BROWNE, Dominick (1787-1860), of Castle Macgarrett, co. Mayo and Carrabrowne Castle, co. Galway
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Family and Educationb. 28 May 1787, 1st s. of Dominick Geoffrey Browne of Castle Macgarrett and Margaret, da. and h. of Hon. George Browne, MP [I], 3rd s. of John, 1st earl of Altamont [I]. educ. Eton 1802-5; ?Edinburgh Univ. 1805-6; St. John’s, Camb. 1806. m. 5 May 1811, Anne Isabella, da. and coh. of Henry Monck, MP [I], of Fowre, co. Westmeath, 2s. 2da. suc. fa. 1826; cr. Bar. Oranmore and Browne [I] 4 May 1836. d. 30 Jan. 1860.
PC [I] 7 Nov. 1834.
Ld. lt. co. Mayo 1834-42.
Browne, an ‘unflinching Whig’ who had joined Brooks’s, sponsored by Lord Milton*, 23 Mar. 1815, had sat for county Mayo since 1814 on the combined interest of his brother-in-law Lord Dillon† and his maternal kinsman the 2nd marquess of Sligo.1 At the 1820 general election he was returned unopposed.2 A regular attender, he voted with the opposition to the Liverpool ministry on most issues, including economy, retrenchment and reduced taxation. (A statement of 1823 that he ‘never’ voted ‘for repeal of taxes’ was inaccurate and surely referred to his Tory kinsman Denis Browne, with whom he was sometimes confused.)3 He divided for Catholic relief, 28 Feb. 1821, 1 Mar., 21 Apr., 10 May 1825. He gave notice that he would bring the state of Ireland under the consideration of the House, 25 Feb., but went no further.4 In September 1822 he was implicated in a ‘systematic plan’ to lower ‘the great power’ of Sligo’s family in Mayo by Denis Browne, who complained that he had helped to establish a charity committee at the assizes after telling ‘me specifically in London repeatedly that he would not come’.5 He voted for inquiry into the parliamentary franchise, 20 Feb., parliamentary reform, 24 Apr., and reform of the Scottish representation, 2 June 1823. He spoke against the wheat warehousing bill, 21 Mar. 1823, when he was a teller for the hostile minority of eight, and again on 4 May 1824.6 On 22 Mar. 1823 he introduced a bill to discourage the granting of joint tenancies in Ireland. He moved and was a majority teller for its second reading, 27 May, when he argued that it would ‘check fictitious freeholds’ and ‘discourage’ the ‘naked, squalid beggary’ and ‘extreme indolence’ that resulted from joint tenancies. On its third reading, 3 June, he insisted that ‘sufficient time had been allowed for its consideration’.7 It received royal assent as 4 Geo. IV, c. 36, 27 June. He was a majority teller for postponing the debate on Catholic claims following opposition protests at the manner in which it had been brought on, 17 Apr. He objected to a provision in the Irish tithes composition bill enabling vestries to tax grasslands, but waived his opposition after assurances that it would be considered in committee, 6 June.8 On 7 Dec. 1823 he unsuccessfully applied to Peel, the home secretary, for a South American appointment for his brother.9 He was in the minority of 11 for returns of Irish Catholic office-holders, 19 Feb. 1824. He defended a petition against Irish education grants from the Catholic bishops, who were ‘right in declaring their sentiments honestly to Parliament’, and warned that until the monarch entered ‘into a concordat with the Pope’ there ‘would never be peace in Ireland’, 9 Mar. On 11 Mar. he criticized the survey and valuation of Ireland officials who had visited Mayo ‘when it was covered in snow’. He voted for inquiry into the Irish church, 6 May, insisting that there was ‘no hope of the peace and prosperity of Ireland’ whilst its revenues continued in their present form.10 On 13 May he gave notice that he would move for the establishment of an Irish Catholic church ‘connected with the state’. Complaining of the time he had waited to do so, 15 June, he moved for it to be ‘placed in the journals with the intention of renewing it next session’, but desisted in the face of opposition.11 On 11 Feb. 1825 he doubted that the Catholic Association ‘could be put down’ and that the ‘grievances of the people of Ireland’ would go away, citing the way religious prejudices were carried into the jury box and ‘every place of importance, in church and state, was given to Englishmen’. He ‘spoke at some length’, observed Henry Howard* two days later:
It was great to see him as he had written down the heads of what he meant to say on ... bit[s] of paper, and was constantly referring and puzzling himself with them, not being always able to find the right place. A long pause ensued before he could recover the thread of his discourse. However, he made a very fair argument, but it reads better than he spoke it.12
