Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

had a tendency to support the prerogative of the crown, and the privileges of the aristocracy, has in fact always been much more under the influence of the democracy than its political rivals. This seemingly extraordinary circumstance may be accounted for readily enough, when it is recollected that our great Tory leaders have, in most instances, been taken from among the mass of the people, and from that class of persons already described, who, by an undeviating career of integrity of conduct, a persevering course of industrious application, and a successful pursuit of commercial and manufacturing adventure, have acquired a large stake in the country, both as regards property and reputation, but who, although exalted by the circumstances here commented upon, to a rank in society far above their original sphere of action, do not fail to remember the source from which they sprung, or to cherish the recollection of those constitutional privileges which are the birthright of the people."

The author then proceeds to give a brief history of the Premier's father, we quote largely from it, as the world should be prepared to acknowledge that conduct otherwise than the line Sir Robert has pursued, could hardly be expected from

“The Son of such a Sire!" “The late Sir Robert Peel was born at Peel's Cross, a short distance from Lancaster, on the 25th of April, in the year 1750; of his ancestry nothing more is known beyond the simple fact of his being the son of Robert Peel, a manufacturer, of humble pretensions and small fortune, who died in 1756 ; leaving but a trifling provision for his widow; and little more to his son, than his good name, and an unsullied reputation.

“The early years of the late Baronet's life were passed on his father's property, and under the paternal roof. From his boyhood's days he was impressed with an idea that he should accumulate great riches, and become the founder of a family; so strongly was this opinion impressed on his mind that it was the frequent theme of his discourse with his brothers; two of whom were his seniors, and to whom his dreams of ambition, and anticipations of future greatness, proved sources of great amusement. He was however nothing daunted by their jeers, and in support of his anticipations of wealth and greatness, invariably urged his decided opinion that in this free country any situation was attainable by a good capacity, aided by prudence and perseverance.

“Mr. Peel was brought up to the cotton trade, in which branch of manufacture his father was engaged. In the pursuit of his occupation he soon became aware of the importance of machinery in facilitating his operations ; and with an uncommon quickness of perception, which it is generally acknowledged he possessed, he speedily discovered that the apparatus then in use was susceptible of great improvement. He eagerly devoted himself to an investigation of the powers of mechanical combinations, more especially where they could be converted to the use and improvement of that particular branch of manufacture in which he was engaged. The success which attended, and ultimately rewarded his labours, proved how accurate his judgment was, and probably tended to give, even at that early period of his life, that spirit to his enterprises, and inspired him with that perseverance in habits of industry, which adhered to him in every stage of his future life, and under the influence of which he seemed never to have felt fatigue.

“In the year 1773, at the age of twenty-three, he engaged with Mr. Yates, of Bury in Lancashire, a gentleman of some note and considerable property in that part of the country, in the establishment of an extensive cotton manufactory, and through a period of ten years they pursued their career of uninterrupted success. At the expiration of that time he married his partner's daughter, Miss Yates, then little more than seventeen, he having attained the age of thirty-three. Mr. Peel's fortune had at this time so mucb improved that he purchased a considerable estate in the county of Lancaster, and a very few years afterwards added to his landed 'property, also by purchase, some very extensive estates situate in Staffordshire and Warwickshire.

• About this time, namely in 1780, he drew upon himself the attention of the public in another character, that of an author. The subject selected by Mr. Peel for his debut was “The National Debt,' and its effects on the prosperity of the country; a question on which there existed at that time a great difference of opinion. The arguments brought forward by Mr. Peel, in support of his view of the question, were fraught with novelty, and advanced and supported with great ingenuity.”

“Mr. Peel maintained that 'A domestic public debt, owed by the community at large, to a part of the same community, could not impair the aggregate wealth of that community; and that if a given sum, howerer large, were annually raised from the people to pay the interest of the debt, the same sum being received by the public creditors, and laid out in the purchase of articles of necessity and comfort for themselves, provided by national industry, circulates at home, and, in its transit from one possessor to another, gives birth to new sources and modifications of wealth. The opinion thus given, novel as it was, and contrary to the generally received notion on the subject, gained many proselytes, and the experience of years has added greatly to the number of those who are fully prepared to argue that the national debt and national prosperity are bound up together.

“ It has frequently been a matter of surprise to those who knew Mr. Peel in his early life, at what period and by what means he acquired those intellectual attainments, which at a later period he frequently displayed. The answer which has been given on other occasions to similar questions will apply in this instance, namely, that the powers of genius do not require the plodding application of common minds, but embrace the acquisition of ideas, and the comprehension of truth with a facility, which is, in some cases, truly astonishing ; indeed those who knew him in his youth state, that he early discovered an ardent thirst for the acquirement of knowledge. The hours devoted by others of his age to recreation were by him passed in laborious study and close application.”

