1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Peel, Sir Robert

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PEEL, SIR ROBERT, Bart. (1788-1850), English statesman, was born on the 5th of February 1788 at Chamber Hall, in the neighbourhood of Bury, Lancashire, or, less probably, at a cottage near the Hall. He was a scion of that new aristocracy of wealth which sprang from the rapid progress of mechanical discovery and manufactures in the latter part of the 18th century. His ancestors were Yorkshire yeomen in the district of Craven, whence they migrated to Blackburn in Lancashire. His grandfather, Robert Peel, first of Peeltold, and afterwards of Brookside, near Blackburn, was a calico-printer, who, appreciating the discovery of his townsman Hargreaves, took to cotton-spinning with the spinning-jenny and grew a wealthy man. His father, Robert Peel (1 7 5O*183O), third son of the last-named, carried on the same business at Bury with still greater success, in partnership with his uncle, Mr Haworth, and Mr Yates, whose daughter, Ellen, he married. He made a princely fortune, became the owner of Drayton Manor and member of parliament for the neighbouring borough of Tamworth, was a trusted and honoured, as well as ardent, supporter of Pitt, contributed munificently towards the support of that leader's war policy, and was rewarded with a baronetcy (1800).

At Harrow, according to the accounts of his contemporaries, Peel was a steady industrious boy, the best scholar in the school, fonder of country walks with a friend than of school games, but reputed one of the best football players. At Christ Church, where he entered as a gentleman commoner, he was the first who, under the new examination statutes, took a first class both in classics and in mathematics. His examination for his B.A. degree in 1808 was an academical ovation in presence of a numerous audience, who came to hear the first man of the day. From his classical studies Robert Peel derived not only the classical, though somewhat pompous, character of his speeches and the Latin quotations with which they were often happily interspersed but something of his lofty ideal of political ambition. To his mathematical training, which was then not common among public men, he no doubt owed in part his method, his clearness, his great power of grasping steadily and working out difficult and complicated questions. His speeches show that, in addition to his academical knowledge, he was well versed in English literature, in history, and in the principles of law, in order to study which he entered at Lincoln's Inn. But while reading hard he did not neglect to develop his tall and vigorous frame, and. though he lost his life partly through his bad riding, he was always a good shot and an untiring walker after game. His Oxford education confirmed his attachment to the Churcli of England. His practical mind remained satisfied With the doctrines of his youth, and he never showed that he had studied the great religious controversies of his day.

