new king's divorce. Liverpool had to bear perhaps a greater share of unpopularity than he deserved. He had been a party to the despatch of the Milan commission in 1818, but it was with reluctance that he undertook the introduction of a divorce bill, which was only forced upon him by the queen's persistent determination to come to England. Upon him throughout fell the difficult task of defending and explaining at every stage the course pursued by the ministry. Ultimately the steady diminution of the majorities in favour of the bill compelled him to withdraw it.
Liverpool met the distress and disaffection in Ireland in 1822 by renewing the Insurrection Bill and by rapidly passing a bill through both houses for the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act in Ireland for six months. At the same time a government grant of money was made in aid of the prevailing distress; and, upon Lord Lansdowne's motion, that the state of Ireland required the immediate attention of parliament, he protested that Ireland had few causes of complaint which legislation could remove, and that all her troubles were due to the state of society then prevailing. To Canning's Catholic Relief Bill he offered a strenuous and successful resistance, rather upon the ground that it was too limited and partial in its application to be satisfactory to Ireland than upon grounds of general policy. It was mainly through his firmness in resisting the pressure put upon him by numbers of his own supporters, and in overcoming the king's personal prejudices, that Londonderry was succeeded by Canning at the foreign office in the autumn of 1822; and Canning's foreign policy, especially in regard to the Spanish question and the recognition of the Spanish American republics, was, like his predecessor's, not only in accord with, but even to some extent inspired by, the opinions of the prime minister. Strengthened by the adhesion of Canning and the promotion of Huskisson to the board of trade (5 April 1822), the government continued to be secure in parliament and tolerably prosperous in the country, until the progress of the Catholic Association in Ireland prepared a fresh crisis. Liverpool's own opposition to the Roman catholic claims was far from being so extreme as that of many of his followers. While maintaining the necessity of ‘a protestant ascendency, a protestant parliament, a protestant council, and protestant judges,’ he voted and spoke in May 1824 for Lord Lansdowne's bills to confer the elective franchise on English Roman catholics and to open the magistracy and certain offices to Roman catholic gentlemen. He felt strongly the tactical folly of defending these merely irritating and illogical disabilities at the cost of embittering public feeling, and thus imperilling those larger disabilities which he hoped to maintain. This course, however, did not prevent him in 1825 from introducing legislation aimed at the Catholic Association. In 1826 his opinions were moving in the direction of an alteration in the corn laws, and he actually prepared a measure during the recess, afterwards introduced into parliament while he was still prime minister, though not by himself, which embodied that principle of the sliding scale which was ultimately adopted and maintained under various modifications until the final abandonment of the corn laws. In 1820, on a motion of Lord Lansdowne's for a committee on our foreign trade, with a view to the removal of some of the restrictions upon it, he had expressed himself as opposed in principle to legislation which favoured or burdened one industry more than another, and had on its own merits approved a system of unrestricted trade; but he declared that a country which had so long followed an opposite policy could not now abandon it. But in May 1826 he avowed that neither the corn law of 1815 nor that of 1822 was applicable to the present circumstances of prevalent distress and industrial depression. He stated that he was individually responsible for the ministerial proposal to confer on the administration a discretionary power to permit a limited importation of corn, and in September these powers were actually exercised. He clearly intimated that some relaxation of the corn laws would become necessary, but in the new parliament he was never able to propose this change himself. His health, even in December 1826, was impaired, and he felt himself no longer able to bear the heavy burden of office. ‘The government,’ he wrote to Robinson, ‘hangs by a thread. The catholic question in its present state, combined with other circumstances, will, I have little doubt, lead to its dissolution in the course of this session;’ and he felt himself no match for this struggle and those other difficulties attending the corn question which he foresaw. Early in the morning of 17 Feb. 1827 he had a stroke of paralysis, combined with apoplexy, and resigned office. He lingered, rarely conscious, until 4 Dec. 1828, when he died at Fife House, Whitehall; he was buried at Hawkesbury. In 1816 he was elected master of Trinity House, and appointed high steward of Kingston-on-Thames. In 1824 he became a trustee of the National Gallery, and in 1826 LL.D. of Cambridge and an official trustee of the British Museum. There are two por-