Robert Peel

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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police force while Home Secretary, oversaw the formation of the Conservative Party out of the shattered Tory Party, and repealed the Corn Laws.

Quotes[edit]

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.
  • I feel and know that the Repeal [of the Act of Union 1801] must lead to the dismemberment of this great empire; must make Great Britain a fourth-rate power in Europe, and Ireland a savage wilderness.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (April 1834).
  • 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).
  • I have read all that has been written by the gravest authorities on political economy on the subject of rent, wages, taxes, tithes.
    • Speech in the House of Commons (15 March 1839).
  • 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).
  • "The police are the public and the public are the police"
  • 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).
    • Charles Stuart Parker (ed.), Sir Robert Peel from His Private Papers. Volume II (London: John Murray, 1899), p. 529.
  • 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...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...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 after the repeal of the Corn Laws (29 June 1846).
  • ...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).
    • 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).
    • Lord Mahon and Edward Cardwell (eds.), Memoirs by the Right Honourable Sir Robert Peel. Part II (London: John Murray, 1857), p. 322.

Quotes about Peel[edit]

  • The Right Honourable gentleman caught the Whigs bathing and walked away with their clothes.
  • His smile was like the silver plate on a coffin.
  • 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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