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Robert Peel

British Conservative statesman
I shall leave a name execrated by every monopolist...but it may be...sometimes remembered with expressions of goodwill in the abodes of those whose lot it is to labour and to earn their daily bread in the sweat of their brow, when they shall recruit their exhausted strength with abundant and untaxed food, the sweeter because it is no longer leavened by a sense of injustice.

Sir Robert Peel, 2nd Baronet (5 February 17882 July 1850) was the Conservative Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 10 December 1834 to 8 April 1835, and again from 30 August 1841 to 29 June 1846. He helped create the modern concept of the police force while Home Secretary, oversaw the formation of the Conservative Party out of the shattered Tory Party, and repealed the Corn Laws.

Contents

QuotesEdit

 
If you had to constitute new societies, you might on moral and social grounds prefer cornfields to cotton factories, an agricultural to a manufacturing population. But our lot is cast, and we cannot recede.

Backbench MPEdit

  • ...the aggression, usurpation, and tyranny of Buonaparté was the only subject upon which all parties united. But to resist him in his encroachments effectually, unanimity was absolutely necessary, and the nature of the contest in which we were engaged, required that every heart and hand should be joined to give strength to the common cause. He hoped, we should still be able, as we had hitherto been, to ride in safety through the storm that had destroyed the rest of Europe, and that we should still stretch forth a hand to succour those who were yet struggling for life against the angry waves.
    • Maiden speech in the House of Commons (23 January 1810) in support of the war against France

Chief Secretary for IrelandEdit

  • Let us recollect, that, under the constitution which we have derived from our ancestors, we have enjoyed more liberty, we have acquired more glory, we possess more character and power, than has hitherto fallen to the lot of any other country on the globe; and if there be any man yet undecided on this question, I entreat him that he will give the benefit of his doubt to the existing order of things,—and, that, before he gives his vote to a measure, of the consequences of which he is at least uncertain, he will weigh the substantial blessings which he knows to have been derived from the government that is, against all the speculative advantages which he is promised from the government that is to be.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (9 May 1817) rejecting Catholic Emancipation

Home SecretaryEdit

  • They propose no encroachments upon civil liberty, no extension of executive authority, no rash subversion of ancient institutions, no relinquishment of what is practically good, for the chance of speculative and uncertain improvement. "The work which I propound," as lord Bacon says, "tendeth to pruning and grafting the law, and not to plowing up and planting it again; for such a remove I should held indeed for a perilous innovation."
  • I have endeavoured to steer a middle course between the general verbosity of our English statutes, and the extreme brevity of the French criminal code. ... In the bills I have the honour of submitting to the House, a middle course has been steered between the redundancy of our own legal enactments, and the conciseness of the French code.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (13 March 1827) on the consolidation of the criminal law
  • I have for years attempted to maintain the exclusion of Roman Catholics from Parliament, and the high offices of the State. I do not think it was an unnatural or unreasonable struggle. I resign it in consequence of the conviction that it can no longer be advantageously maintained. I yield therefore to a moral necessity which I cannot control; unwilling to push resistance to a point which might endanger the establishments that I wish to defend.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (5 March 1829) introducing the Bill for Catholic Emancipation, quoted in The Parliamentary Debates, New Series: Vol. XX (1829), column 730
  • The police are the public and the public are the police.
    • Of Peel's nine principles[1]

Leader of the OppositionEdit

  • I want no array of figures, I want no official documents, I want no speeches of six hours, to establish to my satisfaction the public policy of maintaining the Legislative Union [with Ireland]. I feel and know that the Repeal of it must lead to the dismemberment of this great empire; must make Great Britain a fourth-rate power of Europe, and Ireland a savage wilderness; and I will give therefore, at once, and without hesitation, an emphatic negative to the motion for Repeal. 
    • Speech in the House of Commons (25 April 1834)

Prime MinisterEdit

  • If the spirit of the Reform Bill implies merely, a careful review of institutions, civil and ecclesiastical, undertaken in a friendly temper, combining, with the firm maintenance of established rights, the correction of proved abuses, and the redress of real grievances,—in that case, I can for myself and colleagues undertake to act in such a spirit and with such intentions.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (18 December 1834)

Leader of the OppositionEdit

  • I have read all that has been written by the gravest authorities on political economy on the subject of rent, wages, taxes, tithes, the various elements in short, which constitute or affect the price of agricultural produce.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (15 March 1839)