That month, after he had signed a Mayo requisition for a meeting to petition for Catholic relief, a correspondent of Daniel O’Connell’s* reported having a ‘confidential communication with him’, in which he ‘made use of the county political connection between him and the ... Browne family’ about ‘their determination ... to have ... a counter one’.13 He brought up the favourable petition, 19 Apr., and another in similar terms, 26 Apr.14 He welcomed the Irish franchise bill, as the ‘40s. freehold system was one of the leading causes which entailed beggary and misery upon Ireland’, 9 May 1825. He declined to attend the Association dinner for the ‘friends of civil and religious liberty’, 2 Feb. 1826.15
At the 1826 general election Browne offered again and was expected to ‘ride the first horse’, but to the surprise of many he declined a contest, citing the ‘multiplication of fictitious votes’ which had ‘made nugatory the rights of the real and bona fide freeholders’ and the Catholic clergy’s unaccountable adoption of an opponent. On taking his leave he declared, ‘I would have supported no administration unless the Catholic [issue] was made a government question’ and ‘given my strenuous support to any administration doing so’. He ‘retired on account of the expense’, reported George Dawson*, the home under-secretary. ‘A steady and decided friend of the cause of religious liberty, a reformer, and a man opposed to all jobbing, has been compelled to withdraw’, remarked the Dublin Evening Post.16 On 6 Aug. 1828 Denis Browne complained to Sligo about being passed over as foreman at the Mayo assizes by Browne and his ‘bad taste’ in ‘answering before me ... in defiance of my having, tender and sanguine, given him any place in this county at all’.17 Speaking at a Catholic county meeting at which he was praised for his ‘strenuous, uncompromising and sincere advocacy of our cause’, 10 Aug. 1828, Browne eulogized the freeholders of Clare, paid tribute to O’Connell and promised to stand again.18 That month Leveson Gower, the Irish secretary, was advised that he had strong claims to the vacant colonelcy of the Mayo militia, even though he was ‘not a resident’, but the duke of Wellington, the premier, was ‘rather surprised that Dominick Browne, an inveterate Whig, should have been thought of’ and he was dropped.19 Speaking at an Association meeting in January 1829, he declared that ‘throughout my political life I have been a Whig, but in future I shall have no politics but the all-important question of Ireland’ and that ‘if I were in Parliament I should feel it my duty to oppose ... Wellington’s administration ... in order that ... the government could not be carried on till the Irish question was settled’. At another meeting in Mayo that month he spoke in support of the recalled Irish viceroy Lord Anglesey. ‘I called a county meeting ... and had a most enthusiastic address voted’, he later reminded Smith Stanley, the Grey ministry’s Irish secretary, adding ‘where was Lord Sligo? Did he stir? No’.20
At the 1830 general election Browne redeemed his pledge and offered again for Mayo, promising to oppose laws that ‘pressed on Ireland’ and condemning a coalition that had been formed against him by Sligo. His application for government support or ‘neutrality’ was unsuccessful, but following the withdrawal of one of the sitting Members, Leveson Gower advised him that the Irish government had no ‘reason to indulge the expectation of support from any one of the present candidates, more than from yourself’. After a three-day contest he was returned in second place.21 (It was later alleged on petition that he had admitted on the hustings to having ‘bought the county’, but the committee upheld his return, 18 Mar. 1831.)22 He was listed by the Irish agent Pierce Mahony† as ‘neutral’ but as ‘opposed to government’ by Henry Brougham* and as one of its ‘foes’ by Planta, the patronage secretary. He was ‘shut out’ of the crucial division on the civil list after he had ‘retired to dinner’, 15 Nov., but on the 18th he explained that following Wellington’s declaration against reform he had abandoned his intention to give ministers ‘independent support’ and would have voted against them.23 He concurred with a petition against the grant to the Kildare Place Society that day and brought up others, 2, 21 Dec. 1830, 30 Mar. 1831. He presented and endorsed Catholic petitions for the equalization of the Galway franchise, 18 Nov., 2 Dec. 1830, 8 Feb. 1831. He brought up and endorsed multiple petitions for relief from the ‘dreadful distress’ in West Ireland arising from the failure of the potato crop, 16 Feb., took the ‘unusual and extraordinary course’ of interrupting proceedings on the Canada bill in order to tell the House that ‘200,000 of their fellow citizens’ would ‘be absolutely without food before the end the month’, 18 Feb., and advocated a ‘resumption of government works’ to give ‘employment to a starving population’, 18 Mar. He welcomed a bill to exempt small occupiers from the payment of potato tithes, 22 Feb. He presented and endorsed a petition against repeal of the Union, saying that its ‘preservation’ was ‘of vital importance to the people of both Kingdoms’, 14 Mar. He spoke and voted for the second reading of the Grey ministry’s