In 1809, being then in his twenty-second year, he was brought into parliament for the close borough of Cashel, which he afterwards exchanged for Chippenham, alld commenced his parliamentary career under the eye of his father, then member for Tamworth, who fondly saw in him the future leader of the Tory party. In that House of Commons sat Wilberforce, Windham, Tierney, Grattan, Perceval, Castlereagh, Plunkett, Romilly, Mackintosh, Burdett, Whitbread, Horner, Brougham, Parnell, Huskisson, and, above all, George Canning. Lord Palmerston entered the house two years earlier, and Lord John Russell three years later. Among these men young Peel had to rise. And he rose, not by splendid eloquence, by profound political philosophy or by great originality of thought, but by the closest attention to all his parliamentary duties, by a study of all the business of parliament, and by a style of speaking which owed its force not to high ilights of oratory, but to knowledge of the subject in hand, clearness of exposition, close reasoning, and tact in dealing with a parliamentary audience. With the close of the struggle against revolutionary France, political progress in England was soon to resume the march which that struggle had arrested. Young Peel's lot, however, was cast, through his father, with the Tory party. In his maiden speech in 1810, seconding the address, he defended the Walcheren expedition, which he again vindicated soon afterwards against the report of Lord Porchester's committee. It is said that even then his father had discerned in him a tendency to think for himself, and told Lord Liverpool that to make sure of his support it would be well to place him early in harness. At all events he began official life in 1810 as Lord Liverpool's under-secretary for war and the colonies under the administration of Perceval. In 1812 he was transferred by Lord Liverpool to the more important but unhappy post of secretary for Ireland. There he was engaged till 1818 in maintaining English ascendancy over a country heaving with discontent, teeming with conspiracy, and ever ready to burst into rebellion. A middle course between Irish parties was impossible, and Peel plied the established engines of coercion and patronage with a vigorous hand. At the same time, it was his frequent duty to combat Grattan, Plunkett, Canning and the other movers and advocates of Roman Catholic emancipation in the House of Commons. He, however, always spoke on this question with a command of temper wonderful in hot youth, with the utn1ost courtesy towards his opponents, and with warm expressions of sympathy and even of admiration for the Irish people. He also, thus early, did his best to advocate and promote joint education in Ireland as a means of reconciling sects and raising the character of the people. But his greatest service to Ireland as secretary was the institution of the regular Irish constabulary, nicknamed after him “Peelers, ” for the protection of life and property in a country where both were insecure. His moderation of tone did not save him from the violent abuse of O'Connell, whom he was ill advised enough to challenge-an affair which covered them both with ridicule. In 1817 he obtained the highest parliamentary distinction of the Tory party by being elected member for the university of Oxford -an honour for which he was chosen in preference to Canningon account of his hostility to Roman Catholic emancipation, Lord Eldon lending him his best support. In the following year he resigned the Irish secretaryship, of which he had long been very weary, and remained out of office till 1821. But he still supported the ministers, though in the affair of Queen Caroline he stood aloof, disapproving some steps taken by the government, and sensitive to popular opinion; and when Canning retired on account of this affair Peel declined Lord L1verpocl's invitation to take the vacant place in the cabinet. During this break in his tenure of office he had some time for reflection, which there was enough in the aspect of the political world to move. But early olflce had done its work. It had given him excellent habits of business, great knowledge and a high pos1t1on, but it had left him somewhat stiff and punctilious, too cold and reserved and over anxious for formal justifications when he might well have left his conduct to the judgment of men of honour and the heart of the people. At the same time he was no pedant in business, in corresponding on political subjects he loved to throw off official forms and communicate h1s views with the freedom of private correspondence; and where his confidence was given, it was given without reserve

At this period he was made chairman of the bullion committee on the death of Horner. He was chosen for this important office by Huskisson, Ricardo and their fellow-economists, who saw in him a mind open to conviction, though he owed hereditary allegiance to P1tt's financial policy, and had actually voted with hls P1tt1te father for a resolution of Lord Liverpool's government asserting that Bank of England notes were equivalent to legal coin The choice proved judicious. Peel was converted to the currency doctrines of the economists, and proclaimed his conversion 1n a great speech on the 24th of May 1819, in which he moved and carried four resolutions embodying the recommendations of the bullion committee in favour of a return to cash payments. This laid the foundation of his financial reputation, and his co-operation with the economists tended to give a liberal turn to his commercial principles. In the course he took he somewhat diverged from his party, and particularly from his father, who remained faithful to Pitt's depreciated paper, and between whom and his schismatic son a solemn and touching passage occurred in the debate. The author of the Cash Payments Act had often to defend his policy, and he did so with vigour. The act is sometimes said to have been hard on debtors, including the nation as debtor, because it required debts to be paid in cash which had been contracted in depreciated paper; and Peel, as heir to a great fund holder, was even charged with being biased by h1s personal interests. But it is answered that the Bank Restriction Acts, under which the depreciated paper had circulated, themselves contained a provision for a return to cash payments six months after peace

