Disraeli, the Protectionists and the fall of Peel
Dep. Hughenden 89/1, fols. 3r-4r
This ten-page letter in April 1846 from the new Leader of the Protectionists - Lord George Bentinck, a Norfolk MP and racing enthusiast (1802-48) - begins by referring to Ireland before moving on to the position of farmers without capital, the responses of the Dominions to free trade on timber, and Protectionist tactics; but perhaps the most telling phrase urges Disraeli 'to drive well into Peel's vitals'.
In the spring of 1846 the Conservative Party imploded. Disraeli's relentless parliamentary attacks on Peel since January and his partnership with Bentinck undermined the Premier as he tried to carry the party in favour of the repeal of the Corn Laws to ease the Irish famine, and to introduce a coercion bill to deal with rioting in Ireland. The willingness of the Whigs and Radicals to support the former but reject the latter added to Peel's difficulties and ultimate resignation in June. The party split in two: the minority Peelites taking the majority of the Party's leaders (with all the organisation and funding) and the Protectionists. It would be nearly thirty years before the realigned Conservatives formed a majority government.
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