closed Spencer House, and lived on his wife's property at Wiseton, where his sole extravagance was farming at a loss of 3,000l. In November 1838 he declined Lord Melbourne's offers of the lord-lieutenancy of Ireland and of the governorship of Canada. His influence was privately employed in 1840 to dissuade the ministry from adopting an aggressive policy towards France [see Temple, Henry John, third Viscount Palmerston], but publicly he only emerged from his retirement to defend his former colleagues in the House of Lords after their fall in 1841, and to pronounce in favour of the repeal of the corn laws in a speech at Northampton in December 1843. His blunt statement that protection was unnecessary and reciprocity a fallacy, coming from a man of his character for honesty and for knowledge of the practical needs of agriculture, produced a great impression in the country. In 1844 he received an unofficial warning that he might be called on to form a ministry, but nothing came of it. His last speech in the House of Lords was in support of the second reading of the Maynooth College Bill in June 1845. In the following autumn he was for the first time a steward of Doncaster races, and was taken dangerously ill there during the Doncaster week. Though it was found possible to remove him from Doncaster to Wiseton, he became rapidly worse, calmly arranged his business affairs, and died on 1 Oct. His health had been for some time impaired by his habit of eating too little food from a fear of gout. He left no issue, and was succeeded in the title by his brother.
Althorp's position among English statesmen is certainly unique. With moderate abilities he won absolute trust from friends and opponents alike, thanks entirely to his perfect truthfulness and to his single-minded desire to do only what was honourable and right. He stepped at one stride to the leadership of the House of Commons and the chancellorship of the exchequer, and yet never had a single feeling of personal ambition, or, indeed, any personal desire of any kind, except to quit office and public life together at the earliest opportunity. Greville, who, contrary to his habit, panegyrised him on his death, credited him with ‘one talent, and that is a thorough knowledge of the House of Commons’ (Memoirs, 1st ser. iii. 106, 2nd ser. ii. 296). Lord Holland described him to Lord John Russell as ‘a man who acts on all matters with a scrupulous, deliberate, and inflexible regard to his public duty and private conscience’ (Walpole, Life of Lord John Russell, i. 192). In manner he was simple and somewhat blundering. ‘There is something,’ said Jeffrey, ‘to me quite delightful in his calm, clumsy, courageous, immutable probity and well-meaning, and it seems to have a charm with everybody’ (Cockburn, Memoir of Lord Jeffrey, i. 322). He was nervous and silent even among his own guests, a hesitating speaker, and much dependent on written notes, though in the debates on the Reform Bill his extraordinary knowledge took away his nervousness; and Brougham told Bishop Wilberforce that ‘his readiness was wonderful’ (Life of S. Wilberforce, ed. 1888, p. 234).
His real passion was for country life and country sport. It is related that once only was Lord Althorp heard to speak on any subject with eagerness and enthusiasm, and that was in praise of prize-fighting. His services to English agriculture in all departments were constant and considerable. He was one of the founders of the Yorkshire Agricultural Society, and in 1825 accepted the presidency of the Smithfield Club, then in extreme difficulties; thanks to his excellent business abilities and his heartfelt zeal, he thoroughly re-established it in a few years. He retained this presidency till his death, and it is said would work all day in his shirt-sleeves getting beasts into their stalls on the day before one of its shows. It was at the annual dinner of this club at the Freemasons' Tavern, London, on 11 Dec. 1837, that he first publicly suggested the formation of the society, afterwards established, with the assistance of the Duke of Richmond, Philip Pusey [q. v.], and other agriculturists, as the English Agricultural Society in May 1838, and two years later called the Royal Agricultural Society of England (cf. Journal Roy. Agric. Soc., 1890, 3rd ser. i. 1–19). He was its first president, and took the chair at the country meetings held at Oxford in 1839 and Southampton in 1844. The show at Shrewsbury in 1845 was the last that he attended. He gave great assistance in the foundation of the Royal Agricultural College at Cirencester in 1844, and contributed papers to the society's ‘Journal’ on such subjects as the comparative feeding properties of mangel-wurzel and Swedish turnips, and on the gestation of cows. The ‘Wiseton’ herd of shorthorns, which he began in 1818 with the purchase of the bull Regent and several cows at the famous Colling sale at Barmpton, ultimately became one of the largest and best in England, and at his death included one hundred and fifty head. No breeder introduced more improvements into farm cattle than Lord Althorp, and even when he was engrossed with ministerial work his interest in his cattle and sheep was in-