needless candour and imprudence he acknowledged, in answer to O'Connell, the authenticity of his allegation that various Irish members who had publicly spoken against the Coercion Act of 1833 had privately approved of it. A sharp conflict followed between Althorp and Richard Lalor Sheil [q. v.], against whom the accusation was aimed; eventually Althorp withdrew and apologised for the charge against Sheil (Hansard, Parl. Debates, 3rd ser. xxi. 122, 146; Trevelyan, Life of Macaulay, i. 358). He further suffered in parliamentary credit by too hastily assenting to O'Connell's demand for an inquiry into the judicial conduct of Baron Sir William Cusac Smith [q. v.], which he was afterwards obliged to cancel. The budget was popular, for its surplus was principally devoted to reducing the house and window duties, and the 4 per cent. funds were also successfully converted into a 3½ per cent. stock. To his disappointment his Tithe Bill and Church-rate Bill, both promising measures, had to be withdrawn in order to facilitate the passing of the Poor-law Bill, to the preparation of which he had given great attention. When Stanley and Graham resigned, rather than support such a reduction of the revenues of the Irish church as the Tithe Bill threatened (27 May), Althorp was of opinion that the ministry could not go on, and would do better to resign too; and the remaining events of the session showed that he was probably right. The whigs were lukewarm and the king cold, while the tithe and coercion bills excited the steady opposition of the Irish members. The secret negotiation which Edward John Littleton (afterwards Lord Hatherton) [q. v.], the Irish secretary, opened with O'Connell further embittered matters, and Althorp did not escape personal censure. He sanctioned Littleton's proposal to see O'Connell in June in order to find out what the Irish members really wanted, and authorised him to say, as was the fact, that the clauses in the Coercion Bill prohibiting public meetings were still under discussion, but not to commit the government and himself. He had afterwards to bear his share of the blame when O'Connell broke the pledge of secrecy under which the interview took place. Personally he was opposed to the prohibition of public meetings, but had been overruled by the majority of his colleagues, though he carried his opposition to the verge of resignation; but when O'Connell declared on 3 July in the House of Commons that Littleton, in order to gain time to carry a by-election at Wexford, had given him Althorp's assurance that the prohibition of the meetings was to be abandoned, both he and the ministry were made to appear either to have played O'Connell false or to have introduced a bill which ran counter to their convictions. In fact no such assurance had been authorised, or perhaps in any such form given, and Littleton had kept to himself the fact that he had given any assurance at all. On 7 July Althorp spoke in defence of Littleton, and cleared him from the charge of having duped O'Connell; but when the opposition threatened to move for correspondence between the Irish and the home government, he tendered his resignation to Lord Grey. As he was indispensable to the ministry, Lord Grey resigned too, on 9 July. Grey's place was taken by Lord Melbourne. But on 11 July two hundred and six liberal members sent Althorp an address deprecating his retirement. At the entreaty of Melbourne and Grey, Althorp, though his personal wish was that the king should send for Peel, consented to refer the question of his return to office to his three friends, Lord Ebrington, Lord Tavistock, and Mr. Bonham Carter. Their decision was that on the understanding that the ministry would drop ‘the meeting clauses’ from the new Coercion Bill, he should resume office, and, after adding a stipulation that Littleton should be reinstated also, Althorp acquiesced.
On 10 Nov., by the death of his father, he succeeded to the earldom, and his friends at once began to entreat him not to abandon public life on quitting the House of Commons. The king, who had been unfavourably disposed to the whig ministry, seized the pretext of the loss of Lord Althorp to dismiss Lord Melbourne [see Russell, John, first Earl Russell]. Though chagrined that he should have given the king the opportunity of declaring his dislike of his ministers (Walpole, Life of Lord J. Russell, i. 209), Lord Spencer withdrew with satisfaction alike from politics and from the court, and devoted the rest of his life to those country pursuits to which he had always been warmly attached. Office, he said, was misery to him. In vain Lord Melbourne, on the defeat of Peel (April 1835), entreated Spencer to hold an office without duties in a new administration. On examining his father's affairs he found them so embarrassed, and the estates so heavily mortgaged, that, as he said, he ‘could only regard himself as the nominal owner of his patrimony.’ He devoted himself to frugality and farming, broke up the Althorp establishment, let the gardens and park, sold most of his property about London, virtually