Episode 20 - Truth, Freedom & Prosperity:
Robert Peel Part 1
Uploaded: 18 July 2018
Peel and Wellington suffocate Mrs Constitution
It’s been a while since we pumped out an episode here at Footnotes of History, but finally the wait is over.
We’ve returned to the first half of the nineteenth century once again.
To be fair I don’t think there is any period of history that can’t be described as a period of change.
But this is one that is significant.
Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations was published in 1776.
That year was the same as the American Declaration of Independence – independence from tyrannical government and in favour of freedom.
Then there was the French Revolution of course – two back-to-back episodes of France run riot across Europe. First with the revolutionaries, then with Napoleon.
More fundamentally, the Enlightenment and the industrial revolution gathered pace. Philosophy gathered pace.
Change was in the air – including a radical reassessment of the role of the collective and the individual.
And in many ways our episode this week covers some of this from the perspective of one man in particular – Robert Peel.
Peel was a Tory and later invented the name of Conservative Party.
Yet he nevertheless pioneered seismic changes to the state infrastructure in the early 1800s
Under Peel’s steady hand, the government repaid its debts and laid the foundations for a sound financial system. It ended its blatant persecution of minority religions and it abstained from its interference in agriculture and society’s basic needs.
For a time, the power of the government was curtailed. Most notably, church and state were – if not completely separated – then at least prised apart.
Unlike many of his peers both then and now, Peel frequently sacrificed his immediate career and party for the choices he made.
Don’t get me wrong – Peel had his dark side too (no politician can be all good), but we’ll save it for the next episode. Dan and I are due a big row anyway.
D. Hurd, Robert Peel: A Biography, https://amzn.to/2uwCSiz
The Peel Web, http://www.historyhome.co.uk/peel/peelhome.htm
E.L. Woodward, The Age of Reform 1815-1870, https://amzn.to/2LfYA4f