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Sir Robert Peel

by Paul Anthony (writer), Cumbria, United Kingdom, December 11, 2013

The Founder of Britain's modern day police force - The Peelers

SIR ROBERT PEEL

Sir Robert Peel, (1788 –1850) was a British Conservative statesman, who served as prime minister of the United Kingdom from 1834 to 1835, and also from 1841 to1846. While Home Secretary, Peel helped create the modern concept of the police force leading to officers being known as ‘bobbies’ (in England) and ‘peelers’ (in Northern Ireland). Peel was born in Bury, Lancashire. His father was one of the richest textile manufacturers of the early Industrial Revolution. Peel was educated at Bury Grammar School, Hipperholme Grammar School, Harrow School and finally Christ Church, Oxford, where he took a double first in classics and mathematics.

Peel entered politics in 1809 at the age of 21, as MP for the Irish rotten borough of Cashel, Tipperary. With a scant 24 electors on the rolls, he was elected unopposed. His sponsor for the election was the Chief Secretary for Ireland, Sir Arthur Wellesley, the future Duke of Wellington, with whom Peel's political career would be entwined for the next 25 years. Peel made his maiden speech in 1810. His speech was a sensation, famously described by the Speaker, Charles Abbot, as "the best first speech since that of William Pitt."

As chief secretary in Dublin in 1813, he proposed the setting up of a specialist police force, later called "peelers". In 1814 the Royal Irish Constabulary was founded under Peel.

Peel first entered the cabinet in 1822 as Home Secretary. As Home Secretary, he introduced a number of important reforms of British criminal law: most memorably establishing the Metropolitan Police Force (Metropolitan Police Act 1829). He also reformed the criminal law, reducing the number of crimes punishable by death, and simplified it by repealing a large number of criminal statutes and consolidating their provisions into what are known as Peel's Acts. He reformed the gaol system, introducing payment for gaolers and education for the inmates.

He resigned as Home Secretary after the Prime Minister Lord Liverpool, became incapacitated and was replaced by George Canning. Canning favoured Catholic Emancipation, while Peel had been one of its most outspoken opponents (earning the nickname "Orange Peel"). George Canning himself died less than four months later and Peel subsequently returned to the post of Home Secretary under the premiership of his long-time ally the Duke of Wellington.

However, the pressure on the new ministry from advocates of Catholic Emancipation was too great and an Emancipation Bill was passed the next year. Peel felt compelled to resign his seat as MP representing the graduates of Oxford University (many of whom were Anglican clergymen), as he had stood on a platform of opposition to Catholic Emancipation (in 1815 he had, in fact, challenged to a duel the man most associated with emancipation, Daniel O'Connell ). Peel instead moved to a rotten borough, Westbury, retaining his Cabinet position.

In the years that followed Daniel O’Connell became the icon of Irish Republican History. His statue stands at the end of O’Connell Street, close to O’Connell Bridge, in Dublin.

In 1829 Peel established the Metropolitan Police Force for London based at Scotland Yard. The 1,000 constables employed were affectionately nicknamed 'Bobbies' or, somewhat less affectionately, 'Peelers'. Although unpopular at first they proved very successful in cutting crime in London, and by 1857 all cities in the UK were obliged to form their own police forces. Known as the father of modern policing, Peel developed the Peelian Principles which defined the ethical requirements police officers must follow to be effective.

The Middle and Working Classes in England at that time, however, were clamouring for reform, and Catholic Emancipation was only one of the ideas in the air. The Tory ministry refused to bend on other issues and were swept out of office in 1830 in favour of the Whigs. The following few years were extremely turbulent, but eventually enough reforms were passed that King William IV felt confident enough to invite the Tories to form a ministry again in succession to those of Lord Grey and Lord Melbourne in 1834. Peel was selected as prime minister but was in Italy at the time, so Wellington acted as a caretaker for the three weeks until Peel's return.

This new Tory Ministry was a minority government, however, and depended on Whig goodwill for its continued existence. As his statement of policy at the general election of January 1835, Peel issued the Tamworth Manifesto. The issuing of this document is often seen as one of the most crucial points at which the Tories became the Conservative Party. In it he pledged that the Conservatives would endorse modest reform, but the Whigs instead formed a compact with Daniel O'Connell's Irish Radical members to repeatedly defeat the government on various bills. Eventually Peel's ministry resigned out of frustration and the Whigs under Lord Melbourne returned to power.

Peel was thrown from his horse while riding up Constitution Hill in London on 29 June 1850, the horse stumbled on top of him and he died three days later on 2 July at the age of 62. His Peelite followers, led by Lord Aberdeen and William Gladstone, went on to fuse with the Whigs as the Liberal Party.

Peel married Julia, youngest daughter of General Sir John Floyd, 1st Baronet, in 1820. They had five sons and two daughters. Four of his sons gained distinction in their own right. His eldest son Sir Robert Peel, 3rd Baronet, served as Chief Secretary for Ireland from 1861 to 1865. His second son Sir Frederick Peel was a politician and railway commissioner. His third son Sir William Peel was a naval commander and recipient of the Victoria Cross. His fifth son Arthur Wellesley Peel was Speaker of the House of Commons and created Viscount Peel in 1895. His daughter Julia married the 6th Earl of Jersey. Julia, Lady Peel, died in 1859. Some of his direct descendants now reside in South Africa, the Australian states of New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Tasmania, and in various parts of the United States and Canada.



About the Writer

Paul Anthony is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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