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Prince Albert's memorandum on the Corn Laws 25 December 1845

This memorandum written by Prince Albert is a record of a conversation that he had with Peel concerning Peel's views on the repeal of the Corn Laws. Peel had just resumed office as Prime Minister following his resignation on 5 December and the inability of Lord John Russell to form a ministry.

It is to his own talent and firmness that Sir Robert will owe his success which cannot fail. He said he had been determined not to go to a general election with the fetters the last election had imposed upon him, and he had meant at the end of the next Session to call the whole Conservative Party together and to declare this to them, that he would not meet another Parliament pledged to the maintenance of the Corn Laws, which could be maintained no longer, and that he would make a public declaration to this effect before another general election came on. This had been defeated by events coming too suddenly upon him, and he had no alternative but to deal with the Corn Laws before a national calamity would force it on. The League had made immense progress, and had enormous means at their disposal. If he had resigned in November, Lord Stanley and the Protectionists would have been prepared to form a Government, and a Revolution might have been the consequence of it. Now they felt that it was too late.

Sir Robert has an immense scheme in view; he thinks he shall be able to remove the contest entirely from the dangerous ground upon which it has got - that of a war between the manufacturers, the hungry and the poor against the landed proprietors, the aristocracy, which can only end in the ruin of the latter; he will not bring forward a measure upon the Corn Laws, but a much more comprehensive one. He will deal with the whole commercial system of the country. He will adopt the principle of the League, that of removing all protection and abolishing all monopoly, but not in favour of one class and as a triumph over another, but to the benefit of the nation, farmers as well as manufacturers. He would begin with cotton, and take in all the necessaries of life and corn amongst them. The experiments he had made in 1842 and 1845 with boldness but with caution had borne out the correctness of the principle: the wool duty was taken off, and wool sold higher then ever before; foreign cattle were let in, and the cattle of England stood better in the market than ever. He would not ask for compensation to the land, but wherever he could give it, and at the same time promote the social development, there he would do it, but on that ground.

Letters of Queen Victoria (ed. A. C. Benson and Viscount Esher, 1908), ii. 65-6.

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