The death of George IV in 1830 precipitated a general election in which the prime minister, the duke of Wellington, retained a parliamentary majority. However, by Christmas he had resigned, making way for Earl Grey’s coalition government. The new government’s extensive reform proposals would soon become its raison d’être and with its defeat over Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment to the first reform bill, it persuaded William IV to dissolve Parliament. Not since 1806-7 had a Parliament survived for less than a year, and it had been 130 years since two consecutive Parliaments lasted for only about two years (as happened in 1701-2 and 1830-2).
The general election was held during August 1830 with several issues, including taxation and expenditure, being raised on the hustings. The news of the revolution in France probably came too late to influence the returns in most constituencies, but contributed to the general run against the Wellington administration. There were contests in 128 or a third of the constituencies. From Ireland, where the number of contests rose by five to 18 out of 66 constituencies, several Catholics were returned. Henry Brougham achieved a spectacular victory in the Yorkshire contest; he had also been returned for Knaresborough, but had not formally chosen which constituency to represent before he was elevated to the Lords as Grey’s lord chancellor.
Although the treasury secretary Joseph Planta reckoned there were 22 government gains, Brougham’s pamphlet The Result of the General Election estimated that opposition had risen by about the same number; a more realistic count would have the ministry losing about 15 Members overall. According to further lists compiled by Planta and others in September, the ministry had 311 ‘friends’ and 188 ‘foes’, in addition to which there were 37 ‘moderate Ultras’, 37 ‘good doubtfuls’, 24 ‘doubtful doubtfuls’, 23 ‘bad doubtfuls’, 25 ‘violent Ultras’, 11 members of the ‘Huskisson party’ and two vacancies. Rough speaking, after making corrections to these raw figures, the government majority was about 42 (333-291).
With agricultural distress and rural unrest (the ‘Swing’ riots in southern