jeffrey later recounted that on the following day Althorp bought plants for his garden at Althorp and wrote detailed ‘plans for their arrangement’.295 When he entered the House on 9 May to announce that ministers had resigned because the king had rejected their ‘advice’, he was greeted with the ‘most deafening cheers’. He confessed to his father that ‘it quite upset me and I spoke with a lump in my throat and as near crying as possible’.296 He disapproved of Ebrington’s notice of a motion for an address asking the king to appoint only ministers who would carry undiluted reform, as he explained to Spencer:
If it fails it will facilitate the formation of a new government, and if it succeeds will ensure the dissolution of Parliament and lose the great advantage we have gained in keeping the reform bill in existence so that it may be passed by the Lords, mutilated perhaps, but still must come back to us in a form to give to popular rights a great advantage. I am naturally in a state of considerable excitement, but it does not disturb my sleep, and I am quite well.
He failed to stop Ebrington from making his motion, 10 May, but made clear his disapproval of its timing when he spoke for it. He also said, ‘in the most impassive manner, plainly and resolutely’, as Hobhouse described it, that the ‘advice’ which had been spurned had been for the creation of enough peers to carry the bill: ‘here the most tremendous cheers burst out from all quarters of the House’.297 The motion was carried by 288-208, but Croker reported that ‘the ministers looked ... abattus’, and Althorp ‘quite pale with agitation’.298 In the House next day he urged reformers in the country to abide by the law. At a ‘great Whig meeting at Brooks’s’, 13 May, called to consider a resolution declaring that no ministry formed by Wellington could enjoy the confidence of the country. Althorp, fearing that the rank and file ‘were inclined to run very wild’, as he told his father
got upon the table to speak ... [and was received] with shouts and huzzas that must have been heard down to St. James’s Palace. I took a decided line against the proposal ... and succeeded ... in bringing them to my opinion. This is very satisfactory, as it shows that my influence is complete and that it will depend upon me what line our party will take ... Wellington’s having accepted office, pledged as I believe he is to carry through our reform bill with very few alterations, is ... the most disgraceful act of political profligacy ... ever ... recorded. But we must not let our anger get the better of our honesty and we must support the bill in whosoever hands it is.299
He stressed this in the House, 14 May, speaking ‘with more warmth than usual’.300 Next day Hobhouse was with him when the duke of Richmond came in ‘and said: "Well, I have bad news for you; no shooting this year. Pack up your guns again ... Wellington has ... given up"’.301 During the next three days, as the king cast about for a non-existent alternative government, Althorp, who was adamant that before resuming office he must have a guarantee of the bill’s passage, either by a creation or the withdrawal of opposition in the Lords, kept his father abreast of developments.302 Informing the House that negotiations were still in progress, 17 May, he ‘dwelt on his pledge that no essential changes would be conceded’.303 On 18 May 1832 he announced that ministers now had ‘full security’ for the passage of the bill, having been briefed at the last minute by Smith Stanley, who had been called out of the House by Grey.304
On 31 May 1832 he deplored press libels on public figures, but said government would not prosecute the publishers. He had to convince the king that it would be foolish to proceed against his libelers.305 On 22 May he secured the appointment of a select committee on renewal of the Bank’s charter and the system on which banks of issue were conducted. Ellice, who was sore at Althorp for paying no heed to his earlier pleas to be relieved of his post as patronage secretary, had warned Grey to make sure that the committee’s remit was restricted, as Althorp would be no match for Peel, Goulburn and Herries in a wide-ranging investigation, and ‘you will have a repetition of your budget of last year’.306 Althorp, who believed that the time was not ‘at present’ ripe for emancipating the slaves, as they were not ‘fit for the advantages of liberty’, tried to persuade Fowell Buxton to drop or soften his motion for inquiry into the possibility of early abolition, but without success. On 24 May he moved and carried by 163-90 an amendment, in words supplied by Grey, binding the committee to inquire into abolition in terms consistent with the 1823 amelioration resolution.307 His support of a bill brought from the Lords, 30 May, to abolish capital punishment for certain offences nettled the king, and Grey had to explain, more clearly than Althorp had done, that it was not a government measure and he had been speaking as an individual.308 He opposed an attempt to amend the Sale of Beer Act, 31 May. On 4 June he gave an assurance that political considerations had been excluded from the boundaries bill. He supported the Lords’ amendments to the English reform bill, 5 June, when he denied that the radical Colonel Jones was in communication with the government and affirmed his faith in ‘the good sense of the people of England’. He backed Jeffrey on details of the Scottish reform bill, 4, 5, 6, 15 June, and said on the last day that the measure aimed to ‘represent population combined with wealth’. His ‘strange acquiescence’ in Sir George Clerk’s suggestion led to the introduction of a property qualification for Scottish burgh Members, which ‘spread dismay’ in Scotland and which he had to discard on the third reading, 27 June.309 When Jeffrey subsequently abandoned the qualification for county Members, Althorp denied a Conservative charge that he had ‘washed my hands’ of the bill and ‘given way to the representations of the political unions’. He opposed Baring’s bill to exclude insolvent debtors from the Commons, 6, 27 June. On the 7th he refuted Sadler’s allegation that ‘our manufacturers conduct their factories in a manner which makes the loss of health and life inevitable’. On the boundaries bill that day, he laughed off Wetherell’s allusion to the French Revolution and defended the division of Surrey. He denied any ‘compromise’ with the Lowthers over Whitehaven, but accepted the addition of Corfe Castle to Wareham as its Member George Bankes suggested, 22 June. He told De Lacy Evans that the Commons had no right to inquire into the management of the duchy of Cornwall, 8 June, and on the 13th said that ministers had never promised financial aid for the West Indian colonies. He proposed a loan for hurricane relief, 29 June. On the Irish reform bill, 13 June, he opposed O’Connell’s attempt to restore the 40s. freeholder county franchise and defended the allocation of an additional Member to Dublin University. On the 18th he resisted a motion to enfranchise £30 tenants. Holland reckoned that Althorp and Smith Stanley were willing to concede some extension of the county franchise in order to ‘smooth the passage of the bill’;310 and on 25 June he explained the decision to extend the £10 franchise to leaseholders as well as