In 1820 Peel married Julia, daughter of General Sir John Floyd, who bore him five sons and two daughters. The writers who have most severely censured Sir Robert Peel as a public man have dwelt on the virtues and happiness of his private and domestic life He was not only a most loving husband and father but a true and warm-hearted friend. In Whitehall Gardens or at Drayton Manor he gathered some of the most distinguished intellects of the day. He indulged in free and cheerful talk, and sought the conversation of men of science, he took delight in art, and was a great collector of pictures; he was fond of farming and agricultural improvements; he actively promoted useful works and the advancement of knowledge; he loved making his friends, dependants, tenants and neighbours happy. And, cold as he was in public, few men could be more bright and genial in private than Sir Robert Peel. In 1821 Peel consented to strengthen the enfeebled ministry of Lord Liverpool by becoming home secretary; and in that capacity he had again to undertake the office of coercing the growing discontent in Ireland, of which he remained the real administrator, and had again to lead in the House of Commons the opposition to the rising cause of Roman Catholic emancipation. In 1825, being defeated on the Roman Catholic question in the House of Commons, he wished to resign office, but Lord Liverpool pleaded that his resignation would break up the government. He found a congenial task in reforming and humanizing the criminal law, especially those parts of it which related to offences against property and offences punishable by death. The five acts in which Peel accomplished this great work, as well as the great speech of the oth of March 1826, in which he opened the subject to the house, will form one of the most solid and enduring monuments of his fame. Criminal law reform was the reform of Romilly and Mackintosh, from the hands of the latter of whom Peel received it. But the masterly bills in which it was embodied were the bills of Peel-not himself a creative genius, but, like the founder of his house, profound appreciator of other men's creations, and unrivalled in the power of giving them practical and complete effect. In 1827 the Liverpool ministry was broken up by the fatal illness of its chief, and under the new premier, George Canning, Peel, like the duke of Wellington and other high Tory members of Lord Liverpool's cabinet, refused to serve Canning and Peel were rivals; but we need not interpret as mere personal rivalry that which was certainly, in part at least, a real difference of connexion and opinion. Canning took a Liberal line, and was supported by many of the Whigs, the seceders were Tories, and it is difficult to see how their position in Canning's cabinet could have been otherwise than a false one. Separation led to public coolness and occasional approaches to bitterness on both sides in debate. But there seems no ground for exaggerated complaints against Peel's conduct. Canning himself said to a friend that “ Peel was the only man who had behaved decently towards him.” Their private intercourse remained uninterrupted to the end; and Canning's son afterwards entered public life under the auspices of Peel. The charge of having urged Roman Catholic emancipation on Lord Liverpool in 1825, and opposed Canning for being a friend to it in 1827, made against Sir Robert Peel in the fierce corn-law debates of 1846, has been withdrawn by those who made it.

In January 1828, after Canning's death, the duke of Wellington formed a Tory government, in which Peel was home secretary and leader of the House of Commons. This cabinet, Tory as it was, did not include the impracticable Lord Eldon. and did include Huskisson and three more friends of Canning. Its policy was to endeavour to stave off the growing demand for organic change by administrative reform, and by lightening the burdens of the people. The civil list was retrenched with an unsparing hand, the public expenditure was reduced lower than it had been since the Revolutionary war, and the import of corn was permitted under a sliding scale of duties. Peel also introduced into London the improved system of police which he had previously established with so much success in Ireland. But the tide ran too strong to be thus headed. First the government were compelled, after a defeat in the House of Commons, to acquiesce in the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts, Peel bringing over their High Church supporters, as far as he could. Immediately afterwards the question of Roman Catholic emancipation was brought to a crisis by the election of O'Conne]l for the county of Clare. In August Peel expressed to the duke of Wellington his conviction that the question must be settled. He wrote that out of office he would co-operate in the settlement but in his judgment it should be committed to other hands than his To this the duke assented, but in January 182Q, owing to the declared opinions of the king, of the House of Lords, and of the Church against a change of policy, Wellington came to the conclusion that without Peel's aid in oHice there was no prospect of success. Under that pressure Peel consented to remain, and all the cabinet approved. The consent of the king, which could scarcely have been obtained except by the duke and Peel, was extorted, withdrawn (the ministers being out for a few hours), and again extorted, and on the 5th of March 1829 Peel proposed Roman Cathohc emancipation in a speech of more than four hours. The apostate was overwhelmed with obloquy. Having been elected for the university of Oxford as a leading opponent of the Roman Catholics, he had thought it right to resign his seat on being converted to emancipation His friends put him again in nomination, but he was defeated by Sir R. H. Inglis He took refuge in the close borough of Westbury, whence he afterwards removed to Tamworth, for which he sat till his death. Catholic emancipation was forced on Peel by circumstances, but it was mainly owing to him that the measure was complete, and based upon equality of civil rights. This great concession, however, did not save the Tory government. The French Revolution of July 1830 gave fresh strength to the movement against them, though, schooled by the past, they promptly recognized King Louis Philippe. The parliamentary reform movement was joined by some of their oftended Protestant supporters. The duke of Wellington committed them fatally against all reform, and the elections went against them on the demise of the Crown; they were beaten on Sir H. Parnell's motion for a committee on the civil list, and Wellington took the opportunity to resign rather than deal with reform. While in office, Peel succeeded to the baronetcy, Drayton Manor and a great estate by the death of his father (May 3, 1830). The old man had lived to see his fondest hopes fulfilled in the greatness of his son; but he had also lived to see that a father must not expect to fix his son's opinions-above all, the opinions of such a son as Sir Robert Peel, and in such an age as that which followed the French Revolution.

