Sir Robert, an English manufacturer, born at Peel's Cross, near Lancaster, April 25,1750, died at Drayton Manor, Staffordshire, May 3,1830. He inherited a moderate property from his father, a cotton spinner, and in 1773 entered into partnership with William Yates, a cotton manufacturer of Bury, Lancashire, whose daughter he married in 1783. By industry, activity, enterprise, and sagacity, he amassed a fortune before reaching middle life; but he continued to conduct business as a manufacturer for many years with uninterrupted prosperity. In 1803 he had more than 15,000 persons in his employ. In 1780 he published a pamphlet entitled " The National Debt productive of National Prosperity;" and in 1790 he was returned to parliament as one of the members from Tamworth, a constituency which he continued to represent till 1820. He was a stanch supporter of Pitt and the tories. During the alarm caused by the threatened invasion of the French he was active in the formation of volunteer corps, and raised among his own workmen a regiment, of which he was appointed lieutenant colonel. In 1800 he was created a baronet.
He left property, real and personal, estimated at more than two millions sterling, the greater part of which, after liberal provisions for his numerous family, was settled on his eldest son.
Sir Robert, an English statesman, eldest son of the preceding, born near Bury, Lancashire, Feb. 5, 1788, died in London, July 2, 1850. He was educated at Harrow, and at Christ Church, Oxford, and graduated in 1808, taking the honors of a double first class - first in classics and first in mathematics. In 1809 he was returned to parliament for the Irish borough of Cashel, and entered public life as a tory. In 1810 he seconded the address in reply to the king's speech, and in 1811 was appointed under secretary of state for the colonies. In September, 1812, he was appointed chief secretary for Ireland. In the then disturbed political condition of that country his high tory principles and opposition to Catholic emancipation made him obnoxious to the ultra Roman Catholics, who seldom called him by any other appellation than "Orange Peel." O'Connell singled him out for attack, and for the virulence of his language was challenged by Peel, who went to the continent to afford his adversary a hostile meeting; but the duel was prevented by the arrest of O'Connell in London. His most important act in Ireland was the establishment of the regular Irish constabulary, nicknamed the "Peelers," which was the first step toward the introduction of that system of metropolitan police now familiar to every considerable town of Great Britain. In 1817 he was returned to parliament for the university of Oxford; in 1818 he resigned his Irish secretaryship, and as chairman of the bullion committee he introduced in 1819 the bill authorizing the return to cash payments which bears his name.
It brought upon him no slight odium, and was the first political act in which his father, who still held his seat in parliament and was a stanch supporter of Pitt's currency doctrines, differed from him. In 1822 he succeeded Lord Sid-mouth as home secretary, and during his term of office procured the passage of an important series of acts reforming and remodelling the criminal law. On the dissolution of the Liverpool ministry in 1827 he retired from office; but on the accession of the tory government of the duke of Wellington in 1828, he resumed the seals of the home department. The agitation of the repeal of the penal laws affecting the Roman Catholics had now reached a point which compelled the ministry either to consent to the measure or to resign office; and in a speech delivered in March, 1829, Mr. Peel, yielding to what he considered the exigencies of the moment, proposed Catholic emancipation. The orthodox tories at once denounced him as an apostate; and on offering himself to the electors of Oxford university, his seat for which he had resigned on becoming a convert to emancipation, he was defeated. But he was temporarily returned for the borough of "West-bury, and in 1830 became one of the members for Tamworth, which constituency he represented until his death.
He retired with his colleagues in November, 1830. In the first session of the reformed parliament he found himself at the head of a small party which under his guidance was developed into a compact, powerful, and well disciplined opposition. In 1834, on the dissolution of the Melbourne ministry, he was summoned from Italy to form an administration. For leveral months he struggled against a formidable opposition, but was obliged in April, 1835, to retire. For six years he remained in opposition, having within that time declined to form a cabinet; and in September, 1841, he became premier as first lord of the treasury, with a large and well organized majority in both houses. His ministry, formed on protectionist principles, partially adopted free-trade doctrines under the pressure created by the anti-corn-law league; and Peel inaugurated in 1842 a more liberal financial policy by removing the duties on certain articles and abating them on breadstuffs and raw materials of manufacture. At the same time an income tax for three years was imposed, by which the government was enabled to repeal upward of £12,000,000 of indirect taxes. In 1845 this tax was renewed for three years; and in 1846, in view of the approach of famine in Ireland, the premier carried a total abolition of duties on breadstuffs.
This brought upon Sir Robert a large degree of odium among the agricultural classes. A coalition of the protectionists and the whigs, the former led by Disraeli and Lord George Ben-tinck, overthrew him on the Irish coercion bill, and on June 29, 1846, he resigned. He spoke for the last time in parliament on June 28, 1850, in opposition to Lord Palmerston's foreign policy, as exemplified in the Greek question. On the succeeding day he was thrown from his horse, and died of his injuries after great suffering. He had declined a peerage and the order of the garter, and left in his will a solemn injunction to his children against the acceptance of such honors. He left five sons and two daughters. - See Sir Robert Peel, by Guizot (Paris, 1859), and " Sir Robert Peel, a Historical Sketch," by Henry Lord Dalling and Bulwer (London, 1874). - His sons Sir Robert (born May 4, 1822) and Frederick (born Oct. 26, 1823) have been prominent as members of parliament and incumbents of various executive offices. The latter was made a privy councillor in 1857 and the former in 1866.