CHAPTER IX
PEEL AND O'CONNELL

1841-1845

PEEL was placed in office in 1841 and entrusted with a powerful and docile majority for the purpose of doing two things. He was expected to repair the blunders of the Whigs, especially in finance, and to maintain the principle of protection as embodied in the tax upon corn. The two things were really incompatible, and the mandate issued from sources which had little or nothing in common. It was the common-sense of the country which called upon Peel, as the most capable statesman of his time, to repair the blunders of the Whigs; it was the mere interest of a class, sincere in its convictions but blinded in its reasoning by the passions of a threatened monopoly, which required him to maintain the corn laws. No man who has ever governed England was less likely than Peel to allow the latter influence to get the better of the former; but none was ever more certain to fight strenuously on the wrong side until his reason had finally gone over to the right. This antagonism, which constitutes at once the secret tragedy of Peel's inner life and the shining moral

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