Sir Robert Peel's resistance to the Reform Bill won back for him the allegiance of his party. His opposition was resolute but it was temperate, and once only he betrayed the suppressed fire of his temper, in the historical debate of the 22nd of April 1831, when his speech was broken off by the arrival of the king to dissolve the parliament which had thrown out reform. He refused to join the duke of Wellington in the desperate enterprise of forming a Tory government at the height of the storm, when the Grey ministry had gone out on the refusal of the king to promise them an unlimited creation of peers. By this conduct he secured for his party the full benefit of the reaction which he no doubt knew was sure to ensue The general election of 1832, after the passing of the Reform Bill, left him with barely 150 followers in the House of Commons; but this handful rapidly swelled under his management into the great Conservative party. He frankly accepted the Reform Act as irrevocable, taught his party to register instead of despairing, appealed to the intelligence of the middle classes, whose new-born power he appreciated, steadily supported the Whig ministers against the Radicals and O'Connell, and gained every moral advantage which the most dignified and constitutional tactics could afford. To this policy, and to the great parliamentary powers of its author, it was mainly due that, in the course of a few years, the Conservatives were as strong in the reformed parliament as the Tories had been in the unreformed. It is vain to deny the praise of genius to such a leader, though the skill of a pilot who steered for many years over such waters may sometimes have resembled craft. But the duke of Wellington's emphatic eulogy on him was, “Of all the men I ever knew, he had the greatest regard for truth.” The duke might have added that his own question, “ How is theking's government to be carried on in a reformed parliament P” was mainly solved by the temperate and constitutional policy of Sir Robert Peel, and by his personal influence on the debates and proceedings of the House of Commons during the years which followed the Reform Act.

In 1834, on the dismissal of the Melbourne ministry, power came to Sir Robert Peel before he expected or desired it. He hurried from Rome at the call of the duke of Wellington, whose sagacious modesty yielded him the first place, and became prime minister, holding the two offices of first lord of the treasury and chancellor of the exchequer. He vainly sought to include in his cabinet two recent seceders from the Whigs, Lord Stanley and Sir James Graham. A dissolution gave him a great increase of strength in the house, but not enough. He was outvoted on the election of the speaker at the opening of the session of 1835, and, after struggling on for six weeks longer, resigned on the question of appropriating part of the revenues of the Church in Ireland to national education. His time had not yet come; but the capacity, energy and resource he displayed in this short tenure of office raised him immensely in the estimation of the house, his party and the country. Of the great budget of practical reforms which he brought forward, the plan for the commutation of tithes, the ecclesiastical commission, and the plan for settling the question of dissenters' marriages bore fruit. From 1835 to 1840 he pursued the same course of patient and far-sighted opposition. In 1837 the Conservative members of the House of Commons gave their leader a grand banquet at Merchant Taylors' Hall, where he proclaimed in a great speech the creed and objects of his party. In 1839, the Whigs having resigned on the Jamaica Bill, he was called on to form a government, and submitted names for a cabinet, but resigned the commission owing to the young queen's persistent refusal to part with any Whig ladies of her bedchamber (see Victoria, Queen). In 1840 he was hurried into a premature motion of want of confidence. But in the following year a similar motion was carried by a majority of one, and the Whigs ventured to appeal to the country. The result was a majority of ninety-one against them on a motion of want of confidence in the autumn of 1841, upon which they resigned, and Sir Robert Peel became first lord of the treasury, with a commanding majority in both Houses of Parliament.