English reform bill, claiming to be ‘delighted’ with the details of the Irish measure, which would ‘extend the franchise, and give representation to those, who, from property and intelligence, are entitled to it’, 22 Mar. On 29 Mar., however, he observed that there were ‘a great number of small towns in Ireland’ that ministers might ‘deal with in the same manner as ... towns in Scotland and Wales’, by ‘making them contributory boroughs’. Next day he presented and endorsed many petitions for a second Galway representative and called for one additional Member for Dublin, county Donegal and county Mayo and two for county Cork on account of their populations. He rebutted claims that Irish distress was caused by landlord absenteeism and demanded ‘an immediate and gratuitous advance of money ... without any security whatsoever’ for relief, 30 Mar. He voted against Gascoyne’s wrecking amendment to the reform bill, 19 Apr. 1831.
At the ensuing general election Browne offered again, promising to vote for the ‘entire’ measure of reform, which was the ‘first step’ in the ‘political regeneration of the Empire’, but ‘hoping to have a further addition made to the Irish Members’ and ‘Mayo or its towns’. After a three-day contest he was returned in first place.24 On 9 July he reminded Smith Stanley of ‘what I mentioned to you today, that from my property in the county of the town of Galway, perhaps equal to that of any other proprietor ... and from my uniform and sincere support of the principles of the Whigs of the present administration for nearly twenty years, I have a claim to be the king’s [lord] lieutenant of that county of the town’. Writing again, 12 Oct., he contended that ‘the decision of the government ... is to me of very little importance comparatively, but as a proprietor of estates in that town and county as well as the county of Galway, I most earnestly protest against the appointment of the same individual, the marquess of Clanricarde ... to the lieutenancy of both counties, as ... his ... influence would be most unconstitutional and oppressive’.25 He was not appointed. He voted for the second reading of the reintroduced reform bill, 6 July, at least twice against the adjournment, 12 July, and gave generally steady support to its details, though he voted against the transfer of Saltash to schedule B, 26 July, and next day regretted that it had not been disfranchised, arguing that ministers had not ‘gone far enough’. On 5 Aug. he objected to the proposed enfranchisement of Dudley and other places which ‘did not appear to be entitled to the privilege of returning a Member’. He divided for the enfranchisement of £50 tenants-at-will, 18 Aug. He voted for the passage of the bill, 21 Sept., and Lord Ebrington’s confidence motion, 10 Oct. On 17 Oct. he presented a favourable constituency petition, hoping that ministers would ‘not relax’ until reform was passed, and rebutted a ‘most monstrous’ observation that on the basis of population Hindustan was entitled to more Members than Ireland, which ‘as much as Wales and Scotland’ demanded ‘a fair and adequate share in the representation’. He voted against disqualification of the Dublin election committee, 29 July, and with ministers on the controversy, 23 Aug. He welcomed the Irish lord lieutenants bill ‘as a prelude’ to the abolition of the office of viceroy, 15 Aug. Next day he seconded a motion for information on relations with Portugal, ‘ashamed’ that no one else had come forward and ‘indignant at the apathy manifested’. He contended that the Irish freehold system allowed ‘too great facilities’ for the fictitious registration of voters and urged amendment, 30 Aug., and recommended that ‘serious attention’ be given to his 1823 measure against joint tenancies, 12 Dec. He called for the evidence of the Pembroke election committee, on which he had served, to be printed and was a minority teller against the issue of the writ, 26 Sept. Next day he advised that whatever course government took on Irish education, those Irish Members who had come into the House ‘pledged to vote’ for reform ‘must do so’. He cheered on Smith Stanley during a debate on Irish grand juries, and when challenged explained, ‘I disapprove of the system’, 29 Sept. He presented and endorsed petitions for the equalization of civil rights in Galway, 17 Oct. On 4 Nov. he urged Smith Stanley to appoint Arthur Knox Gore, his proposer at the last election, to the lord lieutenancy of county Sligo, saying, ‘I think I may lay some claim to consideration ... for the credit and honour of the Whig party to which I have been so long attached’. Gore was soon in place.26
