Sir Robert Peel
Sir Robert Peel.
Statue By Mossman. Erected 28th June, 1859
This distinguished statesman was born at Chamber Hall, the residence of his father, the first Sir Robert Peel, near Bury, in Lancashire, on the 5th February, 1788. It is interesting to note that the year of his birth was the same as that of his school-fellow, Lord Byron. By a remarkable coincidence, too, both of these men entered on political life together: in 1809, Peel first sat as a member of the House of Commons, whilst in the same year Byron, through his peerage right, took his seat in the House of Lords. In that year, 1809, there was also born Peel’s famous pupil, William Ewart Gladstone.
Robert Peel may be said to have been born in the very centre of the Tory camp, and to have been rocked in the cradle of the oldest and most unyielding political party. He was educated under the eye of his father, one of the leading lights of that parliamentary party, who instilled into his young mind the principles of Pitt, and held up for his imitation the character and career of that eminent statesman. The ruling desire-in fact, the one idea-of his father’s life was that Robert should be a statesman. And it was most fortunately realised.
Young Peel was sent in due course to Harrow, one of England’s great public schools, where, amongst others who afterwards became distinguished men, he had as school-fellow Lord Byron. At Harrow he was noted for steady diligence, though not for brilliant qualities. Byron has put it on record that Peel was a “model” boy, who affected always the clean, if not the dandy, dress of a well-bred gentleman, who was always prepared with his class lessons, and was never in a scrape. Byron adds that he himself was never out of one, and was never up to time in his class work. The poet, however, characteristically remarks that in declaiming Latin or Greek poetry, and in the academical examinations, he was always Peel‘s superior. At Oxford, Peel took a double first, and altogether had a most creditable university career.
After leaving Oxford he at once entered upon his political life. In 1809 he was returned as member for Cashel. By training and by instincts he was attached to the Tory party, and he threw himself with heart and soul into the work of