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Althorp, John Charles Spencer, Viscount, 3rd Earl Spencer

Althorp, John Charles Spencer, Viscount, 3rd Earl Spencer (1782–1845). By temperament Althorp preferred the pleasures of private life to the tribulations of politics. He was not an eloquent speaker but won the confidence of the Commons by his honesty and ability to convince backbenchers that he was one of themselves. In both the Grey and Melbourne administrations he was important as chancellor of the Exchequer. He welcomed the 1832 Reform Bill, was involved in drafting it, and prominent in securing its passage through Parliament, but in 1834 he could not support an Irish Coercion Bill and this contributed to Grey's decision to resign as premier. Melbourne believed Althorp's presence in the Commons was essential for the survival of his ministry and it was a great blow when Althorp succeeded his father as Earl Spencer in November 1834. The result was Melbourne's resignation. Althorp was happy to leave politics. He refused to be either lord-lieutenant of Ireland or governor-general of Canada and immersed himself in farming and country sports. Yet he had been both popular and effective as leader of the House of Commons. His career confirms that in politics character often counts for more than intellect.

John W. Derry

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