to freeholders. He opposed an amendment to the registration procedure because he thought it would encourage fraudulent voting, 6 July, and justified the enfranchisement of Dublin University Masters of Arts, 9 July. On 14 June he admitted to O’Connell that he had once spoken of the ‘extinction’ of Irish tithes, but insisted that this ‘must be consistent with the rights of tithe-holders’. He defeated by 143-25 O’Connell’s bid to adjourn the debate on the tithes composition bill, 5 July, and on the 10th declared that he could not ‘empower the people of Ireland to set the law at utter defiance’. He carried the previous question against Bulwer’s motion for repeal of the ‘taxes on knowledge’, a desirable object in principle, but damaging to the revenue. As an individual, he spoke and voted to open coroners’ inquests, 20 June. On the 28th he and Milton were honoured at a Northamptonshire reform dinner, where he warned that while the Reform Act would have ‘the most beneficial results ... it could not be expected that it would immediately produce miracles’. He declared his candidature for the county’s southern division at the next general election.311 In the House, 2 July, he confirmed that Durham and Richmond had decided to take up their official salaries, having originally resolved to forego them. Next day he opposed Waithman’s resolutions on exports and imports, said Torrens had talked nonsense about bullion and expressed his dwindling hope that the Bank committee would be able to complete its work before the dissolution. Anticipating possible defeat in a renewed attack on the Russian-Dutch loan, 12 July, when he moved to go into committee on it, he told Spencer that in that case resignation would be the only option and that there could be ‘no great objection to doing so’ now that reform was secured. He took the same attitude ahead of the division of 16 July. According to Hobhouse, the government’s 46 majority on the 12th ‘did not satisfy’ Althorp, who ‘said ... that "the government was like a hard-pushed fox running fast, but which might be run in upon at any moment"’.312 He and Grey formally received the freedom of the City at Guildhall on 11 July.313 He declined to intervene to give defaulting ratepayers of Marylebone and elsewhere more time to pay and so qualify for electoral registration, 13 July, but on 7 Aug. offered to legislate to make the intention to pay sufficient. ‘Strong opposition’ forced him to abandon the idea, which ‘disgusted some of his supporters, according to Greville.314 He opposed abolition of the governorships of Londonderry and Culmore, 18 July, endorsed the grant for a National Gallery, 23 July, did not resist Hume’s being given leave to introduce a bill to exclude the recorder of Dublin from the Commons but urged him to exempt the present incumbent, and justified the recent prosecution of unstamped publications, 24 July. Next day he defeated West Indians’ attempt to reduce the duties on coffee and rum. On the 26th he opposed De Lacy Evans’s call for a substantial reduction in the military establishment, admitting that he had been ‘mistaken’ in his belief that Catholic emancipation would enable the bulk of the troops to be withdrawn from Ireland. He seemed to dissociate himself from the controversy sparked by Brougham’s appointment of one of his brothers to a chancery sinecure and his subsequent personal abuse of his critic Sugden, 26, 27 July.315 In his budget statement, 27 July, he could not offer ‘any sanguine views of the future, or congratulatory recapitulation of the past’: he forecast a deficit of £464,000 for 1832 and 1833. On 30 July he detailed civil list charges and explained that pensions were to go on the consolidated fund. On 1 Aug., when Le Marchant noted that he remained ‘most anxious to withdraw from office ... for he has a most impracticable team to drive in the Commons’ and the Irish Members were ‘perfect swindlers’, he proposed the £4,000 pension for Speaker Manners Sutton on his anticipated retirement.316 Next day he obtained leave for a bill to pay the lord chancellor and vice-chancellor fixed salaries instead of the traditional fees, refuted Hunt’s allegation that the government had broken its promises on economy and pointed out that they had cut out places to the tune of £30,000 a year. He defended the level (£14,000) of the lord chancellor’s salary, 8 Aug., and carried his pension of £5,000 against Hume’s protest by 60-2, 9 Aug. On 2 Aug. he secured compensation for losses sustained by revocation of his patent as Irish king’s printer for Sir Abraham King, who privately praised to O’Connell his ‘candid and straightforward act’.317 He explained details of the crown colonies relief bill and had it committed by 51-20, 3 Aug. He spoke in favour of honouring the Greek loan, 6 Aug. On 10 Aug. he blamed the fatal Clitheroe canvassing affray on outsiders. He insisted that De Lacy Evans’s statement of the small number of electors who had registered in the Lancashire towns was a gross underestimate, 15 Aug. On 16 Aug. 1832 he rejected a strongly worded Irish petition for the abolition of tithes. When Parliament was prorogued later that day, he, Russell and Hobhouse were ‘the only occupants of the treasury bench who attended the Speaker and some 80 Members to the House of Lords’.318
On 5 Oct. 1832 Althorp replied to Milton’s argument that it was his ‘duty to live at Althorp’ during the election campaign:
It is the endeavour to perform my duty which has placed me in the situation I now hold ... which makes me so miserable that my wish for death is only mitigated by the sanguine hope that I shall not remain long in this situation, and the intention whenever I can get out of it without producing mischief to others of returning to private life. This you will say I ought to have thought of before I took office. I did so. I expected that I should sacrifice my happiness, but I certainly did not expect to acquire so much positive misery ... No one who has not tried what it is for a man accustomed to the habits of a country life to tie himself up in laborious office has a right to be the judge.319
At the general election of 1832 he was returned unopposed for Northamptonshire South, having considered an invitation from the reformers of Tower Hamlets when an expensive county contest briefly threatened.320 He remained in harness for two more turbulent years until the death of his father in November 1834 removed him from the Commons and the exchequer and gave William IV, alarmed by Whig designs on Irish church revenues, a pretext to dismiss Lord Melbourne, who had replaced Grey as prime minister in July. Althorp largely retired from public life and, residing at Wiseton, devoted himself to farming and the struggle to eradicate the £500,000 encumbrance which his father’s extravagance had placed on his inheritance.321 He died, as his sister reported, ‘as he had lived, in earnest piety and simplicity, and with more than resignation’, wearing a locket containing a cutting from his wife’s hair, in October 1845, three months after Grey.322 He was succeeded in the peerage and entailed estates by his brother Frederick (1798-1857). Among the legacies assigned by his will was an annuity of £1,200 to the mysterious and unhinged Mrs. Wallace, who claimed to be his illegitimate daughter.
