draw the duties. He was consequently obliged to give up his remission of the duties on glass and tobacco, carried his proposals as to the wine duties only after a struggle, and was defeated on those as to the timber duties. The defeat mortified him deeply, yet he met with little sympathy. What else, it was said, was to be expected when ‘a respectable country gentleman … is all of a sudden made leader in the House of Commons, without being able to speak, and chancellor of the exchequer without any knowledge, theoretical or practical, of finance?’ (Greville, Memoirs, 1st ser. ii. 115). Yet the budget was sound in itself, and might have been saved in the hands of a more adroit manager. But for his zeal for the Reform Bill Althorp would have quitted office. Time, however, improved him fast. Greville, who writes of him in February as ‘wretched’ and doing ‘a great deal of harm,’ ‘leading the House of Commons without the slightest acquaintance with the various subjects that came under discussion’—a highly unjust remark—recorded in September, ‘as a proof of what practice and a pretty good understanding can do,’ that he ‘now appears to be an excellent leader, and contrives to speak decently upon all subjects’ (ib. pp. 116–200). He was not a member of the committee of ministers which drafted the Reform Bill, though he showed as complete a mastery of its provisions during the subsequent debates as if he had been its author (Russell, Recollections, p. 69). In the cabinet he urged the complete abolition of pocket boroughs, and he was in favour of a 15l. or 20l. franchise coupled with the ballot. Having been defeated on Gascoigne's amendment to the Reform Bill, he successfully urged on his colleagues an immediate dissolution. At the general election, which gave the government a largely increased majority, Althorp was after a contest returned at the head of the poll for Northamptonshire. In the following session, all interest being absorbed in the Reform Bill, his place as leader of the house was almost usurped by Lord John Russell, who was in charge of the bill; but, in spite of this and of difference of opinion as to its provisions, Althorp and Russell continued close and almost inseparable allies and friends throughout (see Moore, Memoirs, vi. 290). Althorp spoke sensibly on the second reading, and profited by the diversion of attention to pass his estimates with little trouble. When Russell was exhausted, the whole management of the Reform Bill in committee devolved upon him, and from 10 Aug. was formally handed over to him. The necessity for constant speeches in reply to objections greatly improved his efficiency as a debater, and his moderation gradually gained the outspoken respect even of his opponents. But repugnance to the life of the House of Commons, to which he wrote that he went down ‘as if I was going to execution,’ and a desire to quit office, grew steadily on him. His work was hard. Obstructive tactics were employed against the committee stage of the bill, and only his long-sustained firmness and good temper foiled them. ‘Lord Althorp has the temper of Lord North with the principles of Romilly,’ wrote Macaulay in September 1831. To him the cabinet left the task of making the one speech (Hansard, 3rd ser. viii. 458) made by ministers in the House of Commons upon Lord Ebrington's motion for a vote of confidence, which was the whig reply to the rejection of the Reform Bill by the House of Lords (8 Oct.) It was perhaps his best, for it gave the greatest scope to his peculiar power of combining thoroughness with moderation. He rallied his followers without embittering the conflict with the upper house.
At the end of November 1831 the government had to deal with the serious danger to be apprehended from the meeting to organise a strike against payment of taxes, to which the Birmingham union, exasperated by the House of Lords' rejection of the Reform Bill, had summoned its supporters to come in arms. Differences of opinion with regard to a treatment of the question began to appear between Lord Grey and Lord Durham. Althorp took the responsibility of extricating the government from the necessity of either tolerating a riot or offending its supporters by privately sending to Thomas Attwood, through Joseph Parkes [q. v.], an urgent message to postpone the meeting. In this he was successful. In conjunction with Lord Grey he modified a number of provisions of the Reform Bill to conciliate the House of Lords, and, in opposition to him, pressed for an early commencement of the following session in order that the bill might be reintroduced at once. To any large addition to the House of Lords he and Grey were opposed, but he strongly urged that, when the bill should again have passed the commons, authority should be obtained from the king to create, in case of need, a sufficient number of peers to carry it through the lords; and with difficulty he and Lord Grey brought their colleagues to approve of a creation of ten. On 26 Jan. 1832 he barely escaped a defeat in the House of Commons upon the payment of the Russian-Dutch loan (see Grey, Correspondence with William IV, ii. 156), due in part