PEEL, Sir RO?EI1T, a very eminent British statesman, Ii. Feb. 5, 1788, near Bury, in Lancashire. His father, sir Robert Peel (created a baronet in 1800), was a wealthy cot ton-spinner, from whom he inherited a great fortune. Ile was educated at Harrow, and at Christ-church, Oxford, where he graduated 13:A. in 1808—taking a double first-class— and entered the house of commons in 1800 as member for Cashel, adopting the strong tory politics of his father. Percival was then prime-minister. Peel set quietly about the business-work of the house, feeling his way with that steady prudence and persever ing diligence that were the conspicuous features of his diameter. In 1811 he was appointed under-secretary for the colonies; and from 1812 to 1818 he held the office of secretary for Ireland. In This capacity he displayed a strong anti-Catholic spirit (whence the witty Irish gave him the nickname of " Orange-Peel"), and was in conse quence so fiercely, or, shall we say, ferociously attacked by O'Connell, that even the cool and cautions secretary was driven to send the agitator a challenge. The police, however, prevented the duel from taking place. From 1818 till 1822 Peel remained out of office, but not out of parliament, where he sat for the university of Oxford. He now began to acquire a reputation as a financier and economist; and in 1819 was appointed chairman of the bank committee, and moved the resolutions which led to the resumption of cash-payments. He was still, however, as averse as ever to anything like religious or political reform. No member of thd Liverpool-Castlereagh cabinet could have been to appearance inure resolute. He even vehemently defended the infamous " Peterloo massacre" of 1819. In 1822 he re-entered the ministry as home secretary—Canning shortly after becoming foreign secretary, on the suicide of lord Castlereagh. The two worked together pretty well for some time, as Peel devoted himself chiefly to financial matters, and especially to the currency; but "Roman Catholic emancipation" was a question on which Canning was considerably in advance of his brother-secretary; and when the former was called upon by the king, after the resignation of lord Liverpool, to form a sort of whig-tory ministry, Peel, along with the duke of Wellington and others, withdrew from office. Yet it is sigularly characteristic of this most honest and compro vd4ng statesman, that even he seceded (1827). his opinions were veering round to the liberal and generous view of the claims of Roman Catholics; and when the death of Canning. shortly after, led to the formation of the 'Wellington-Peel government, its great measure—actually introduced by " Orange-Peel " himself—was the ever-memora ble one for the "relief " of the Roman Catholics (1829). As home secretary. he also signalized himself by a reorganization of the London police force—since popularly called " Peelers" and "Bobbies," their previous sobriquet being " Charlies"—from king Charles I., who (10.10) extended and improved the police system—and by the introduc tion of several other important measures.
Meanwhile, the university of Oxford had rejected its apostate representative, and chosen in his stead sir Harry Inglis. But now came on the great question of parliament ary reform. which Peel firmly but temperately opposed. In 1830 the Wellington-Peel ministry fell, and was succeeded by a whig ministry under earl Grey, which, in 1832, carried the reform bill. Peel (now, by the death of his father. sir Robert Peel), when he saw that reform was inevitable, accepted defeat and its results with great equanimity. Ile shrank from anything like factious opposition to the measure, and contented himself with presenting as forcibly as he could the political per-contra. After it was passed, he became the leader of the "conservative" opposition; and, as we have said, accepting reform itself as a fait accompli and irreversible, he only sought by keen and vigilant criticism of whig, measures to retard the too rapid strides of liberalism. In 1833, when the first " reformed " parliament assembled, Peel took his seat as member for Trnworth, which he represented till the close of his life. On the retirement of the Melbourne min istry in Nov., 1834, lie accepted the office of prime-minister, but. could not succeed in giving stability to his administration, and was compelled again to give place to viscount _Melbourne in April, 1835, and resumed his place as leader of the opposition. Peel's con
duct in o•position was always eminently patriotic. The whigs, who were being pressed on the one side by the new radical party and the anti-corn law' league, and on the other by O'Connell and the Irish repeaters, gradually lost ground, and being narrowly defeated in 1841, on a motion of want of confidence, dissolved parliament. The general election that ensued was virtually a contest between free-trade and protection. Protection won; and when the new parliament met, a vote of no-confidence was curried by a majority of ninety-one. The conservative party, headed by Peel, now came into office. The great feature of the new government was the attitude it adopted on the corn-law ques tion. The'Whigs, while in office, and even after their expulsion, were bent upon a fixed bat moderate duty on foreign corn; the anti-corn law league would hear of nothing short of au entire repeal, while sir Robert was in favor of a modification of the sliding scale of duty which had existed since 1828. He introduced and carried (1842), in spite of strong opposition, a measure based upon this principle. The deficit in the revenue, which had become quite alarming under the Melbourne administration, next engaged his attention, and led him to bring in a bill (1842) for the imposition of an "income-tax" of 7d. in the pound, to be levied bring three years. To alleviate the new burden, Peel com menced a revision of the general tariff, and either abolished or lowered the duties on several very important articles of commerce, such as drugs, dye-woods, cattle, sheep, pigs, salted meat, butter, eggs, cheese, and lard. He also showed himself resolute in the repression of the clamorous and anarchic malcontents of Ireland. O'Connell (q.v.) was tried for conspiracy, and though the judgment against him was set aside on appeal to the house of lords, the influence of the •` agitator" was broken. The first half of 1845 was marked by the allowance to Maynooth being increased and changed into it perma nent endowment instead of an annual grant, and by the foundation of the Irish unsec tarian colleges, and other important measures. But the potato-rot in Ireland during the autumn, followed by a frightful famine, rendered " cheap corn" a necessity, if millions were not to starve. Cobden and the league redoubled their exertions. Lord John Rus sell announced the views of the whig party on the crisis. and Peel again yielded. He told his ministerial colleagues that the co•n-laws were doomed, and that their repeal was inevitable. Some of them refusing to go along with him, he resigned; but after a few days, wits recalled, and resumed office. Lord Stanley, the late lord Derby, seceded, and with lord George Bentinek, Mr. Disraeli, etc., formed a " no-surrender" tory party; but the duke of 'Wellington, Graham, Aberdeen, Gladstone, and other eminent conservatives, stood by him, and the measure for the repeal was carried. He was, however, ately afterwards defeated on an Irish protection of life bill. Not so much upon this account, as because be felt that the course which he had pursued had produced a disso• lution of the old ties of party, and that lie could not expect for some time to find him self at the head of a strong government, Peel retired from office in June, 1846, to a whig administration under lord John Russell, to which lie gave an independ ent but general support as the leader of a middle party rather whig than tory. In the critical times of 1817-48, lie was one of the most important props of the government, whose free-trade principles he had now completely accepted. His ecclesiastical policy had also undergone a remarkable change, and he now frankly supported the whip in the efforts to carry an act, for the repeal of the Jewish disabilities. He was himself regarded by the working and middle classes generally with much grateful respect. An unexpected catastrophe }out an end to his career. On Julie 28, 1850, he had spoken with great eloquence in the debate on lord Palmerston's Greek policy; but on the fol lowing day was thrown from his horse in Hyde Park, and was so much injured that he died on the evening of July 2.—He left five sons, the eldest of whom, Sir RonFuer, the second, Sir FREDERICK, and the fifth, JONATHAN, lieut.gen. in thg British army, have all held offices as ministers.