Browne advocated a ‘great change’ in Irish tithes and for the established church to be reduced to a size ‘in proportion to the Protestant population’, 15 Dec. 1831. Next day he gave notice that he would move for the insertion of as many small boroughs in schedule B ‘as will be necessary to give Ireland’ a ‘due proportion’ of Members with England and Wales, taking into ‘consideration their population and revenue’; he did not do so. He secured a return of county population returns by country, 17 Dec. 1831. He voted for the second reading of the revised reform bill that day, and gave mostly steady support to its details. On 23 Jan. 1832 he argued that it should be left to English, Scottish and Irish Members to ‘fix upon’ what they considered to be their ‘proper number’ of representatives. He endorsed a petition for more Irish representatives and recommended one additional Member for Dublin city, Donegal and Mayo, which was ‘the only county in the country of the same size without a borough’, and ‘two more to the county of Cork’, 7 Feb. He voted for the third reading of the English reform bill, 22 Mar. He presented and endorsed petitions for the equalization of civil rights in Galway, without which it would become ‘a nomination borough’, 18 Apr. He voted for the address calling on the king to appoint only ministers who would carry reform unimpaired, 10 May, and appealed to Wellington to support the measure, 14 May. He divided for the second reading of the Irish reform bill, 25 May, and against a Conservative amendment to increase the Scottish county representation, 1 June. He demanded that the Irish measure ‘be founded as much as possible upon the same principle as the English bill’ and sought a reduction of the type of leases that ‘shall constitute a freehold vote’, 18 June. He voted against the liability of Irish electors to pay municipal taxes before they could vote, 29 June. He criticized the preservation of the 40s. freeholder franchise in counties of towns that day and 2 July, when he warned that ‘fictitious freeholders’ would be created by ‘granting freehold leases for lives’ and observed, ‘if you give up the freemen, you ought to give up the freeholders’. He alleged that registration certificates were issued in ‘a very slovenly manner’ in such towns and called for ‘every man’ to be ‘obliged to prove, in the first instance, that he is a freeholder’, 6 July. Contrasting the £10 freeholders, who were ‘men of some property’, with the new £10 householders, who might be ‘mere beggars’, 9 July, he proposed a series of amendments which would disfranchise Athlone, Bandon Bridge, Cashel, Coleraine, Dungarvan, Ennis, Enniskillen, Mallow, New Ross and Portarlington, all with ‘less than 300 £10 householders’, and transfer an extra Member to Dublin and the counties of Clare, Donegal, Londonderry, Mayo, Roscommon, Tipperary and Tyrone, and two Members to county Cork. They were all negatived without a division.
Browne voted with ministers on the Russian-Dutch loan, 26 Jan., 12, 16, 20 July, and paired with them on relations with Portugal, 9 Feb. 1832.27 On 7 Feb. he rebutted charges of non-residence against Gore, explaining that he lived just across the border. He presented petitions for the abolition of tithes, 8 Mar., 6 July, and called for the ‘whole tithe property of Ireland’ to be ‘sold and placed in a consolidated fund, out of which ... not only the Protestant clergy, but the Catholic and Presbyterian clergy’ could be paid, 13 Mar. He voted against a tax on absentee landlords to provide permanent provision for the Irish poor, 19 June. He obtained leave to prepare a bill to facilitate the construction of places of worship by Irish Dissenters, 20 June, which he introduced, 9 Aug., but it went no further. On 5 July he protested ‘against almost everything’ that had been said by Smith Stanley in support of the Irish tithes commutation bill, but declared that he would vote for it in the hope that the Church of Ireland would leave vacancies unfilled and ‘diminish to what is sufficient to perform its duties’. He asserted that tithes were ‘public property’ and abolition ‘would yield no benefit to the people of Ireland’ as an ‘equivalent would go into the pockets of the landlord’, 6 July, and voted accordingly, 13 July. He divided for inquiry into the inns of court, 17 July. On 3 Nov. he informed Smith Stanley that he had ‘little ambition again to represent Mayo, for three reasons’:
First, I have suffered much in health by attendance in the House these last two years ... Secondly, I have an insurmountable hatred to personal canvass, particularly as I am now made unpopular by my votes on the tithe bill and opposition to the repeal [of the Union]. Thirdly, it is very absurd for me to add to £30,000 already spent on elections, when no consequent advantage to my family or my country is very probable. But I feel on the subject of repeal so strongly, that you may depend upon my either standing myself or finding another to do so on anti-repeal principles, and I will subscribe largely to such person’s return or if necessary, pay the whole expense ... Does Lord Grey mean to make any peers at the dissolution? If so, I think I have a very fair claim to be one. I doubted my judgement in my own case and on my consulting Lord Althorp* he perfectly agreed with me.