Greville, who did not know him well, but had ‘a great respect and esteem for him’, wrote:
No man ever died with a fairer character, or more generally regretted. In his county he was exceedingly beloved and respected ... He had neither the brilliant or even plausible exterior which interests and captivates vulgar imaginations, but he had sterling qualities of mind and character which made him one of the most useful and valuable, as well as one of the best and most amiable men of his day. He was the very model and type of an English gentleman ... Modest without diffidence, confident without vanity, ardently desiring the good of his country, without the slightest personal ambition, he took that part in public affairs which his station and his opinions prompted, and he marched through the maze of politics with that straightforward bravery, which was the result of sincerity, singleness of purpose, the absence of all selfishness, and a true, genuine, but unpretending patriotism ... The greatest homage that ever was rendered to character and public virtue was exhibited in his popularity and authority during the four eventful years when he led the Whig government and party in the ... Commons. Without one showy accomplishment, without wit to amuse or eloquence to persuade, with a voice unmelodious and a manner ungraceful, and barely able to speak plain sense in still plainer language, he exercised in the House ... an influence and even a dominion greater than any leader either after or before him ... His friends followed the plain and simple man with enthusiastic devotion, and he possessed the faculty of disarming his political antagonists of all bitterness and animosity towards him; he was regarded in the House ... with sentiments akin to those of personal affection, with a boundless confidence and a universal esteem.323
In an article written soon after his death, Russell observed:
His diligence was indefatigable, his sagacity quick, his judgement seldom at fault ... If he ever fell into a mistake, it was from ... a trusting, believing, hoping nature ... His views were large and comprehensive ... Above all, his opinions upon questions both speculative and practical, were guided by a humble reliance on the goodness of God; and a conviction that he was bound in whatever he might think or do ... to follow the law of Christ ... The simplicity of his character ... made him understood, beloved and trusted beyond any man in [the Commons]... This was the more remarkable, as his tongue was far from eloquent; and, although his arguments were sound and comprehensive, he was so often wanting in words as to be obscure ... But the confidence of his friends, his party, and the country, supplied all deficiencies, and gave to his few and simple expressions, as much influence over his audience as had ever been obtained by the most admired eloquence of our greatest orators.324
Brougham paid tribute to him in his autobiography:
Nobody ever hated office as he did ... He often said, when he got up in the morning, he wished he might be dead before night, but he always went through his duty manfully. There never was a man of real merit who had an opinion of himself so unaffectedly modest. Without a particle of cant, he was most deeply imbued with religion, and this, perhaps as well as any other part of his nature, indisposed him to exert himself to attain the usual objects of earthly ambition. Always undervaluing himself, he never could comprehend why he had attained so high a position in public life, and frequently expressed his astonishment at the great power he was conscious of exercising over men of all kinds and natures ... which proceeded from the complete conviction which all men felt in his thorough honesty and simple love of truth ... His powers were great. His ability was never so remarkably shown as in the reform bill ... He had a knowledge of all its details, and of all the numberless matters connected with it, that was almost supernatural.325
His career, Greville wrote, personified ‘the simple and unostentatious practice of public and private virtue’.326
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: David R. Fisher
The best modern biography is E.A. Wasson, Whig Renaissance: Lord Althorp and the Whig Party, 1782-1845 (1987), on which this article draws. Mem. of Visct. Althorp (1876), by Sir Denis Le Marchant, a close personal acquaintance, is of value and contains original correspondence.
- 1. Le Marchant, pp. xv-xvi.
- 2. Fitzwilliam mss 92, Althorp to Milton, 21 Mar. 1818.
- 3. Le Marchant, 168-9, 536; B. Hilton, Age of Atonement, 238-9, 241; R. Brent, Liberal Anglican Politics, 28, 38, 123-8; Wasson, 96-104.
- 4. [J. Grant], Random Recollections of Commons (1837), 180-1.
- 5. The Times, 9 Dec. 1819; Lady Lyttelton Corresp. 222; Althorp Letters, 100, 102; Northampton Mercury, 18 Mar. 1820.
- 6. Althorp Letters, 101; Add. 52444, f. 93.
- 7. Althorp Letters, 103-4.
- 8. The Times, 18 May, 17 June 1820.
- 9. Ibid. 22, 28 Feb., 12 May 1821.
- 10. Ibid. 28, 29 May, 4 June 1823.
- 11. Ibid. 27 Mar., 20 May 1824, 9, 15 Feb., 3-5, 17, 20 May 1825; Le Marchant, 182-6; Wasson, 110-12; Althorp Letters, 125.
- 12. Althorp Letters, 106, 107.
- 13. Ibid. 109-10.
- 14. Ibid. 108-9.
- 15. The Times, 11 July 1820.
- 16. Althorp Letters, 106-7.
- 17. Add. 75937, Lady to Lord Spencer, 15 Jan. 1821.
- 18. Althorp Letters, 110-11; Fitzwilliam mss 102/12.
- 19. Fitzwilliam mss 102/10; Althorp Letters, 112-13.
- 20. Fitzwilliam mss 104/3.
- 21. The Times, 27 Jan. 1821.
- 22. Ibid. 3, 9 Feb. 1821; HLRO, Hist. Coll. 379, Grey Bennet diary, 10.
