Peel, Sir Robert (17881850)

Peel, Sir Robert, English statesman, born near Bury, Lancashire, the son of a wealthy cotton-spinner, to whose large fortune and baronetcy he succeeded; graduated at Oxford in 1808, and next year entered Parliament as Tory member for Cashel; he afterwards sat for his own university, and after 1832 for Tamworth; he was appointed Under-Secretary for the Colonies in 1811. and from 1812 till 1818 was Secretary for Ireland; in 1822 he became Home Secretary, but seceded from the Government when Canning became Premier in 1827; the question at issue was Catholic Emancipation, and it was characteristic of Peel that in the Government which succeeded Canning's he had the courage, having changed his opinions, to introduce the measure which removed the disabilities; opposed to Reform he became leader of the Conservative opposition in the Parliament of 1833; called to the Premiership in 1834 he could not maintain his administration, and it was not till 1841 that the victory of protection over the free-trade agitation gave him a stable majority in the Commons; his first measure was a modification of the corn laws on protectionist principles, 1842; then followed the 7d. income-tax and general tariff revision; in 1845 the agitation for free-trade in corn was brought to a crisis by the Irish potato famine; Peel yielded, and next year carried the final repeal of the corn laws; his “conversion” split the Tory party and he retired from office, becoming a supporter of the Whig ministry in its economical and ecclesiastical policy; he was a master of finance, an easy speaker, slow to form but conscientious to act upon his convictions, a man of the highest character; his death was the result of a fall from horseback (17881850).

Definition taken from The Nuttall Encyclopædia, edited by the Reverend James Wood (1907)

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