The crisis called for a master-hand. The finances were in disorder. For some years there had been a growing deficit, estimated for 1842 at more than two millions, and attempts to supply this by additions to assessed taxes and customs duties had failed. The great financier took till the spring of 1842 to mature his plans. He then boldly supplied the deficit by imposing an income-tax on all incomes above £150 a year. He accompanied this tax with a reform of the tariff, by which prohibitory duties were removed and other duties abated on a vast number of articles of import, especially the raw materials of manufactures and prime articles of food. The increased consumption. as the reformer expected, countervailed the reduction of duty. The income-tax was renewed and the reform of the tariff carried still farther on the same principle in 1845. The result was, in place of a deficit of upwards of two millions, a surplus of five millions in 1845, and the removal of seven millions and a half of taxes up to 1847, not only without loss, but with gain to the ordinary revenue of the country. The prosperous state of the finances and of public affairs also permitted a reduction of the interest on a portion of the national debt, giving a yearly saving at once of £625,000, and ultimately of a million and a quarter to the public. In 1844 another great inancial measure, the Bank Charter Act, was passed and, though severely controverted and thrice suspended at a desperate crisis, has ever since regulated the currency of the country. In Ireland O'Connell's agitation for the repeal of the Union had now assumed threatening proportions, and verged upon rebellion. The great agitator was prosecuted, with his chief adherents, for conspiracy and sedition; and, though the conviction was quashed for informality, repeal was quelled in its chief. At the same time a healing hand was extended to Ireland. The Charitable Bequests Act gave Roman Catholics a share in the administration of 'charities and legal power to endow their own religion. The allowance to Maynooth was largely increased, notwithstanding violent Protestant opposition. Three queen's colleges, for the higher education of all the youth of Ireland, without distinction of religion, were founded, notwithstanding violent opposition, both Protestant and Roman Catholic. The principle of toleration once accepted, was thoroughly carried out. The last remnants of the penal laws were swept from the statute-book, and justice was extended to the Roman Catholic Church in Canada and Malta. In the same spirit acts were passed for clearing from doubt Irish Presbyterian marriages, for settling the titles of a large number of dissenters chapels in England, and removing the municipal disabilities of the Jews. The grant for national education was trebled, and an attempt was made, though in vain, to introduce effective education clauses into the factory bills. To the alienation of any part of the revenues of the Established Church Sir Robert Peel never would consent; but he had issued the ecclesiastical commission, and he now made better provision for a number of populous parishes by a redistribution of part of the revenues of the Church. The weakest part of the conduct of this great government, perhaps, was its failure to control the railway mania by promptly laying down the lines on a government plan. It passed an act in 1844 which gave the government a right of purchase, and it had prepared a palliative measure in 1846, but was compelled to sacrifice this, like all other secondary measures, to the repeal of the corn laws. It failed also, though not without an effort, tn avert the great schism in the Church of Scotland. Abroad it was as prosperous as at home. It had found disaster and disgrace in Afghanistan. It speedily ended the war there, and in India the invading Sikhs were destroyed upon the Sutlej. The sore and dangerous questions with F1aDCC, touching the right of search, the war in Morocco, and the Tahiti affair, and with the United States touching the Maine boundary and the Oregon territory, were settled by negotiation. Yet there were malcontents in Sir Robert Peel's party. The Young Englanders disliked him because he had hoisted the Hag of Conservatism instead of Toryism on the morrow of the Reform Bill. The strong philanthropists and Tory Chartists disliked him because he was a strict economist and an upholder of the new poor law. But the fatal question was protection. That question was being fast brought to a crisis by public opinion and the Anti-Corn-Law League. Sir Robert Peel had been recognized in 1841 by Cobden as a Free Trader, and after experience in office he had become in principle more and more so. Since his accession to power he had lowered the duties of the sliding scale, and thereby caused the secession from the cabinet of the duke of Buckingham. He had alarmed the farmers by admitting foreign cattle and meat under his new tariff, and by admitting Canadian corn He had done his best in his speeches to put the maintenance of the corn laws on low ground, and to wean the landed interest from their reliance on protection. The approach of the Irish famine in 1845 turned decisively the wavering balance. When at first Sir Robert proposed to his cabinet the revision of the corn laws, Lord Stanley and the duke of Buccleuch dissented, and S1r Robert resigned. But Lord John Russell failed to form a new government. Sir Robert again came into oihce; and now, with the consent of all the cabinet but Lord Stanley, who retired, he, in a great speech on the 27th of January 1846, brought the repeal of the corn laws before the House of Commons. In the long and fierce debate that ensued he was assailed, both by political and personal enemies, with the most virulent invective, which he bore with his wonted calmness, and to which he made no retorts. His measure was carried; but immediately afterwards the offended protectionists, led by Lord George Bentinck and Benjamin Disraeli, coalesced with the Wh1gs, and threw him out on the Ir1sh Coercion Bill. He went home from h1s defeat, escorted by a great crowd, who uncovered as he passed, and he immediately resigned. So fell a Conservative government which would otherwise have probably ended only with the life of its chief.