- 23. Northants. RO, Gotch mss GK 1206.
- 24. The Times, 4 Apr. 1821.
- 25. Althorp Letters, 114.
- 26. The Times, 10 July 1821; B. Hilton, Corn, Cash, Commerce, 127, 143.
- 27. Lady Lyttelton Corresp. 239.
- 28. Ibid. 240.
- 29. Add. 51679, Russell to Lady Holland [Jan. 1822].
- 30. The Times, 16 Feb. 1822.
- 31. Ibid. 22 Feb. 1822.
- 32. Fitzwilliam mss.
- 33. Add. 75937, Lady to Lord Spencer, 13 May; The Times, 13 June 1822.
- 34. The Times, 1, 7 May 1822.
- 35. Add. 56544, f. 6.
- 36. Althorp Letters, 118; Add. 75940, Althorp to Lady Spencer, 14 July 1822.
- 37. Fitzwilliam mss, Althorp to Milton, 3 Feb. 1823.
- 38. Add. 76369.
- 39. The Times, 11 Feb. 1824.
- 40. Ibid. 2 Mar. 1824.
- 41. Ibid. 2, 23 Mar. 1824.
- 42. Ibid. 11 June 1824.
- 43. Ibid. 18 May 1824.
- 44. Add. 76369, Althorp to Brougham, 14 Dec. 1824.
- 45. O’Connell Corresp. iii. 1172, 1176.
- 46. The Times, 30 Apr. 1825.
- 47. Althorp Letters, 125-6; Brougham mss, Smith to Brougham, 6 Sept. 1825.
- 48. Fitzwilliam mss 124/8.
- 49. Wasson, 146.
- 50. Gotch mss GK 1209.
- 51. Fitzwilliam mss 124/8.
- 52. Northampton Mercury, 3, 17 June 1826; Althorp Letters, 129-31.
- 53. The Times, 20 Nov. 1826; Wasson, 148.
- 54. Althorp Letters.
- 55. Add. 76369, Althorp to Brougham, 25 June 1827.
- 56. Broughton, Recollections, iii. 169; Add. 51663, Bedford to Holland [18 Feb.]; 51784, Holland to C.R. Fox, 17 Feb.; Grey mss, Howick to Grey, 17 Feb. 1827.
- 57. Northampton Mercury, 17, 24 Mar. 1827.
- 58. Broughton, iii. 177.
- 59. The Times, 27 Mar. 1827.
- 60. Add. 76369.
- 61. NLW, Coedymaen mss 194.
- 62. Le Marchant, 214-15, 222; Canning’s Ministry, 272; Broughton, iii. 150-1, 188; Brougham, Life and Times, ii. 482; Add. 36463, f. 378; 76369, Althorp to Brougham, 18 Apr. 1827; Gotch mss GK 1210.
- 63. Bagot, Canning and Friends, ii. 398; Creevey Pprs. ii. 117.
- 64. The Times, 31 May, 16 June 1827; Gotch mss GK 1211.
- 65. Althorp Letters, 137; Add. 51687, Lansdowne to Holland, 31 Aug. .
- 66. Cockburn Letters, 178-9; Le Marchant, 223; Add. 51724, Althorp to Holland, 21 Aug. 1827.
- 67. Add. 51677, Russell to Holland, 16 Aug.; 76135, Holland to Spencer [c. 18 Aug. 1827].
- 68. Russell Early Corresp. i. 258-9.
- 69. Lansdowne mss, Baring to Lansdowne, 1 Sept. 1827.
- 70. Ibid. Holland to Lansdowne, 22 Aug.; Add. 76380, Holland to Althorp, 28 Aug. 1827; Le Marchant, 225.
- 71. Arbuthnot Corresp. 89; Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 142.
- 72. Lansdowne mss, Tierney to Lansdowne, 5 Sept., Abercromby to same [4 Sept. 1827].
- 73. Castle Howard mss, Abercromby to Carlisle [Sept. 1827]; Le Marchant, 225-6; Russell Letters, ii. 104.
- 74. Hants RO, Tierney mss 61 (a) (b) (d); Wasson, 152.
- 75. Add. 51724, Duncannon to Holland, 29 Sept., Tuesday [Oct.], 10 Oct; Fitzwilliam mss, Lyttelton to Milton, 22 Nov. 1827; Russell Letters, i. 82, 84.
- 76. Castle Howard mss, Abercromby to Carlisle, 14 Oct.; Add. 51586, Tierney to Lady Holland, 1 Nov. 1827.
- 77. Tierney mss 4 (a).
- 78. JRL, Bromley Davenport mss.
- 79. Le Marchant, 226-7; Althorp Letters, 139; Tierney mss 66; Fitzwilliam mss, Althorp to Milton, 25 Nov., R. Price to same, 8 Dec. 1827; Add. 38752, ff. 104, 164; Wasson, 152-4.
- 80. Tierney mss 49 (c); Add. 75938, Lady to Lord Spencer, 13 Dec. 1827.
- 81. Castle Howard mss, Abercromby to Carlisle, 25 Dec., Lady Carlisle to Morpeth, 29 Dec. .
- 82. Add. 52447, f. 136.
- 83. Russell Early Corresp. i. 271-2; Broughton, iii. 236; Add. 36464, ff. 166, 171; 51675, Althorp to Holland, 10 Jan. 1828.
- 84. Wasson, 154-7.
- 85. Add. 76380.
- 86. Add. 40307, f. 50; 40395, ff. 219, 221, 241, 243.
- 87. TNA 30/29/9/5/67; Castle Howard mss, Abercromby to Carlisle, 17 May 1828.
- 88. Ellenborough Diary, i. 126; Russell Letters, ii. 87.
- 89. Hilton, Corn, Cash, Commerce, 253-4.
- 90. Parker, Graham, i. 72; Sir James Graham mss (IHR microfilm XR 80).
- 91. Add. 76369, Althorp to Brougham, 30 Sept. 1828.
