Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Some for the Love of Ireland, More for Hatred of Peel

Sir Robert Peel held office as Conservative (Tory) prime minister of Great Britain during 1841-46. Seeking to foster economic growth in heavily protectionist Britain, he undertook two revisions of the tariff in 1842 and 1844-45 to free up trade. Although tariff revenue declined £192,000 and £204,473 respectively, the corresponding value of trade due to lower duties rose £410,000 and £835,760. Peel compensated for the lost revenue, in part, with an income tax of about 3 percent (7d./£) on annual incomes over £150. Despite lower tariffs, revenue actually increased on some goods due to the expansion in trade.

As a Tory, Peel came into office committed to the principle of agricultural protectionism. The long-standing Corn Laws restricted grain imports. However, the potato famine in Ireland forced him to open Irish ports to food imports in 1845, which represented an unplanned extension of his movement towards free trade.

To prevent future famines, in 1846 Peel proposed repeal of all grain duties to take effect on February 1, 1849. The measure passed both houses of Parliament by June 25, 1846, and received royal assent the following day. However, Peel was not to escape the wrath of the landed Tory interests. Famine was followed by disorder in Ireland, which compelled him to propose an Irish Coercion Bill for parliamentary approval. In this, Peel was defeated by a combination of Irish, Whigs, and Protectionist Tories, “some for the love of Ireland, more for hatred of Peel.” Peel served in opposition in Parliament until his death in 1850 by a fall from his horse.

John McCain was soundly defeated in his quest for the presidency, “some for the love of Obama, more for hatred of _____.” (Bush? Spendthrift Republicans? Other reasons?).

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