PEEL, Robert

Robert Peel

b. 5 Feb 1788, Chamber Hall, near Bury, Lancashire
d. 2 Jul 1850, London

Ministerial offices: Under-Secretary of State for War and the Colonies (Jun 1810 - Aug 1812)
Chief Secretary for Ireland (4 Aug 1812 - 3 Aug 1818)
Home Secretary (17 Jan 1822 - 10 Apr 1827)
Home Secretary and Leader of the House of Commons (26 Jan 1828 - 15 Nov 1830)
Chancellor of the Exchequer (10 Dec 1834 - 8 Apr 1835)
First Lord Commissioner of the Treasury and Leader of the House of Commons (10 Dec 1834 - 8 Apr 1835, 30 Aug 1841 - 29 Jun 1846)
Names/titles: Sir Robert Peel, 2nd Baronet [from 3 May 1830]

Robert Peel came from a Lancashire family of farmers and weavers, who had become textile manufacturers. He was educated at Harrow and received his master's degree after studying at Christ Church College, Oxford. In June 1809 Peel entered Lincoln's Inn to become a lawyer, but was elected to Parliament the same year (MP, 1809-1850). He was appointed Chief Secretary for Ireland at age 24 and then Home Secretary a decade later. As Home Secretary Peel founded the Metropolitan Police in 1829 (the Peelers) and with difficulty carried through the Catholic Relief Bill in 1829. When King William IV dismissed Viscount Melbourne and his administration, the Duke of Wellington, who temporarily assumed the office of First Lord of the Treasury, advised the King to invite Peel to form a new government. Peel, on holiday in Italy, was given the King's letter commanding him to head the new administration on 25 Nov 1834. He was formally appointed First Lord of the Treasury on 10 Dec 1834 and formed his first Conservative government. Peel issued the Tamworth Manifesto (18 Dec 1834) stating the new Conservative reform principles, but the administration lasted just four months. After several defeats in the Commons Peel resigned (8 Apr 1835). In May 1839 Peel made another attempt to form administration, but failed and Viscount Melbourne returned to office.

Following a Conservative victory at the General Election, Peel was appointed First Lord of the Treasury (30 Aug 1841) and prime minister for the second time. In his second administration he reinforced income tax (11 Mar 1842) and certain more conciliatory measures toward Ireland. Under the pressure of approaching famine in Ireland, Peel unsuccessfully tried to convince the Cabinet to remove duties on foreign corn imports and resigned (5 Dec 1845). However, Lord John Russell failed to form a new administration and Peel resumed office on 20 Dec 1845. After savage parliamentary debates the repeal of the Corn Laws was finally carried through in June 1846. This split the Conservative Party which Peel had led since 1834 and he and his supporters, the Peelites, were subject to attacks from the rising Conservative star Benjamin Disraeli. When the government was defeated on the second reading of the Irish Crimes Bill, Peel preferred to resign (29 Jun 1846) and made his famous resignation speech in the Commons. On 29 Jun 1850 Peel fell from his horse, which then stumbled on top of him aggravating his injuries. He died three days later on 2 Jul 1850. Biography source: [1, pp. 148-154]

[1] Englefield, Dermot; Seaton, Janet; White, Isobel (eds.) Facts About the British Prime Ministers: A Compilation of Biographical and Historical Information. New York: The H.W. Wilson Company, 1995. online
Image: portrait of Robert Peel by Sir Thomas Lawrence, 1826.