“Mr. Peel, having by his successful commercial and manufacturing pur. suits realized a large landed property, and risen to high consideration in his native country, at the general election of 1790, offered himself as a candidate for representing the Borough of Tamworth, for whicb place he was returned triumphantly. He took his seat in due course, and continued to represent the Borough for thirty years, having been successively re-elected at the general elections of 1796, 1802, 1806, 1807, 1812, and 1818, and in 1820 he resigned his seat, and was succeeded in the representation of the Borough by his second son, William Yates Peel.

“ Tamworth, which had formerly and for a long period of time carried on a considerable trade as connected with the clothing manufacture of Yorkshire, had, at the time Mr. Peel became its representative in Parliament, in 1790, suffered much in its trade from the successful rivalry which had sprung up against it in the manufacturing districts of Yorkshire; and its interests, so far as trade was concerned, were at a very low ebb. Its inhabitants, how. ever, were soon made sensible of the cheering influence of their new member upon their fortunes. The introduction of the cotton manufacture, aided by the capital and interest of Mr. Peel and his partner, Mr. Yates, had this effect of rapidly restoring the trade of Tamworth. Extensive cotton works

were erected amongst them; and the inhabitants soon began to resume their habits of industry, and to exhibit once more in their appearance the smiling aspect of plenty. As a proof how extensive were the connexions of Mr. Peel, it may here be noted, that in the year 1803 the number of persons employed by him exceeded fifteen thousand, and during that year he paid duty to the excise office, on printed goods alone, upwards of forty thousand pounds. As a further proof, if further proof were necessary, of the wealth of the house of Yates and Peel, and of the patriotic spirit by which those gentlemen were actuated, it may be here stated that in the year 1797, when the country was threatened with invasion by an enterprising and powerful enemy, they presented to the voluntary fund then raising for carrying on the war against Bonaparte no less a sum than 10,0001.; and in the following year Mr. Peel, in addition to the very liberal support and patronage which he bestowed on the Lancashire Fencibles and the Tamworth armed association, embodied, armed and disciplined, and placed himself at the head of six companies of volunteers, mostly formed of his own workmen, and distinguished by the title of the ‘Bury Loyal Volunteers.'

" Whilst Mr. Peel was thus giving effective and liberal aid to the government in carrying on the arduous contest in which the country was engaged, and giving to the minister of the day his firm and constant support in parliament, his conduct towards his constituents was that of a manly, constitutional representative of the people ; always confidently anticipating that the manliness and independence of his parliamentary course, and his constant and unremitting attention to the general interests of the empire, would obtain the approbation of his constituents and insure him their support, whenever the time should arrive that a dissolution of parliament would afford them an opportunity of pronouncing a judgment upon his political conduct. Acting on this impression, and influenced by constitutional principle, he seems never to have availed himself of the influence which his princely fortune and extensive commercial and manufacturing establishments placed within his power.

" In the Senate, Mr. Peel frequently distinguished himself in the important discussions to which the passing events of the times gave rise ; and the good sense which characterized his arguments, added to the high standing which he supported in the mercantile world, invariably secured for him an attentive hearing from the House. In 1799, during the discussion which took place op the question relative to the Union with Ireland, Mr. Peel, on the 14th of February, delivered a speech in favour of the measure, which was considered as declaratory of the opinion entertained by the mercantile portion of the community, as regarded the Union. It therefore excited considerable interest in this country, and having been published in the shape of a pamphlet, was widely circulated in Ireland, where it produced a very great effect, and contributed much towards reconciling the population of that portion of the empire, to a measure in which they were so nearly concerned.”

"In November, 1800, the King, George the Third, as a mark of his especial favour, and in proof of his Majesty's approbation of Mr. Peel's conduct, both in private life and as a public man, conferred on him the dignity of a Baronet of the United Kingdom; and at the general election which followed the union, Sir Robert Peel was again elected member for Tamworth, for which borough he was returned in six successive Parliaments.

“In the session of 1802, Sir Robert introduced into the House a measure for bettering the condition of apprentices in the cotton and woollen trade; having prepared the way for the adoption of such a measure, by the introduction of various salutary regulations into his own extensive factories; limiting the hours of labour, providing proper nutriment for the children, en

forcing a strict observance of cleanliness, and affording them instruction, religious and moral. By his personal exertions and influence, he succeeded, in the face of a powerful opposition, in getting a bill passed providing for the observance of all these points.

