Sir Robert Peel

Glasgow Pocket Guide

Sir Robert Peel,
page 2 of 7

that side of the national assembly. During his first parliamentary year he was wisely silent, yet there was no more observant member in all that august gathering, and none more willing or ready to profit by the experience of others. Peel was no genius, nor did he ever lay claim to being the possessor of this heaven-gifted quality. He never could have coped successfully with the strategy and varied resources of the First Napoleon, nor could he have steered the national ship through that long tempest whose calm only came with Waterloo. He had not those fascinating endowments which appeal to the dramatic sense in man; the commanding power of supreme eloquence was denied him, and there was nothing romantic either in the cast of his mind or in the circumstances by which he was surrounded that could stimulate the imagination. A wise adaptability to the interests of the nation and to the evils calling for redress was one of the great causes of his political success. He was a political philosopher of the highest type, and rose to distinction at a period when Britain had ceased to be distracted by foreign wars, and when the people clamoured loudly for domestic reform. Such a period needs the sagacious and painstaking rather than the original and daring statesman, and in every respect Peel was preminently suited for the occasion. It almost seemed that a genial destiny, kind alike to him and the nation which he served, had raised him up for the work which awaited him, and which he performed to such lofty and lasting issues. And though genius was lacking in him, and his greatness was built up of almost commonplace materials, still there was much in his character and his life to command the admiration and sympathy of men of all shades of political opinion. All these elements give a deeper significance to his personal qualities, and the means by which he arose to the exalted position of Prime Minister of Britain.

Two years after entering Parliament, Peel was made Under Secretary in 1811; and in 1812 he was appointed by Lord Liverpool to the important and onerous office of Chief Secretary for Ireland. The fact of his being appointed at the age of twenty-four to fill this position, one of the most difficult in every administration during the past century, shows the confidence with which he was regarded by his colleagues in office. He was made Home Secretary in 1822, which position he held till the resignation, in 1829, of the Ministry with which he was connected.

Sir Robert Peel’s accession to the Cabinet in 1822, in place of Lord Sidmouth, who had only retained his position notoriously through the influence of the king, and against the wishes of the nation, coincides with the commencement of a purer morality, and a higher tone amongst public men, of which the country was sadly in need. This blessed change was at the time most emphatic, and, happily, has been enduring. Since that time there has been little or no jobbing, and scarcely a single transaction that could be called disgraceful, amongst British ministers. Peculation and actual corruption have, it is true, never been the characteristics of our political personages since the time of Walpole and Pelham; but, up to the beginning of the century, jobbing of every kind among public men was common, flagrant, and shameless. Even in the days of Pitt, places, pensions, and sinecures were lavished with the most unblushing profusion to gratify official avarice, to reward private friendship, or to purchase parliamentary support. Ministers now, however, began to recognise that integrity and honour should be ever important factors in the political conscience as well as in private morality, and


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