Though out of office he was not out of power. He had “ lost a party, but won a nation.” The Whig ministry which succeeded him leant much on his support, with which he never taxed them. He joined them in carrying forward free-trade principles by the repeal of the navigation laws. He helped them to promote the principle of rel1g1ous liberty by the bill for the emancipation of the Jews. One important measure was his own. While in office he had probed, by the Devon commission of inquiry, the sores of Ireland connected with the ownership and occupation of land. In 1849, in a speech on the Irish Poor Laws, he first suggested, and in the next year he aided in establishing, a commission to facilitate the sale of estates in a hopeless state of encumbrance. The Encumbered Estates Act made no attempt, like later legislation, to secure by law the uncertain customary rights of Irish tenants, but it transferred the land from ruined landlords to solvent owners capable of perfor1n111g the duties of property towards the people. On the 28th of June 1850 Sir Robert Peel made a great speech on the Greek question against Lord Palmerston's foreign policy of interference. This speech was thought to show that if necessary he would return to office. It was his last. On the following day he was thrown from his horse on Constitution Hill, and mortally injured by the fall. Three days he lingered and on the fourth (July 2, 1850) he died. All the tributes which respect and gratitude could pay were paid to him by the sovereign, by parliament, by public men of all parties, by the country, by the press, and, above all, by the great towns and the masses of the people to whom he had given “ bread unleavened with injustice.” He would have been buried among the great men of England in Westminster Abbey, but his will desired that he might be laid in Drayton church. It also renounced a peerage for his family, as he had before declined the garter for himself when it was offered him by the queen through Lord Aberdeen.