- 92. NLS mss 24770, f. 23; Castle Howard mss, Abercromby to Carlisle [16 Oct.]; Duke Univ. Lib. Fazakerley mss, same to Fazakerley, 16 Oct. .
- 93. Russell Early Corresp. i. 283-4.
- 94. Add. 51834, Davenport to Holland [Nov.], 18 Nov. .
- 95. NLS mss 24770, f. 29.
- 96. Cockburn Letters, 204; Althorp Letters, 141; Fitzwilliam mss, Althorp to Milton, 5 Dec.; Brougham mss, Lansdowne to Brougham, 26 Dec. ; Parker, Graham, i. 73-74.
- 97. Add. 51574, Abercromby to Holland, 28 Dec.; 76369, Althorp to Brougham, 28 Dec. 1828.
- 98. Add. 76369, Althorp to Brougham, 2 Jan.; Fitzwilliam mss, same to Milton, 24 Jan. 1829.
- 99. Add. 76380, Holland to Althorp, 6 Jan.; 51724, reply, 8 Jan. 1829,
- 100. Cockburn Letters, 205-6.
- 101. Parker, Peel, ii. 103.
- 102. Add. 76369, Althorp to Brougham, 14 Feb. 1829.
- 103. Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 242, 250; Add. 76369, Althorp to Brougham , 11 Mar. 1829.
- 104. Add. 76369, Althorp to Brougham, 10, 18, 19 Mar., Thursday [Mar.] 1829.
- 105. Add. 76369, same to same, 27 Mar. 1829.
- 106. Add. 76369; The Times, 9 Apr.; Bromley Davenport mss, Althorp to Davenport, 15 Apr. 1829.
- 107. Althorp Letters, 143; O’Connell Corresp. iv. 1566.
- 108. Althorp Letters, 143; Wasson, 159.
- 109. Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 285-6.
- 110. Ibid. ii. 290; Ellenborough Diary, ii. 60.
- 111. Add. 76369, Althorp to Brougham, 17 June 1829.
- 112. Ibid. same to same, 30 Dec. 1829; Add. 51680, Russell to Lady Holland [Jan.]; Fitzwilliam mss, Althorp to Milton, 20 Jan. 1830.
- 113. Grey mss, Ellice to Grey [18 Jan.]; Fitzwilliam mss, Althorp to Milton, 20 Jan.; Brougham mss, Russell to Brougham, 30 Jan. 1830.
- 114. Keele Univ. Lib. Sneyd mss SC10/91.
- 115. Add. 47223, f. 38; Wasson, 164-5.
- 116. Grey mss, Howick jnl.
- 117. Grey mss; Fitzwilliam mss, Althorp to Milton, 25 Feb. 1830.
- 118. Sneyd mss, Littleton to Sneyd, 24 Feb.; Lieven-Grey Corresp. 457, 459; Grey mss, Durham to Grey, 26 Feb. 1830.
- 119. Le Marchant, 243-6; Howick jnl. 3 Mar.; Castle Howard mss, Graham to Morpeth [3 Mar.]; Sneyd mss, Littleton to Sneyd, 3 Mar.; Grey mss, Ellice to Grey [5 Mar. 1830].
- 120. Howick jnl. 6 Mar. .
- 121. Le Marchant, 267; Wasson, 168-9.
- 122. Add. 76369, Althorp to Brougham, 6 Mar.; Grey mss, Ellice to Grey [11 Mar. 1830].
- 123. Grey mss GRE/B25/1C/85, 87.
- 124. Add. 76369.
- 125. Add. 75938, Lady to Lord Spencer, 11 Mar. 1830.
- 126. Howick jnl. 16 Mar.; Russell Letters, ii. 234; Salop RO 6003/1, Slaney diary, 15 Apr. 1830.
- 127. Howick jnl. 18 Mar. ; Ellenborough Diary, ii. 215.
- 128. Add. 38758, f. 138; Gotch mss GK 1215.
- 129. Cockburn Letters, 226.
- 130. Howick jnl. 28 Mar. .
- 131. Add. 56553, f. 99.
- 132. Broughton, iv. 34; Althorp Letters, 151; Howick jnl. 11 July ; Add. 40340, f. 223.
- 133. Althorp Letters, 151-2.
- 134. Howick jnl. 13 May .
- 135. Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 366; Ellenborough Diary, ii. 290.
- 136. Add. 40340, f. 223.
- 137. Broughton, iv. 36-37; Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 369; Althorp Letters, 150-1; Agar Ellis diary, 4 July; Derby mss 920 Der (14) 117/3, Althorp to Smith Stanley, 5 July; Fitzwilliam mss, Tavistock to Milton, 5 July; Howick jnl. 11 July ; Add. 40340, f. 226.
- 138. Althorp Letters, 152.
- 139. Castle Howard mss, Abercromby to Lady Carlisle, 10 July 1830.
- 140. Reid, Monckton Milnes, i. 100.
- 141. Add. 36466, ff. 163, 219; Althorp Letters, 151-4; Wentworth Woodhouse mss G2/11, 27; Northampton Mercury, 10 July 1830.
- 142. Add. 61937, f. 116.
- 143. Devon RO, Earl Fortescue mss 1262M/FC 86.
- 144. Chatsworth mss, Brougham to Devonshire [21 Sept.]; Agar Ellis diary, 23 Sept.; Howick jnl. 27 Sept.
- 145. Le Marchant, 252-3.
- 146. Ibid. 252-3; Add. 75940, Althorp to Lady Spencer, 12 Oct. 1830.
- 147. Lansdowne mss, Macdonald to Lansdowne, 22 Oct.; Agar Ellis diary, 26 Oct.; Howick jnl. 31 Oct. ; Lieven Letters, 260.
- 148. Fitzwilliam mss.
- 149. Agar Ellis diary, 2 Nov.; Broughton, iv. 56; Howick jnl. 2 Nov. ; Life of Campbell, i. 483.