“ These regulations had been imperatively required; for although human labour had been so much abridged by the introduction of machinery in these branches of our commerce ; yet the extraordinary increase which had taken place in both these branches of manufacture within the last twenty years, arising from these improvements, had given increased employment to many thousands of persons, mostly children, taken from parish houses in the metropolis, and from different parts of the country. At this period Sir Robert Peel employed upwards of 15,000 persons, many of whom were mere children. These children, as above observed, were generally taken from the ranks of pauper population; from those who had been, and were, a burden on their respective parishes. By binding them apprentice to the different manufacturers, this burden was got rid of, and overseers, and parish officers, in their great anxiety to relieve their respective districts from so heavy an expense, sometimes unwittingly forgot the tender mercies of humanity, and the unfortunate children were not unfrequently sent to factories where proper accommodation was not provided for them, their morals neglected, and where they often, in a short time, became the victims of infectious disease, the offspring of excessive labour, of unwholesome food, and of the want of attention to personal cleanliness. Sir Robert Peel, although these evils did not exist in the extensive establishments under his control and direction, had long witnessed and lamented their existence in other large manufactories; and he frequently declared that it was one of the greatest gratifications he had ever felt, when he reflected that, to his exertions and sacrifices as a public man, he was indebted for that influence, which had enabled him to carry through Parliament a measure, which, in its operation, tended so materially to reduce the sum of human misery, which had previously been so prevalent, and which had, for some time before the passing of Sir Robert Peel's Bill, as it was called, been daily on the increase.

“Sir Robert, from his first entrance into Parliament down to the time of Mr. Pitt's death, was a firm and steady supporter of administration; and when, in 1802, a vote of censure was moved in the House of Commons against that eminent statesman, the member for Tamworth delivered an able speech in his defence."

“ In his person Sir Robert was tall, manly looking, and well proportioned. His eye, when he spoke, lighted up and 'imparted to his countenance a peculiar degree of animation. In his address he was at all times affable, unembarrassed, and particularly engaging. Being wholly free from affectation, and perfectly unassuming himself, he possessed in a very high degree the art of dispelling in strangers, unperceived to themselves, all painful feelings of diffidence; and thus, by adapting himself with great ease to the circumstances of others, rendered his manner pleasing to all, by making them pleased with themselves. The friend of merit, however humble, he was equally disposed and competent to resist the insolence of oppression, and to rebuke arrogance and self-sufficiency. With the utmost liberality towards those who differed from him in religious opinions, Sir Robert Peel was the decided supporter of the Established Church. He gave every encouragement, by undeviating example, to promote religion amongst his work-people: and by his regular attendance on divine worship, with his numerous family of children and domestics, he excited among his tenantry a more lively interest in their respective duties."

“ His honourable career as a mercantile man rendered him worthy of the immense fortune he acquired; whilst the use he made of riches, by applying them to the distribution of comfort among all those by whom he was surrounded, and by alleviating, as far as human aid could do so, the miseries and sufferings of sickness and poverty, gaye ample proof that he duly appreciated the first duty of Christianity. His liberality, however, never degenerated into extravagance or careless prodigality. Long after he had ceased to consider the accumulation of wealth, as calculated to be productive of increase of happiness, except as supplying more extensive means of doing good, he still continued to persevere in his accustomed habit of minute attention to his financial concerns. His mansion was the residence of hospitality, unencumbered with any ostentatious display of superior wealth, His ear was at all times open to the petitions of the indigent, his hand was ever ready to relieve distress; and the deserving never left his gate with their wants unattended to; and many instances are known and recorded of his exercising a most munificent liberality. Public institutions of extensive utility found in him an active patron. He was a Governor of Christ's Hospital, and Vice President of the Literary Fund. He was also a Vice President of the Society for Benefiting the Condition of the Poor, to which institution, in 1801, he presented a donation of £1,000. He was also President of the House of Recovery in Manchester, to which he made annual donations; and he was also a liberal benefactor to the poor of Tamworth, as well as to the working classes of Bury, in Lancashire."

Here follows some illustrations of Sir Robert's munificence and active charity.

“He died on the 3rd of May, 1830, closing his career at a ripe old ageeighty years ; ennobled by a life of integrity and consistency, and bearing to the grave the reputation that his moral virtues and political principles were alike unsullied. He was interred at Drayton, and was succeeded in the Baronetcy by his eldest son, Robert, the present Right Honourable Baronet."

“The will of the deceased Baronet was proved by his executors on the eth of June, 1830; the personals were sworn at what is technically called ‘upper value,' namely, upwards of nine hundred thousand pounds, an instance which had never previously to that time occurred. The probate stamp was £15,000, and the legacy duty paid exceeded £10,000. The will, after entailing on the title, Drayton Park and some other large estates in Warwickshire and Staffordshire, proceeds to enumerate certain dispositions of property amounting to upwards of £240,000 previously advanced by way of gifts, or settled on his children ; this was exclusive of £9,000 per annum secured to his eldest son. It then proceeds to apportion £600,000 more amongst his eight surviving younger children; making the sum left to each of his five sons, excluding the present Baronet, £106,000, and to each of his three daughters £53,000. The legacies to old servants, and memorials to friends, are numerous and liberal, and his bequests to public institutions, such as show a mind open to charity and alive to the necessities of his fellow creatures. The will bears date the 27th of July, 1820. There is a codicil added to it under date the 11th of February, 1825, by which the portions of his younger sons are increased to 135,0001. each, and of the residue, calculated at five hundred thousand pounds, four-ninths were given to his eldest son, the present Right Honourable Bart., and one-ninth to each of the younger

ones.

« AnteriorContinua »