Prime MinisterEdit

  • My object, having a surplus to deal with, is to consider how I can deal with it to the greatest advantage to the consumer— how, without inflicting any injury on Canada, I can secure the most substantial benefit to this country, to the manufacturing, to the commercial, and to the agricultural interests...The real way in which we can benefit the working and manufacturing classes is, unquestionably, by removing the burden that presses on the springs of manufactures and commerce.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (11 March 1842)
  • If you had to constitute new societies, you might on moral and social grounds prefer cornfields to cotton factories, an agricultural to a manufacturing population. But our lot is cast, and we cannot recede.
    • Letter to J. W. Croker (27 July 1842), quoted in Charles Stuart Parker (ed.), Sir Robert Peel from His Private Papers. Volume II (London: John Murray, 1899), p. 529
  • We are bound also to consider what are those taxes, the removal of which will give more scope to commercial enterprise, and occasion an increased demand for labour. ... let the House remember that the principle on which we have gone, and gone advisedly, is the absolute repeal of taxation in many cases. ... We do hope that the direct and instant effect will be increased consumption of many articles now subject to duty, invigorating the industry and extending the commercial enterprise of the country through other channels, and supplying the void we cannot hope to fill up by direct taxation. ... We have taken this course after careful consideration, and we recommend this plan from a deliberate conviction that if sanctioned by Parliament it will conduce to the extension of industry, to the encouragement of enterprise, and that the result of that extension of industry and encouragement of enterprise will be the benefit of all classes of the community, whether they are directly or indirectly connected with commerce, manufactures, or agriculture.
  • I can say with truth that Her Majesty's Government, in proposing those measures of commercial policy which have disentitled them to the confidence of many who heretofore gave them their support, were influenced by no other motive than the desire to consult the interests of this country. Our object was to avert dangers which we thought were imminent, and to terminate a conflict which, according to our belief, would soon place in hostile collision great and powerful classes in this country. The maintenance of power was not a motive for the proposal of these measures; for, as I said before, I had not a doubt, that whether these measures were accompanied by failure or success, the certain issue must be the termination of the existence of this Government.
    • Resignation speech in the House of Commons (29 June 1846) after the repeal of the Corn Laws
  • ...in proposing our measures of commercial policy, I had no wish to rob others of the credit justly due to them. ... The name which ought to be, and will be, associated with the success of those measures, is the name of one who, acting, I believe, from pure and disinterested motives, has, with untiring energy, made appeals to our reason, and has enforced those appeals with an eloquence the more to be admired because it was unaffected and unadorned: the name which ought to be chiefly associated with the success of those measures, is the name of Richard Cobden.
    • Resignation speech in the House of Commons (29 June 1846) after the repeal of the Corn Laws
  • In relinquishing power...I shall leave a name execrated by every monopolist who, from less honourable motives, clamours for protection because it conduces to his own individual benefit; but it may be that I shall leave a name sometimes remembered with expressions of good will in the abodes of those whose lot it is to labour, and to earn their daily bread by the sweat of their brow, when they shall recruit their exhausted strength with abundant and untaxed food, the sweeter because it is no longer leavened by a sense of injustice.
    • Resignation speech in the House of Commons (29 June 1846) after the repeal of the Corn Laws

Post-Prime MinisterialEdit

  • ...if wheat were at this moment subject to a duty of twenty shillings the quarter, and if Indian corn were virtually excluded, next winter would not pass without a convulsion endangering the whole frame of society, without the humiliation of constituted authorities forced to yield after a disgraceful struggle...if their [the Protectionists'] advice had been taken, we should have had famine prices for many articles, and a state of exasperated public feeling and just agitation, which it would require wiser heads than theirs to allay. So far from regretting the expulsion from office, I rejoice in it as the greatest relief from an intolerable burden. To have your own way, and to be for five years the Minister of this country in the House of Commons, is quite enough for any man's strength. He is entitled to his discharge, from length of service. But to have to incur the deepest responsibility, to bear the heaviest toil, to reconcile colleagues with conflicting opinions to a common course of action, to keep together in harmony the Sovereign, the Lords and the Commons; to have to do these things, and to be at the same time the tool of a party—that is to say, to adopt the opinions of men who have not access to your knowledge, and could not profit by it if they had, who spend their time in eating and drinking, and hunting, shooting, gambling, horse-racing, and so forth—would be an odious servitude, to which I will never submit. I determine to keep aloof from party combinations.
    • Letter to Lord Hardinge (24 September 1846), quoted in Charles Stuart Parker (ed.), Sir Robert Peel from His Private Papers. Volume III (London: John Murray, 1899), pp. 473-474
  • It was impossible to reconcile the repeal of the Corn Laws by me with the keeping together of the Conservative party, and I had no hesitation in sacrificing the subordinate object, and with it my own political interests.
    • Letter to Lord Aberdeen (19 August 1847), quoted in Lord Mahon and Edward Cardwell (eds.), Memoirs by the Right Honourable Sir Robert Peel. Part II (London: John Murray, 1857), p. 322

Quotes about PeelEdit

  • The Right Honourable gentleman caught the Whigs bathing and walked away with their clothes.
  • I appeal to the contemptible speech made lately by Sir Robert Peel to an applauding House of Commons. "Orders of merit," said he, "were the proper rewards of the military" (the desolators of the world in all ages). "Men of science are better left to the applause of their own hearts." Most learned legislator! Most liberal cotton-spinner! Was your title the proper reward of military prowess? Pity, you hold not the dungeon-keys of an English Inquisition! Perhaps Science, like Creeds, would flourish best under a little persecution.
    • John Joseph Griffin, in Chemical Recreations (7th Edition, 1834) "The Romance of Chemistry" p. 232

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  1. Known as the Peelian principles, from the General Instructions (1829) for the Metropolitan Police.