- 150. Howick jnl. 7 Nov.; Add. 51564, Brougham to Lady Holland [8 Nov. 1830]; 56555, f. 42
- 151. Broughton, iv. 64.
- 152. Agar Ellis diary, 12 Nov. .
- 153. Fitzwilliam mss.
- 154. Le Marchant, 259-60; Three Diaries, 5-6; Walpole, Russell, i. 159; Russell, Recollections, 67-68; Hatherton mss, Palmerston to Littleton, 17 Nov., Littleton to R. Wellesley, 19 Nov.; Palmerston-Sulivan Letters, 248; Croker Pprs. ii. 77; Brougham, Life and Times, iii. 78; Ellenborough Diary, ii. 440; Chatsworth mss, Brougham to Devonshire [18 Nov. 1830].
- 155. Greville Mems. i. 298.
- 156. Croker Pprs. ii. 80; Russell, 129-30, 262.
- 157. Fitzwilliam mss, Althorp to Milton, 22 Nov. 1830.
- 158. Northampton Mercury, 11 Dec. 1830.
- 159. Three Diaries, 33.
- 160. Agar Ellis diary, 17, 18 Dec.; The Times, 20 Dec.; Howard Sisters, 176; Three Diaries, 36; Add. 51578, Carlisle to Holland, 18 Dec.; 51569, Ord to Lady Holland, 21 Dec. ; Wasson, 179.
- 161. Add. 51569, Ord to Lady Holland, 23 Dec. 1831.
- 162. Fitzwilliam mss.
- 163. Ibid.
- 164. Creevey mss.
- 165. Add. 57370, f. 66; Castle Howard mss, Abercromby to Carlisle, 30 Dec. .
- 166. Russell Letters, ii. 308; Broughton, iv. 78.
- 167. Baring Jnls. i. 80.
- 168. Add. 37310, f. 359; 57370, f. 69; 76373, Althorp to Grey [12 Dec. 1830]; Wasson, 195-7; Le Marchant, 270-1; Arbuthnot Corresp. 197, 198; Grey-William IV Corresp. i. 70, 91-94; Brougham, iii. 93-94.
- 169. Three Diaries, 8, 46; Baring Jnls. i. 80; Greville Mems. ii. 112-13; Russell Letters, ii. 320; Grey-William IV Corresp. i. 118-19; Le Marchant, 272; 157; PRO NI, Anglesey mss D619/27A/101.
- 170. TNA 30/29, Holland to Granville, 11 Feb. .
- 171. Orkney Archives, Balfour mss D218/9, Traill to W. Balfour, 5 Feb. 1831.
- 172. Le Marchant, 288; Add. 76373, Althorp to Grey [?19 Dec. 1830].
- 173. Le Marchant, 275-80.
- 174. Baring Jnls. i. 81; Add. 51569, Ord to Holland [11 Feb. 1831]; Anglesey mss 27A/100.
- 175. Three Diaries, 51; Creevey Pprs. ii. 218; Broughton, iv. 84; Von Neumann Diary, i. 241-2; Anglesey mss 31D/17, 18; Add. 76373.
- 176. Grey-William IV Corresp. i. 127-9; Broughton, iv. 84; Croker Pprs. ii. 107.
- 177. Greville Mems. ii. 116-19.
- 178. St. Deiniol’s Lib. Glynne-Gladstone mss 197, T. to J. Gladstone, 16 Feb. 1831.
- 179. Arbuthnot Corresp. 142.
- 180. TNA 30/29.
- 181. Three Diaries, 52; Croker Pprs. ii. 107; Glynne-Gladstone mss 197, T. to J. Gladstone, 18 Feb.; Lonsdale mss, Lowther to Lonsdale, 19 Feb.; Add. 76371, Brougham to Althorp [18 Feb. 1831].
- 182. The Times, 23 Feb. 1831.
- 183. Add. 34614, f. 119.
- 184. Greville Mems. ii. 119
- 185. Russell Letters, i. 167.
- 186. Add. 56555, f. 97.
- 187. Hopetoun mss 167, f. 222.
- 188. Creevey Pprs. ii. 220-1.
- 189. Wasson, 204-6; M. Brock, Great Reform Act, 142, 150-1; Broughton, iv. 75; Life of Campbell, i. 500; Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 411; Three Diaries, 38-39; Croker Pprs. ii. 103; Le Marchant, 291, 294-5; Brougham mss, Russell to Brougham, 15 Nov. 1837; Hatherton mss, Althorp to Littleton, 1 Jan. 1831.
- 190. Add. 51570, Townshend to Holland, 17 Dec. 1830.
- 191. Aberdeen Univ.Lib. Arbuthnot mss, Herries to Mrs. Arbuthnot, 3 Jan.; Lambton mss, Althorp to Russell ; Earl Fortescue mss FC 87, same to Ebrington, 23 Jan.; Fitzwilliam mss, same to Milton, 6 mar. 1831; Wasson, 207-8.
- 192. Hatherton mss, Littleton to wife, 3 Feb. 1831.
- 193. Greville Mems. ii. 112; Brougham, Life and Times, iii. 103-4.
- 194. Broughton, iv. 88.
- 195. Glynne-Gladstone mss 197, T. to J. Gladstone, 2 Mar. 1831; Broughton, iv. 93; Parker, Peel, ii. 176.
- 196. Grey-William IV Corresp. i. 134-6, 148-50.
- 197. Balfour mss D2/8/9, Traill to W. Balfour, 16 Mar. 1831.
- 198. Add. 76373, Althorp to Grey [17 Mar. 1831]; Three Diaries, 68-69; Broughton, iv. 93; Greville Mems. ii. 131-2; Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 414.
- 199. Broughton, iv. 98.
- 200. Arbuthnot Jnl. ii. 417; Agar Ellis diary, 25 Mar. .
