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Robert Peel: A Biography
on 13 December 2013
Robert Peel, born in 1788, and who died in 1850 was a remarkable British politician. His father was a rich textile manufacturer at the time of the early industrial revolution, and was determined to give his son a proper education and the right start in life. Peel became Home Secretary in 1822 and spent some years in the unique environment at the time in Ireland. He was Prime Minister from 1834 to 1835, and again from 1841 to 1846. His reforms created a political system more like the one the British people live with today, somewhat removed from the aristocratic influence and royal nominations.
His political world seemed to be filled largely with issues of Ireland, Catholic Emancipation, electoral reform, Corn Law, tariffs, Chartists, police and law and order, currency and Bank reform, the blossoming British Empire, relations with America and France. In particular, the disaster of the Irish potato famine filled his last years as Prime Minister with difficult debates and decisions. Coupled with the looming threat in his later political years posed by Disraeli and in particular over the Corn Law repeals through 1845 and 1846, Peel retired from politics as a man who had largely fulfilled his political purpose, but was often nearly broken in body and spirit over the hard road he set for himself.
His family was always paramount and never far from his mind; a loving husband and father, he committed as much of his time and energies as he could to family life. Peel was considered by many to be a strange stand-offish man; described by the young Queen Victoria as a "cold, odd man" he was the master of detail, but never the master of wit and scathing oratory like his later political opponent Disraeli. His sad death when he was perhaps at the height of his personal happiness reflected the great good he had done to his country in the national mourning that followed it.
Robert Peel was a Conservative, a Christian and an English patriot who strove to do what he believed was right for the resolution of the "condition of England". A remarkable man, and this biography serves to offer him to a modern reader in a very empathetic and honest light. Peel was not without his faults, by any means, but he honestly strove to do what was right for his country according to his beliefs as they stood. This book is a great read, and I thoroughly enjoyed the journey of Robert Peel, the man and his times.