Those who judge Sir Robert Peel will remember that he was bred a Tory in days when party was a religion; that he entered parliament a youth, was in office at twenty-four and secretary for Ireland at twenty-five; that his public life extended over a long period rife with change; and that his own changes were all forward and with the advancing intellect of the time. They will enumerate the great practical improvements and the great acts of legislative justice of those days, and note how large a share Sir Robert Peel had, if not in originating, in giving thorough practical effect to all. They will reflect that as a parliamentary statesman he could not govern without a party, and that it is difficult to govern at once for a party and for the whole people. They will think of his ardent love of his country, of his abstinence from intrigue, violence and faction, of his boundless labour through a long life devoted to the public service. Whether he was a model of statesmanship may be doubted. Models of statesmanship are rare, if by a model of statesmanship is meant a great administrator and party leader, a great political philosopher and a great independent orator, all in one. But if the question is whether he was a ruler loved and trusted by the English people there is no arguing against the tears of a nation. Those who wish to know more of him will consult his own posthumous Memozrs (1856), edlted by his literary executors Earl Stanhope and Viscount Cardwell; his private correspondence, edited by C. S. Parker (18 1-1899); the four volumes of his speeches; a sketch of his life and character by Sir Lawrence Peel (1860); an historical sketch by Lord Dalling (1874); Guizot's Szr Robert Peel (1857); Kunzel's Leben und Reden Szr Robert Peelis (1851); D1sraeli's Life of Lord George Bentmck (1858); Morley's Life of Cobden; monographs by F. C. Montague (1888), J. R. Thurs eld (1891), and the ear of Rosebery (1899); Peel and O'Cormell, by Lord Eversley; the Life of Szr J. Graham (1907), by C. S. Parker; Lord Stanmore's Life of Lord Aberdeen (1893); and the general h1st0ries 0f the t1me. (C. S. P.)

Four of Sir Robert's five sons attained distinction. The eldest, SIR ROBERT PEEL (1822-1895), who became the 3rd baronet on his father's death, was educated at Harrow and at Christ Church, Oxford. He was in the diplomatic service from 1844 to 1850, when he succeeded his father as member of parliament for Tamworth, and he was chief secretary to the lord lieutenant of Ireland from 1861 to 1865. He represented Tamworth until the general election of 1880; in 1884 he became member for Huntingdon and in 1885 for Blackburn, but after 1886 he ceased to sit in the House of Commons. Sir Robert described himself as a Liberal-Conservative, but in his later years he opposed the policy of Gladstone, although after 1886 he championed the cause of horne rule for Ireland. In 1871 he sold his father's collection of pictures to the National Gallery for £75,000, and in his later life he was troubled by financial difficulties. Sir Robert was interested in racing, and was known on the turf as Mr F. Robinson. He died in London on the 9th of May 1895, and was succeeded as 4th baronet by his son, Sir Robert Peel (b. 1867).

Sir Frederick Peel (1823–1906), the prime minister’s second son, was educated at Harrow and at Trinity College, Cambridge, becoming a barrister in 1849. He entered parliament in that year, and with the exception of the period between 1857 and 1859 he remained in the House of Commons until 1865. In 1851–1852 and again in 1853–1855 he was under-secretary for the colonies; from 1855 to 1857 he was under-secretary for war; and from 1859 to 1865 he was secretary to the treasury. He became a privy councillor in 1857 and was knighted in 1869. Sir Frederick Peel’s chief service to the state was in connexion with the railway and canal commission. He was appointed a commissioner on the inception of this body in 1873, and was its president until its reconstruction in 1888, remaining a member of the commission until his death on the 6th of June 1906.

The third son was Sir William Peel (1824–1858), and the youngest Viscount Peel (q v.). Sir William was a sailor, who distinguished himself in the Crimea, where he gained the Victoria Cross, and also during the Indian Mutiny, bei11g wounded at the relief of Lucknow. He died on the 27th of April 1858. Sir William wrote A Ride through the Nubian Desert (1852), giving an account of his travels in 1851.

Two of Sir Robert Peel’s brothers were also politicians of note. William Yates Peel (1789–1858), educated at Harrow and at St John’s College, Cambridge, was a member of parliament from 1817 to 1837, and again from 1847 to 1852; he was undersecretary for home affairs In 1828, and was a lord of the treasury in 1830 and again in 1834–1835. Jonathan Peel (1799–1879) was first a soldier and then a member of parliament during the long period between 1826 and 1868, first representing Norwich and then Huntingdon. From 1841 to 1846 he was surveyor-general of the ordnance, and in 1858–1859 and again in 1866–1867 he was a very competent and successful secretary of state for war. General Peel was also an owner of racehorses, and in 1844 his horse Orlando won the Derby, after another horse, Running Rein. had been disqualified. For the history of the Peel family see Jane Haworth, A Memoir of the Family of Peel from the year 1600 (1836).