Peel, Sir Robert, 2nd Baronet


Peel, Sir Robert, 2nd Baronet

biographical name

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Sir Robert Peel, detail of an oil painting by John Linnell, 1838; in the National Portrait Gallery, …—Courtesy of The National Portrait Gallery, London

(born Feb. 5, 1788, Bury, Lancashire, Eng.—died July 2, 1850, London) British prime minister (1834–35, 1841–46) and principal founder of the Conservative Party. A member of Parliament from 1809, Peel served as chief secretary for Ireland (1812–18) and resisted efforts to admit Catholics to Parliament. As home secretary (1822–27, 1828–30), he reorganized England's criminal code. He established London's first disciplined police force, whose members were nicknamed after him “bobbies” or “peelers.” After a brief first term as prime minister, Peel led the newly formed Conservative Party to a strong victory in the 1841 elections and became prime minister again. He imposed an income tax, reorganized the Bank of England, and initiated reforms in Ireland. Favouring reduced tariffs on imports, he repealed the Corn Laws, which caused his government to fall, but he continued to support free-trade principles in Parliament. He was the chief architect of the mid-Victorian age of stability and prosperity that he did not live to see.

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