- 201. Grey mss, Ellice to Grey [6 Apr.]; Cockburn Letters, 312-13; Glynne-Gladstone mss 454, Althorp to T. Gladstone, 7 Apr.; Add. 36466, f. 311; Hatherton mss, Althorp to Littleton, 7 Apr. 1831.
- 202. Grey mss, Durham to Grey, 8 Apr. 1831.
- 203. Lieven-Grey Corresp. i. 212; Add. 51655, Mackintosh to Lady Holland [19 Apr. 1831].
- 204. Three Diaries, 82-83.
- 205. Broughton, iv. 105, 107.
- 206. Le Marchant, 313-19; Greville Mems. ii. 144, 147; Althorp Letters, 155-6; Life of Campbell, i. 514; Broughton, iv. 112. See NORTHAMPTONSHIRE.
- 207. Add. 76373, Althorp to Grey, 6 May; 76382, Poulett Thomson to Althorp, 18, 21 May 1831.
- 208. Grey mss, Althorp to Durham [29 May]; Add. 76373, same to Grey, 31 May 1831.
- 209. Macaulay Letters, ii. 46.
- 210. Le Marchant mss, Althorp to Spencer, 21 June 1831; Baring Jnls. i. 88.
- 211. Le Marchant, 325.
- 212. Ibid. 323-5.
- 213. Ibid. 326.
- 214. Ibid. 326-7.
- 215. Le Marchant mss, Althorp to Spencer, 22 July 1831.
- 216. Le Marchant, 337.
- 217. Holland House Diaries, 33; Arbuthnot Corresp. 148; Three Diaries, 120; Add. 76377, Althorp to Grey [21 Aug. 1831].
- 218. Add. 37311, f. 38.
- 219. Le Marchant, 328-9; O’Connell Corresp. iv. 1826; Three Diaries, 103; Lonsdale mss, Croker to Lowther, 11 July ; Greville Mems. ii. 164.
- 220. Macaulay Letters, ii. 70; Le Marchant, 333-4.
- 221. Holland House Diaries, 5-6, 7; Three Diaries, 110; Grey-William IV Corresp. i. 310, 312; Fremantle mss 139/20/29.
- 222. Broughton, iv. 123; Three Diaries, 109, 110.
- 223. Life of Campbell, i. 526.
- 224. Hatherton diary, 24 July .
- 225. Ibid. 26 July; Add. 75941, Althorp to Spencer, 28 July 1831.
- 226. Add. 56555, f. 169.
- 227. Broughton, iv. 124; Three Diaries, 113; Greville Mems. ii. 175.
- 228. Le Marchant, 335; Macaulay Letters, ii. 88; Holland House Diaries, 29.
- 229. Brock, 222-9; Wasson, 221-5; Holland House Diaries, 29-30; Three Diaries, 116; Add. 76373, Althorp to Grey, Sat. night, 21 Aug. .
- 230. Life of Campbell, i. 518, 519.
- 231. Three Diaries, 123.
- 232. Le Marchant, 343.
- 233. Add. 76369.
- 234. Le Marchant, 335.
- 235. Macaulay Letters, ii. 89-91.
- 236. Gurney diary, 31 Aug. ; Lady Holland to Son, 114; Le Marchant, 344.
- 237. Holland House Diaries, 46-47.
- 238. Cockburn Jnl. i. 23.
- 239. O’Connell Corresp. iv. 1836.
- 240. Holland House Diaries, 521; Life of Campbell, i. 521.
- 241. Balfour mss D2/3/14, Traill to J. Balfour, 1 Oct.; 8/13, to W. Balfour, 8 Oct. .
- 242. Brougham, iii. 128-9; Life of Campbell, i. 522.
- 243. Le Marchant, 354; Baring Jnls. i. 89-90; Lady Lyttelton Corresp. 263.
- 244. Holland House Diaries, 66; Grey-William IV Corresp. i. 375-8; Southampton Univ. Lib. Broadlands mss PP/GC/GR/2355; Add. 76373, Althorp to Grey, 9 Oct. 1831.
- 245. Le Marchant, 355.
- 246. Holland House Diaries, 66, 69; Le Marchant, 356; Cornw. RO, Hawkins mss 16/2172; Broughton, iv. 141; Howard Sisters, 215.
- 247. Le Marchant, 361-2; Russell Early Corresp. ii. 25.
- 248. Holland House Diaries, 67-68.
- 249. Lady Lyttelton Corresp. 264.
- 250. Le Marchant, 366; Add. 76373, Althorp to Grey [4 Nov. 1831].
- 251. Le Marchant, 367-8; Add. 76373, Althorp to Grey [18, 20 Nov. 1831].
- 252. The Times, 20, 23, 27 Dec. 1831.
- 253. Earl Fortescue mss FC 87, Ellice to Ebrington, 26 Oct., Althorp to same, 3 Nov.; Add. 76373, Althorp to Grey [13 Nov.]; Hatherton mss, Althorp to Littleton, 22 Nov.; Derby mss Der (14) 117/3, Althorp to Smith Stanley, 24 Nov.; Hatherton diary, 18 Nov. 1831; Holland House Diaries, 79, 82; Cockburn Letters, 353.
- 254. Hatherton diary.
- 255. Add. 76373, Althorp to Grey, 20 Oct., Tuesday, Thursday night [Nov.]; Earl Fortescue mss FC 87, Althorp to Ebrington, 3 Nov.; Broadlands mss PP/GC/RI/11; Hatherton diary, 16 Nov. ; Wasson, 230-1; Brock, 263-4.
- 256. Holland House Diaries, 81; Sheffield Archives, Wharncliffe mss, Harrowby to Wharncliffe, 15 Nov.; Derby mss 117/3, Althorp to Smith Stanley, 15 Nov. 1831.
- 257. Derby mss 117/3, Althorp to Smith Stanley, 24 Nov; Add. 76373, same to Grey [25 Nov. 1831].
- 258. Le Marchant, 370-2.
- 259. Add. 76373, Althorp to Grey, 25 Nov. 1831.