Writing again to complain that ministers had ignored his request for a clerkship in Mayo and instead appointed a nominee of Sligo, 8 Nov. 1832, he protested, ‘I have been twenty four years of Lord Grey’s party, fighting the battle of his principles at an immense expense of fortune and under the taunts of being a Whig whose party was never to be in office’ while Sligo has been ‘your friend two years’ and ‘for petty claptrap voted against your tithe bill’.28
At the 1832 general election Browne was returned in second place for Mayo after a contest with another Liberal and a Repealer. He continued to press for advancement, the new Irish secretary Edward Littleton* noting in 1833 that he had asked ‘for one living, one assistant barristership and four chief constableships of police, and intimated that he had a much higher object for himself’.29 He survived another contest in 1835 and was elevated to the Irish peerage by the Melbourne administration in May 1836. He died at Brighton in January 1860 and was succeeded by his only son Geoffrey (1819-1900).30
Ref Volumes: 1820-1832
Author: Philip Salmon
- 1. Derby mss 920 Der (14) 126/5, Browne to Smith Stanley, 22 Nov. 1832.
- 2. Dublin Evening Post, 28 Mar. 1820.
- 3. Black Bk. (1823), 141-2; Session of Parl. 1825, p. 453; The Times, 9 Feb. 1822.
- 4. The Times, 26 Feb. 1822.
- 5. TCD, Sligo mss 6403/93.
- 6. The Times, 5 May 1824.
- 7. Ibid. 4 June 1823.
- 8. Ibid. 7 June 1823.
- 9. Add. 40359, ff. 160-1.
- 10. The Times, 7 May 1824.
- 11. Ibid. 16 June 1824.
- 12. Cumbria RO, Howard mss D/HW8/48/6.
- 13. O’Connell Corresp. iii. 1162.
- 14. The Times, 20, 27 Apr. 1825.
- 15. O’Connell Corresp. iii. 1278.
- 16. Dublin Evening Post, 17, 20, 22 June 1826; Add. 40387, f. 212.
- 17. Sligo mss 135.
- 18. Dublin Evening Post, 19 Aug. 1828.
- 19. Wellington mss WP1/949/5, 29.
- 20. Dublin Evening Post, 17 Jan.; The Times, 24 Jan. 1829; Derby mss 126/5, Browne to Smith Stanley, 8 Nov. 1832.
- 21. Dublin Evening Post, 17, 24, 29 July, 19 Aug.; NAI, Leveson Gower letterbks. 7. B3. 33, Leveson Gower to D. Browne, 19 July 1830; M. 738, same to same, 4 Aug. 1830.
- 22. CJ, lxxxvi. 217, 398.
- 23. The Times, 16 Nov. 1830.
- 24. Dublin Evening Post, 30 Apr., 19 May; Mayo Constitution, 16 May 1831.
- 25. Derby mss 126/5, Browne to Smith Stanley, 9 July, 12 Oct. 1831.
- 26. Ibid. Browne to Smith Stanley, 4 Nov.; 119/1/2, Anglesey to Smith Stanley, 1 Dec. 1831.
- 27. The Times, 11 Feb. 1832.
- 28. Derby mss 126/5, Browne to Smith Stanley, 3, 8 Nov. 1832.
- 29. Three Diaries, 355.
- 30. Gent. Mag. (1860), i. 296-7.