- 260. Hatherton diary.
- 261. Three Diaries, 162-3; The Times, 12 Dec. 1831; Holland House Diaries, 92.
- 262. Add. 75941.
- 263. Broughton, iv. 155; Greville Mems. ii. 228; Lady Holland to Son, 124; Lieven-Grey Corresp. ii. 305; Add. 51573, Spring Rice to Lady Holland [12 Dec.]; NLS mss 24762, f. 49; Wilts. RO, Hobhouse mss 145/2/b, Hobhouse to wife, 13 Dec. 1831; Anglesey mss 31D/78.
- 264. Holland House Diaries, 93-94; Earl Fortescue mss FC 87, Althorp to Ebrington, 14 Dec. 1831.
- 265. Add. 76373, Althorp to Grey, Tuesday [Dec.]; Hatherton diary, 17 Dec..
- 266. Le Marchant, 374-5.
- 267. Baring Jnls. i. 92.
- 268. Add. 76373, Althorp to Grey, 8, 31 Dec. 1831.
- 269. Add. 76373.
- 270. Hatherton diary, 19 Jan. ; Arbuthnot Corresp. 161.
- 271. Three Diaries, 189-90; Add. 51573, Spring Rice to Lady Holland, 6 Feb. .
- 272. Add. 75941, Althorp to Spencer, 26, 27 Jan. 1832; Three Diaries, 184-5, 196-7; Baring Jnls. i. 92; Holland House Diaries, 119; Le Marchant, 389-92; Russell Letters, 111; Broughton, iv. 165-6, 169.
- 273. Baring Jnls. i. 92.
- 274. Glynne-Gladstone mss 199, T. to J. Gladstone, 9 Feb. 1832.
- 275. Holland House Diaries, 138, 158; Grey mss GRE/B121/7/4; Glynne-Gladstone mss 199, T. to J. Gladstone, 27 Feb. 1832.
- 276. Broughton, iv. 183.
- 277. Ibid. iv. 185-6; Add. 47222, f. 146.
- 278. Holland House Diaries, 99; Add. 51724, Althorp to Holland, 6 Jan. 1832.
- 279. Three Diaries, 191, 195, 199; Raikes Jnl. i. 12; Grey-William IV Corresp. ii. 226; Aberdeen Univ. Lib. Arbuthnot mss 3029/1/2/41.
- 280. Holland House Diaries, 129; Add. 75941, Althorp to Spencer, 20 Feb. 1832.
- 281. Three Diaries, 205-6.
- 282. Ibid. 211.
- 283. Ibid. 175; Add. 75941, Althorp to Spencer, 26 Jan. 1832.
- 284. Cockburn, Jeffrey, i. 322; ii. 243-4.
- 285. Three Diaries, 209, 211; Baring Jnls. i. 92; Le Marchant, 400-1; Holland House Diaries, 163; Lady Holland to Son, 131; Add. 75941, Althorp to Spencer, 10, 17 Mar. 1832.
- 286. Three Diaries, 215.
- 287. Holland House Diaries, 109, 134, 138, 144, 147, 149, 151, 158; Parker, Graham, i. 135; Add. 76369, Althorp to Brougham, 3, 7 Jan.; 76373, same to Grey [10 Jan.]; 75941, same to Spencer, 11, 13, 31 Jan., 20 Feb., 10 Mar. 1832; Russell Early Corresp. ii. 29-30; Le Marchant, 385-6, 40-6, 407-14; Broughton, iv. 178-81. 188-92, 194-6, 207-8; Grey-William IV Corresp. ii. 257-8, 262; Three Diaries, 214; Wasson, 232, 236-9.
- 288. Russell Early Corresp, ii. 30; Broughton, iv. 209.
- 289. Broughton, iv. 209; Add. 75941, Althorp to Spencer, 5 Apr. 1832.
- 290. Le Marchant, 415-17; Baring Jnls. i. 94.
- 291. Broughton, iv. 212, 213, 216; Add. 75941, Althorp to Spencer , 16 Apr. 1832.
- 292. The Times, 27 Apr., 4 May 1832.
- 293. Le Marchant, 419; Add. 75941, Althorp to Spencer, 7 May 1832.
- 294. Add. 75941, Althorp to Spencer, 7, 8, 9 May 1832.
- 295. Cockburn, Jeffrey, i. 330-2.
- 296. Three Diaries, 245, 247; Le Marchant, 423-4; Add. 75941, Althorp to Spencer [10 May 1832].
- 297. Add. 75941, Althorp to Spencer [10 May 1832]; Broughton, 221-2; Three Diaries, 248; Grey-William IV Corresp. ii. 400-2; Baring Jnls. i. 97.
- 298. Croker Pprs. ii. 157.
- 299. Life of Campbell, ii. 10; Three Diaries, 251; Le Marchant, 429; Add, 75941, Althorp to Spencer, 14 May 1832.
- 300. Croker Pprs. ii. 165; Three Diaries, 254-5, 258.
- 301. Broughton, iv. 226; Cockburn, Jeffrey, i. 332; Creevey’s Life and Times, 356-7.
- 302. Add. 75941, Althorp to Spencer , 17, 18 May 1832; Three Diaries, 263; Holland House Diaries, 183.
- 303. Croker Pprs. ii. 169.
- 304. Add. 75941, Althorp to Spencer, 18, 19 May 1832; Wasson, 240-4.
- 305. Le Marchant, 438-9.
- 306. Grey mss, Ellice to Grey [May 1832].
- 307. Buxton Mems. 287; Grey mss, Howick to Althorp, 23 May, reply, 24 May; Bodl. (Rhodes House), Buxton mss Brit. Emp. s. 444, vol. 3, p. 29, Buxton to Althorp, 24 May 1832.
- 308. Grey-William IV Corresp. ii. 457-8.
- 309. Holland House Diaries, 196.
- 310. Ibid. 194.
- 311. The Times, 30 June 1832.